DEBATE is raging across the country at the effectiveness of the NAPLAN testing system.
Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace recently pushed for a federal review of NAPLAN, following the Queensland Teachers’ Union’s successful campaign to scrap compulsory rollout of NAPLAN Online testing.
National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is an annual assessment for all students in years three, five, seven and nine.
The tests cover skills in reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation and numeracy and are undertaken every year.
Principals in the twin towns agreed the NAPLAN system was far from perfect but said it was one of many tools used to help students.
Echuca College principal Chris Eeles said NAPLAN was just one way his school prepared lessons and provided support to students.
“When you look at the development of a young person you must look at a lot of things and not just the test,” he said.
“The emphasis placed on it by some groups is probably a bit excessive.
“We want to see growth of students. NAPLAN assists us to do that but there are many other tools.
“All systems need to be reviewed at least every three years in education because the way children learn moves so quickly.
“We have to keep pace with the change and what we are delivering and how we deliver it.”
Tongala Primary School principal Robert Hogan said NAPLAN was helpful to target students’ strengths and weaknesses.
“The biggest benefit is it shows students’ growth as they progress through the levels of the testing from grade three,” he said.
“It doesn’t cause much stress for students at our school. The stress created from all testing comes down to how it’s handled at a school level.
“NAPLAN doesn’t need the scrutiny it gets because it is just one assessment among many others.
“I would like the results back earlier though. We do it in May and don’t get them back until September.”
Cohuna Consolidated principal Daniel Nemtsas said the effectiveness of NAPLAN came down to how the school used the data.
“You have to take a whole school approach and not let it be about one test,’’ he said.
“There are many other areas like art, leadership and social and emotional development that count towards a child’s growth and performance.”
Echuca East principal Lyn Strachan said breaking down NAPLAN results to compare schools was “absolutely ridiculous” and the process created significant stress for students and staff.
“The testing doesn’t take into account the socio-economic factors, parental background and other disadvantages children face,” she said.
“The results depend on how the child is functioning on that day and it doesn’t consider any of the challenges the children bring to school with them.
“The format of NAPLAN is not best practice. The way the test is presented is not the way we teach.
“The spelling is particularly fascinating, the way it’s presented is in such a format that it doesn’t always make sense and children struggle to engage with it.”
Nanneella Estate principal Ian Denson said he was unable to determine trends from the data because his small student cohort meant numbers “bounced around” from year to year.
“When working with small numbers of students our teachers have a great understanding of the children’s progress,” he said.
“NAPLAN results arrive months after the test and are well out of date as a result.
“It is concerning that our valuable teaching time is given over to NAPLAN tests and the admin and reporting process.
“Students can often get anxious about doing tests especially ones they’re unfamiliar with.
“I would be happy for it to be reviewed. Seems to be more of a political process rather than an educational one.’’