At this time every year, following the release of the nation’s NAPLAN results, there is a flurry of media commentary about how our students are performing – and what it means for the future of Australia.

That commentary is often very negative and dispiriting for parents, children and schools.

But there is another voice families need to listen to during the annual NAPLAN debate – and that is the measured voice of our children’s teachers and principals.

Their commentary about what the NAPLAN results mean – and how much weight needs to be given to those results – is wise and comes from years of observation and experience.

More often than not their message is essentially that the quality of the education occurring in our schools can’t be solely judged on NAPLAN results.

NAPLAN not the only measure of the success of a child’s education

The Principal of Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School and Ipswich Junior Grammar School, Dr Peter Britton, said this week it was important for parents to remember that their child’s NAPLAN results are only “a snapshot’’ of their child’s development in literacy and numeracy every two years (Year 3, 5, 7 and 9).

“The results should not be used as the only measure of the success of their child’s education,’’ Dr Britton cautions.

“If a parent has a concern or needs more information about their child’s education then they should contact their school and work with the teachers to discuss concerns and develop additional plans, if necessary.

“Indeed there is more to a good education than NAPLAN scores. Students need to be nurtured by caring, high-performing teachers who are passionate about their vocation and clear about the key role that they play in preparing students for a globally-connected, technologically advanced, entrepreneurial world.

“Today’s students are connected 24/7/365. Their world is limitless. This context foregrounds the importance of schools partnering with parents and the wider community to help students become diligent, respectful, resilient, caring and compassionate citizens who are well-educated, possess disciplined dispositions and moral and ethical behaviours.’’

So should NAPLAN be used to compare schools, students and states against each other?

It depends on who is using the data and what they are trying to achieve, Dr Britton says

“As an educator, I like parts of the NAPLAN concept. NAPLAN provides schools with detailed data at various levels about strengths and areas for improvement.

“The data helps students identify where they are positioned in developing their literacy and numeracy skills and what they need to aim to achieve to improve their skills. The data helps teachers to identify each student’s needs and thus enabling them to adjust their practices…(it also helps) academic middle managers appraise their programs and it helps principals strategically allocate financial, human and physical resources across the school in an endeavour to support teachers.

“Nevertheless, NAPLAN also has a sideshow.

It has become a high stake test due to the development of rank orders and associated commentary. Consequently just mentioning the world NAPLAN in some circles ignites disapproval, grunts, whimpers or tears due to the pressure it creates on systems, schools, teachers, and students.’’

NAPLAN just one of a suite of assessment tools used by schools

Dr Britton said NAPLAN was one of a “suite” of diagnostic assessment items used by his schools to evaluate each student’s progress towards obtaining a “holistic education, including academic achievement’’.

“One of the nicest things about our school is that our students are treated as people not just students, people with individual needs and aspirations. The more valued our students are for their individuality, the more successful they are going to be in the classroom, on sporting fields, in arts studios and in the community.’’

More information on NAPLAN

To find out when you will be receiving your child’s individual NAPLAN report and how you should interpret the report, read our recent story here.

More information on individual student reports can be found on the National Assessment Program (NAP) website: here and here.

You will also find some good general information at NAPLAN FAQs.

The Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) has lots of information, including a sample student report, on their NAPLAN information page.

You can also read our previous story on NAPLAN online and other national developments here.