If you have a child in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 (or the equivalent) you will by now have received the report on their performance on the National Assessment Program –Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) test that they sat earlier in the year. The report contains some valuable details about your child’s abilities in certain aspects of literacy and numeracy. In order to benefit from this information, it is important to know how to interpret the report.
NAPLAN performance is reported in ‘bands’:
Year 3 – bands 1 to 6
Year 5 – bands 3 to 8
Year 7 – bands 4 to 9
Year 9 – bands 5 to 10
These bands are on a continuum from Year 3 to Year 9 called the ‘national assessment scale’. This means that scores remain consistent, for example, a score of 500 in 2009 will have the same value as a score of 500 in 2015. Because children sit the tests every two years, their progress in literacy and numeracy can be tracked.
If your child did not sit for all the NAPLAN tests for any reason, (family circumstances, illness etc.) you will still receive a report on the tests that were completed.
Reading the report
The first information that you will be interested in is how well your child did on the tests. Look for the black dot on the vertical scale in each area. This indicates your child’s result. It will show you what band your child achieved. The higher the dot is up the scale the greater the level of achievement. Some children may have a dot that is above the top band level. That means they are exceeding what would be expected for their year level.
The next symbol to look for is the open triangle. This is the average for all children in your child’s year at their school. So if the black dot is above the open triangle, then your child is achieving above the average of the other students in his or her year at school. Be aware though, that if it is not a large school then this is not significant data and for small schools this information is not included. This does not indicate a place in a class, but does give you an idea of where your child is in comparison to their peers.
You can also see how well your child is doing in literacy and numeracy by looking for the position of the solid black triangle on the vertical scale. This shows the national average for all students in your child’s year. If the black dot is above the black triangle then your child is performing above the national average for their age.
Many parents are interested to see how well their child’s school is performing in relation to the national average. Compare the position of the open and solid triangles. If they are near each other the students in the school are performing at about the national average. In some circumstances, there may be a difference in the performance of the school compared to the national average. By asking questions of the school administration, you can clarify the reason for these discrepancies.
There are also minimum national standards. Students in the bottom band are performing below the national minimum standard. These students would usually be receiving additional assistance and learning support, and parents would not be surprised by this result. However, if your child is not receiving remedial help and is in the lowest band it would be wise to make an appointment with their teacher to discuss the results as soon as possible.
As well as this raw data, the report also contains valuable information about the skills, knowledge and understanding that students in your child’s year should have achieved. The literacy and numeracy skills that were assessed in the year’s test are listed under the vertical scale. The type of learning tested varies each year and is related to the national standards in literacy and numeracy..
There will also be a summary of skills that have been assessed. So, for instance, if your child is operating at band 3 in reading, you can look at the skills they have acquired, and then consider the skills that would lead to an improvement in their reading. The information contained in the skills summary is very valuable and probably more significant than the data about your child’s level, as it provides a pointer for further learning and development. Most teachers have access to more detailed information about the performance of students in their class and can use this in their programming.
It is important to remember that the NAPLAN test gives the results of your child’s performance on one given day and may not be the most accurate indicator of overall skills and knowledge. Some children do not react well to the testing situation, or there may be personal illness or family circumstances that can account for variations in results. It is probable that your child has made progress in the time since they sat the test and some of the information may no longer be relevant. The report you receive twice a year from the school will provide additional valuable information about your child’s achievement.
The NAPLAN report is not meant to be used to compare your child with classmates or others in your circle of family and friends. What the report does provide is a framework for discussion with your child’s teacher, or the school executive, about your child’s learning needs.
Additional information about the NAPLAN tests and parent reports is available through the website www.naplan.edu.au.