A recommendation to remove the current approach to national testing and replace it with sample testing of students across Australia has been submitted to the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) review of NAPLAN.
This submission was made by the Gonski Institute for Education at UNSW Sydney. The institute expressed its views that the design and implementation of a new national assessment system should be driven by the teaching profession.
According to Professor Adrian Piccoli, Director of the Gonski Institute for Education, there is little evidence that NAPLAN has improved education outcomes for students since it was introduced 10 years ago.
“There is growing evidence NAPLAN is having a negative impact on schools, students and teachers,” said Professor Piccoli. “NAPLAN and the publishing of results on the My School website has imposed a high stakes dimension to student testing and this has led to increased student anxiety, teaching to the test and a narrowing of the curriculum.
He said the Gonski Institute wanted to see the current tests, where every student is tested in years 3, 5, 7 and 9, replaced with a sample-based test of students.
“The Gonski Institute supports a national testing system so the performance of our education systems can be monitored, but we recommend a better approach,” Professor Piccoli added.
“This new approach would mean the publication of school-by-school results on the My School website will no longer be possible. As a result, the high stakes nature of the current national assessment program on both students and teachers would be dramatically reduced.”
However, in the Australian Parents Council’s (APC) submission to the COAG review, it expressed its support for the current approach to national testing, with several recommendations for minor improvements.
“It is important to consider that it is parents who will lose access to the data if it is not published publicly, as proposed by some other stakeholders. APC believes that it is better to manage the use of the data, than to deprive parents of information about their child’s school. Parents are the biggest stakeholders in education and, as such, should be able to access NAPLAN data about their child, their child’s school and their child’s prospective school,” the APC said in its submission.
While the APC supports access to NAPLAN data, it highlighted that this should be done under strict agreed guidelines to protect the interests of students. The APC also recommended that the presentation of the NAPLAN data should be changed so it is easier for parents to interpret, and for NAPLAN results to be reported within days rather than months so that parents have the opportunity to have timely discussions with their children’s teachers about any issues.
Speaking at a recent Gonski Institute for Education symposium on the subject of NAPLAN, Boston College Professor Andy Hargreaves said similar tests around the world were facing the same scrutiny as NAPLAN.
“I have been involved in a number of reviews of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – the worldwide assessment of Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. There is a drive to find new and better ways of assessing systems and students, without the unintended consequences of high stakes, large scale testing,” Professor Hargreaves explained.
Pasi Sahlberg, Professor of Educational Policy at UNSW Sydney added, “The consensus of those participating in the symposium was that the purpose of NAPLAN is not to rank schools. The assessment should be for use within schools for schools. It can be done in a way that still provides sound data and national reporting on system-level performance.”
Though Professor Piccoli revealed that the current NAPLAN testing provides some useful information for parents, he expressed his views that the negative effects of the current system outweigh the benefits. “There are much better ways than the current NAPLAN to provide accurate, timely and useful data back to parents about how they are performing at school,” he said.
Recommendations from the review are expected to be delivered to COAG in June.