Principals Divided on Importance of NAPLAN

By Jianguo Wu
Jianguo Wu
Jianguo Wu
May 23, 2013 Updated: May 26, 2013

School principals and teachers remain divided over the NAPLAN, as this year’s national literacy and numeracy skills tests finished May 17.

Beginning in 2008, the NAPLAN, or National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy, is an annual assessment of year 3, 5, 7 and 9 students, with individual results going to teachers and parents and schools’ results reported nationally. Since its launch, the NAPLAN’s effectiveness has been questioned by some teachers and principals.

Paul Marshall, principal at Emmaus Christian School in Canberra, told parents via the school’s website that in the tests don’t benefit teachers or students because it takes around six months to find out the results.

He also told parents not to “hype up” the tests, believing they could “produce unnecessary stress” and that in fact the tests were not compulsory anyway.

The option to withdraw children from the NAPLAN tests is not widely known by parents, according to Trevor Cobbold, national convenor for the public education group Save Our Schools. Mr Cobbold says education authorities are encouraging this “misapprehension” and that the “conspiracy of silence must end”.

David Adamson, principal of Essendon Keilor College in Victoria, told The Epoch Times that his school does not build the test up but just treats it as a normal part of the school year.

“We only inform the parents that they have the right to withdraw their child, but we do not encourage it,” he said.

“It is annoying that the results take so long, but we use the data to compare our results year by year which can be useful in identifying trends.”

Dr Helen Healy, principal of St Mary Magdalen’s School of Chadstone in Victoria, told The Epoch Times that the national tests were a necessary part of accountability, particularly considering a “significant” boost to school funding over the past 20 years.

“NAPLAN is part of that accountability process and we are cooperative in complying with it from that perspective”.

Students at St Mary Magdalen’s were able to complete a practice test in the weeks prior to the NAPLAN, which Dr Healy said would help to reduce anxiety they felt from parental and societal expectation.

“We want the results to be an honest appraisal of student learning at a particular point in time therefore we do not ‘teach to the test’,” Dr Healy said. “Teachers who have primed students for the tests know that their results are not valid.”

Jianguo Wu
Jianguo Wu