7 Things to Remember when Interpreting NAPLAN results

Ok, so NAPLAN* is over for another year… Phew! Hopefully your kids got through it without any issues. But the next big hurdle is how to interpret the results… Eeek!

[*National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is an annual assessment for Australian students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9.]

Some parents and teachers put a lot of emphasis on NAPLAN results, while others do not.

Do the results really mean anything significant? Should you be rushing down to the school at the first indication that your child is performing below the expected level?

Or should you be introducing accelerated learning programs if your child is performing above the national average?

Here are some points to consider when interpreting your child’s results:

1. Keep in mind that the NAPLAN is just one test.

Children change and develop rapidly and a single test cannot possibly assess all of their abilities. A variety of factors can affect how well your child does on any test, including their motivation, attention, mood, physical well being, and opportunities for learning.

2. Some schools teach to the test.

Consider whether your child has been given a great deal of practice and coaching to help them specifically answer NAPLAN-style questions. If so, did this help or did it put undue pressure on them to succeed?

If your child’s school did not prepare them for the test, just remember that your child’s scores will be compared with (some) children who have been well coached.

3. Do your child’s test scores reflect their school reports?

Do you trust the opinion of your child’s teacher? In many cases, it is likely that feedback from ongoing schoolwork and assessments are a more accurate indication of your child’s ability than the results of one test.

However, there are instances where NAPLAN results may indicate a particular weakness that has been missed (or under-emphasised) by the teacher.

If you are concerned about a specific area of weakness you should pursue this with the school and consider a more thorough educational assessment of your child’s abilities. (Trust your instincts!)

4. How did your child cope with the NAPLAN test experience?

Were they relaxed and unfazed by the process or did they become anxious and emotional? Sometimes the most important information that comes out of NAPLAN results is a better understanding of your child’s coping style when they are stressed or placed under pressure.

Consider whether your child’s approach to the test was appropriate or whether there may be underlying anxiety issues with which they are struggling.

Helping your child to overcome his or her emotional challenges is often the most genuinely productive way to assist their learning.

5. Does your child care about their results on the NAPLAN test?

How do they perceive and interpret their results? Are they content with scoring in the average range? Do they get upset or disappointed if they are not in the highest band? The way your child interprets their own NAPLAN results can tell you much more about their approach to learning, self-concept and attributional style than the results themselves.

Consider whether your child has an overly pessimistic view of their own results or if they put too much pressure on themselves to achieve. Discussing these issues may uncover key insights and lead to learning opportunities that can help build self-confidence and self-awareness. Strengthening these areas will help your child to overcome any unhelpful or negative thinking.

6. If you decide NAPLAN results are an accurate indication of your child’s learning, several issues still remain.

The test results do not actually list which specific questions your child did well on or which ones they struggled with. Furthermore, it does not provide recommendations for how to improve any areas of weakness.

Did your child run out of time and not finish the questions? If they struggled to read the test, it could be a reading accuracy issue or a reading comprehension issue.

So how do you know where the problem lies and what steps should you take to address it? (You can always try to ask your child but they may not be able to articulate exactly what their difficulty was.)

The first step is to follow up with your child’s teacher to obtain more detailed information and guidance. If you don’t get the answers you want, you can always talk with a learning support specialist at your child’s school or consult a child psychologist who specialises in Educational and Developmental Psychology.

7. Be mindful that NAPLAN also provides information about each school.

A school rating on the NAPLAN test can’t give you the full picture. Sometimes, the way the school prepares students emotionally and mentally for these tests is a better indication of what kind of environment it offers than the actual results the school receives.

Think about whether the school makes a big deal about NAPLAN, how they communicate results to parents and whether they provide anxious children with effective support.

Carefully consider whether your child is being challenged academically (if your child sits well above the school’s average) or adequately supported (if your child sits below the school’s average).

[For more information on how the NAPLAN is structured and how the results are calculated visit: http://www.nap.edu.au]

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