NAPLAN 'makes no difference to student outcomes' – national survey


More than half of Australia’s educators say NAPLAN is ineffective, increases workloads and contributes to students’ stress and anxiety, according to a new national survey.

The Australian Education Union’s 2021 State of our Schools survey of public-school teachers, principals and education support staff follows the release of the NAPLAN 2021 National Report on Wednesday.

According to the data, 73% of principals say that NAPLAN increases teacher workloads; 86% of principals say that NAPLAN contributes to students’ stress and anxiety; 59% of principals say that NAPLAN makes no difference to student outcomes; and 62% of teachers say that NAPLAN is an ineffective diagnostic tool for teachers.

A study by the University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) Gonski Institute concluded that NAPLAN’s competitive and high stakes nature “is deeply problematic, with a one size fits all approach that is detrimental to staff and students”.

So, what kind of student assessment system would replace NAPLAN?

In May, the University of New South Wales’ Gonski Institute for Education proposed a ‘hybrid National Assessment System’ (NAS) to address many of the issues that teachers, principals, parents and students have with NAPLAN.

Under the new model, assessment would be shifted to a comprehensive program of classroom-based and teacher-led assessments and sample-based testing, allowing more accurate tests, less work for teachers and faster results.

Dr Rachel Wilson from the University of Sydney was the lead author of ‘Putting Students First: Moving on from NAPLAN’ – a report which laid out the benefits of the NAS.

“The NAS puts students at the heart of assessment, whereas NAPLAN was more focused on accountability,” Dr Wilson told The Educator.

“The new plan focuses on how student learning can be strengthened by classroom assessment that can also be linked to national standards and benchmarks and enable better reporting to parents.”

Dr Wilson said that with such a system in place, the accountability and system monitoring requirements can be done by sample testing, rather than making all students in the relevant years sit tests.

“The change from census to sample testing will remove the many negative outcomes we saw with NAPLAN”.

AEU federal president, Correna Haythorpe, said leading education systems in high-performing jurisdictions such as Finland, Ontario, Scotland and Singapore have moved away from standardised tests like NAPLAN. 

“Student learning, parent reporting and system monitoring outcomes can only be adequately addressed with the help of substantial teacher input," Haythorpe told The Educator.

“We need a national assessment framework that will relieve the high-stakes nature associated with NAPLAN and put student and teacher needs first."