What we’ve learned from dumping NAPLAN
Teachers immediately dumped NAPLAN-related tasks as soon as the test was cancelled, revealing that many schools are 'teaching to the test' and that teachers value other lessons over NAPLAN work.
But the loss of NAPLAN 2020 is a blow to students with experts now asking for it to be brought back, saying there will be no comparative data in which to benchmark future tests.
Time spent by students on NAPLAN-related work reduced by 94 per cent nationally and in New South Wales it reduced by 95 per cent, Victoria 86 per cent, Queensland 93 per cent, South Australia 90 per cent, Tasmania 97 per cent, Western Australia 95 per cent, Northern Territory 42 per cent according to an education tech platform which is in one-quarter of all Australian schools.
At the same time overall usage of the platform, Mathspace, increased by 46 per cent and education leaders say it reveals NAPLAN is impacting on real school work.
Other educators - including acclaimed maths teacher Eddie Woo - said COVID-19 shutdown insights should be used to rethink the way schools teach.
Centre for Independent Studies Education fellow Glenn Fahey has called on Governments to fast-track the NAPLAN tests and said lost learning will be missed in the gap years.
"Running NAPLAN this year isn't easy, but there's problems not having it too. Are we really going to skip a whole year? That means a current Year Five student won't have another objective measure of their progress until they're in Year Seven - which is only comparable to their Year Three test. That would be unacceptable," he said.
"We should take the opportunity to constructively think about how to make NAPLAN as effective as it can be - not to put it in the too hard basket. Particularly, how and when NAPLAN is sat.
"This is a perfect opportunity to use NAPLAN online. We get the results back quickly, which is a key concern with the current NAPLAN."
Dr Peter Goss, School Education Program Director at The Grattan Institute, said from an educational researchers' point of view the loss of NAPLAN 2020 was a challenge but a manageable one.
"We will miss out on the continuity of data, and losing NAPLAN in 2020 will limit certain types of future analysis. However, 2020 is not the worst year to be missing because the shift to NAPLAN online has already caused a bit of a disruption in the data."
Mathspace CEO Mo Jebara said the data should be a reminder that NAPLAN has become too high stakes and is "getting in the way of real learning."
"This is really clear evidence teachers are teaching to the test and the very dynamics of NAPLAN forces teachers to teach to the test because it is high stakes."
Allan Dougan, Global Head of Education at 3P Learning, who runs similar schoolwork platforms Mathletics and Reading Eggs said they had also seen a decline in NAPLAN content.
"Which is unsurprising, and not necessarily a bad thing. We're seeing teachers using the ongoing assessment tools because it provides better insight and direction for the teacher, and most importantly, in real time."
Secondary teacher Eddie Woo, who is famed for his enormously popular Youtube channel Wootube, said the period of online learning should be used to catapult education into a different space.
"I'm not surprised by a lot of the trends that we have seen, this whole coronavirus situation has really been an opportunity to confirm some things we always thought were the case - but we kind of needed a real violent shake up in the way that we continue learning to gather some of the data," he said.
"There is a saying that - it's harder to change a school than to relocate a cemetery, there are some things we have been doing in education literally since the beginning of the industrial revolution and we haven't changed them since then."
He said that NAPLAN has become too high stakes but that it is a useful tool.
"When a measure becomes what you judge a system by, it ceases to become a good measure."
Mother of four Julia Lipari's daughter Isabella was due to sit NAPLAN this year.
After having a harrowing experience with her elder daughter she is relieved.
"I don't like how the test, rather than the learning, becomes the focus," she said.
"It is rote learning and meaningless data as it is more about the school's performance and some schools will have more resources.
"The kids are too young to have that level of anxiety."
Students would have been sitting the controversial exams this month and News Corp Australia revealed the national curriculum body ACARA, for the first time, uploaded questions and answers to NAPLAN assessments after being approached by schools to help them track students.
Originally published as What we've learned from dumping NAPLAN