As you will have no doubt heard in media as well as in communications from Girls Grammar, NAPLAN 2020 has been cancelled. Whilst this cancellation is certainly both understandable and appropriate, it made me think of what difference it will make to what we do here at school. Whilst we will not miss the more sensational aspects around school rankings, we may well miss the information we receive from the results. 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 student and their parents, the data allows 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.
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 Year 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 identify the skills associated with the questions where our girls performed least well in comparison to the nation. This then allows us to identify areas in our teaching that can be built upon to maximise the benefits to our students.
Next term, we will be retesting on the areas we have identified as weaknesses and looking for growth. Whilst we will not be doing official NAPLAN testing, rest assured that we continue to take full use of NAPLAN processes and data methodology in our curriculum development.
Dr John Fry
Dean of Studies