Products – The Centre for Independent Studies

Why We Need NAPLAN

Blaise Joseph
13 May 2018 | RR36
Why We Need NAPLAN
  • The National Assessment Plan – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is a crucial national assessment, but is coming under increasing criticism.
  • There are three major benefits of NAPLAN:
    1. Tool to improve schools and teaching.
      • NAPLAN results enable the identification of problems in the school system over time, and are a means for evaluating potential solutions, from the national level all the way down to individual students.
      • Literacy and numeracy results are made transparent at a national, state and territory, and school level. Parents are also able to see how their children are progressing against an objective national benchmark.
      • NAPLAN holds governments and schools accountable for literacy and numeracy results, which is important given the significant financial investment made in them by taxpayers and parents.
  • There are four common criticisms of NAPLAN, which are not supported by rigorous evidence:
    1. No significant improvement since NAPLAN was first introduced in 2008.
      • NAPLAN results have improved significantly in some areas since 2008, and the overall trend has been positive, with the exception of writing skills.
      • It is unreasonable to blame the NAPLAN tests for lack of further improvement, as NAPLAN identifies issues in the school system and does not solve them by itself.
      • Nevertheless, the fact that NAPLAN results have not improved more since 2008 warrants further investigation.
    2. Harms students.
      • The claim that NAPLAN tests harm students and causes significant student anxiety is based on surveys and small studies with serious methodological issues. A strong conclusion cannot be drawn based on the existing evidence to date.
      • In general, it is not clear that testing by itself harms students. Low-level student anxiety in preparation for any test is normal, and this is very different from serious mental health issues.
    3. Publication of results on MySchool website harms schools.
      • There have been no rigorous studies of how parents use MySchool data, and no substantial evidence to suggest MySchool has a negative effect on schools. Academic achievement is one of many factors parents use in choosing a school.
      • It is far better for parents to have access to objective NAPLAN data in their decision-making, rather than having to rely solely on other factors like school reputation, school uniforms, and school websites.
    4. The NAPLAN tests are too narrow.
      • Reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and numeracy are all necessary skills for students to succeed in later education and career paths.
      • It has not been established that broader capabilities like creativity can be taught or assessed effectively.
      • A focus on literacy and numeracy is appropriate given the large number of Australian children who do not have adequate skills in these areas.
  • The suggested alternative to NAPLAN of having a sample test instead would be woefully inadequate. A sample test would not have the same major benefits of NAPLAN, could not be used as a tool to help individual students, and would not promote school transparency and accountability.
  • NAPLAN should be retained — because it has major benefits, and claims that it harms the school system have not been confirmed by reliable evidence — but it can be improved; and common concerns from teachers and parents should be taken into account and investigated further.
  • A possible future review of NAPLAN could consider:
    • how results can be better used as a tool to improve schools and teaching;
    • what is preventing schools and systems from responding more effectively to NAPLAN results;
    • how the purpose and benefits can be better communicated to stakeholders;
    • how the administration of the tests can be improved; and
    • whether or not the assessments are too narrow a measure of student ability.
  • Moving NAPLAN tests online will have significant benefits; including providing more timely results to schools to facilitate earlier intervention, and allowing for computer-adjusted testing tailored to individual student ability.

Australian taxpayers invest more than $50 billion per year in the school system. NAPLAN is an important measure of the return on this investment, and provides valuable information for schools, teachers, parents, and students.

 

BUY HARDCOPY – SOLD OUT

Email CIS if you want to buy a printed PDF
Alternatively Download PDF here

Mail: office@cis.org.au

 

Latest Publications

Mind the Gap: Understanding the Indigenous education gap and how to close it
Glenn Fahey
24 June 2021 | RR41

Indigenous educational disadvantage remains among the most pressing and persistent public policy challenges in Australia. Despite bipartisan and intergovernmental commitment to ‘Closing the Gap’, has done little to move the needle in education outcomes. Dispiritingly poor education outcomes persist despite the best of intentions, considerable investment of resources, and countless programmes and initiatives of policymakers. This research examines sources and…

READ MORE
Dollars and Sense: Time for smart reform of Australian school funding
Glenn Fahey
01 December 2020 | RR40

Australia is among the world’s highest-spending countries on schooling. Yet, the educational return on this investment for parents, taxpayers, employers, and students, has deteriorated — despite the expectation of policymakers that increased funding would inevitably improve educational outcomes. It’s true that money matters when it comes to schooling, but how money is used is what really matters, not how much…

READ MORE
Overcoming the Odds: A study of Australia’s top-performing disadvantaged schools
Blaise Joseph
18 March 2019 | RR39

Students from disadvantaged social backgrounds perform worse on average academically than more advantaged students. This study investigated Australia’s top-performing disadvantaged schools in terms of literacy and numeracy results, with the aim of finding any common policies and practices which have led to their success. Nine top-performing disadvantaged schools were visited by a researcher for this study, involving interviews with school…

READ MORE
Dying with Their Rights On: The myths and realities of ending homelessness in Australia
Carlos d'Abrera
12 December 2018 | RR38

The orthodox understanding of the causes of homelessness promoted by the ‘homelessness industry’ over emphasises the role of economic and social structures. Solutions based on structuralist explanations – such as increasing the supply of affordable social housing – are insufficient to reduce rough sleeping. Such approaches minimise the need to address assertively, the individual characteristics, choices, and behaviours of rough…

READ MORE
Why childcare is not affordable
Eugenie Joseph
29 August 2018 | RR37

Childcare fees and out-of-pocket costs in Australia have been growing above inflation in recent years, at the same time that more parents are using formalised childcare to support their participation in the workforce. Childcare has been subject to growing and evolving regulation for many years, culminating in the introduction of the National Quality Framework in 2012. However, the quality regulations…

READ MORE