Article in The Courier Mail fails to assess the bigger picture31 January 2017
Today’s news item in The Courier Mail is based on one example test item that has been provided on ACARA’s NAPLAN Online public demonstration website and leaps from this to a commentary about education standards.
It is disappointing The Courier Mail has chosen this sensationalist angle, when the more valuable discussion is on working to ensure that all students have basic reading comprehension skills much earlier than in Year 9.
To clarify, the text message item is just one in a set of five literacy assessment passages that have been provided on the NAPLAN Online demonstration website. The purpose of the demonstration site is to enable students, parents and teachers to become familiar with the technology-enhanced questions that NAPLAN Online allows, including interactive navigation and features such as drag and drop. The public demonstration site does not, and is not intended to, reflect the full range of items of an actual NAPLAN reading test.
Why would ACARA include a test item using a text message passage?
NAPLAN assessments include a range of questions from easy to challenging in order to assess what all students, from higher to the lower achieving, know and can do.The sample SMS text passage and associated questions are a simple comprehension exercise in the context of an SMS conversation. The questions posed are related to a conversation between students, they are not questions about emojis, or that it is an SMS conversation. ACARA expects that the great majority of Year 9 students would get the questions right, but also anticipates that about 10 per cent of students, those who are at or below the national minimum standard, would not.
In the Australian Curriculum: English, students are expected to study various types of media texts, including newspaper, film and digital as well as literary texts including poetry and novels. The range of texts may contain selections from the classical canon as well as recognised contemporary Australian and international authors. Central to meeting these expectations is a high level of literacy.
While we have high expectations for our students, as evident in the Australian Curriculum, the data from tests such as NAPLAN indicate that we need to do more if we want our students to achieve what is expected.
It is disappointing that the focus of the The Courier Mail’s article has been on just one passage in a small set of sample items – simply to generate a headline. This is a distraction from what we should all be discussing: how we can ensure that all students have basic reading comprehension skills much earlier than in Year 9.