NAPLAN 2019- Jennifer Oaten Principal

Those families with a daughter in Years 5, 7 or 9 will be aware that NAPLAN commenced this week. Some girls dread this time of year, others are not fussed, while a student I interviewed this week said how she couldn’t wait to get to school to do Naplan because she loves being able to demonstrate her reading and writing skills. The online version provided some additional challenges for staff and students this week.  Here are some answers to questions I regularly get asked.

There are reports that parents and students get quite stressed, leading up to NAPLAN what advice would you give them?

Those students who struggle most in maths and/or literacy are the students who worry most about NAPLAN, but it is only one small part of the feedback that is provided to parents. NAPLAN is only one small way girls can demonstrate their learning. Our girls showcase their learning every day in class. Naplan is just a different means of collecting information. Parents remaining calm and encouraging their daughter to do their best and not making a ‘big deal’ of it, is what I encourage.

Year 9 students are sometimes more concerned due to having to sit OLNA in Year 10 if they do not meet the standard required in Year 9 NAPLAN. Our data indicates that the majority of students who sit OLNA in Year 10 reach the required standard at this time. There are also many opportunities to try again if needed, and the College provides a range of support options.

What were the problems experienced by Online NAPLAN at the College this week?

The online format, which had only 15% participate in 2018, grew to 50% in 2019 and it was proposed that by 2020 it would be 100%. The problems experienced at Santa Maria were not due to our network but due to nationwide network issues. Many of our girls experienced these issues on Tuesday while very few experienced issues in later sessions. As a College, we can see the time lapses, which gives us a clear indication of the problems each student has faced and the significance of the impact. ACARA, who is responsible for NAPLAN, is currently liaising with SCSA, our Western Australian body, to ensure that a just and equitable resolution for all students is reached.

Do you believe that school should be preparing students for NAPLAN?

Santa Maria does not teach to Naplan but ensures students are familiar with the format of the test. We believe our focus on curriculum and engaging pedagogy is more valuable in improving results. Excessive preparation is of limited benefit and can lead to unnecessary anxiety.

What do we find most useful in relation to the NAPLAN data?

For our students, the level they have achieved is less important than the growth they have shown. We hope that most students will show growth from Years 5 – 7 and then from  Years 7 – 9. It is challenging tracking data when 50% of our students commence at the College in Year 5 while the other 50% commence in Year 7 however the growth we see enables us to extrapolate specific information about a year group’s strengths and weaknesses and to build programs that focus on areas of weaknesses.

How do our teachers use the data?

We use the NAPLAN data in conjunction with other data such as incoming testing, results for each subject, teacher knowledge of student abilities and a range of other information. NAPLAN is only one assessment tool which should not be used in isolation but can be a useful starting point for teachers and for identifying students who are not reaching their potential.

How have you found the data provided from the online NAPLAN testing, is the data more insightful?

The greatest benefit of the online version is that there are different pathways for students, which means more precise results because NAPLAN Online is designed to adapt to a student’s performance automatically. If a student is giving correct answers, then more challenging questions will be asked to enable each student to demonstrate what they are capable of.

What is the future of NAPLAN?

This is the big question, but I suspect that ACARA will no doubt be discussing the issues faced by schools and by students this week. We will keep you informed about resolutions for current student and any decisions regarding the future of NAPLAN.

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