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NAPLAN results are in – but what does NAPLAN result in?

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With NAPLAN summary results now out, literacy expert Prof Beryl Exley says discussion needs to move beyond NAPLAN results to the impact of NAPLAN on children’s education.

Exley is National President of the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association (ALEA), and Professor of English Curriculum and Literacy Education at Griffith University, Queensland. 

“The focus of today seems to be on the NAPLAN results, but we have to turn the discussion to something more foundational,” said Exley. “NAPLAN has exhausted its usefulness. NAPLAN does not measure what it proposes to measure. It’s negatively affecting the schooling experience for students for up to eight years.

“We have hard evidence that in some schools students are spending up to 20 weeks preparing for NAPLAN. That’s 20 weeks where they are not undertaking the Australian Curriculum and that is a source of concern.

“Students aren’t motivated by the NAPLAN experience and it doesn’t tell teachers anything they don’t know from the other assessments that they roll out. Teachers are best place to decide on the form and timing of assessment.”

Meanwhile, assessment expert Assoc Prof Jihyun Lee suggests the government needs to do a better job explaining NAPLAN's purpose.

Lee is an associate professor at the UNSW School of Education, and is specialised in large-scale standardised testing, including NAPLAN and PISA. She is currently a TJA Research Fellow in the PISA division at the OECD, and will be working at the OECD-headquarters in Paris the remainder of this year. 

In her view, the hubbub over the validity of NAPLAN results before their release was overblown. "The results did not show a catastrophic mistake because of the implementation of the online assessment," she said.

"But the fundamental issue is who supports its continuation. It appears that it has a strong support from the federal government, measurement experts, and a handful of academics.

"However, I believe that the government has not done a good job in explaining clearly what the main purpose of NAPLAN is and how the NAPLAN data are currently used beyond the school level. As long as the school information is not available publicly, NAPLAN can continue to be used."

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