The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is an independent authority focused on improving the learning of all young Australians through a national curriculum, the national assessment program and a national data collection and reporting program.
ACARA collaborates with teachers, principals, governments, state and territory education authorities, professional education associations, community groups and the general public to develop national education standards for use in every school in Australia.
The National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests are conducted in May for all students across Australia in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. Each year, over one million students nationally sit the NAPLAN tests. All students in the same year level are assessed on the same test items in the assessment domains of reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy.
NAPLAN data provide parents, schools, governments and the non-government school sectors with important information about whether young Australians are reaching important educational goals.
NAPLAN tests are the only Australian assessments that provide nationally comparable data on the performance of students in the vital areas of literacy and numeracy. This gives NAPLAN a unique role in providing robust data to inform and support improvements to teaching and learning practices in Australian schools.
The NAPLAN assessment and reporting process
NAPLAN tests are developed collaboratively by ACARA, the state and territory governments, the non-government school sectors and the Australian Government. The test administration authority in each jurisdiction is responsible for test administration, data capture and delivery of reports.
NAPLAN tests broadly reflect aspects of literacy and numeracy within the curriculum in all jurisdictions. The types of test questions and test formats are chosen so that they are familiar to students and teachers across Australia.
The National Protocols for Test Administration ensure consistency in the administration of NAPLAN tests by all test administration authorities and schools across Australia.
The test administration authority in each jurisdiction manages the marking of the tests. Tests for reading, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy are marked using optical mark recognition software to score multiple-choice items. Writing tasks are marked using well established procedures for maintaining marker consistency across all jurisdictions.
Test administration authorities submit de-identified student data from all tests to a contractor appointed to undertake analysis of the test data on behalf of ACARA. This analysis determines individual student scores across the national achievement scale and enables comparisons over time.
Comparative data showing the performance of each jurisdiction and the nation are provided to each test administration authority.
Student reports are produced by the test administration authorities, using a common national reporting format.
Comparisons over time
NAPLAN tests are equated so that the 2016 results can be compared with those for previous years and reported on the same achievement scale. As with all statistical calculations, the NAPLAN statistics in this report include some degree of uncertainty and this should be considered when interpreting any differences.
To help interpret differences in results, an additional effect size measure has been included in the 2016 comparison calculations. Where comparisons of results are shown, a representation of the effect size and statistical significance of the comparison is also provided. This representation is referred to as the ‘nature of the difference’ and it combines the outcomes of statistical significance tests with an effect size measure of the difference.
Comparisons are made for results within jurisdictions, between the current and previous years, and between the current and base years. For reading, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy, the base year is 2008. For writing, the base year is 2011.
The writing prompt of NAPLAN can be either persuasive or narrative. From 2008 to 2010 the prompt was narrative; from 2011 to 2015 a persuasive prompt was used. NAPLAN 2016 employed a narrative test. In order to make comparisons year-on-year and observe trends in data, new analytical methods were used this year to put the results of this year’s narrative test onto the existing persuasive writing scale, creating a NAPLAN writing scale comparable for both genres. This means that for 2016 the results can be compared and trends analysed in NAPLAN writing data from 2011 onwards (but not for results before then).
In addition, the Education Council approved the use of the ABS Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) Remoteness Structure for all national reporting from 2016 enabling comparison of schools from other educational sectors and other policy and program themes. As a result, the geolocation results obtained from the 2016 NAPLAN are not directly comparable to those of previous cycles.
In order to maintain the design of tables and graphs the NAPLAN 2009 and 2010 results were removed from the PDF version of the national report. They are still available in the online version of the national report.
NAPLAN results are publicly reported through the NAPLAN summary information and NAPLAN national reports. Results are also available for use by jurisdictions, non-government school sectors and schools.
Individual student reports, provided to parents/carers, show student results against the national average and the middle 60 per cent of students nationally. These reports contain a description of what was assessed in each of the tests and provide information about the knowledge and skills the student demonstrated in the tests.
NAPLAN results are reported using five national achievement scales, one for each of the NAPLAN assessment domains of reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy. Each scale consists of ten bands, which represent the increasing complexity of the knowledge and skills assessed by NAPLAN from Years 3 to 9. Six of these bands are used for reporting student performance in each year level. Student raw scores on tests are converted to a NAPLAN ‘scale score’ so that those scores can be located on the national scale for each domain.
The NAPLAN reporting scales are constructed so that any given scale score represents the same level of achievement over time within a domain. For example, a score of 700 in reading in one year represents the same level of reading achievement in other testing years.