Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by Paul Brown, Lecturer, Curtin University

The latest preliminary NAPLAN results came out recently, but new research has found the test might have little to do with what the kids are actually learning in class.

Our research, presented at the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia (MERGA) conference in July this year, found the NAPLAN questions in numeracy for Years 5 and 9 do not cover many of the topics students are studying that year, based on the Australian mathematics curriculum.

Yet the organisation running the tests – the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) – says NAPLAN should be aligned to the curriculum.

Read more: NAPLAN results show Year 3 students perform better than Year 9 in writing, and it's a worrying trend

New tests, old studies

We found NAPLAN mathematics is nowhere near the year level of study the students are doing at the time of taking the tests. The majority of the Year 5 numeracy test is actually content from the curriculum for Year 2 and Year 3.

For example, these are questions from the most recently released NAPLAN Year 5 Numeracy test.

NAPLAN tests are not tough enough for the level of maths students are studying This is Question 3 from the 2016 Year 5 Numeracy test. The mathematics involved is at Year 2 level, ‘Recognise, model, represent and order numbers to at least 1,000’, curriculum code ACMNA027. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (NAPLAN 2012–2016 test papers) NAPLAN tests are not tough enough for the level of maths students are studying This is Question 18 from the 2016 Year 5 Numeracy Test: ‘Compare masses of objects using balance scales’ is in the Year 2 curriculum (code ACMMG038). Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (NAPLAN 2012–2016 test papers)

In the Year 9 NAPLAN test, only 25% is content above Year 7 level. Absent from the tests are some of the more difficult content areas, including use of large numbers to do addition in Year 5 and the index laws (such as xaxb=xa+b) in Year 9.

The tables (below) show that the NAPLAN tests have a year level focus which is much lower than the year level of the students sitting the tests.

Where is the mathematical reasoning?

The NAPLAN Numeracy tests are mainly multiple choice, so it’s not surprising topics that require depth of thinking – such as reasoning and problem solving – are neglected.

This is despite what the lead writer of the mathematics curriculum, Professor Peter Sullivan, says:

[…] reasoning is essential to mathematics, it’s what doing mathematics is about.

Our analysis of 312 questions from the most recent publicly-available NAPLAN tests in numeracy found a significant number of the questions tested recall rather than skills.

For example, in measurement and geometry there is an emphasis on knowing the names of shapes, rather than applications such as symmetry or proof.

We found 19% of what the mathematics curriculum Year 5 students should be able to do was not tested in the Year 5 NAPLAN numeracy test. That figure was 35% for Year 9 students.

NAPLAN tests are not tough enough for the level of maths students are studying Question 16 of the 2016 Year 9 Numeracy test is mathematics at Year 6 level, ‘Investigate combinations of translations, reflections and rotations, with and without the use of digital technologies’, code ACMMG142. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (NAPLAN 2012–2016 test papers)

The Australian Mathematics Curriculum requires students to be able to sketch graphs, and to explain a plan for selecting a random sample from a population in order to describe the items using statistics. The words “explore” and “investigate” occur in many content areas.

Such aspects of the curriculum are not recognised in the format used in NAPLAN testing. Instead of mathematics being thoughtful and creative, NAPLAN promotes an impression that quick responses to a lot of brief questions reveals a complete picture of mathematical ability.

The move to test online

NAPLAN is moving to an online format, which means tests since 2016 will not be made public because the questions will be reused within the new online system.

In future, students will not all receive the same questions. Instead, questions will be drawn from a secret database depending on how well the students are doing. It will no longer be possible to assess the nature of the questions nor to compare them against the curriculum.

The reliability of NAPLAN is not in question. The questions consistently give predictable results. It is validity that is the issue: does the NAPLAN actually reveal ability at what the students should have been learning?

Read more: Kids learn valuable life skills through rough-and-tumble play with their dads

We say no, as the questions cover material from the curriculum for much younger students and avoid the difficult aspects of mathematics.

NAPLAN is a multimillion dollar exercise which is supposed to assess the attainment of Australian school students. In practice, the results come to teachers too late to be of value for diagnostic purposes, and students are never permitted to know which questions they got wrong.

But NAPLAN is influential in defining the public impression of what mathematics is, and that is not the same as the mathematics curriculum.

If the real purpose of the NAPLAN is to check up on schools and school systems, there has to be a cheaper and less harmful way of doing so.

Authors: Paul Brown, Lecturer, Curtin University

Read more http://theconversation.com/naplan-tests-are-not-tough-enough-for-the-level-of-maths-students-are-studying-121934

Writers Wanted

Why this Queensland election is different — states are back at the forefront of political attention


Cervical, breast, heart, bowel: here’s what women should be getting screened regularly


Will I or won't I? Scientists still haven't figured out free will, but they're having fun trying


The Conversation


Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Business News

AppDynamics Solves Visibility Gap Between Traditional Infrastructure and Cloud Environments

New Full Stack Observability Platform, Integration With Cisco Intersight Workload Optimizer and Cloud Native Visualisation Features Provide Cross Domain Insights and Analytics of Business Perfor...

Hotwire Global - avatar Hotwire Global

Why Your Small Business Should Bulk Buy Hand Sanitiser

As a small business owner, employee and customer safety is at the very top of your priority list. From risk assessments to health and safety officers, appropriate signage and proper briefing...

News Co - avatar News Co

How Phone Number Search In Sydney Can Help Your Business

To run a successful business, keeping track of your company and competitors are the major factors. With a lot of tools, available businesses have options to stay current. One way in which busine...

News Co - avatar News Co

News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion