With the break in testing and reporting of NAPLAN this year, it’s timely to consider what value this process offers. In its absence, we teachers noticed no major difference. Indeed, one positive outcome was that intervention was more easily able to be delivered, without the need to depend on inaccurate NAPLAN results.
The recently published review of NAPLAN can be boiled down to “this is how we have always done it”. Taken as a whole it suggests that tweaks and improvements are sufficient and for a renewed emphasis to be placed on the test. As an example, it proposes that testing occur at the beginning of the year, which would make its relevance to schools and teachers even more distant as the students would have just returned from holidays and forgotten most that they had learnt across the previous year.
The most glaringly short-sighted recommendation calls for the entire test to be taken online, except at year three. The recent experience of remote teaching has further exposed the inequity of our system, especially as it manifests through the “digital divide”. Willingly opting for this method is dangerous as a result.
The ideal situation is clearly outlined then rejected within the report: sample testing. This approach achieves the system-wide goals of the test and abandons those elements that have never been achieved correctly by the test. Sample testing is a long-held and widely practised method, including across many highly regarded international tests. By contrast, census testing is an antiquated approach that does not fit with modern views of what education is and can be.
Ultimately, any further discussion on this poorly constructed and applied test merely pulls focus from what’s important. If COVID-19 has taught us within the education system anything, it’s that what’s needed is new thinking and approaches. Education reform that empowers teachers and educators is a must. This review calls for more of the old and should be ignored as such.
Steven Kolber is a teacher at Brunswick Secondary College.