A national snapshot of results from this year’s NAPLAN testing was released this week (31 October 2022).

The regulatory body that oversees NAPLAN, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) reported that results were “mostly stable” at a national level from 2021 to 2022, apart from a decrease in Year 5 numeracy and Year 9 spelling.

“Overall, for a second year in a row, the national level results have defied predictions of drastic falls in performance related to COVID,” ACARA CEO David de Carvalho said in a statement.

2022 was the first year all schools took the NAPLAN test online, after a period of transition from paper testing.

Participation levels down

ACARA also said it was concerned by the “lower than usual participation rates”, which meant that preliminary NAPLAN results couldn’t be released in August, as in previous years.

Participation rates have been slowly falling since the start of NAPLAN but the decline this year was greater than the long-term rate.

“This issue is of concern, as low participation rates can impact results analysis and the ability to get a clear picture of literacy and numeracy achievement at the national level,” Mr de Carvalho said.

Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace said she was also concerned about the “washing of the data that takes place” and what this means for its reliability and flagged she intended to raise the issue at the next meeting of Education Ministers.

She also cautioned that NAPLAN was only one method used by schools to monitor and track student progress.

Earlier NAPLAN test from 2023

In March 2022, the country’s education ministers announced that the annual NAPLAN test – a point in time assessment for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 – will move to Term One from 2023 to ensure results were in the hands of teachers and parents earlier in the school year.

The 2023 test window will be Wednesday 15 March to Monday 27 March.

Other changes announced at the time included:

  • the current NAP Sample assessments for Years 6 and 10 (held every 3 years for a selected group of students only in Science, Civics and Citizenship, and Digital Literacy) would move from October to Term Two from 2023.
  • Schools will soon be able to “opt-in” to these NAP Sample assessments annually if they wish. These optional tests will be phased in over three years: Science will begin in 2024, Civics and Citizenship added in 2025 and Digital Literacy will follow in 2026.
  • Results from these additional opt-in, annual assessments will be given to schools, but not reported publicly.

Unpacking 2022’s results

ACARA says when looking at average scores, most long-term trends either show steady progress – particularly in the primary school years – or are stable.

The exception is Year 9 spelling, where increases in the early years of NAPLAN are reversing.

Other national findings include:

  • Writing results, which had been in decline up to 2018 – are turning around, showing an upward trend for Years 5, 7 and 9 since 2019. “This suggests that the efforts being made by schools and teachers, in response to those earlier warnign signs, are paying off,” Mr de Carvalho said.
  • Despite the decline this year in Year 5 numeracy, the long-term trend is positive.
  • Steady rises in Years 3 and 5 reading, and Years 3, 5 and 7 spelling have also continued.

Read all the key findings.