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NAPLAN itself to blame for poor results: lecturer

Disappointing results for this year’s NAPLAN tests show a problem with the test rather than the teaching, a Charles Sturt University literacy expert has said.

Released last Wednesday, preliminary results from this year’s NAPLAN show improvements in literacy and numeracy have plateaued since the test was introduced in 2008. Dr Jae Major, senior lecturer at CSU’s School of Teacher Education, said this is consistent with standardised national testing results in other countries.

“The fact that improvements are not being seen mirrors what has happened internationally with high stakes standardised testing,” Major said. “There is usually a short-term improvement followed by a plateauing of results. The typical response is to call this stagnation and blame teachers; suggesting they get ‘back to basics’ in curriculum and pedagogy. In other words, blame anything except the test itself for the problem.”

Major encouraged parents and policymakers to question the test itself rather than teachers or curriculum as it simply provides a snapshot in time and measures a specific set of skills. She also said the literacy component of NAPLAN does not examine skills used in the real world and the results themselves are released too late to be of use to teachers.

“Teachers may also benefit from professional support when analysing the detailed results for their students, helping to create opportunities for targeted teaching,” she said.

Furthermore, Major said the plateauing of overall numbers should not overshadow positive results in reading, as more than 90 per cent of children scored at or above the national mean in reading. She said teachers should be congratulated for this result.

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