Schools NAPLAN goes under review

At long last, a review into NAPLAN is underway. Despite widespread calls for a national review, federal education minister Dan Tehan stubbornly refused to listen, forcing Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and ACT to go it alone. This comprehensive review, called by state governments with a combined responsibility for more than three quarters of all students in Australia, provides the best opportunity to date to consider the impact of NAPLAN on our schools, students and staff over the last decade.

As expected, Tehan was outraged, saying he wouldn’t countenance a full review until the states ended their “breakaway review” and instead focused on getting the online rollout right. The AEU’s position is that there is no point rolling out a disastrous system that is badly in need of an overhaul – or abandonment.

The union has been calling for a full review of NAPLAN for years now. We know teachers and principals do not support a test that is undermining the quality of education in our schools; causes stress and anxiety for staff and students alike; is having a narrowing effect on the curriculum and how it is taught; and gives parents a limited view of their child’s progress.

NAPLAN has infiltrated every aspect of our education system and is doing significant damage

NAPLAN has infiltrated every aspect of our education system and is doing significant damage. There has to be a shift that restores teachers to the forefront of teaching, learning and assessment practices. A point-in-time, whole-of-cohort standardised test cannot capture the abilities and progress of a diverse student population.

The AEU has met with the panel and had an opportunity to submit our views about NAPLAN in the context of the terms of reference published when the review was announced.

The panel is due to provide an interim report to the Education Council in early December and will then continue their work, culminating in a final report due mid next year.

While this review is a great step forward, the AEU is concerned that the relatively short timeframe will mean the consultation and investigation is not as rigorous as it could or should be.

Some of the key issues discussed during our meeting with the panel included the impact of NAPLAN on teaching and learning practice; the role of teachers’ judgement in assessment; trust in teachers’ professionalism; use of on-demand testing and other forms of assessment; accountability schemes established by the departments that have NAPLAN attainment data as evidence of success at every level of our system; the impact of NAPLAN on a comprehensive curriculum; sample and full cohort testing; parents’ value of NAPLAN; the role of MySchool; and the publication of data.

As the review continues into next year, we will be providing members with the opportunity to inform the AEU’s input.

Change does seem to be in the air. In October, numerous media outlets reported a shift in policy that will see the MySchool website start to place less emphasis on NAPLAN results. These changes follow a recent review that found NAPLAN data was given too much prominence, while there was not enough focus on student improvement. Going forward, MySchool will be less of a league table, with the emphasis on what schools are doing to improve student results, instead of ranking similar schools against each other.

The good news is that these changes, the review and a federal minister feeling the pressure (as evidenced by his compulsion to publicly criticise individual states), make it clear that our ongoing national campaign against NAPLAN is continuing to have an impact. The AEU will ensure we continue to build our momentum in the coming months.

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