The failure of reporting on NAPLAN

The media has put me in a foul mood today. Preliminary results have been released reporting on NAPLAN, and the reporting on it is pretty poor. For example, a story from the ABC, South Australian NAPLAN results behind the national average, relies on terms such as ‘below average’ and ‘worst performing’ without any sense of explanation of what that means or providing any adequate context.

Surely half of the students were below average, and half above average. Every teacher knows the truth that there is no such thing as average. So what does the report mean by average? Do they mean ‘meeting the acceptable standard for their age’? Do they mean, being in a middle band of achievement, with the parameters defined by ACARA? We don’t know, because they don’t say.

They don’t ask, or answer the question: What does this mean our kids do or don’t know? What, in real terms, can children in years 3, 5, 7, and 9 not do that they should be able to do?

These are important questions. If students are demonstrably failing to learn in schools, that is a problem. But are they demonstrably failing to learn? What skills are they failing to learn? How does the NAPLAN test demonstrate that failure, or success? Are there skills that students may or may not be learning that NAPLAN does not, and maybe cannot, report on?

These are also important questions, that once again are not being asked.

What is reported on is that particular groups are below some unspecified average. That some perform worse than others.

We could say that without NAPLAN, couldn’t we?

So ask the question – why don’t we? Is NAPLAN really an effective tool? Do we need it to build a successful education system? The much lauded Finnish system does not have it, and they are MUCH LAUDED.

Say ‘no’ to NAPLAN. Please.

 

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The failure of reporting on NAPLAN

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