Perhaps it is because I work as an educator, but it seems that NAPLAN is omnipresent in the media at this time of the year. I have stated this many times before, but whilst there is validity in both sides of the argument, I believe that used correctly (i.e., not as a schools ranking tool) NAPLAN data can provide a wealth of information on the efficacy of school curriculum programs. This week, I thought I would sketch out what Girls Grammar makes of the data that is collected on your daughters’ NAPLAN achievements.
I think that one often overlooked point is that there are different layers of data. For each individual student and their parents, the results allow them to see how they have performed on those tests at that point in time. A common argument against NAPLAN is exactly that, it is a point in time test for each student and their performance may be influenced by any number of factors. For individuals, the tests only occur every two years and they are often viewed as disproportionately ‘high-stakes’ testing. This is a valid consideration for individuals.
However, as data moves up to higher levels of aggregation, it becomes more and more reliable. The next level is for schools who use the data not only for individual students but also to find potential gaps in teaching and curriculum coverage. It helps focus our energies. We are currently engaging in an Independent Schools Queensland program focused on upper primary to middle school numeracy as a result of such analysis.
The next levels occur at state and then federal jurisdictions to measure the effectiveness of education policy and reforms to move Queensland and Australia’s quality of education systems forward.
We have already done our own NAPLAN pretesting of all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 in the relevant areas of Reading, Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation and Numeracy. This has allowed us to identify areas of strength and potential growth for not only individual students but also for whole cohorts. For each area of testing, we identified the skills associated with the questions where our girls performed least well in comparison to the nation. This then has allowed us to identify areas in our teaching that can be built upon to maximise the benefits to our students.
Next week, we will be retesting the areas we have identified as weaknesses and will be looking for growth. Rest assured that we continue to take full use of NAPLAN processes and data methodology in our curriculum development.
Dr John Fry
Deputy Principal - Studies