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The Worth of NAPLAN

After 10 years, one might have expected more commentary on the worth of the NAPLAN exercise. As I have stated on numerous past occasions, the value in NAPLAN is primarily as a longitudinal set of data; a diagnostic tool for teachers looking at a student’s progress over time in these two key learning areas; and, to ascertain whether there are significant weaknesses for individual students that might be addressed.

Using NAPLAN in this positive way requires teachers to have training and guidance in how to make best use of the data. The value to parents has some worth but it is a very limited picture. The list of misuses of NAPLAN data and how it has adversely impacted Australian teaching is feast for another time.

Hopefully the Gonski 2.0 Review will open up some of these questions. What we do know to date is that: (1) there isn’t a strong causal relationship between funding and results; (2) Reducing classes sizes has made no appreciable difference; (3) Attempts to get schools to compete through being ‘exposed’ has had no impact; (4) All the research says that teaching is the greatest influence on student achievement. Therefore the best investment should be into better teacher training and support (see the article that follows).

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