NAPLAN's unintended consequences

Susan Armstead
Relieving Editor

The interim report on the Effectiveness of the National Assessment Program —Literacy and Numeracy was handed down in June.

The Senate's Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committee found over time the purposes of NAPLAN had expanded. Reported perceptions of the unintended consequences included:

•adverse impacts on students
•narrowing of the curriculum
•creation of a NAPLAN preparation industry, and
•the development of NAPLAN into a “high stakes” test.

The inclusion of NAPLAN data to determine the School Resource Standard, the essential funding criteria recommended in the Gonski Review, was likely to contribute to the perception of NAPLAN as a ‘high stakes’ test, the committee reported. But the committee also wrote that the evidence presented suggested the influence of parents, schools and, in particular, the media caused stress rather than the test itself.

The Gonski Review stated that “an excessive focus on what is testable, measurable and publicly reportable carries the risk of an imbalance in the school curriculum”. The committee stated it needed more time to present a properly considered report and therefore it was of the ‘utmost importance’ that Parliament makes a recommendation to the Senate for the re-adoption of the inquiry when the new Parliament convened after the election.