West Moreton Anglican College principal Geoff McLay
West Moreton Anglican College principal Geoff McLay David Nielsen

Teachers' warning for parents: What NAPLAN fails to test

NAPLAN does not test human attributes, teachers warn.

While numeracy, reading, writing, spelling and grammar and punctuation are at the heart of the testing data, West Moreton Anglican College principal Geoff McLay said there was a lot more to a student's academic achievement.

"NAPLAN tests are not designed to measure the full range of students' academic abilities. They are designed to give a point-in-time snapshot of each student's literacy and numeracy abilities using that test item," he said.

"As an example about why these tests are not good measures of overall academic ability - they do not measure higher-order thinking ability or creativity. These two attributes are very important dimensions when assessing overall academic ability or potential.

"There are a myriad of other 'human' attributes, for example ability to collaborate and work productively with others, that contribute to a student's overall academic level. Arguably, such attributes are at the heart of a student's academic overall academic ability."

Almost all WMAC students scored above the national minimum standard across all five testing bands in the latest round of testing, with 13% of year nine students missing the mark in writing.

Mr McLay said NAPLAN data should not be used to compare schools, students or states.

"The data from these tests is very narrow in terms of a student's overall ability and the use of it in this manner is more a response to public policy and a perceived need to measure for public accountability purposes," he said.

"While I am not opposed to that, in principle, I do question the value and validity of the current 'leagues table' approach to NAPLAN results in the public domain."

Mr McLay said there were a lot of similarities between the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage, which measured socio-economic advantage, and NAPLAN results for specific schools.

"A cursory glance at ICSEA scores and NAPLAN results shows a firm correlation between the two. Given that ICSEA is a broad measure of socio-economic advantage, direct comparison of schools' NAPLAN results potentially further reinforces relative socio-economic advantage or disadvantage," he said.

"Every student, parent and staff member wants to feel good about their school, why use NAPLAN results to make stakeholders feel bad about their school?

"I am also concerned about anecdotal reports I hear from colleagues in other schools who have described examples where teachers have adopted specific teaching-to-the-test strategies that have replaced a balanced, all round approach to student learning."



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