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What is Naplan, and how to prepare for Naplan year 9?

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Naplan is given a lot of media and teaching time each year and is the core of the School website. Teachers and parents make many important decisions based on the results. Yet, very few know what is in the tests or what they seek to assess.

Naplan is not connected to the Australian curriculum, so it is not an assessment of the content students learn each day at school. However, Naplan’s reference document is the “Statements of Learning.”

It is a general assessment of literacy and numeracy proficiency, providing a snapshot of how kids around the country answer a particular set of maths and English test questions one day in May. How your children perform will result from all their years at school, not what they did in the weeks leading up to the test.

Preparation of the test

As the new school term begins, around two-thirds of schools will spend several hours a week on Naplan preparation year 9. This spurt of “teaching to the test” is ill-conceived, but it is also damaging.

Last year, scores in the writing test dipped. The curriculum and assessment authority (ACARA) which oversees the test, suggested it was because of “over preparation.”

That’s a polite way of saying – “stop making your kids learn essays by heart.” It doesn’t help students in the test, and it is probably changing their general attitude to writing.

Naplan preparation year 9 is not teaching. Instead, it wastes valuable instruction time where students could be learning literacy and numeracy skills – skills that will serve them well one day in May when they are asked to do a national standardized test.

Why do you have Naplan?

ACARA claims two purposes for Naplan test results.

  1. Provide information on how students perform to support improvements in teaching and learning.
  2. Give schools and systems the ability to measure their students’ achievements against national minimum standards and compare student performance across states and territories.

Naplan does have the potential to shed interesting light on students’ learning at a point in time and offer valuable information about what needs to be done next to improve literacy and numeracy achievement or how Naplan preparation year 9 can achieve it.

Careful analysis of the spelling test results may reveal that poor spellers over-rely on phonics. The writing samples may reveal that poor writers have little control over literary language and instead write as they speak. Finally, the reading test may reveal poor readers have limited vocabularies and an inability to read complex clausal structures, reflective of their instructional diet of “readers.”

Schools have neither the time, capacity, nor knowledge to do the kind of analysis work that can shed real light on the individual struggles of their underachieving students and how they can provide suitable interventions.

Until minds and resources are put to the task of doing something meaningful with the data collected each year, Naplan preparation year 9 is just a snapshot of what children could do one day in May – and not much else.

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