A researcher in education has found very little change in the scores from ten years of NAPLAN tests.
According to the ABC, researcher Dr John Ainley drew on a review of data by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to produce a comprehensive analysis of 10 years of NAPLAN data.
The National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests are conducted every May for all Australian students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9, over one million students altogether. The tests are developed collaboratively by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), the state and territory governments, the non-government school sectors and the Australian Government.
Students in each year level are assessed on the same test items in the areas of reading, writing, language and numeracy. The data provide parents, schools, and governments with important information about whether young Australians are reaching important educational goals.
Dr Ainley's study shows there has been no improvement in maths and reading in a decade, according to the test results. Children from poor families, regional and rural areas, and those with learning difficulties, are struggling the most.
Apart from a “brief jump” in year 5 numeracy scores in 2008-09, Dr Ainley found little change in average scores at any year level in any state or territory between 2008 and 2017. There had been “modest improvements” among high-performing primary school students in reading. However, even those improvements stopped once students reached high school, with students at this level having a reading age of 8.
Some educators and principals have called for a review of NAPLAN, questioning its value as a diagnostic tool in education. Schools that did show improvement said the improvement probably came from Gonski funding for specialist teachers, not the NAPLAN results.
NAPLAN is also criticised because it only assesses basic skills, not skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving, as international tests do. One of those tests, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) in 2017, found the proportion of Victorian students excelling in reading literacy had increased. Victoria was well ahead of every Australian state and territory, and seventh in the world. The proportion of Victorian students performing at or above the critical “Intermediate” benchmark had increased from 80% to 86% since 2012.
Three state governments have called for a review of NAPLAN. They are critical of the way it has become a major event on the school calendar, and are concerned it has a negative effect on teaching and learning.