NAPLAN tests flawed
10th May 2010

Australian students at years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are taking national literacy and numeracy tests this week - NAPLAN.  I argue that the NAPLAN tests are flawed and counter- productive.

NAPLAN denies kids an education revolution - ABC the Drum


While previously arguing in favour of tests like NAPLAN, I have changed my mind about the validity and value of standardised testing. After a visit to New York last year, discussions with experts and monitoring events in England (from where Julia Gillard has copied national testing and league tables), I now believe such tests are counter-productive and educationally unsound.

An essay detailing the flaws in the New York model, a model that Julie Gillard is following, written by Sol Stern, is in the current edition of the City Journal.

John Maynard Keynes once said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?". What started out as a good idea has been corrupted and proven to be unreliable. Concerns include:

Testing has failed to raise standards in England or New York and is now seen as counter-productive. Diane Ravitch's most recent book, The death and life of the great American school system, details the flaws with NY's model of standardised testing and high-risk accountability.

According to the US national test (NAEP), NY's results have flatlined. In the UK, notwithstanding national tests and league tables, standards have also failed to improve and the Rose Report, evaluating primary school curriculum in the UK, argues against an over-emphasis on one-off basic skills tests.

The curriculum has been narrowed and the focus is on basic skills instead of higher order thinking. Subjects like music, art, physical education and history fall by the wayside as teachers and schools focus on drilling for literacy and numeracy tests.

Schools and teachers are adopting suspicious ways to get better results - poor students are excluded from tests, weak students are told to stay at home, teachers cheat by helping students in the classroom.

US and Australian test experts agree that standardised tests like NAPLAN are unreliable, invalid and cannot be trusted (it's lies, damn lies and statistics).

The experts also argue that attempts to measure student improvement over time being pushed by Minister Gillartd, such as value-add, are flawed, unreliable and unsuitable for high-risk accountability. The US critique of value-add can be found at here.

The need for testing is being pushed by the Australian Council for Educational Research - a body dedicated to making money out of measurement and testing. The ACER's chief clients are Commonwealth, state and territory governments and as the saying goes, 'he who pays the piper, calls the tune'.

Australian teachers call NAPLAN, napalm as it destroys the classroom teaching environment.

Government schools are being held accountable, while denied the autonomy to get rid of dud teachers.

The measure used to determine a school's socioeconomic profile is flawed - we are not comparing apples with apples.

Minister Gillard's argument that a student's socioeconomic background determines whether they do well or not is self-fulfilling and wrong - SES is not the main factor in educational success.

As a result of the NAPLAN results, the ALP government is spending billions on so-called disadvantaged schools to raise standards. What is being done here has been going on for years in the US and England, and standards have flatlined.

The very things needed for a real education revolution are denied - giving schools greater freedom, having an academic and effective curriculum and better rewarding successful teachers.

Kevin Donnelly is director of Education Standards Institute



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NAPLAN tests flawed
10th May 2010
Australian students at years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are taking national literacy and numeracy tests this week - NAPLAN.  I argue that the NAPLAN tests are flawed and counter- productive.NAPLAN denies ...

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