Full list of Australian Greens
1.9 The Australian Greens recommend that, if
publication of individual school results on the Myschool site continues,
the Government remove the functionality that enables ranking and comparisons of
individual school results.
1.10 The Australian Greens recommend that in the
event that functionality for the ranking and comparisons of individual school
results is removed from the Myschool website but improper and
detrimental use of NAPLAN data continues (such as the creation of league
tables) the Government remove the school-level data, in accordance with their
prior policy position.
1.18 The Australian Greens recommend that the
Government clarify the purpose of NAPLAN testing, particularly with regard to its
use as a diagnostic assessment, and adapt the structure and any publication of
the data to align with the stated purpose.
1.30 The Australian Greens recommend that the
Government provide further support and training for teachers and schools to
analyse the NAPLAN data and devise individual educational programs to assist
students to ensure the resources used to run the tests and create the data are
1.46 The Australian Greens recommend that the
Government consult with schools to determine the best time of year to hold the
annual tests in light of discussions around the purpose of the testing.
1.53 The Australian Greens recommend that NAPLAN
Online uses the advantages of the medium to test a broader scope of knowledge
within literacy and numeracy, more accurately reflect classroom learning styles
and incorporate questions which encourage lateral and creative thinking from
1.60 The Australian Greens recommend that ACARA
actively consults with teachers and academics experienced in teaching students
from language backgrounds other than English to scrutinise the tests for
cultural assumptions and inappropriate content and styles of questioning.
The Australian Greens are pleased to endorse the majority report.
However, we believe that in light of the evidence cited and strong opinions
expressed in the ‘committee view’ sections, the recommendations of the majority
report are inadequate in responding to the full extent of the evidence
presented to the committee.
While there were a number of suggested improvements for NAPLAN test
itself, a large number of submitters attributed problems with the NAPLAN scheme
to the publication of data on the Myschool site and the competitive,
high-stakes culture this has created.
As noted in the committee report, there is widespread confusion about
the purpose of NAPLAN testing. However, it is clear that NAPLAN was not
designed for use as a ranking tool for schools.
Many of the groups made submissions in support of ceasing the
publication of school-level data on the site.
The Australian Greens also note this was the position of the Liberal
Party in opposition and has been reiterated by Education Minister Christopher
Pyne since the election.
The Australian Greens are willing to negotiate with the Federal
Government on the best way for this to proceed.
We affirm our support for the need for measures to track student
achievement and collect data about schools and students, but it is clear on the
evidence presented to the committee that steps must be taken to restrict the
competitive and unfair ranking environment created by Myschool site.
If the Coalition Government has altered its position, it is the view of
the Australian Greens that the committee must formalise the view in Section
3.51 into a recommendation. It is a recommendation that we are prepared to
The Australian Greens recommend that, if publication of individual
school results on the Myschool site continues, the Government remove the
functionality that enables ranking and comparisons of individual school
The Australian Greens recommend that in the event that functionality for
the ranking and comparisons of individual school results is removed from the Myschool
website but improper and detrimental use of NAPLAN data continues (such as the
creation of league tables) the Government remove the school-level data, in
accordance with their prior policy position.
A full discussion of issues arising from the terms of reference and
further recommendations follow. However all subsequent discussion and
recommendations are made in the context of recommendations 1 and 2.
Intended purposes of NAPLAN testing
Since its inception, politicians and bureaucrats have assigned a number
of different purposes to NAPLAN testing. It has been separately described as
diagnostic and not diagnostic; a snapshot of learning on one day and a measure
to identify systemic gaps; a tool for governments to allocate resources and a
tool for parents to scrutinise teacher performance.
The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and
Reporting Authority’s submission says NAPLAN tests contain ‘insufficient
items at each difficulty level to provide the detailed information that a
diagnostic test is designed to do’.
However, ACARA Chair Barry McGaw has also made the following comment in
NAPLAN is not a test students can prepare for because it is
not a test of content. The federal government’s intention in introducing and
reporting NAPLAN results was to provide a diagnostic tool for teachers and
parents, identifying gaps in students’ skills.
The Department of Education similarly listed the central aim of national
finding out what students can or cannot do and lifting the
performance of every student in every school... the tests should focus on the
diagnosis of each student’s strengths and weaknesses as a means for planning
Fintona Girls School also pointed out the inherent contradiction in
using NAPLAN simultaneously as a means to measure individual student
performance and ‘using these results to suggest that some schools are better
As noted in the committee report, there remains significant confusion
about the purpose of NAPLAN testing among educators.
The Australian Greens recommend that the Government
clarify the purpose of NAPLAN testing, particularly with regard to its use as a
diagnostic assessment, and adapt the structure and any publication of the data
to align with the stated purpose.
The impact on teaching and student learning practices of publishing NAPLAN
test results on the Myschool website
Use of data
The reliability of data generated by NAPLAN testing has been called into
question, particularly in regard to publication on the Myschool site.
As noted by Epping Heights Public School and many others cited in the
committee report, small school cohorts and other mitigating factors can
influence the perception of overall school performance.
In the competitive market Myschool creates, some schools are
understandably eager to control these factors. Numerous submitters provided
evidence of student withdrawal as a way to avoid students with difficulties
from sitting the NAPLAN and ‘bringing down’ school results.
Accounting for factors such as diverse language backgrounds and
disability, good NAPLAN results do not always correlate to good schools, but Myschool
has generated a need for schools to emphasise improvement in NAPLAN scores over
efforts to provide a rounded education.
Other submitters, including the NSW Primary Principals' Association,
noted the inherent problems with interpretation of complex data by those
unfamiliar with the education system.
The Australian College of Educators rejects the notion the Myschool
website provides incentives for low-performing schools to improve:
school improvement takes time and what is likely to happen is
that those parents who are able to do so will remove their students, only
exacerbating the situation for the school involved and those students who
remain. This ‘free market’ model also fails to acknowledge that many students,
because of location or socioeconomic factors, have no effective choice.
The Australian Greens support the collection of data for education
authorities and the provision of information to parents and schools, but we
agree with submitters who said publication of the results on the Myschool
site had led to incorrect or mischievous use of the data.
For this reason, it is the view of the Australian Greens that the
Government must act to limit this misrepresentation of schools as described in
However, the committee also heard extensive evidence that teachers and
schools are not equipped to interpret the data produced by NAPLAN testing.
A survey conducted by the Independent Education Union of Australia
showed only one third of members found the results useful.
The Australian Education Union recommended schools be given more
resources to allow for professional development for teachers on the use of
data, the interpretation of data and the application of information in
informing teaching and learning.
The Australian Greens recommend that the Government provide further
support and training for teachers and schools to analyse the NAPLAN data and
devise individual educational programs to assist students to ensure the
resources used to run the tests and create the data are not wasted.
Effect on student learning and wellbeing
The publication of NAPLAN results on the Myschool site has
created a high-stakes test for schools, resulting in significant media coverage
of the tests. Along with the natural inclination of parents to want the best
for their child, it is our belief that creating a high stakes environment for
schools has had a flow-on effect for individuals.
A commercial market has sprung up for NAPLAN preparation, including
textbooks, soft toys, fish-oil supplements, targeted tutoring and more.
As noted in the majority report, a large number of submitters noted
negative impacts of NAPLAN testing on student wellbeing. Among other evidence
cited, we note concerns articulated by Epping Heights Public School and
others about the long-term educational impacts on students feeling they are
The Australian Education Union also noted reports of increasing numbers
of parents seeking psychological counselling for their children because of
anxiety and stress associated with NAPLAN.
Even in schools which actively limit discussion of NAPLAN testing,
schools have reported a strong parental push for prior preparation. Heads of
Independent Schools of Australia director and principal Mr Phillip Heath told
My school does not talk about NAPLAN at all. We do not
publish the results. We keep it very much to what it is designed for—that is,
to give feedback to us and to an individual student. But, for about half of
those present, their parents are giving them tests at home to prepare for the experience.
That really surprised me. That is in a context where we say nothing, as a
school, and I would suggest that is a pretty common picture around the country.
Parents at home who are used to a testing regime—that is how they grew
up—consider this a very high-stakes experience, much higher than, in fact, it
was intended ever to be.
Effect on teachers and teaching practice
A large portion of submitters provided evidence the publication of
NAPLAN data on the Myschool site is increasing pressure on teachers and
school leaders, diverting attention from other areas of the curriculum and
‘teaching to the test’.
Along with the evidence cited in the committee report, we also note the
evidence of Queensland Association of State School Principals Inc, which
directly ties this stress to the comparative and competitive nature of the Myschool
School principals are also feeling immense pressure exerted
by the system as both schools and states jockey for league position. They, in
turn, explicitly or inadvertently, place additional pressure on their teachers.
Submitters also gave evidence the pressure is so high, teachers are
requesting not to teach year levels with NAPLAN testing.
Evidence provided to the committee regarding narrowing of the curriculum
and teaching to the test is well covered in the majority report.
We also note the evidence of MTeach student Andrew Irwin who witnessed planned
lessons for Year 2 students being replaced with coaching on pre-written NAPLAN
number problems – almost a year out from when student would sit the test.
Publication of NAPLAN data on the Myschool site also has negative
consequences for teacher morale. The NSW Primary Principals' Association said
Elevating the status of NAPLAN results via the Myschool
website diminishes the public’s trust in the teaching profession and portrays
NAPLAN incorrectly as a definitive and absolute measure.
The Victorian Association for the Teaching of English submitted teachers
are ‘required to respond to parent expectations’ by providing NAPLAN
preparation and regularly feel ‘quite disempowered as their professional
knowledge is undermined by being forced to be so narrowly focussed’.
In light of the evidence presented in the majority report and above, it
is our view the committee recommendations do not go far enough to tackle the
serious and adverse, consequences of the publication of data on the Myschool
Potential improvements to the program, to improve student learning and
The committee heard significant evidence that the delay in returning
NAPLAN results to teachers significantly restricted the effectiveness of NAPLAN
testing as a diagnostic tool.
We endorse the recommendation of the committee to improve the
turn-around time of data from NAPLAN testing to teachers.
However, some submitters including the Independent Education Union of
Australia, suggested that the timing of the tests should be dependent on the
clarification of the intention of NAPLAN testing:
It would seem sensible to conduct a ‘diagnostic test’ as
early as possible in the school year... If on the other hand the tests are
intended to be a summative assessment of the literacy and numeracy levels
against a benchmark it makes little sense to assess students in May of the
school on the basis of intended capacity for that year’s benchmark
expectations. Such a test would be better administered at the end of the school
The Australian Greens recommend that the Government consult with schools
to determine the best time of year to hold the annual tests in light of
discussions around the purpose of the testing.
Testing of creative or higher-order thinking
NAPLAN testing examines a very narrow selection of skills within very
narrow subject matter. It also does so in a way that is incongruent with
current teaching and learning styles.
Ms Lorraine Wilson submitted that the NAPLAN Reading, Writing and
Language Convention Tests are ‘a terrible mismatch with today’s best classroom
The type of literacy able to be measured by multiple choice,
machine marked tests is low level literacy. It is the type of literacy we
taught in the 1950s, 1960s in Australia. Since that time there has been much
excellent research which has illuminated the types of reading and writing
necessary for a changing, global, highly technological society, as well as
research about how children learn language (both oral and written).
The committee also heard evidence that multiple choice testing is unable
to test creative and higher-order thinking, inconsistent with the increasing
global demand for entrepreneurial skills and creativity.
Steiner Education Australia, among
other submitters, noted NAPLAN is inconsistent with daily teaching and learning
experiences for students and examined the design of questions to ‘trick’
For example, Ms Lorraine Wilson singled out questions which ask students
to identify spelling errors:
Misspellings may introduce incorrect letters which the child
might never have included in his production of the spelling, but seeing it in
the test question, causes confusion. ‘NAPLAN makes a pedagogical assumption
that proofreading can act as a proxy for a student’s spelling ability’ (Bartlett
& Buchanan 2012).
Several submitters also noted the international movement away from
while the Australian Literacy Educators'
Association argued the limited nature of NAPLAN testing was inconsistent
with the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young
Australians to ‘promote creativity, innovation, cultural
appreciation and personal values to ensure they become confident and creative
learners equipped for a rapidly changing world’.
The Australian Greens recommend that NAPLAN Online uses the advantages
of the medium to test a broader scope of knowledge within literacy and numeracy,
more accurately reflect classroom learning styles and incorporate questions
which encourage lateral and creative thinking from students.
NAPLAN testing to date has contained cultural assumptions that have
disadvantaged students from language backgrounds other than English, including
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
Ms Jane Wenlock, a teacher experienced in teaching secondary students
from LBOTE backgrounds, told the committee ‘Skippy the bush Kangaroo’-style
questions were inaccessible to her students:
that NAPLAN, in fact, discriminates against our students, as
they are unable to access much of the written material to show their true
The Australian College of Educators also raised concerns the ‘trick questions’
common in NAPLAN tests disadvantage LBOTE students.
Yirrkala School principal Mr Leonard Freeman also told the committee
many of the indigenous students at his school do not have sufficient grasp of
Standard Australian English or the cultural and social knowledge that the tests
Year 3 and 5 remote indigenous students who work hard at
school, whose family supports their learning and ensures good school
attendance, are still regarded as having failed based on NAPLAN results.
It is the opinion of the Australian Council of
TESOL Associations that NAPLAN tests provide ‘distorted, inaccurate and
unreliable’ data for these students and no basis for developing appropriate
pedagogy or programs for these learners.
They also raised concerns publication of NAPLAN results on the Myschool
site has resulted in parents removing their children from schools with high numbers
of students learning Standard Australian English as an additional language or
The Australian Greens recommend that ACARA actively consults with
teachers and academics experienced in teaching students from language
backgrounds other than English to scrutinise the tests for cultural assumptions
and inappropriate content and styles of questioning.
Senator Penny Wright
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