Controversial NAPLAN is worth examining

Students across the country will this week sit down and put pen to paper for the 2018 NAPLAN tests.

It’s the 10th year the controversial tests have been held.

The aim of NAPLAN is as its acronym suggests – to annually test students in grades 3, 5, 7, and 9 in literacy and numeracy.

Those test results are then turned into publicly released data, most popularly accessed through the My School website.

It’s hoped this data will then give schools some context against which to measure their own students’ achievements, thereby improving national educational standards.

That is the aim. The result, however, is sometimes much different. Throughout its lifespan, negativity has emerged from NAPLAN. 

There are claims that some schools ask “problem” students to stay home on the days of the mandatory testing, so the school’s overall score is not affected.

Interstate, there are claims schools use their NAPLAN results as selling points to attract prospective students.

In NSW, there have been calls to scrap the testing, not just because of the competition it breeds between individual schools, but the pressure it places on individual students.

The tests start at grade 3, where pupils are aged between eight and nine.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority responded to claims of student stress by saying the responsibility fell to parents, to remind their kids the tests are “not a big deal”.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has rejected suggestions the tests be scrapped.

In Tasmania, Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff says a review of NAPLAN is needed.

Mr Rockliff took a balanced approach to the subject, agreeing that a benchmark on students’ abilities was required, but agreed that evaluation was an important tool to help breed improvements.

This is an important balance to have. There absolutely must be a level of state and national accountability when it comes to our students’ performance.

It is a responsibility of the education systems to provide the best possible schooling for our students, and this does include them taking part in tests.

Similarly, there absolutely must be scrutiny around the process of testing itself, and how schools might be misusing the results.

We have to test the tests, before they get to our students.