Friday, April 21, 2017

You are more than your NAPLAN result!

I don't know about you, but to me data seems to be taking over the world! Despite what we think, data does have an important place in the real world.  "All companies use data to create strategies, make important decisions, and set goals for the business. ... And in today's competitive environment, being able to make those decisions before the competition, or making the best decision for your business is crucial to growing your business"  ( 

We are told that we have never had more data available to us than any other time in the history of humankind. Data can be highly valuable in everyday life as it is used seamlessly the process of assessing, planning for improvement and measuring growth. Look at how many people have fit-bits now and measure daily physical activity and if you think that is impressive, people are gathering data on their sleep patterns; you don't even need to be awake to engage with data! 

Contemporary Learning, being student focused, is based on regular analysis of student achievement and progress data. Teachers continually collect data in both formal and informal ways, keeping in mind that often the most important aspects of a student you cant measure. At St Joseph's, we have implemented a practice called 'Professional Learning Teams' or PLTs, with a focus on student data around reading progress. Each fortnight, teachers meet in teams to explore these four fundamental questions:

1. What do we expect students to know?
2. How do we know if students have learned it?
3. What do we do if they don't learn?
4. What do we do if they already know?     
Richard DuFour - Professional Learning Communities, Solution Tree

Within this process, teachers collaboratively plan how they will facilitate learning in order to reach goals of learning for students. Having the collective wisdom of a team of teachers is powerful. 

"Teachers can be great alone, but are exceptional when working together. Imagine taking all of the great minds in the school together and coming up with the best resources, lessons, assessments, and ideas on how to be successful with all children - that's what PLCs are about." J Ramage

 They then go away and implement the learning sequences through teaching and then regather in a fortnight to review. The teaching methods are based on our whole of school approach of SSP. Data on student progress is then gathered and growth celebrated each fortnight. This regular and systemic use of data is highly effective in impacting student learning.

In addition to this, teachers have a whole range of other pieces of information about students as learners which we call learning dispositions (behaviours) which are essential for the process of learning. This incorporates so much more than the ability to do well on a test. I will pick up on learning dispositions in a later blog.

In contrast to PLCs, NAPLAN data is a 'snapshot in time' based on a standardised test which is assumed from content of the Australian Curriculum. A child's individual data is only gathered in years 3,5,7& 9 and therefore has limited capacity and application to improving individual student learning, as opposed to the regular and robust PLC model we use. Don't get me wrong, there is 'some' value in individual NAPLAN data, albeit limited.

Whole of school NAPLAN data is a different story as on an annual basis, we can consider group data to reflect on 'whole of school' performance. We now have access to longitudinal NAPLAN data for our school and can see how initiatives and models of teaching have resulted in academic performance. An example of this is our current focus on maths teaching, particularly the area of investigations and problem solving as NAPLAN data showed this an area needing attention. 

This is why in my opinion, NAPLAN needs to be approached with an informed and moderated mindset and be seen for what it is; a 'snapshot in time'. I cringe when I hear of students and parents stressing excessively about NAPLAN and in some cases, causing significant anxiety. NAPLAN is being administered in three week's time and I hope that this blog has assisted parents to see its value in context of the bigger picture. 

Let us all remember that our children are far more than their NAPLAN result!

for more information about NAPLAN, visit NAPLAN Parent Support