A Bit of Perspective
Here’s my short answer: a test that started out as a diagnostic assessment meant for schools to use to improve their teaching and learning missed the mark because of poor execution – skills assessed were mostly based on expected learning from the previous year and the results only get back to schools toward the end of the year so there’s little chance to adjust or target strategies because the students are just about out the door for summer holidays and the next year level. Add to this that the data schools get are usually inscrutable and only on the desks of learning leaders and it’s again not surprising that what was meant as a diagnostic hasn’t achieved its purpose. On top of all that, of course, is the politics of league tables (that aren’t league tables) and what was meant as info for schools has been shifted into a high-stakes test for students and it’s no wonder people haver strong opinions about NAPLAN.
But it’s not all bad. What we do get from NAPLAN is THE ONLY relatively valid and reliable assessment across year levels 3, 5, 7, & 9 and over years. Now if we add some smart technology (instead of workshops on Excel) and put the data insights into the hands of teachers, that NAPLAN data set becomes quite useful. Let me explain.
Insight from NAPLAN in 2 Screens
The Classroom Teacher Dashboard
Imagine starting a school year with information about students’ core skills so that you can skip quite a bit of baseline assessments. Here’s an animation of the Teacher Dashboard in Literatu’s Diagnostic Explorer. When the mouse clicks on the NAPLAN Growth Weather card, notice the class list in the right column is sorted. If a Biology teacher were about to give a challenging reading assignment to this particular group of students, he or she would immediately get data insights into students who might need a little more support. This data is generated by comparing the two most recent NAPLAN tests and highlighting which students have grown or gone backward in this skill. Of course NAPLAN is a snapshot, but it is data and I have yet to meet a teacher who isn’t interested in which students could use more help or extension.
Student Level Skill Insight
Besides needing to get this info right to classroom teachers and their students for NAPLAN to make an impact, we also need to get FAR BEYOND bands and dig down to skills and sub-skills at the student level. Here’s one of my favourite reports that applies traffic light colours to show which areas are strong and which are weak and uses the size of the bubbles to indicate how many questions were in this skill area. In effect, this is NAPLAN telling us how important this skill is (e.g., “Applied comprehension in reading” requires more questions to discern an accurate measure than accurately using contractions). The animation below shows this at the class level, but then shows how we can find areas to help even very strong students. Notice that you can see the specific skill areas. This is how schools and teachers can help their class and individual student improve in skill gaps as identified by NAPLAN. Many schools say they want to show this screen to parents to highlight how they are addressing student needs.
So as 2018 NAPLAN rolls past, we look forward to helping schools get the most from this data set. NAPLAN: one useful means to target improvement in teaching and learning.
Disclaimer: Literatu provides the above Diagnostic Explorer to schools, which gives such data insights and visualisations on NAPLAN/ PAT/ Allwell tests. So you might say we have an interest in NAPLAN. And we do, however, Literatu also offers a full formative suite that exactly addresses the call from the Gonski 2.0 report for richer, ongoing formative diagnostic assessment of students on a regular basic. As a company, Literatu will adapt the Diagnostic Explorer to whatever output ACARA provides for the “adaptive” NAPLAN or any iteration of tests that might follow NAPLAN. The reason for this disclaimer is to highlight that Literatu’s business is to help schools make sense of data chaos, regardless of the assessments used. We help schools get better. Easier. Faster.