The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy – has been the subject of fierce debate since it was introduced in 2008.
Last month, John Ainley’s report for the Australian Council of Education Research showed that despite a decade of testing, there’s been no improvement in students’ maths and reading results.
According to some, Ainley’s report shows NAPLAN has failed.
In Queensland, Education Minister, Grace Grace said: “I want to have a look at how NAPLAN is being delivered in our classrooms and whether children are actually benefiting from the NAPLAN tests.”
This is entirely the wrong question.
Let’s leave aside for a moment the fact that literacy and numeracy are essential life skills for our children. Instead, imagine there’s a far greater crisis: your fridge isn’t cooling your wine properly.
This calls for immediate action! You buy a thermometer to monitor the temperature. Every day, you check the thermometer, and every night you cry into your luke-warm Pinot Gris. Because despite repeated testing, your fridge’s performance remains sub-par.
Asking a test to improve children’s numeracy and literacy is like asking a thermometer to fix a fridge. It isn’t going to happen, because this isn’t what it’s designed to do.
That children aren’t benefiting from being tested is not a reflection on the test; it’s a reflection on how we’ve responded to the results of the test.
If we test our fridge and find it’s too warm, we call in a specialist to fix it. Somehow, we must find the money to fund it. If NAPLAN shows our efforts to teach literacy and numeracy aren’t working, only funding and resources will solve the problem. The test is a diagnostic tool, not a magic elixir.