The National Assessment Plan – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is a crucial national assessment, but is coming under increasing criticism.
There are three major benefits of NAPLAN:
1. NAPLAN results enable the identification of problems in the school system over time, and are a means for evaluating potential solutions, from the national level all the way down to individual students.
2. Literacy and numeracy results are made transparent at a national, state and territory, and school level. Parents are also able to see how their children are progressing against an objective national benchmark.
3. NAPLAN holds governments and schools accountable for literacy and numeracy results, which is important given the significant financial investment made in them by taxpayers and parents.
There are four common criticisms of NAPLAN, which are not supported by rigorous evidence:
1. No significant improvement since NAPLAN was first introduced in 2008.
2. The testing harms students.
3. Publication of results on MySchool website harms schools.
4. The NAPLAN tests are too narrow.
The suggested alternative to NAPLAN of having a sample test instead would be woefully inadequate. A sample test would not have the same major benefits of NAPLAN, could not be used as a tool to help individual students, and would not promote school transparency and accountability.
NAPLAN should be retained — because it has major benefits, and claims that it harms the school system have not been confirmed by reliable evidence — but it can be improved; and common concerns from teachers and parents should be taken into account and investigated further.