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2014 NAPLAN results

Posted by Garry Collins, AATE President on 19 August 2014

The release of this year's NAPLAN results occasioned reports in most papers. In response to them, letters were submitted to The Australian and The Courier-Mail.

  • The following letter was published in The Australian on Tuesday 19 August 2014. The underlined sections were edited out of the original and words in brackets inserted. The heading that I submitted was "NAPLAN test results".

NAPLAN is not an indicator of schools' effectiveness

Perhaps the prompt (question) used for the writing component of this year’s NAPLAN tests could have been better chosen (“Marked down: how one tough question skewed the NAPLAN results”, 18/8).

It will always be difficult for ACARA (the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority) to select a topic that will be equally engaging for students in Year 3 and those in Year 9.

However, the main problem with NAPLAN results is that some people invest them with more meaning than is warranted and erroneously misuse them as an indicator of the effectiveness of whole schools and/or individual teachers. The tests have not been designed to measure these features and are incapable of doing so.

In addition, the Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE), the national English teacher professional body, does not consider that performance in a single “on demand” writing task that has to be completed in just 40 minutes in response to an arbitrarily imposed writing prompt is capable of comprehensively measuring students’ overall writing competence.

NAPLAN results are just one piece of evidence available to teachers and other educational stakeholders. Given the narrowness of NAPLAN data and its persistent misuse by some people, AATE considers (thinks) that the cost of the testing program and the associated My School website would be better spent on improvements in teaching and learning resources, school infrastructure and teacher professional learning.

Garry Collins
President, Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE)

  • The following letter was published in The Courier-Mail on the same day. Again, underlined words were deleted and bracketed ones inserted.

Smarter uses for NAPLAN funding

You report that this year’s NAPLAN results show “the worst-ever student performance nationwide on the persuasive writing task” (“Writing is on the wall”, 18/8).

Is this a matter for serious concern? Not really.

The Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE), the national English teacher professional body, does not consider that performance in a single “on demand” writing task that has to be completed in just 40 minutes in response to an arbitrarily imposed writing prompt is capable of comprehensively measuring students’ overall writing competence.

NAPLAN results are just one piece of evidence available to teachers and other educational stakeholders.

In addition, ACARA (the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority) concedes that the results may be partly attributable to the topic set for the task. However, the main problem with NAPLAN results is that some people invest them with more meaning than is warranted and erroneously misuse them as an indicator of the effectiveness of whole schools and/or individual teachers. The tests have not been designed to measure these features and are incapable of doing so.

Given the narrowness of NAPLAN data and its persistent misuse by some people, AATE considers that the (The) cost of the testing program and the associated My School website would be better spent on improvements in teaching and learning resources, school infrastructure and teacher professional learning.

Garry Collins
President, Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE)

Author: Garry Collins, AATE President
About: Garry Collins is the Immediate Past President of ETAQ and began a 2 year term as AATE President on 1 January 2014. A retired high school English teacher, he now works in the School of Education at the University of Queensland as a sessional tutor in English curriculum courses.
Tags: Assessment

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