NAPLAN: Can there be another perspective?

Professor Lawrence Saha says we will probably never stop hearing about this testing program.The stakeholders are numerous, the attitudes towards it are very diverse and the consequences can be serious. But what is it all about?

NAPLAN, the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy, is Australia’s national standardised testing program for school students in Years 3, 5, 7, and 9 and began in 2008.

In many respects it is comparable to standardised testing in other countries around the world but, unlike in some places for example parts of the United States, the stakes in Australia’s NAPLAN are not so high.

Schools do not get closed for low scores. Principals or teachers do not get fired if their students perform badly. Students do not get excluded from school if they fail the test. So what is the fuss?

Well, there is a barb. The results of NAPLAN each year are published online on the MySchool website for everyone to see. Is this a form of reward or punishment?Testing in schools is important. Tests serve both to measure the progress of students and to assess the effectiveness of schooling itself. So the issue is whether it is the idea of an external standardised test that is the problem or the context in which it is administered, or the use that is made of the results which are at fault.