The results are in, how do we feel about NAPLAN?

Over the last 3 weeks, teachers and school leaders from schools around Australia shared their views about NAPLAN

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About the respondents 

Over the last 3 weeks, teachers and school leaders from schools across Australia shared their views about NAPLAN via an online questionnaire designed to capture the sentiments the standardised test ignites. 

The sample (n=68, confidence interval of 90% for a population of 9,542 schools, and 10% error margin)  had good representation from teachers and school leaders (53% teachers, 36% management roles, 11% not specified), with the majority of respondents (84%) having been in the profession for 5 or more years. 

72% of respondents are teaching secondary mathematics, 25% are in primary classrooms and 3% do not have any teaching load.

NSW, QLD and VIC had the strongest representation (NSW 25%, QLD 25% and VIC 28%) and sector spread was quite evenly distributed (Catholic 26%, Government 37%, Independent 37%).

A summary of the demographic information captured below.

Respondents roles

Respondents teaching experience in years

School by sector

Gender

Age

School by state

Year levels taught

Is NAPLAN useful?

Majority of educators (47%) strongly disagree or disagree with NAPLAN being useful, 18% of the surveyed sample felt neutral about this broad statement and 35% agrees that it is of some value.

NAPLAN is useful

When asked more specifically about its value in shaping education policy, a larger proportion of respondents disagrees with the statement (55%). Neutral responses remained consistent at 18% and 27% agrees that NAPLAN can support this endeavor. 

NAPLAN can help shape better education policies

Interestingly, there is an even split of 40% supporters and detractors for NAPLAN’s value in helping teachers support student learning. 

NAPLAN can be used by teachers to support student learning

Leadership believes 

The second section of the survey focused on leadership’s perceived purpose for NAPLAN. 

Teachers and leaders were asked if leadership at their school believed NAPLAN to be a measure used as a proxy to allocate funds to schools that require further support with numeracy and literacy, an important tool to communicate student progress with parents and a ranking system used by parents to select schools.

Around 40% of participants reported feeling neutral across the first 3 statements (each statement was assigned a score from 1 to 5, 1 corresponding to “ strongly disagree” and 5 to “strongly agree”). Correcting for the role held by the respondent  made no significant difference, discounting the possibility of neutral feelings relating to teachers not knowing leadership’s stance or leaders not making their views or beliefs known to staff.

The belief that parents use NAPLAN scores to rank, compare and select schools was held by a majority of participants with 62% of respondents agreeing with it, 34% feeling neutral and only 4% disagreeing with this premise.

Is used to allocate funds to the schools that need further support in literacy and numeracy

Is an important way of communicating student progress to parents

Is a ranking system that parents use to choose schools

When asked about NAPLAN being a student diagnostic tool, 5% of leaders strongly disagreed with its use for this purpose. In contrast, 16% of heads of department and teachers with other middle management responsibilities disagreed with the appropriateness of NAPLAN data being used to diagnose student understanding. 

NAPLAN results do not appear to be perceived as a major contributing factors in attracting or detracting new teaching talent to schools.

Good NAPLAN results can help attract better teachers to work at our school

NAPLAN preparation 

Participants were asked about NAPLAN practice frequency and the allocation of these practice tasks during school hours or as homework assignments.

58% of respondents did not allocate any practice time to NAPLAN preparation.

During Term 1, 23% reported to practice monthly, 12% weekly and 7% daily.

Of those who allocated practice time, the dosage increased to 1 to 2 times a week for 52%, 3 to 5 times a week for 38% and 5 or more times a week for 10% of the sample.

77% of practice was reported to only happen during class time, 16% said practice was both perform during class time and as homework and 6% exclusively used homework time for practice tasks.

NAPLAN practice from Term 1 dosage

NAPLAN practice two weeks prior dosage

NAPLAN practice allocation

Impact on teaching practice

As well as asking teachers about time spent preparing for the test, we were interested in how teacher practice is affected by NAPLAN. 

While only a third of the sample reported having  to narrow the scope of teaching practices in their classroom as well as  allocating extra time to mathematics over other subjects, 51% spent more time on content that would affect NAPLAN scores.

Effect on teaching practices

How is NAPLAN data being used by schools

The relevance and usability of NAPLAN data at a classroom and school level is questionable. Still, data from this poll seems to indicate that NAPLAN data is widely used to measure cohort progress (79%) and to address areas of weakness at a class and/or year level (65%). Even more concerning  is that 58% of respondents are using it to measure student progress. 49% and 56% of participants reported using NAPLAN data for differentiation and to address areas of weakness at an individual level, even though the granularity, frequency and statistical error make NAPLAN data ill fit for this purpose.

62% believe NAPLAN data does not provide much insights and 70% use it to triangulate with other data points.

The findings would also indicate that even those who reported finding limited value in NAPLAN data, continue to  use it as a diagnostic and planning tool as well as a formative assessment to inform differentiation. The reasons for this are likely varied including that personal beliefs and school approach are not aligned or that school leaders feel “obliged” to use NAPLAN to comply with widely held beliefs or want to somehow make the most out of something “we have to do”.

NAPLAN data usage

NAPLAN and stress

It has been reported that NAPLAN is a big contributor to stress levels for students, teachers, school leaders and parents.

We asked participants if a large portion of their community was negatively affected by NAPLAN, and what factors are the main contributors to feelings of stress for teachers and leaders.

When thinking about students, 72% agreed with a large portion of their cohorts being stressed about the test. Similarly, 69% of respondents felt a significant amount of parents worry about NAPLAN.

A considerable portion of students and parents stress about NAPLAN

Most respondents (80%) felt that teachers’ stress was primarily related to having to sacrifice time to “teach to the test”. 

Only 22% disagreed that NAPLAN was used to measure their performance as teachers, an indicator that it continues to be perceived as a policing tool.

55% also reported that parents’ perceptions and anxiety related to NAPLAN contributed to their increased levels of stress.

Causes for teacher stress

For leaders the largest contributing factor to their stress levels is NAPLAN being used as a measure of school performance -67% agreed/strongly agreed- , with funding depending on NAPLAN results and NAPLAN’s effect on attracting student enrolments closely following – 54% and 55% respectively agreeing/strongly agreeing.

Causes for leadership stress

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