The annual NAPLAN tests are coming. On 9 – 11 May if your child is in Years 3, 5, 7 or 9, he or she will most likely be sitting the Australia-wide standardised literacy and numeracy tests.
But what exactly is NAPLAN? Whose idea was it? What is it trying to achieve? And, why are school results published on a website?
To find these answers, we have to look back to a meeting of Australia’s State and Federal Education Ministers in 1999 called the Adelaide Declaration.
Just before the turn of the century, it was decided that Australia needed to plan ahead for the country’s educational needs. The Federal Government decided to call a meeting named The Adelaide Declaration. At the Adelaide Declaration, all Australian Education Ministers agreed on both National Goals for the 21st Century and to regularly report on progress towards the achievement of these national goals by school students.
Four years later, the National Assessment Program (NAP) was established to collect and analyse nationally comparable student achievement data focusing on the set National Goals. The data collected was based on Numeracy and Literacy and it provided the platform of what is known today as the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN).
Later, in August 2008, the then Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard released a document entitled: “Quality Education: The case for an Education Revolution in our Schools,” which claimed that:
“All Australians have a right to expect governments to be accountable for the programs and services they provide” and continued: “Australia does not have any national data or reporting framework that can be easily and properly applied to all schools” (Education Revolution). With this, Rudd and Gillard firmly set the platform for the Adelaide Declaration, to be superseded by a new document, the Melbourne Declaration, signed in December 2008.
The Melbourne Declaration promulgates that the ongoing enjoyment of a high quality of life for Australians is dependent “…on the ability to compete in the global economy on knowledge and innovation.” The Declaration also asserts: “Literacy and numeracy and knowledge of key disciplines remain the cornerstone of schooling for young Australians” (Melbourne Declaration). Hence the reason for only testing maths and English.
The major difference with the Melbourne Declaration is that it included policy plans to publish the NAPLAN results.
The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), was tasked to oversee national curriculum testing, including NAPLAN, in schools (Caldwell).
In response to the Melbourne Declaration, ACARA introduced the MySchool website in 2010 (Lingard, 2010). MySchool provides approximately 9500 schools with comparative data (‘About MySchool’). Included in this data are results from NAPLAN. Notably, MySchool uses the NAPLAN results to list a school’s performance against national averages and 60 ‘like schools’ across the nation (Lingard, 2010). The outcomes of the NAPLAN results gain a great deal of media coverage in terms of cross-State and cross-school comparisons (Lingard, 2010).
NAPLAN has become part of the part of the Australian Education landscape. Over the next three years, NAPLAN will continue to evolve as it moves online.
For further information, please see: www.nap.edu.au
About MySchool Fact Sheet (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.acara.edu.edu.au/verve/_reouces?aboutmy_school.pdf
Caldwell, B. J. (2010). The Impact of High-Stakes Test-Driven Accountability. Professional Voice, 8(1), 49-53.
Lingard, B. (2010). Policy borrowing, policy learning: testing times in Australian schooling. Critical Studies in Education, 51(2), 129-147.
Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. (2008, December). Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs. Retrieved from http://www.mceecdya.edu.au/verve/_resources/national_declaration_on_the_educational_goals_for_young_australians.pdf
Rudd, K. & Gillard, J. (2008, August 27). Quality Education: The case for an Education Revolution in Our Schools [Press Release]. Retrieved from http://ehlt.flinders.edu.au/education/eduwiki/lib/exe/fetch.php?media=students10:research_docs:750e493fd01.pdf
Why NAP. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu.au/about/why-nap.html