What is NAPLAN and how important are NAPLAN results? Let find out, along with some ways to improve your child’s NAPLAN test scores
What is NAPLAN?
NAPLAN, or the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy, is an annual national assessment for all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 Australia-wide. It is designed to measure whether or not Australian school students are developing the literacy and numeracy skills that provide the critical foundation for other learning. NAPLAN also provides valuable insight into the overall quality of teaching in individual schools. The results also help identify areas where help is needed.
The NAPLAN tests are designed to assess students’ achievement in three ‘domains’, or areas, of literacy: reading, writing and language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation). NAPLAN also assesses numeracy: number sense, ability to perform maths operations like addition and so on, and general maths reasoning ability. The tests are aligned, or matched to, the Australian Curriculum, which sets out the knowledge, skills and understandings that students should acquire as they progress through school.
NAPLAN has been the subject of some controversy, with some people arguing that it is too stressful for students and that it does not accurately measure their learning. However, the Australian government and the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), which administers NAPLAN, maintain that the tests are an important tool for monitoring the quality of education in Australia.
A really important thing for parents to know is that their child’s NAPLAN result has no bearing on their school grades. The purpose of NAPLAN is to provide a snapshot of Australian student performance overall, to guide decision-making on a curriculum and policy level. That being said, some schools use NAPLAN results to decide which students are accepted into their gifted learning streams.
Key Changes in NAPLAN 2023
There are a few changes to the NAPLAN test in 2023. These changes include:
- The test will be held in March instead of May.
- Results are now reported against four levels of achievement, not the previous ten “proficiency bands”. The four levels of achievement are “exceeding”, “strong”, “developing” and “needs additional support”.
- The test will be entirely online for the first time.
What are the literacy and numeracy domains in NAPLAN?
A domain in NAPLAN is a specific area of skill. The literacy and numeracy domains in NAPLAN are:
- Reading: This domain assesses students’ ability to understand and interpret a range of texts, including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
- Writing: This domain assesses students’ ability to communicate effectively in writing, to organize their ideas, and to use language conventions correctly.
- Language conventions: This domain assesses students’ knowledge of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
- Numeracy: This domain assesses students’ ability to understand and apply mathematical concepts and skills.
How are NAPLAN results scored?
NAPLAN results are scored based on four levels of achievement – “exceeding”, “strong”, “developing” and “needs additional support”. A student that tests at “strong” or “exceeding” is considered to be at or above the expected standard for their age. A student that tests at “developing” or “needs additional support” does not yet meet the expected standard for their age.
The tests are designed to be challenging but fair, but you won’t get a number score for any domain as of 2023. A student’s achievement in a domain is represented by a ‘band’ with a dot which represents where your child falls within the range of all students Australia-wide in the same school year.
Should my child do NAPLAN practice tests?
The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), who oversee NAPLAN specifically say that NAPLAN is a “no pass, no fail” test, and say regarding NAPLAN that “familiarisation is important, drilling and excessive practice is unnecessary”.
Since being familiar with the test can reduce anxiety, you might decide your child should try some practice tests if they feel anxious about it. Since some schools use NAPLAN results to allow students admission into gifted and talented programs, you may want to give your child the opportunity to become familiar with the test.
The NAPLAN website has some example tests your child can complete here.
Tips for getting a good score on NAPLAN
The NAPLAN score itself doesn’t affect your child’s grades, so the NAPLAN result is best viewed as a snapshot of your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Performing well on the test won’t help your child’s grades, but it will show they are performing well overall. However, overly focusing on the NAPLAN test to the detriment of actual class homework and exams will harm, rather than help, your child’s school grades.
In order to get a good score on the NAPLAN test, here are some tips:
- Practice with sample tests. It’s good for students to get familiar with the format of the test before they take it. This can reduce anxiety around taking the test. Example tests can be found here.
- Read widely. The reading test is a major component of NAPLAN, so it is important to read widely. This will help you to develop your vocabulary and comprehension skills.
- Practice writing. The writing test is also a major component of NAPLAN, so it is important to practice writing. You can do this by writing essays, stories, and poems.
- Learn your grammar and punctuation rules. The language conventions test assesses your knowledge of grammar and punctuation rules. Children can learn these rules by reading grammar books or by taking online grammar courses. In the case of younger or struggling children, they will need guidance or tutoring to understand these resources.
- Get a good night’s sleep before the test. It is important to get a good night’s sleep before the test so that you are well-rested and alert.
- Eat a healthy breakfast on the day of the test. Eating a healthy breakfast will give you the energy you need to focus on the test.
- Arrive early. Arriving early will give you time to relax and get settled before the test begins.
- Stay calm and focused during the test. It is important to stay calm and focused during the test so that you can do your best.
What if my child doesn’t do well on the NAPLAN results?
Whatever you do, don’t panic. NAPLAN is just one measure of your child’s learning. There are many other things that contribute to a child’s success, such as their home environment, their motivation, and their individual learning style. NAPLAN is a test after all, and tests only capture one facet of a child’s ability – specifically, their ability to do well in tests.
Resist the urge to compare your child to others. Comparisons with others leads to one of two undesirable outcomes: overconfidence if your child outperforms others, or discouragement if they perform worse than their peers. Both of those outcomes will have a negative effect on your child developing a growth mindset.
It’s important to focus on the positive. View the NAPLAN results as a way to identify your child’s strengths and areas for improvement. There will be areas that your child did better on than in other areas. Focus on your child’s strengths and celebrate their successes.
Sonic Learning’s online learning programs are research-backed and designed to strengthen the fundamental skills that underpin reading, writing, grammar skills and punctuation, spelling, and numeracy.
These programs use interactive games that adapt in real time to your child’s skill level using machine learning. Never too hard, never too easy.
You child will be coached online by health professionals who will track progress and give you and your child personalised feedback.
- Reading: The Fast ForWord and ClearFluency programs build the skills that support reading development and then target reading fluency and comprehension.
- Writing and spelling: Fast ForWord Foundations/Elements, followed by Fast ForWord Reading have been proven to improve writing skills.
- Grammar skills and punctuation: Through exercises carefully designed by learning experts, the Fast ForWord programs improve important language skills, including grammar.
- Numeracy: Children use their problem-solving skills to work through an online adventure – and have so much fun they’ll forget they are learning. In an independent study, after 3 weeks on this program kids showed growth equivalent to about a 6 month gain (73% improvement)
How can I support my child’s learning after NAPLAN?
There are a few things parents can do to help their children benefit from the NAPLAN assessment.
- Understand the results. The NAPLAN report provides a detailed breakdown of your child’s performance in each domain. The report also includes a comparison of your child’s performance to the national average, as well as to the performance of students in their school and state.
- Talk to your child’s teacher. The best way to understand your child’s NAPLAN results is to talk to their teacher. After all, each domain on the results is just a graphic, so it doesn’t tell the whole story. Your child’s teacher will be able to give you more information about your child’s performance in each domain, and they can also help you to identify areas where your child may need additional support.
- Set goals for your child. Once you have a better understanding of your child’s NAPLAN results, you can start to set goals for their learning. These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
- Find ways to support your child’s learning. There are many ways to support your child’s learning at home. You can read to them, help them with their homework, or find activities that will help them to improve their literacy and numeracy skills.
Learn from NAPLAN results and move forward
NAPLAN is designed to assess students’ achievement in literacy and numeracy, and the results are used to track students’ progress over time, to compare schools and school systems, and to identify areas where further support may be needed. If your child is taking NAPLAN, there are a few things you can do to help them prepare, such as practicing with sample tests, reading widely, and practicing writing. It is also important to remember that NAPLAN is just one measure of a child’s learning, and there are many other things that contribute to their success. If you have concerns about your child’s learning in any of the domain covered by NAPLAN, or if you have any questions about how Sonic Learning’s programs can help your child, please reach out to us.
- ACARA website, NAPLAN test infographic
- The Conversation, What do the NAPLAN test changes mean for schools and students?
- The Conversation, NAPLAN testing does more harm than good
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