What do 2018 NAPLAN results tell us?

The latest NAPLAN results are finally here, albeit several weeks later than expected following disagreement on how the scores should be reported. This is the first year that NAPLAN testing has been moved from the traditional pen and paper approach to an online equivalent, which stimulated the argument about whether data from each test could be accurately compared.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) maintains that the two types of NAPLAN are indeed comparable, an opinion that has been backed by some but slammed by others, including a pair of experts from the United States that believe results “should be discarded”.

Source: Department of Education and Training, Victoria State Government

NAPLAN, which reports on students in years three, five, seven and nine, assesses on a 10-band scale (one being the lowest and 10 being the highest. It has long been a great source of controversy within the education sector, with concerns over its validity as an accurate indicator of academic progress.

The 2018 NAPLAN data revealed some insights into the Australian education system:

  • Year 5 students in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory experienced a substantial drop in writing compared to 2017 results
  • Year 9 students in Western Australia improved their grammar and punctuation significantly compared to 2017 results
  • Students in Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory led the nation, recording scores at or above the national average across the board
  • Students in the Northern Territory are underachieving across the board, both compared with other states and the national minimum standards
  • Year 9 students who took the writing test online scored higher than those who completed the pen and paper equivalent

Despite the outcomes above, there was no drastic long-term trends to emerge from the latest batch of results, which renders the whole discussion around comparing the digital and paper tests as less concerning.

It remains to be seen what will happen next with NAPLAN. Gonski 2.0 raised the idea of an online formative assessment tool that could replace or at least support NAPLAN testing, but as it stands, the system will remain unchanged.

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