Additional Comments from Australian Greens
The Australian Greens referred the administration and reporting
of NAPLAN testing to the Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
Committee as we were deeply concerned about the potential adverse impacts of
the use of the NAPLAN tests, and in particular the use of NAPLAN results on the
My School website.
The evidence to the Committee demonstrates that NAPLAN serves a
useful function and can provide valuable information for parents, teachers,
schools and education authorities but also that there remain genuine questions
as to the appropriateness of NAPLAN results being used as a comparative measure
for My School.
The Australian Greens agree substantially with the findings and
recommendations of the majority report. We agree that NAPLAN is an important tool
for measuring the literacy and numeracy competency of students but unlike the
majority we are not convinced that annual testing is necessary. The Australian
Greens have never been convinced that the My School website provides
useful and meaningful information to parents or the broader community and
remain sceptical that NAPLAN provides the most useful information for such a
Administration of NAPLAN
The Australian Greens support the use of NAPLAN as a tool to
identify the literacy and numeracy competency of students. We agree to improve
measurement is necessary and that NAPLAN provides information able to be used
to improve student learning. The evidence strongly supports NAPLAN as useful
for teachers, schools and education authorities in identifying issues with
literacy and numeracy. Teachers can use the results to identify students who
need additional assistance. Parents can use the results in discussions with
teachers about their children's education and progress. Education authorities
can use the results as one factor to consider in reviewing their education
systems and allocation of resources.
This is not to suggest that NAPLAN is perfectly suited to these
tasks. It is after all a point in time test of a limited albeit vitally
important set of knowledge and skills. We note the submission of Professor
Margaret Wu who raised concerns that the margin of error on the NAPLAN tests
meant they were not a sufficiently accurate measure of student performance or
progress or school performance. These concerns are important for how the
results of NAPLAN are used and the information and context given to those who
are using the information.
We share the concerns outlined in the majority report about the
suitability of NAPLAN for special needs students and students for whom English
is not their first language. Furthermore, we are concerned that more is done to
ensure the integrity of the testing from schools asking low performing students
to not take the tests or allegations of cheating.
We also note that none of the functions of NAPLAN in assisting
parents, teachers, schools and educational authorities in identifying
educational progress or problems require the results to be presented to the
public at large through My School. There is a lot that NAPLAN does not
tell us about student, teacher or school performance and progress. The
limitations of NAPLAN and the need for contextual information are important
concerns in how NAPLAN results are reported and then used via My School.
Reporting of NAPLAN and My School
The Australian Greens remain concerned by the potential adverse
affects of the My School website on students, teachers and schools. We
accept the evidence presented to the Committee that My School and its
reliance on NAPLAN has the potential for NAPLAN testing to take on the
characteristics of other high stakes testing regimes from overseas. We accept
that high stakes testing has been shown to lead to teaching to the test, a
narrowing of the curriculum and allegations of cheating. High stakes testing has
been a demonstrated educational failure and we must learn the lessons of the UK
The Government assures us that NAPLAN combined with the My
School website is not high stakes testing and we note that the Government
currently uses the results to provide additional resources to schools, not take
them away. However, the very fact that schools can be ranked and compared does
mean schools do have something at stake. Furthermore, there have been
allegations of cheating, of low performing students being asked not to sit the
tests and curriculum skewed towards the tests. Of great concern is the issue
raised by the Australian Primary Principals Association of the potential for
schools to focus on students just below the national benchmarks rather than the
students further behind who will not improve the school's score. We must be
vigilant in monitoring these types of unintended consequences.
The Australian Greens are already on the record as strongly
objecting to the potential for the information on My School to be used
to create league tables. We were disappointed that despite their stated
concerns, the Government did not act sooner and much more strongly to ensure
league tables could not be created form the data available on My School.
We are yet to be convinced that the damage league tables do to parents,
student, teachers and school communities is outweighed by the stated goals of
transparency and accountability.
The My School website attempts to compare like schools
to give parents an idea of how their school is comparing to schools with
similar socio-economic make-ups. However the ICSEA values have been shown to be
flawed with wildly varying school communities considered similar. We agree with
the comments of the majority report on the need for improving the methods for
comparing like schools.
A key message from the government about the value of My
School has been empowering parents to make choices for the children's
education. The Australian Greens have always supported parents having as much
information as possible about their children's education and their schools.
Parents can use the information available to them to engage in discussions with
the children's teachers, school community and educational authorities on
ensuring the best educational outcomes for their children. However we do not
believe the mantra of "choice" is realistic when it comes to
comparing schools on My School. Parents are constrained in their choices
of schools by many factors including geographic location and economic resource.
Not all parents can choose to send their children to high performing private
The Australian Greens remain sceptical about the value of the My
School website. We agree with the majority report that much needs to be
done to ensure the website provides meaningful information. We have
consistently called for more information to be available to parents and welcome
the Government's recent announcement concerning additional information and
greater security on the site. In particular we welcome school resources being
available as important contextual information for parents.
We want NAPLAN testing and the My School website to be
productive and useful tools for furthering our children's education, not a
misguided government initiative that does more damage. The Australian Greens
will continue to closely monitor the evolution of the My School website
and its use by parents, teachers, schools and the broader community.
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