Today, ACARA released its preliminary summary of the NAPLAN results 2014. Here’s what they showed.
- Reading results improved for students in Year 3 & 5 from 2008-2013. These improvements have been maintained in 2014.
- Results for grammar & punctuation improved for students in Year 3 & 7 from 2008-2013. These improvements have been maintained in 2014.
- Spelling results have not improved
- Numeracy results have not improved in any year levels
- Writing results are down in all year levels, but dropped the most in Year 3
What Do The NAPLAN Results 2014 Mean?
First, let me congratulate all the primary school teachers and those supporting them for the improvements in reading, grammar and punctuation. There has been a concerted effort to improve the way these areas are taught, and it is obviously paying off.
Perhaps it is time for schools to look at better ways to teach mathematics and spelling. Schools interested in doing so would do well to look at the Spelling Mastery and Maths Mastery programs available from ACER. They may challenge your philosophy of teaching, but they produce great results.
At first glance, the writing results are a cause for concern, but ACARA doesn’t think the change reflects a real drop in writing standards.
A New Way of Testing Writing
In previous years, teachers were told what type of writing (i.e. a narrative or a persuasive text) well in advance of the test. However, as students from Year 3 up are expected to learn narratives and persuasive texts as part of their normal school work, teachers were not told what type of writing their students would need to do as part of this year’s NAPLAN. It seems likely that some students were expecting a narrative, and when they opened the test and found they needed to write persuasively, they were not prepared. This explanation is further supported by the increase in zero scores (i.e. kids who didn’t write anything).
As students start learning how to write narratives in Year 1, and persuasive texts in Year 2 – they have had plenty of time learn the basics of both (and that is all that is expected at Year 3). ACARA has confirmed that teachers will not be told the text type for the 2015 task, so it will be necessary to:
- Ensure that both are taught
- That children learn to choose a text type from a task (as opposed being told to write a story or to write a persuasive text)
A Task That Younger Kids May Not Have Understood
The rise in zero scores for younger students (i.e. kids not writing anything) could also be explained by the fact that they may not have understood the task.
Students from Year 3 to 9 have always been given the same task, but are expected to show different degrees of skill and finesse in their responses. In the past, the tasks have been criticised for focusing on subject matter that was not engaging for older students (e.g. cooking).
As a result, this year’s task asked the students to choose a rule or law that you think needs to change, then convince a reader why this rule or law should be changed.
ACARA has acknowledged that the nature of this task may have been too difficult for some younger students. Therefore, ACARA is considering having different tasks for younger and older students in the future.
The NAPLAN Results 2014