Published in May 2016
NAPLAN IN ITS NINTH YEAR
This morning, all Northern Territory students in years three, five, seven, and nine, begin three days of NAPLAN testing. Now in it’s ninth year, NAPLAN dominates Australian education during this week of May. The literacy and numeracy tests are held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Friday is a catch up day for those who may have been absent during the week. These four ‘May Day’s’ of testing have become a permanent educational fixture.
For the first time, some children will be completing tests online. This is a pilot program the Australian Government hopes to extend to all schools.
NAPLAN testing is all about compliance. Testing was made compulsory during the Rudd, Gillard years. It overrode and replaced other testing programs.
The stated intention of this compulsory exercise is to capture student performance at a particular point in time every year. In fact, it’s impact goes far deeper. For weeks and months leading to this week, students in many schools sit practice tests or undertake activities slanted toward their readiness for NAPLAN. In some schools this happens on a daily basis.
The regime is one that excellently illustrates compliance at work. The Australian Government has mandated NAPLAN and it’s compulsion underpins system and school responses. School funding and educational futures are determined by data profiles. Test results are taken into account during school reviews, principal assessment and staff evaluation exercises.
At individual school level, NAPLAN results can lead to everything from moments of euphoria to feelings of despair. While it may not be talked about openly, principals, staff members, parents and tested students feel the pressure of waiting for results. When released, statistics for each school are microscopically dissected and studied by system leaders. In like manner the data is cut, sliced and analysed in every conceivable way at school level.
Outcomes for every school in Australia can be scrutinised by the public at large on the ‘My School’ website.
Many teachers believe that Tom Chappel’s ditty on NAPLAN, particularly the line that “your score is my score” carries real weight.
Students sense tensions and feel the underlying vibe created by this program. While some may appear indifferent, others are reduced to nervous anticipation and pre-test stress. Weeks and months of preparation together with countless classroom hours spent working on preparing for this week, adds to their unease.
NAPLAN is seemingly here to stay. But questions about its need, purpose and legitimacy remain.