Half of parents don’t see the point of NAPLAN – but teachers find it even less useful, study finds.

Half of parents from independent schools are dissatisfied with NAPLAN results and doubt their usefulness to students or teachers, a new study has found.

But teachers are even more unhappy with the controversial ranking test, with more than three-quarters of educators questioning whether NAPLAN results help identify areas in which students need help.

The new research from Edith Cowan University (ECU) surveyed 345 parents and 40 teachers across Years Three to Five from independent schools in Western Australia.

It found half of parents were dissatisfied with how well student results were communicated.

A third (35 per cent) were also ‘not at all’ satisfied with the time it took for results to be communicated.

Beyond this, half of parents surveyed (50 per cent) doubted that the results helped teachers identify areas in which individual students needed help – a belief held by 78 per cent of teachers.

The report said administrators needed to better communicate NAPLAN results and their usefulness for individual students if they wanted parents to support the test.

Dr Shane Rogers, of ECU’s School of Arts and Humanities, said parents’ and teachers’ “low perceptions” of the usefulness of NAPLAN testing were not encouraging.

“However, parents who felt they received good communication about the purpose and value of the testing showed far better attitudes about the test itself,” said Dr Rogers.

“This means better communication about how NAPLAN results are being used to improve education might improve overall attitudes – from the policy-making level to schools and teachers, and from schools and teachers to parents.

“The claim is that NAPLAN benefits all stakeholders – policy makers, schools, teachers, parents and individual students – but currently it is unclear how this is happening.”

Teachers less impressed

Overall, teachers were less enthusiastic about NAPLAN than parents.

While the majority did not feel the test impacted their teaching style or stress levels, when asked if it was a good indicator of teacher performance, 60 per cent reported ‘not at all’.

“Most teachers were sceptical that NAPLAN provided useful feedback on their performance, that it was fair for all students or that it was useful in identifying a school’s strengths and weaknesses,” Dr Rogers said.

“They seemed to feel it is primarily a tool to rank schools, and a very narrow one at that.”

Dr Rogers believes greater collaboration between NAPLAN administrators and research institutions would be useful, as utilising the NAPLAN data to facilitate new important insights into student learning would help to foster a greater appreciation of the test.

‘Parent and teacher perceptions of NAPLAN in a sample of Independent schools in Western Australia’ by Dr Rogers, Dr Lennie Barblett and Dr Ken Robinson is published in The Australian Education Researcher.

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