by Emma Clarke
PARENTS who think NAPLAN results prove their child is a genius have been issued a strong warning.
According to a leading education researcher, NAPLAN can show no evidence as to a child's or school's academic performance that teachers didn't already know.
That's the message University of Southern Queensland Senior Lecturer in literacy education and English curriculum Dr Stewart Riddle is sending parents as the NAPLAN interim report data rolls out this month.
As parents are receiving their child's individual results, Dr Riddle is warning they should chat to their child's teacher before drawing any inferences from the data.
"Quite frankly it doesn't tell us mush at all, it's a big monster of a thing," Dr Riddle said.
"I think its hyped up, people make of it a much bigger tool than it is. If it really was a diagnostic tool for teachers, parents and students, there would be no need to publicly report it.
"My opinion after working with it for the last decade is it gives very expensive fodder to people who just want to take a bash at teachers not doing a good enough job or at students not being able to read or write.
"The best thing a parent can do with the NAPLAN reports is go and talk to their kid's teacher because they will get a much richer snapshot of how their son or daughter is going.
"Nobody needs to do anything other than give teachers the chance to teach without bashing them and see these tests for what they are which is mostly a political activity."
He said data comparisons between schools and between states did not accurately represent what was happening in the classroom as the $40 million NAPLAN exercise averaged scores and hid high and low performers.
"We're talking about seriously struggling schools that have got high levels of social disadvantage an entrenched poverty, they already know what the challenges are that their school community faces," Dr Riddle said.
"NAPLAN doesn't tell them anything that they don't already know. I think it's a largely pointless exercise that doesn't really do anything."
He said some of the most significant challenges of NAPLAN were small tests taken on specific days did not account for close to a decade of schooling in the case of a year nine student.
"In the year nine numeracy test for example, in 48 questions how are you meant to get a sense of 10 years of schooling, its really difficult to be able to make very much sense at all from a test that is quite small," he said.
"The test itself isn't actually fool proof, they cant hand on heart say every single student has been scored accurately.
"It certainly doesn't fit how its argued in the sense that its providing really useful information to parents, teachers and school on individual students. It's too small in terms of the tests themselves, they're too specific. The best data we can have on how students are performing in school is teachers. They're always listening to students talking and looking at their writing and giving them feedback, so there is a constant cycle of assessment that is far more focused on how students are doing than this massive test that everybody has to do."
Dr Riddle said the new data released this month overall showed no difference to last year's results or even to 2015.
"The narrative that gets pushed is we have stagnation and flat lining. The way I see it is we have a big bump after the first and second year which is when schools worked out how to play the system and the moment everybody worked out how to do it, how to prepare for the test the best they could, there has been no significant shift on any real level," he said.
"The argument that kids these days can't read or write has been around as long as there has been kids and as long as there has been reading and writing so NAPLAN in a certain sense actually tells us very little."
What the data shows in Ipswich
Ipswich Junior Grammar School topped the year three class with the highest scores in reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation and numeracy.
In year five, Ipswich Junior Grammar School was only trumped by St Peters Lutheran College at Springfield in numeracy.
St Peters Lutheran College led the year seven pack in writing and numeracy while Ipswich Girls Grammar School topped reading, spelling and grammar and punctuation.
Year nine students at St Peters Lutheran College also led the way in reading, writing and spelling while Ipswich Girls Grammar had the highest scores in grammar and punctuation and numeracy.
Ipswich Girls and Junior Grammar School principal and CEO Dr Peter Britton said it was important for parents to remember their child's NAPLAN results were a snapshot in time of their child's development in literacy and numeracy.
He said results should not be used as the only measure of the success of their child's education.
"Parents should discuss their child's NAPLAN results with teachers so that they receive a complete overview of their child's progress and understand the detail behind the numbers," Dr Britton said.
"Indeed, there is more to a good education than NAPLAN or OP scores. Students need to grow into diligent, disciplined, caring and compassionate people who have respect for self and others and contribute to the well-being of their community, nation and world.
"The partnership between students, parents, the local community and a school's high-performing teachers who are passionate about their vocation and clear about the key role that they play in preparing students for a globally-connected, technologically advanced, entrepreneurial world are central to a child's good holistic education."