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Home > News > Professional Issues > Professional Issues Volume 9 > NAPLAN poised to be overhauled with a new “proficiency level”

NAPLAN poised to be overhauled with a new “proficiency level”

Changes could be made to the NAPLAN test as the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) proposes tougher “proficiency level” for students to attain.student.png

Issue snapshot:

  • A new proficiency level for NAPLAN tests has been proposed by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).
  • The current minimum standard has been considered a low benchmark.
  • The proposed change would result in a higher demand on student and teachers.
  • Our union believes that the further extension of the NAPLAN test regime needs to be questioned. 

A tougher proficiency level for NAPLAN is setting a higher benchmark for students compared to previous years. The recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study test indicates that up to a third of children are unable to apply basic knowledge. 

The ACARA general manager for assessment Stanley Rabinowitz has said that it is important to set high standards for students. The new benchmark has been set to better determine whether primary and secondary students are “on track”.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said a tougher proficiency benchmark for NAPLAN tests made “perfect sense”. 

Currently NAPLAN tests rely on the national minimum standard, which some consider as a low benchmark, with 95 per cent of students meeting this standard. Data from the NAPLAN national report confirms the overall academic performance of Australian students in the nationwide tests, conducted in early 2016, is plateauing. 

Student results have been static for the past 12 months, but there has been improvement compared to 2008. Year nine writing results, however, have dropped since 2011. 

The new level would be more demanding on our members and their students than the current national minimum standard, but may be able to be introduced without students having to sit any more tests. 

Higher benchmarks may mean more of a learning time commitment to the NAPLAN test, and less time spent on more enriching learning activities. It is important that teachers remain informed of the NAPLAN changes in order to reassess their teaching plans accordingly.

Our union believes that the further extension of the NAPLAN test regime must be questioned. It is of utmost importance that the resource level of teachers be addressed in regard to the implementation of new testing systems. Increasing demands must be met with an increase in resources. 

Our union will not support reforms that do not effectively address issues experienced by members and their students. A common grievance among educators is that test results are not distributed in a way that allows for meaningful interventions or improvements in achievement. As results are released later in the year, there is minimal time to address any issues students may have. This issue affectively negates any improvements higher benchmarks may achieve, as student learning issues are not able to be effectively addressed regardless of the set benchmark. However, a faster turnaround for results may be achieved with the introduction of the online NAPLAN system. 

Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.