Most of you should now have NAPLAN results for your children.

After looking at all the dots, bands and triangles and then reading all the negative press that NAPLAN gets, you might be asking yourself what the point of it all really is.


While I am not a fan of the format NAPLAN takes (multiple-choice questions, for example, in my opinion, are inadequate on many levels) I believe it does have its place.

Imagine, for example, that you are a year 6 teacher and that the majority of your students score at or above the average national levels for, say, their Spelling, Reading and Grammar.  You would give yourself a pat on the back.

If their Numeracy results are lower than the national average, though, you would hopefully take stock and question the way you are teaching Maths.

For a good teacher, such criticism is vital to professional improvement.  In other countries (such as the UK), there are individuals (see Ofsted) who are employed to evaluate teaching and teachers in schools, but in Australia, where we seem to be constantly strapped for cash when it comes to education, this is not the case.

In theory, then, NAPLAN should improve the quality of teaching.

What does research tell us?

Results of official research on whether NAPLAN testing has helped students’ performance is mixed.  Even the official Wikipeida page that explains NAPLAN devotes an entire section to the ‘validity and reliability of NAPLAN‘.  There are even several sites such as Say No to NAPLAN that feature passionate well-researched texts articulating what is wrong with the system.

Like it or not, it seems NAPLAN is here to stay.  In fact the South Australian government announced that in response to our rather woeful performance, particularly in numeracy, it would implement another set of tests – PAT or Progressive Achievement Tests – across the board in the hope, I suppose, that more testing would improve students’ testing results.

What does all this tell me about MY child’s performance?

The NAPLAN results are probably best taken as providing a general overview of how your child is able to perform in the various areas compared to the rest of the students in the school and country.  For those who are curious about how their child’s school ranks, the performance of all schools is listed in the My School website.

You might have noticed, though, that although the results will tell you what types of questions your child got wrong (the Numeracy section is quite detailed here), the results do not provide you with access to the questions themselves, making it difficult to know exactly what your child had problems with.

You will also need to take into account the possibility that some of the answers that were marked as being correct were guesses.  Then there are several other factors to consider; did your child have a cold on the day, or do they simply not perform well under test conditions?

In the end, it is still your child’s teacher who is best placed to tell you exactly how your child is performing.  While testing will hopefully keep teachers on their toes, the success of our education system still relies on having dedicated, passionate people working with our children.

In an environment where there are many other disciplines that provide higher pay, great teachers are to be applauded.  When testing schemes like NAPLAN are (hopefully!) in a continual process of refinement, these teachers get on with the job of teaching our current generation of young people.