By Caroline Fielding Ba P. Ed
At least twice during a child’s primary schooling they will undertake high-stakes testing. In Australia, NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) is sat in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 with students completing testing in reading, writing, language conventions and mathematics. Teachers, students and often parents can feel the stress of NAPLAN and what its overall results mean for the child and the school. There is a great debate as to whether young children should sit these tests and what the benefit of them are. Educational research conducted all over the world has uncovered some of the negatives and positives to national testing and how it can change policies, the curriculum and focus learning areas.
NAPLAN stands for ‘The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy’ and is a national assessment taken annually in May. Students are assessed in reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and mathematics.
Who prescribes NAPLAN?
NAPLAN is delivered by ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority). Each state has a test administration authority who is responsible for the delivery and implementation of NAPLAN in their state.
To find your state’s test administration authority contact follow this link:
Why is NAPLAN undertaken?
NAPLAN is undertaken for several reasons including public accountability for schools, teachers and students. It is a national assessment to measure a student’s skills in literacy and numeracy at the time of the tests. The results of this testing inform the government of each school’s ranking against national standards as well as the national standards compared to international standards. Parents can see their child’s level compared to the national standards and determine if there are any areas of focus which the student can improve. Results from NAPLAN provide insight into what learning areas students are struggling in and where improvements could be made.
What are the negative and positive impacts of NAPLAN on children?
Studies have been undertaken in Australia and all over the world to investigate and research the impact of national testing on students. Even though some of these studies do identify that there can be negative impacts, surprisingly some positive impacts were identified.
Negative: A number of studies have identified that some students experience restlessness, lack of appetite and sleep as well as irritability in the lead up to national testing. Students identified that their relationships with teachers, peers and parents were negatively impacted as well. Students in Western Australia have identified that some experienced low levels of anxiety in the months leading up to NAPLAN.
Positive: There are some positives to NAPLAN. One is the opportunity for restitution for students. Teachers can use the results to support and build up students in areas in which they struggled. In my experience working for Cluey, parents will often seek tutoring for their child after identifying where their child may not meet national standards. NAPLAN requires schools to be publicly held accountable for their students’ learning and development; these are shown on the MySchool website. Governments identify the learning areas where states might be struggling and create strategies or policies to strengthen them.
Parents can access in-depth National Reports showing final results by categories such as gender, age, indigenous status and language background. Access National reports here:
What can you do to help your child before, during and after NAPLAN?
If one of your main worries is the impact of NAPLAN on your child’s mental health, there are several things you can do to support them. Firstly, discussing NAPLAN in a positive manner with your child allows them to have a positive view on the testing. Studies in Hong Kong found that students who experienced anxiety identified that their parents had a negative view of national testing and placed extra pressure on the child to achieve highly.
Secondly, discuss with your child what NAPLAN is and what it is used for. Explaining to them that it is a series of assessment used to identify their skills in reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and mathematics and that the government and schools use these results to identify where students need support. Most students complete practice testing in the weeks leading up to NAPLAN and this is something we are offering this year with our NAPLAN starter pack.
Students and parents can often feel anxious whilst waiting for the results of the NAPLAN tests. Reports from your child’s NAPLAN testing are received by schools between mid-August to mid-September depending on the state testing authority. You can reassure your child that even though the results do identify where they are compared to national standards, they are only based on the student’s skills on that day and in specific conditions and do not represent their ability overall.