It is essential to use NAPLAN to measure student growth. Simply looking at raw scores gives you no indication of student improvement or if the teaching practices at the school have been successful.
This week our Year 3 and 5 students and their families will receive the results from the NAPLAN assessments that were completed earlier in the year. As many of you know the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is an annual assessment for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. These tests focus on the areas of reading, writing, spelling and numeracy.
Every year there is much contention about the assessment and what it represents. Some say that it is standardised testing gone mad and the publication of results lead to young students swotting for tests and the narrowing of the curriculum to focus simply on literacy and numeracy. Others say that it is an important measure of student performance that allows parents and schools to measure how individual and groups of students are achieving against similar schools and national benchmarks. It is fair to say that the truth lies somewhere in between.
With the introduction of My School and other websites that compare NAPLAN scores these tests have become an increasingly high stakes event. Many schools feel the pressure to perform, so they spend a considerable amount of time preparing Grade 3 and 5 students for NAPLAN. It is also speculated that some parents are simply selecting schools on the results of the assessments. These developments are concerning to me as an educational leader and as a parent. There is little doubt all parents want their child to succeed academically but at what cost? The narrowing of the curriculum and continued practice of tests is a serious concern and something we are strongly opposed to at Templestowe Park.
The value and relevance of NAPLAN is most evident when schools analyse trends in performance and measure the growth of students between the Year 3 and Year 5 assessment. As a school we do this to identify if the teaching practices we have employed have been effective. At Templestowe Park we use Year 3 NAPLAN data to measure the success of our Prep – Grade 3 program and to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the cohort of students. In Grade 5 we measure the progress of the students from when they did the Year 3 NAPLAN, two years earlier, and identify students and cohorts that require intervention or extension. It also allows us to identify trends in our teaching and learning so we can focus our professional development for teachers to address these needs. It is essential to use NAPLAN to measure student growth. Simply looking at raw scores gives you no indication of student improvement or if the teaching practices at the school have been successful.
It also must be remembered that NAPLAN is one test on one day and to define a student’s academic progress only on this result is fraught with danger. In fact, when we analyse the NAPLAN assessments as a school we quite often remove the results from our top and bottom 10% of students, as there are many students who either have a very good or bad day. Removing these results provides us with a clearer picture of student progress.
As a school we undertake a variety of formal and informal assessments that provide us with detailed information about an individual student’s progress. NAPLAN is one piece of this extensive puzzle.
The 2015 NAPLAN results indicate that students at Templestowe Park are achieving extremely well compared to state averages and to schools with similar students. While we are very proud of these achievements we are continually trying to improve the teaching and learning program for our students. By using NAPLAN tests as a tool to measure growth and improve our programs we are always striving to guide our students to achieve their personal best. This is exactly what these assessments are designed for.
When our Year 3 and 5 parents receive their child’s NAPLAN report this week I would like them to know that we are diligent in our use of these results to improve our teaching and learning programs, not only for their child but for all of the students within our school.