How to kill competition over NAPLAN
NAPLAN scores would be kept secret and only a sample of schools assessed if "radical" interim findings from a review into the benchmark test released today are adopted.
The NAPLAN Review Interim Report, commissioned by the Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian governments was published today as part of their independent joint review of the controversial testing.
The report addressed concerns about deficiencies in the testing, that it narrowed the curriculum to focus on teaching to the test, and that the publishing of results was too delayed to be useful.
The report also explored concerns NAPLAN stakes were too high, with results being used to compare schools.
"The public availability of comparisons among schools on the My School website was intended to provide parents with information on school performance," the report said.
"Arming parents with this information has increased the stakes in NAPLAN results for schools."
Queensland Minister for Education Grace Grace said the report outlined the major issues with NAPLAN testing and preliminary ideas for addressing them.
"We can't afford to accept the status quo for NAPLAN and allow our children to stagnate," she said.
"We understand standardised testing will always be required to provide information to government, principals, teachers and parents on how we can improve.
"But the feedback I'm hearing from educators on the ground is that NAPLAN in its current form is placing a burden on students and teachers and it has lost their support."
The findings of the interim report will be discussed at the Education Council meeting in Alice Springs next week, and the final report to be published after further consultation by mid 2020.
Limiting or removing the NAPLAN results of each school on the My School website were suggestions made in the report to combat "concerns" about the impact of MySchool data being used to compare schools.
"It could for example be reduced to a single page with information on status in the current year, trends over the years for the school and change between two school years of testing for students in the same school in both years," the report said.
"A more radical proposal would be to remove NAPLAN data from the MySchool site."
"The loss of public revelations of schools' NAPLAN results on a single site could be offset by a requirement that each school publish particular aspects of its results prescribed in some template."
One interim findings suggested a random sample of schools could be assessed, with the option for those schools and students not included to opt-in.
"An important question would be whether an opt-in provision would become coercive, putting pressure on schools to opt in and not stay out as having not been included in the sample," the report said.
The report suggested that potentially moving the test from May to late February or early March would reduce the time wasted by teaching to the test.
"The speedier delivery of the results would improve their usefulness, but that could be achieved whenever the tests were delivered."
"A further consideration could be whether to administer NAPLAN only in Years 3 and 7. That would reinforce its potential formative role but would deny the possibility of measures of growth achieved by schools for those students remaining in the same school from Years 3 to 5 (or Years 4 to 6) and Years 7 to 9 (or Years 8 to 10)."
But Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan slammed the interim report.
"This interim report from a minority of states is a distraction. My focus is on implementing the Gonski reforms to improve student outcomes," he said.
Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates welcomed the review especially with a considerable amount of teachers' time and resources devoted into teaching to the test in the past.
"Looking at the fundamentals of changing the nature of the test, the content, the idea of moving to a sample model are worthy of further examination and issues we've been suggesting for years," he said.
He said the findings were consistent with issues raised by the 2018 Queensland review of the test.
"What it actually speaks to is that this it's not about enhancing education options for students, it's about producing a set of data that politicians need and that's where our concern continues," he said.
"The notion of practising to the test was taking away time where we could be teaching other areas of the curriculum."
Authors Emeritus Professor Barry McGaw, Emeritus Professor Bill Louden, and Professor Claire Wyatt Smith are leading the review, which will seek further consultation and submissions before publishing a final report by mid 2020.