Doing something about it: Representations of NAPLAN in the public domain

Year: 2011

Author: Thompson, Greg, Lasic, Tomaz

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Since 2008 all Australian school students have sat standardised tests in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions (Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation) and Numeracy in years 3,5,7 and 9. NAPLAN tests report individual students' attainment of skills against a set of standards. Individual student results are communicated to parents. Schools are then ranked against other schools depending upon the aggregate of their NAPLAN results. The process is explained to parents and community members as "improving the learning outcomes for all Australian students" (MCEETYA, 2009). This paper will examine NAPLAN as it is being played out in a mediated space through analysing unsolicited comment found in new media such as Twitter and online forums. NAPLAN intersects with contemporary debates about Australian education policy: the roles schools should play in improving national productivity, the relationship between state and federal government interest in education, the role and expectations of the teacher, what curriculum and pedagogy should be and look like and how limited financial resources can best be spread across education sectors and systems. These are not new considerations, however, what has changed is that education policy seems to have become even more of a political issue than it has before. This paper uses Ball's 'toolkit' approach to education policy analysis to suggest that there are multiple 'effects' of NAPLAN culminating in a series of disconnected conversations between various stakeholders.