NAPLAN 'a failed reform'

It is time to rethink NAPLAN and initiate a national debate on alternative approaches, Whitlam Institute Director Eric Sidoti said recently.

The Experience of Education: the impacts of high stakes testing on school students and their families: A Qualitative Study report, commissioned by the Whitlam Institute, concluded: “Although NAPLAN testing is designed to improve the quality of education children and young people receive in Australia, its implementation, uses and misuses mean that it undermines quality education, and it does harm that is not in the best interests of Australian children”.

Mr Sidoti said: “There is no escaping the seriousness of the report’s conclusion. Any educational reform, regardless of good faith or noble intent that is not in the best interests of the students is a failed reform.”

“It is time to open the debate. We need to ensure that the development of literacy and numeracy in our schools is assessed and reported upon in a way that enhances rather than constrains pedagogy, that evokes confidence and enthusiasm among educators rather than resignation that challenges and encourages learning rather than induces widespread anxiety and stress among students.”

The report was undertaken for the Whitlam Institute by Professor Johanna Wyn and her colleagues at the Youth Research Centre at the Melbourne Graduate School of
Education.

In 2013 Professor Johanna Wyn’s team spent time in five communities (three in Victoria and two in NSW) speaking to principals, teachers and parents; for the first time, they also interviewed students themselves. In the previous three years the Whitlam Institute has sought to examine the impacts of ‘high stakes’ testing on school students and their families through a progression of studies beginning with the original international literature review (January 2012) and followed by two substantial surveys of teachers (November 2012) and parents (November 2013) respectively.

The researchers said NAPLAN had taken on a life of its own, despite claims that it was no more than a simple diagnostic tool. It has spawned a small industry in coaching and in the production and sale of NAPLAN guides, sample tests and resources.