The value of standardised testing | Mr Mason Hellyer

What is the value of standardised testing for students at Terrace?

The National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) has commenced this week. In 2022, Terrace joined all schools in Australia to complete the annual NAPLAN testing program online. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is the federal body that oversees the development, implementation and marking of the NAPLAN program.

The movement to a fully online exam program has allowed for tailored testing, which means students are given questions that are better suited to their abilities and enable them to show what they know and can do (ACARA, 2022).

The NAPLAN testing program has always generated debate in both the educational and broader community, especially regarding the worth of the testing outcomes. More specifically, the reporting of NAPLAN outcomes, both in the media and the MySchool website, does raise concerns regarding the comparison or ranking of schools.

Therefore, what is the value of NAPLAN results for Terrace students? Regardless of how NAPLAN results are reported, the data is valuable to us for several reasons. Firstly, the most valuable aspect is the capacity to compare cohort results longitudinally. Secondly, it provides valuable information on the strengths and weaknesses of a cohort. Utilising these two aspects, the College can identify areas for growth for a particular cohort. For example, the continued implementation of the Write that Essay writing program arose from identifying a weakness in our writing results. As part of a targeted literacy intervention, this program has seen the College’s writing results improve. Furthermore, the capacity to track progress longitudinally allows us to continually assess the value of our intervention and adjust where required.

Individual NAPLAN results do not define a student. These results provide one set of data on student performance and progress. At Terrace, we utilise NAPLAN, school assessment, teacher feedback, pastoral data and other standardised tests, like PAT and Year 10 Career testing, to create a rich picture of student academic progress. Curriculum and Program leaders and classroom teachers then access this data at various junctures to identify, intervene, or extend student learning.

Terrace’s use of student data continues to evolve. The College is currently developing a new data visualisation tool that will enable staff to more easily identify key student, class and cohort outcomes that can directly influence our practice. Excitingly, this tool will have both a student and parent access point. This will mean that students and parents will be able to access more detailed information on their results and progress. I intend for this to be available from the commencement of the 2023 school year.

The debate on the value of standardised testing will no doubt continue. However, using data to assist with the student's academic progress will be ever present. Importantly, it is how this data is used in a targeted and meaningful way that is essential in affecting and improving student outcomes.