Monday, April 8, 2013


In a few weeks time hundreds of thousands of little aussie students in school years 3, 5, 7 and 9 will sit the annual NAPLAN (National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy) tests. NAPLAN was introduced in 2008 by the Federal Government to track the 'progress' of students in reading, writing, language conventions and numeracy. Data from NAPLAN tests is used to provide statistical information on over 9500 schools and is published on the associated MySchools website.

 (pic source)

Regular blog readers will already know that I am passionate about education. As a teacher, parent of school-aged kiddies, Higher Degree Research student and concerned community member I am vehemently opposed to NAPLAN and the culture of standardised, centralised testing being used for nefarious, political and bureaucratic gain... ie - all the things that NAPLAN represents.

I began to look critically at the who, what, where, how and why of NAPLAN when our eldest kidlet was about to head into NAPLAN territory in 2011. What I learned was not pretty. I vowed that no child our ours would EVER sit a NAPLAN exam.

Educators, psychologists and academics universally are overwhelmingly opposed to NAPLAN as empirical evidence conclusively proves that educational outcomes are not improved by the introduction of centralised standardised testing.

Opponents of NAPLAN point out that: -

* " NAPLAN (and standardised testing generally) runs precisely against research on what makes for quality learning and the very core of academic engagement. It also fails equitable opportunity and ignores developmental differences in children." .......  "In terms of individual students' learning, NAPLAN is next to useless." (source)

* NAPLAN and 'high stakes' tests has been shown to have a negative impact on children's health and well-being - a growing number of Australian school students are experiencing headaches, stress, depression, stomach aches and fatigue directly related to NAPLAN - (it's important to note that the general age of the youngest students - those in year 3 - is just 7-8 years of age)

* NAPLAN preparation is reducing valuable class time and narrowing the curriculum with core areas such as history, social science, music, art, sport (and in some schools even LUNCH time) eschewed in favour of NAPLAN test practice.

* The NAPLAN tests don't tell a good classroom teacher anything don't already know about their students

* NAPLAN tests are not diagnostic therefore they cannot inform teaching and the data gleaned from the tests cannot be used by classroom teachers as there is a 5 month delay between testing (in May) and the release of results (October).

* NAPLAN is forcing teachers to 'teach to the test' rather than teach to/from the curriculum and concentrate on individualised learning plans.
* The content covered by the NAPLAN tests is limited: With only 40 questions per test, it will only measure fragments of a student' achievement.

* "NAPLAN testing focuses too heavily on scores, rather than on improvements in student learning." (source)

* NAPLAN shows nothing about a teacher's effectiveness. "Great teachers create a positive environment and promote curiosity, a love of learning, participation, co-operation and leadership. NAPLAN does not tell us about these things." (source)

* NAPLAN test results are already being used to 'name and shame' schools, yet NAPLAN test scores cannot tell us whether a school is good or bad because so many other factors are at play including poverty, parental support, percentage of students from non-English speaking background, and peer pressure.  "The truth is simply this: NAPLAN has become a crude means to determine school performance on something as arbitrary as a league table placement. It is, on every education ground, an ossified approach to knowing what students can and cannot do."  (source)

 * NAPLAN results are increasingly being proposed as a measure for teacher efficacy (both the Federal government and Opposition have proposed the introduction of merit-based pay structure for teachers - it is widely expected that this will be based on NAPLAN results)

*"NAPLAN results are being used by government to force schools into competing for students and resources. As a result, NAPLAN testing is narrowing the curriculum, and is often leading to a lot of test practice rather than productive learning in classrooms." (source)

* NAPLAN can erode a positive and respectful school climate and is particularly damaging to children with disabilities, children whose first language is not English and children from low-income families.

*NAPLAN costs the taxpayer millions of dollars every year - money that could be better utilised in providing genuine improvements for students/schools

*NAPLAN is already spawning a juggernaut adjacent corporate industry worth millions of dollars by preying on hapless parents/guardians and desperate schools.

* NAPLAN cannot assess the key qualities that are consistently identified as the necessary foundations of a successful future life: "creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, self-awareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion, resourcefulness, sense of beauty, sense of wonder, honesty, integrity" (source)

 Indeed, at best, 
all that a NAPLAN test can show is how well a child does a NAPLAN test
that is all.

But did you know that NAPLAN is not compulsory? As the parent/guardian you can request that your child is withdrawn from NAPLAN tests (and you don't even have to give a reason). But if you'd like to tell the world (or the school) here's a link to form letter you can use to withdraw your child from the madness

NAPLAN 2013 is scheduled for May 14 - 16 - so there's ample time for you to make arrangements with your school to have your child withdrawn from the tests, tell your family and friends, band together to provide an alternative to school on those dates, or just quietly keep your precious ones at home on May 14, 15 and 16.

We CAN make a difference (if enough parents remove their children from the NAPLAN mayhem, the results are no longer meaningful.... and the madness can end.... let's 'make it so')


references/ resources -- 

'Say No to NAPLAN' series of papers

boycott NAPLAN website 

'Say no to NAPLAN' page of the Literacy Educators Coalition website

Save our Schools 

'Naplan and the maintenance of mediocrity'

'The experience of Education: The impacts of high stakes testing on school students and their families'



  1. I've been saying "no" for years, Ronnie.It's a silly way to assess a child's learning.

  2. Agreed! Luckily most Steiner schools don't participate on the basis that they don't believe testing Primary school children achieves much, so you are the exception in our school if you ask for your child to be INCLUDED in the tests! Tee hee. I like a bit of non-conformity, so go Ronnie!

  3. I'm sorry to see that the Australian educational system is going in this terrible direction too. They've completely ruined the schools here in the US. A teacher I know once actually said to me that she'd love to have science lessons in her classroom. Seeing my confusion, she explained that it's not covered on the standardized tests, so they're not to "waste" classroom time on such expendables as science, history, art... The curriculum, such as it is, has become so stripped of anything interesting or stimulating or that teaches critical thinking that kids come out hating school and not wanting to learn (who could blame them?). I see it happening with my friends' stressed and unhappy kids. And the teachers are completely demoralized too. I fear for our future as a society. It's criminal.

    1. thanks ellen for adding your valuable experience here.... you've given voice to my greatest fears for what NAPLAN will mean in the long term to australian education..... its a fearful sight

  4. oh, god, ronnie, don't get me started. the u.s. has equal craziness surrounding testing for kids and teachers. how well our kids do determines how well WE are assessed! when you take that into the special education world and add on that our kids don't get the standard nystate diploma....well, it make no sense. but it sure wastes a lot of money and time and thinking.

    1. (yes V - that's the road we are going down here as well - lumping everything into the testing machine, making no distinction between individuals (how fair is it that we plonk kids with special needs into a standardised testing environment... oh puleeeese!) then blame the educators for so called test 'failures' ...... grrrrrrr... call me a crazy idealist... but I want to TRY to stop the madness from taking complete hold... the USA and UK (and other areas where standardised testing has hijacked education) stand as a scary warning.... SAY NO TO NAPLAN!


thanks for all your lovely comments - your words are greatly appreciated xx