The Ambiguities of NAPLAN

Last week students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 underwent a battery of national testing. Receiving the College’s National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results is done with an ambiguous mixture of superficial thoughts alongside deeper beliefs about student performance and measurement of student achievement. One is tempted to stay with: Will our students perform well? Will they be up to standard? Are we improving our capacity to ensure sound basic skill development? Are our targeted strategies reflecting improvement?

These questions however are peppered with deeper questions of uncertainty (shared nationally and internationally) about the reliability of standardised testing programs and the actual capacity of NAPLAN to achieve an authentic means to support students, schools and states to improve student outcomes without unintended negative consequences for all stakeholders, especially students.

There continues to be significant criticism of NAPLAN – its purpose, value and potential to create a ‘leagues table’ through the MySchool website.

However, what any good school needs to do, without conclusive research on these tests, is to use NAPLAN as a source of diagnostic data, alongside other data at the school’s disposal. A choice not to put energy into understanding, and analysing the NAPLAN data is a choice not to use a ready window of insight.

NAPLAN data can be one useful source of information and means of tracking students especially in a Kindergarten – Year 10 school. However, all sources of academic data generated in a school should be used to identify skill achievement and development as well as identifying areas individual students, classes and the school as a whole should target for teaching and learning interventions.

Frankly, a school like Dominic College needs much more evidence than “good” NAPLAN results to be satisfied that we are developing a long term pattern of achieving good educational outcomes for our students and being an effective school community for our students, individually and collectively.

Beth Gilligan

Dominic College Principal