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Naplan & Gallup

13 September 2016

While politicians have traded blame for the underwhelming NAPLAN results this week, there are some schools (of whom we are one) trying to take a more rounded measure of student progress. And the insights are what I have thought all along, that is, if schools focus on student wellbeing, a good education will follow.

Almost 11,000 students participated in Gallup's Australian Student Poll this year, which focused on measuring students' hope for the future, engagement in studies, wellbeing and even entrepreneurship - rather than more traditional metrics of literacy and numeracy. Gallup's Levels of hope, engagement and wellbeing are linked strongly with graduation rates and future success.

Levels of hope can be more indicative of graduation than standardised testing. We all know kids who are super smart and test well but because their hope levels are low, their wellbeing and engagement off, they are not resilient and do not succeed.

The logic behind the research is based in part on a US body of scholarship that shows students' levels of hope are better predictors of academic success than intelligence, personality or even previous exam results.


Mt Sinai


Hope: The ideas and hope we have for the future drives effort, academic achievement and retention of students of all ages.



Engagement: The involvement in and enthusiasm for school reflects how well students are known and how often they get to do what they do best.



Well-being: How we think about and experience our lives tells us how the students are doing today and predicts their success in the future.



Faith: How we think about, experience, and live our faith. It tells us about how the school is influencing the spiritual journey of our students.



As stipulated by BOSTES, the full set of NAPLAN results can be found on our web site. These results compare the College’s performance against independent and state schools. A more granular level of interpretation can be found on the ACARA MySchool web site. As mentioned previously, we neither teach to the test nor have our children practising for weeks in advance. The test is placed in its right context.

Whilst many place great stock in this test, I continue to have my reservations about what it purports to represent. (My sentiments are echoed widely by APPA – the Australian Primary Principals’ Association). I am never concerned about where we stand as a school because the results are always so refulgent but it is one test on one day and it should be kept in perspective.
There is often some confusion with the NAPLAN bands and exactly what they mean so some brief information on how they all relate to each other.

As you can see from the image, there are 10 bands in NAPLAN across the four tests from Year 3 to Year 9 and these are all reported on a common scale.  This common scale makes it easier for teachers (and parents) to see improvement over time.  As you can see from the diagram, the minimum a student should grow is two bands from Year 3 to Year 5 and then a minimum of one band each NAPLAN test thereafter.  So, if a student is in Band 3 in Reading in Year 3, then they should, at the very least, be in Band 5 in Reading in Year 5, Band 6 in Year 7 and Band 7 in Year 9 if they are to maintain their progress.  Looking at the diagram again, you can see that, if the student maintained this steady progress, they would remain one band above the bottom two bands the whole way through and, therefore, have the same level of growth throughout.  Similarly, a student who is in the top band in Reading in Year 3 (i.e. Band 6) should again jump two bands in Year 5 to Band 8 and be in Band 10 by Year 9 if they maintain that expected level of progress.

Secondly, there is often confusion about what the bands mean.  The top two bands simply mean that a student is 'proficient'.  It does not mean that they are outstanding (they could be!); it merely means that they can do what 'is expected' of them at that particular year level.  The bottom two bands mean that the students are 'at or below' the national minimum standards (which aren't particularly high) and will, therefore, struggle without some form of intervention.

Download Insights here