What is NAPLAN ?

What is NAPLAN testing ?

NAPLAN is now Australia’s common assessment of Literacy and Numeracy. All students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 in Government and Non-Government Schools across Australia sit NAPLAN tests.
In 2008, the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) was introduced in all Australian schools.

School students are tested every second year, beginning in year 3. That is, every year, all Australian school students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 sit a series of Literacy and Numeracy tests on the same days using the same test papers and the same test procedures. The types of test formats and questions are chosen so that they are familiar to teachers and students across Australia.

Students are tested by a combination of multiple-choice, short answer and extended response questions.Sample NAPLAN 2010 practice tests papers are available.

What are NAPLAN tests measuring?
NAPLAN is testing students’ knowledge and skills in Literacy and Numeracy. The tests are designed to allow students to show what they know. The NAPLAN Literacy tests cover reading, writing, spelling, punctuation and grammar.
NAPLAN tests provide point-in-time information regarding student progress across Australia and are intended to complement teacher judgment and the wide range of formal and informal testing programs that are already used in schools.
Parents will receive an individual report on their child’s performance in the NAPLAN tests from mid September. Schools will also receive a report on students and in December the government will report to the wider community through aggregate reporting.

How do they test and report on such a large range of abilities?

NAPLAN tests are on a single scoring scale with ten achievement bands that extend across Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. The full band range of 1 to 10 reflects the increasing complexity of skills and understandings potential demonstrated by a student and assessed by NAPLAN testing as the student progresses from Year 3 to Year 9.

Student outcomes are reported against achievement bands for each of the 5 NAPLAN assessment domains of Reading, Writing, Spelling, Grammar & Punctuation, and Numeracy.Individual student reports show student achievement against the national average and the middle 60% of students nationally in that academic year.

For any one of these academic years, the full range of student performance is reported using six of the ten bands. For example, student performance at Year 3 is reported within the band range 1 to 6, whereas Year 9 student performance is reported within the band range 5 to 10. Therefore, NAPLAN reports have different starting bands for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

Interpreting band results

Each academic year, also has a different lowest achievement band. Band 1 is the lowest for Year 3, Band 3 for Year 5, Band 4 for Year 7 and Band 5 for Year 9. The top four bands in each group of six represent students performing at a level above the national minimum standard. The bottom two bands in each group of six represent students who are performing at or below the national minimum standard.

This single scale allows students, teachers and parents to monitor progress across the years and compare results to those in previous years as they advance through school. For example, at the national level, it is possible to gauge the improvement of the highest achieving group of students and, at the same time, to pay attention to the group of students who have yet to reach the minimum standard. At a school level, teachers can gauge individual achievements, areas of teaching strength and any areas needing assistance.

Possible pitfalls for accuracy of results

Unfortunately, lack of ‘exam’ experience and being unfamiliar with the format of tests can result in students’ underperforming and therefore not able to demonstrate more accurately their knowledge of what is being assessed. This can be detrimental for the development of their test confidence and future test-based performances. Tests and formal testing are an inevitable part of any education system and stem from primary, to secondary and into tertiary school contexts.

Individual results

While NAPLAN tests report point-in-time progress, individual student minimum standard of achievement is one overall band growth for Literacy and Numeracy each time they sit the tests. No growth or a score below their previous band level is unacceptable. Growth within or beyond a band is also standard for child with special needs. Of course, extenuating circumstances like prolonged illness, personal tragedy can negatively affect any student’s expected rate of growth.

It is essential for additional support to be established for children identified as underachieving and not reaching the national standards, especially between previous tested years. This is usually done by the school however, as a parent you can request a meeting with your school to establish support and feedback for your child’s future progress in literacy and numeracy.

By the time student reports are distributed, is the information still useful for helping students?
The information for parents, schools and teachers can be used to provide support to students within the same year the tests are conducted, and heavily enables schools to plan future learning opportunities for them.
Can NAPLAN test results be compared from one year to the next?

Yes. An expert advisory group is responsible for monitoring the reliability of NAPLAN tests between years. A rigorous equating process was undertaken to ensure that the 2008, 2009 and 2010 results could be compared. As a result, changes in performance of individual students, schools and school systems over time can be statistically identified and analysed.
When is the NAPLAN test ?
Dates for NAPLAN 2011 are:
Tuesday 10th May 2011: Language Conventions (Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation) and Writing (Persuasive Writing)
Wednesday 11th May 2011: Reading
Thursday 12th May 2011: Numeracy **
** Year 3 and 5 students undertake one numeracy test.  The use of a calculator is not permitted in this test. Year 7 and 9 students undertake two numeracy tests, one of which requires the use of a calculator.

Some students are eligible for exemption from NAPLAN tests. These include students from a non–English-speaking background who have been learning English in Australia for less than one year, and students with severe intellectual or functional disabilities.

Students with special needs will sit the tests but special provisions that are already in place for those students will need to be identified, established and maintained to meet the needs of those students. If you feel the testing process will be traumatic or unproductive for your child, then you can request your child to be exempt from the 3 days of intensive testing under exam conditions. This can be done through your school, but forms do need to be submitted in advance, so make an appointment to discuss this with yourchild’s classroom teacher and school principal.

How are the tests administered?

NAPLAN is a true exam. Test papers are under lock and key until the day, students feel the pressure because of the dramatic changes to their ‘normal’ school experience. NAPLAN test days are very much a "Time starts now" and "Pencils down" formal exam kind of a day. Students are often placed in a hall or different classroom for the exam. They have to answer using a special pencil, they have to be silent, it is a timed exam and there is absolutely no support allowed to be given by the teacher.

WHY? Reliability and validity is essential for NAPLAN testing to be of any educational benefit. National protocols for test administration are rigorously enforced and ensure consistency in administering the tests by all test administration authorities and schools across Australia. Procedures for NAPLAN testing are set out in the national protocols for test administration, and the test administration manuals to ensure the integrity and consistency of the testing process. To increase the reliability and validity of NAPLAN tests, schools and teachers do not have access to the test papers until the very last moments.

This is so teachers are not teaching to the test and children’ results accurately reflect their ability to apply their knowledge and understanding independently.

While some aspects or themes of the tests are disclosed openly to both teachers and the wider community, tests are not viewed by anyone external to the designing process until the day of the tests. For 2011, we have been informed that the writing test will be a persuasive writing text, however, we do not know the theme or style of response (i.e. newspaper article, book/film review, letter, essay, speech etc…)

Teachers or schools thought to have breached the national protocols face serious disciplinary charges and can result in job losses. The media has reported examples of such occurrences in past years.

ACARA is responsible for printing the NAPLAN tests, as well as for test administration, support for schools and delivery of reports.

Supporting your child during NAPLAN testing

Private tutoring for students DOES NOT constitute a breach of national protocols. Tuition is a responsible option that can help lessen the gap if areas have already been identified as needing support, as well as significantly decrease the time taken to recover to a national standard of achievement. Equally, tuition can compliment and further increase the higher levels of achievement by quenching natural abilities and thirst for deeper interpretations and interactions with the national curriculum.

How are NAPLAN tests developed?

NAPLAN tests are developed collaboratively by the States and Territories, the Australian Government and, the non-government school sectors. Eminent assessment and educational measurement experts provide technical advice in the development of the tests. It is now designed by Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) and shaped around the common teaching framework of the National Curriculum. ACARA has taken over the responsibility for NAPLAN test developments, still in consultation with education authorities from all states and territories, the Commonwealth government and non-government schools.
In addition advice is sought from subject specialists, Indigenous perspectives, specialists in language background other than English (LBOTE), and disabilities education specialists with respect to curriculum content and cultural inclusivity to ensure diverse access to the tests and achievement bias is reduced.