Putting Students First: Moving on from NAPLAN to a new educational assessment system

schoolboy raising hand in class

The Putting Students First: Moving on from NAPLAN to a new educational assessment system evaluates NAPLAN against evidence-informed benchmarks and recommends significant changes to ensure that national assessments are designed to better support student learning, provide better information to parents and government while minimising the harmful side effects of the current NAPLAN process.

The report recommends a new national assessment system that would have different types of assessments for student, school and parental information purposes, and sample-based standardised tests for governments’ system monitoring and accountability purposes.

Given that students are at the heart of our education system the report considered the most fundamental questions upon which to design a national assessment system. Those questions are:

  1. What do students need from a national assessment system?
  2. What information do teachers and schools need to support students?
  3. What information do parents need to support their children and schools?
  4. What is the necessary minimum information that governments need for accountability purposes and to support all of the above?

The report also reviewed international case studies from Ontario (Canada), Scotland, Singapore and Finland in order to further inform the recommendations for a new assessment system.

The report recommends that the new national assessment system should come with more regular and detailed reporting to parents through a validated, formative classroom-based Assessment Resource System (ARS) that includes a national library of quality assessment tasks for Year 3 through Year 10 that are linked to the curriculum and the teaching in schools. This will improve the information to parents about their child’s learning and growth at school according to national standards and benchmarks.

These assessment resources can be used by teachers at the time of their choosing and results can be presented to parents in a visual and understandable format. This would allow reporting students’ performance in a broader range of knowledge, skills and competences over time better than occurs with NAPLAN.

A key recommendation of the report is to replace the current multi-purpose census-based literacy and numeracy testing in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 by sample-based assessments in Years 4, 6, 8 and 10 for monitoring education systems performance and complement that by formative teacher-led assessments in schools to inform students, schools and parents about students’ performance and growth.

Sample-based assessment method used in many other countries allows governments to monitor education system performance without the often harmful side effects to students and schools that are common with census-based tests. It is also more cost-effective allowing governments to shift resources from testing to support teaching and learning in schools.

Read the report