NAPLAN testing arrives early this year for the more than 200,000 Queensland school students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9, who will sit the annual literacy and numeracy learning check-up starting this week.

The bring-forward of the test from May to March is good news for students and their parents and teachers. It means less of the school year is spent worrying about NAPLAN, and there is more time for teachers to use the test results to target their teaching and other support to the students who need it most.

For the first time, NAPLAN tests will be used to identify how each student is faring against new “proficiency” standards. This means parents will receive invaluable information about whether their child is on track or needs more help. The latest data from international OECD tests show that about two in five 15-year-old students in Queensland fall short of Australia’s proficiency benchmark.

There is a lot that teachers can do to help struggling students catch up, particularly if they are identified early. Research by Grattan Institute and others shows that good-quality literacy and numeracy support, with small-group tutoring at school, can make a big difference.

That’s why it is so important that parents and teachers ensure that all eligible students sit the NAPLAN test.

Queensland has one of the lowest participation rates of any state and territory.

No doubt there will be some nervous parents and students, and possibly teachers, as the NAPLAN testing kicks off.

Some parents worry that the tests are too stressful. Others worry they focus too much on just a few aspects of their child’s education. My message is don’t lose sight of the big benefits NAPLAN offers children, and families and teachers.

NAPLAN shows how students are travelling against national benchmarks at key year levels and in key learning areas. It also gives parents an independent view on how their children are going, beyond regular school report cards.

Parents and teachers have an important role to play in reassuring children and teens that NAPLAN testing doesn’t have to be a big deal.

Like going to the dentist, it’s not the outing most of us look forward to, but the anticipation is generally worse than the check-up. And picking up any problems early can save a lot of pain down the track.

Jordana Hunter

Education Program Director
Dr Jordana Hunter is the Education Program Director at Grattan Institute. She has an extensive background in public policy design and implementation, with expertise in school education reform as well as economic policy.

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