IEU members respond to the National Assessment Program (NAP) – NAPLAN reporting review 2019
On the 14th of March 2019, IEU members nationally responded to the Council of Australian Governments inquiry into NAPLAN (you can find the complete submission here). More than 2800 union members working across Catholic and Independent schools, Australia-wide were surveyed. IEU WA branch union members will have the opportunity to have their say in our Branch survey early Term 2.
What did members have to say?
Whilst a number of IEU members who completed the survey see value and utility in the current NAP arrangements, it is evident that an overwhelming number have major concerns about the value and accuracy (in describing their individual students’ abilities) of the test and have little support for the utility in presentation on the MySchool website. Overwhelmingly (88% of respondents), IEU members support a formative assessment program that is created by and for teachers, that could be utilised when and where needed (as determined by the classroom teacher).
When asked, “do you believe the results of NAPLAN tests provide an accurate evaluation of your individual students’ abilities in numeracy and literacy” IEU members generally disagreed with the statement.
When asked “are the NAPLAN results useful for your planning for student learning” members indicated that overall they disagreed.
IEU members believe strongly that the NAPLAN data and results currently arrive too late in the year to be of high value and that a “national assessment tool, either in its current form or continuously available, should be available from early in the year for teachers to use according to their professional judgement.”
Improvements to NAPLAN
Members provided a wide range of reactions to the NAPLAN program. A number of common themes can be found among the members’ comments. There remains a large number of teachers who believe that the NAPLAN regime should simply be abolished. In their view, it serves no educational purpose and worse than that causes difficulties for some learners and/or the classroom.
A large number of members commented on the delay between the taking of the test (in May) and the delivery of student results much later in the year, providing very little time or capacity for that classroom teacher to work on areas of learning requiring attention.
IEU Members also reflected, in significant numbers, on the lack of linkage often between the tests and what is happening in the classroom; that the tests were inappropriate for Year 3 students given their level of maturation; insufficient time allocation in some tests/test items for students to be able to adequately respond; ongoing concerns about publication of the results on the MySchool website and the media’s preparation of ‘league tables’. There are concerns that the tests do not validly measure the intended benchmarks and that other classroom assessments provide a different and more accurate measure the student’s actual literacy and numeracy level.
The overwhelming conclusion remains that every aspect of teaching and learning has felt the negative impact of the publication of the NAPLAN data. IEU members commented on both what they saw as elements causing the pressure felt in schools as well as commenting on the consequences of that pressure.
Agreement that there has been additional pressure from the publication of NAPLAN data
Pressure on teachers
Pressure on students
Pressure on the school
Note: Percentages rounded
One of the predominant themes expressed by members about a source of unnecessary pressure was the lack of community understanding about the purpose (and limitations) of the NAPLAN data. This included unrealistic expectations from parents about the purpose and their own expectations for their child’s performance.
IEU Members’ recommendations
- Clarification of purpose
The NAPLAN tests were originally promoted as ‘diagnostic tools’ however commentary by ACARA senior personnel, including statements before a Senate inquiry, suggest that the tests are a summative assessment of the learning for the year level cohort. After consultation with the education community in relation to needs with respect to the tests, the explicit purpose of the tests must be made clear and the tests constructed accordingly.
If the NAPLAN tests are intended to be used by teacher to “help them better identify students who require greater challenges or additional support” it is clear that the current timing of both ‘taking’ the tests in May of the school year and then receipt of results quite late in the school year means that too little time is available for that classroom teacher to respond to the diagnostic results. Consequently it would seem sensible to conduct a ‘diagnostic test’ as early as possible in the school year and improve the turn-around of results so that more time is available to respond in the classroom. If it is determined that the tests are diagnostic tools these tools should be available for teachers to utilise at the appropriate time to suit the needs of their students as determined by the teacher’s professional judgement.
- Provision for special needs students
Principals and teachers generally agreed that the current tests do not provide for students with special needs and the ad hoc approach in some schools to encourage some students to ‘not attend’ on the test days is not an appropriate response. The establishment of a working party with classroom teacher, with expertise in supporting students with special needs, be established to provide advice in relation to the current and future NAPLAN test items. In particular, the expertise of classroom teachers needs to be accessed to establish the evidence and benchmarks for measures of ‘one year’s growth, for one year’s schooling’ for students across the entire cohort.