Minister’s NAPLAN-linked job certificate plan ‘dangerous’

Minister’s NAPLAN-linked job certificate plan ‘dangerous’

This week, Victorian Education Minister, James Merlino, revealed a plan to link students’ NAPLAN scores with future job applications as part of a push to overhaul the controversial test.

Merlino proposed the introduction of a 'certificate of proficiency' as an incentive for Year 9 students to more enthusiastically embrace the NAPLAN tests, adding that the certificate could form part of the students portfolio of school achievement when seeking a job later in life.

“We need our Year 9 students to think 'OK, this test means something, I'm going to give it my best shot, and I'm going to give it my best shot because I'm going to get a certificate that's going to go into my careers portfolio’,” Merlino said.

However, some principals are skeptical of the proposal, which will be assessed by an advisory committee of principals from government, independent and Catholic schools.

“An overhaul of NAPLAN is most welcome and long overdue for many reasons, none of which were addressed by proposals Merlino released earlier this week,” Berwick Lodge Primary School principal, Henry Grossek, told The Educator.

“As a keen AFL supporter, Mr Merlino would fully understand the charge that would be directed at him, that he would be 'shifting the goal posts during the game' were he to do this.”

Grossek said NAPLAN was never intended to be linked in any way whatsoever to students’ job applications later in life and that Merlino’s proposal “smacks of little more than political opportunism”.

“Many would see this as a desperate attempt to find a solution that provides the best NAPLAN data, rather than the best learning outcomes for all students,” Grossek said.

“Such an alternative runs counter to all that Mr Merlino aims to achieve with his 'certificate of proficiency' proposal for year 9 students. Little wonder then that cynicism over NAPLAN runs rampant.”

The Australian Education Union (AEU) in Victoria slammed Merlino’s plan, saying it will have “a raft of untold negative consequences” for students and “should be abandoned immediately”.

Meredith Peace, president of the AEU’s Victorian Branch, said NAPLAN should “not be considered by students as a determinant of their future”.

“It is not surprising at all that [students] are disengaged, NAPLAN testing skims the surface of the breadth of skills and knowledge of what students learn in the classroom,” Peace said

“Linking standardised tests results with career opportunities does not lead to better student engagement or better pathway outcomes. This approach seems to put political and bureaucratic objectives ahead of what students really need.”

Deakin University research fellows, Jessica Holloway and Steven Lewis, called the Minister’s idea “misguided and dangerous”.

“Not only has the minister offered no evidence to support his proposal, but most research shows that solutions involving raised stakes are built on false premises,” they wrote in The Conversation recently.

“Under no circumstances do NAPLAN scores alone indicate a student’s full potential. Suggesting would-be employers could use scores in this way is entirely inappropriate.”

The Victorian Education Minister has been contacted for comment.