This week our girls in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are participating in the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) which assesses literacy and numeracy skills in the areas of reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy.
The data generated from NAPLAN is used in a number of ways:
It provides governments with a nationally consistent measure of aspects of the literacy and numeracy skills of Australian students at set points in their schooling. This can be used to guide future education policy and funding priorities.
It can be used by teachers, schools and sectors to evaluate the effectiveness of their own literacy and numeracy programs and inform their teaching programs.
It provides additional information that can be used to inform learning support or extension to students.
In addition to the data provided through the school’s assessment programs, it provides parents with another measure of their child’s progress in literacy and numeracy.
Despite these uses, it is important to remember that NAPLAN only measures a narrow skill set and therefore results only tell part of the story of literacy and numeracy achievement. NAPLAN tests do not represent student achievements across the year, nor across the breadth of the curriculum which schools provide. They do not replace ongoing assessments made by teachers about student performance and they should never be used as the sole measure of a child’s achievement at school. Independent Schools Queensland Executive Director David Robertson stated, “It’s important that parents remember that NAPLAN provides a single point-in-time snapshot of their child’s literacy and numeracy proficiency. It is not a high stakes, pass or fail test.”
Importantly, NAPLAN does not provide a measure of the richness of curriculum or learning experiences on offer at a school. For example, NAPLAN does not measure student engagement in learning or school life, their enjoyment of reading, their willingness to engage in numeracy tasks or whether they apply these skills outside the test situation. Furthermore, NAPLAN doesn’t measure collaborative learning, problem-solving abilities or creativity, skills that underpin the Australian Curriculum and are essential for knowledge and understanding. Critical and creative thinking is required to conquer real-life challenges and therefore, to learn, students need to take risks and understand that problems may have multiple solutions.
If your daughter is participating in NAPLAN this week, please help them to put the tests into context. They are not something they should feel pressured or stressed about. Certainly, there is an element of life skills to the testing: life is full of tests, sometimes we need to work hard under pressure, sometimes we need to complete tasks within timeframes and sometimes we will be evaluated on our results. Sometimes, despite our efforts, we don’t achieve the levels we hope for. Understanding all of this is important for resilience. But it is also important that students know that all anyone can ask of them is to arrive prepared and try their best. When the results come out in Term 3, schools and parents know that the data is just one little piece of information about one aspect of learning at a point in time. They are not a measure of student worth, of what makes our girls valuable as learners or individuals nor a measure of the varied, significant contributions they make to their families, friends or life at Girls Grammar. It is important we all approach NAPLAN with these understandings in mind.
Dr John Fry
Deputy Principal - Studies