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Poor NAPLAN communication reduces parents’ view of value

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In a week that’s seen NAPLAN’s writing test criticised that it did not promote clear expression, the program’s communication of results and their implications to parents is being pilloried for a lack of clarity.

Edith Cowan University (ECU) conducted a survey of 345 parents and 40 teachers across Years Three to Five from independent schools in Western Australia found half of parents were dissatisfied with how well student results were communicated.

A third (35%) were also ‘not at all’ satisfied with the time it took for results to be communicated.

Beyond this, half of parents surveyed (50%) doubted that the results helped teachers identify areas in which individual students needed help – a belief held by 78% of teachers.

According to Dr Shane Rogers of ECU’s School of Arts, these two factors are related.

“Participants’ low perceptions of the usefulness of the testing were not encouraging,” Rogers said.

“However, parents who felt they received good communication about the purpose and value of the testing showed far better attitudes about the test itself.

“This means better communication about how NAPLAN results are being used to improve education might improve overall attitudes – from the policy-making level to schools and teachers, and from schools and teachers to parents.

“The claim is that NAPLAN benefits all stakeholders – policy makers, schools, teachers, parents and individual students – but currently it is unclear how this is happening.”

Unsurprisingly, teachers were less enthusiastic about NAPLAN than parents, when asked if it was a good indicator of teacher performance, 60% reported ‘not at all’, through the majority did not feel the test impacted their teaching style or stress levels.

“Most teachers were sceptical that NAPLAN provided useful feedback on their performance, that it was fair for all students or that it was useful in identifying a school’s strengths and weaknesses,” Dr Rogers said.

“They seemed to feel it is primarily a tool to rank schools, and a very narrow one at that.”

Rogers believes greater collaboration between NAPLAN administrators and research institutions would be useful, as utilising the NAPLAN data to facilitate new important insights into student learning would help to foster a greater appreciation of the test.

When asked if the test was fair for children from diverse backgrounds, 35% of parents and 60% of teachers answered ‘not at all’.

Parent and teacher perceptions of NAPLAN in a sample of Independent schools in Western Australia by Dr Rogers, Dr Lennie Barblett and Dr Ken Robinson is published in The Australian Education Researcher.


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