An Absence of Standards
National testing, in the form of standardised tests in schools, has two key features. First, the questions asked and the answers required are exactly the same for every student. Second, in terms of the scoring, there is a consistent standard applied to all students.
National testing is intended to compare the performances of the student population, using the same metric. That metric is the curriculum content that has been taught. If standardised testing is to have any value, the content, too, must be the same for every student.
Australia’s national test – NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy And Numeracy) – is a standardised test based on the Australian Curriculum.
The curriculum is developed at the national level. States and Territories, however, can adapt the curriculum. Schools can further adapt the curriculum adapted by the relevant State or Territory. And, finally, classrooms can adapt the adapted school curriculum. There is no guarantee that the Australian curriculum is taught.
Australia might have a national test. However, it certainly does not have a curriculum that is standard for every State, Territory, school, teacher or student.
The governments of Victoria, NSW and Queensland have nominated an expert panel to review NAPLAN, at a cost of $1 million. It is an insult to common sense, a waste of money, and yet another excuse to avoid critical reform.
NAPLAN isn’t the problem. The real problem is the absence of a standard of education for Australian students. What is the ultimate cost of that?