Has NAPLAN Improved?

It’s difficult to imagine. NAPLAN is still a testing of “numeracy” and all the little that that implies. Someone I trust, however, has suggested the test has improved in recent years. But of course, ACARA’s bone-deep paranoia* means that it’s very tricky to see any recent tests, and thus to make any judgment.

So, does anybody know? Has anybody seen any recent NAPLAN tests, and have the tests indeed become less loony?** I’d be interested to hear (and, if at all possible, to see).***


*) Just because ACARA’s paranoid doesn’t mean I’m not out to get them.

**) The most recent tests I’ve seen are from 2017. They seemed somewhat better than the early nutso stuff, but still far from good. 

***) Of course, please do not attach any tests in the comments. You can use the contact button above or email me if you are aware of any sources.

12 Replies to “Has NAPLAN Improved?”

  1. I can send a pdf of the worst performed questions from 2018 to 2021 for year 7. Also, it has the percentage of students that got it correct.

    Anything after 2021 is not accessible for me since my school went online for NAPLAN and I cannot see the actually questions students did anymore. Even if the questions improved, the randomised questions and different tiers of difficulty students access in online NAPLAN makes it still looney. So no real conclusions, except very broad ones, about student performance can be made now.

    1. Thanks, Potii. Yes, please, to the PDF. And you are right: whatever else it means, the onlining and branching means that NAPLAN is even more opaque than it used to be.

  2. There are past papers (but not so recent) for NAPLAN on-line at ACARA. I have found that some students have difficulty understanding the questions because they have poor reading skills. Also, there are many technical issues associated with on-line testing. Some of my students have said that they prefer paper tests to on-line tests.

    1. This is probably a digression but I’d like to respond to Terry’s comment.
      My main objection to on-line exams/tests is the fact that you quickly lose the ‘big picture’ of the question and have to constantly scroll up and down. My eyes drying out after staring at a screen for hours is also an objection. (It’s why I hate reading on-line textbooks). I am yet to see a test done on paper crash because tens of thousand of others are also sitting it and the paper can’t handle the load. I believe that in South Australia, students sitting on-line SACE exams are also given a paper copy of the exam. This mitigates – somewhat – my main objection but not my loathing of the format. People can give whatever argument(s) they like, the only reason assessment is done on-line is because it’s cheap. It gives no respect or value to the student.

      Terry, you say “some students have difficulty understanding the questions because they have poor reading skills”. I must agree. Psychometricians have carved themselves a cosy niche calling the shots on exams/tests and would undoubtedly argue that they can extract the ‘literacy’ element from the ‘numeracy’ element. (To which I say BS). There is a simple cure to this ‘literacy’ problem – set questions that test mathematical skill(s) and remove all the ridiculous white noise ‘real-life’ contexts (that often also require an extra layer of social understanding which some students may lack).

      1. Thanks, anothermouse. Not really a digression and it’s fine. and I agree strongly.

        I think there is one aspect in which the NAPLAN tests have improved, at least somewhat: the actual mathematical content in the test questions. This is not trivial. But it seems clear that, in both old and new ways, the tests are still appalling, and probably worse.

        I have tons to do right now, but I’ll take a (new) closer look at NAPLAN as soon as possible.

  3. There are two national systems for assessing the ability of students at various levels: NAPLAN (National Assessment Program) and PAT (Progressive Assessment Tests). Many schools use both.

    Do we need these two systems?

    1. As far as I can see, PAT is a commercial product marketed and sold by ACER. There is a whole suite of products (including tests and workshops).
      “ACER’s sophisticated online platform helps you spend less time on administration and planning and more time making the most of the insights from effective assessments.” It is “Trusted by teachers in more than half of all Australian schools to improve learning outcomes for every student.” and you can “Contact the PAT team for an obligation-free chat.”

      PAT is a choice, NAPLAN is not. It appears that the purpose of PAT is different to the purpose of NAPLAN, and PAT data is used differently to NAPLAN data. NAPLAN data for a child is given to their parents, but I would assume that the PAT data is not.

      So there are differences between the NAPLAN and PAT, just as there are differences between a shark and a crocodile. There are also similarities. I guess some schools like to have sharks and alligators in their waters.

      I wonder if ACER contributes to the NAPLAN?

      1. Since most schools use PAT, and all schools use NAPLAN, most schools are using both products.

        NAPLAN is a choice for the students. I imagine that students could also opt out of PAT – you can’t make a student do a test.

        I don’t know much about either – but I am learning fast. I do know that both of them disrupt the teaching program. The people in charge of PAT and NAPLAN would say that their assessments supplement the teaching program.

        1. First time commenting here. Current Teacher.

          ACER now reports PAT results to the government, so schools are no longer required to pay for access to the adaptive testing. Feels like PAT testing is becoming less of a choice.

          The only real advantage is we get the instant results from the PAT testing that we can try and make sense of in learning area meetings.

          We factor the PAT testing into to the start of our programs to get a better understanding of where our students are with their numeracy and literacy skills (much like running a pre-test). We discuss the PAT Data with students to get a better understanding of literacy vs. numeracy issues. We do also discuss PAT data with Parents and students during Pathways and Careers Planning.

          I do however get more useful data from my own assessments.

          1. Thanks James. From my reading PAT has a solid philosophical basis.

            As one who is learning about this, let me ask you a question.

            PAT requires a well-defined learning progression along which students should travel. Is there one for mathematics? Or should there be one for mathematics in Year 8 and another in Year 10? Or should there be one for trigonometry and another for algebra?

      2. Thanks BiB, and Everyone. I was under the impression that PAT wasn’t as idiotic as NAPLAN in its actual questions, although, given it’s ACER, maybe I dreamt it.

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