Since 2008, Australia has had a national assessment program for literacy and numeracy (NAPLAN), providing objective, nationally-comparative 'point in time' data to governments, schools, parents and the public on how students and schools are tracking on these essential learning foundations.
It replaced standardised literacy and numeracy tests at the state level that had been in place for almost 20 years but were difficult to compare and were not available to the public or external researchers.
NAPLAN is not an authoritative, holistic assessment of the capacity or quality of a student, teacher or school. Nor is it a high stakes test - students are not penalised for poor performance and NAPLAN results do not effect the remuneration of individual teachers.
NAPLAN is a diagnostic tool to assist school leaders and policy makers deciding how to allocate resources and tailor programs and strategies to maximise learning for their students. It also provides objective "snapshot" data to parents and teachers on how individual students are tracking, and an extra piece of information - objective data - to assist them deciding which school to send their kids, rather than relying solely on visits, advertising materials, at times sensationalist media and hearsay.
While NAPLAN's objectives are very worthy, misconceptions over the test and an over-emphasis on it by a small minority of parents and schools has raised serious concerns. I joined Senator Penny Wright on ABC television's News Breakfast program on 28 March to discuss the Senate Inquiry into these concerns. Here's the segment and the report. I also discussed whether MySchool be abolished on ABC's Radio National on March 7.