Much has been said recently about NAPLAN testing. I agree with a review of NAPLAN testing including debate on the wider ramifications such as simplistic league tables.

NAPLAN tests are simply diagnostic tests for schools and school leaders. As such they are a ‘snapshot’ of a students results in literacy and numeracy in a test at a point in time.

League tables were never the intention but are certainly one of the negative results of any public testing such as NAPLAN. Simplistic reactions to NAPLAN results including assumptions around a schools worth, its leadership, or its standard of teaching, or comparisons within classes in achool based on the results of one class are certainly unhealthy and unhelpful..

What was intended with NAPLAN testing originally included the ability of each school to analyse its NAPLAN results and determine common patterns or gaps that require school wide support such as spelling, writing or a particular element of numeracy.

There are several methods of testing and standardised testing like NAPLAN is one. These include external evaluation, teacher evaluation and student self evaluation. Personally I favour various instruments that indicate student growth, in other words multiple strategies that allows teachers and parents to track student progress and the effectiveness of teacher classroom strategies.  The over emphasis on publication of results has impeded student achievement, fostering competition and comparisons between schools.

As a leader in a large Catholic system of schools I am determined that the pastoral care of our students is of utmost importance. The pressure placed on students when they are ‘hot housed’ by private coaches and some teachers causes untold psychological stress on young boys and girls. This was not the intention of NAPLAN but is certainly evident as a behavioural consequence of the standardised testing.

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Dr Michael Slattery Image
Dr Michael Slattery

Dr Michael Slattery is the Director of Catholic Schools, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.