Over the last couple of weeks, parents have been receiving their individual NAPLAN reports. For some, this has meant a sigh of relief that their child is at or above the expected level. Some news is expected and conforms with what is already known about the child. For others, below level performance raises many questions. Does my child have a problem? Should I be worried about their academic achievement? Why didn't someone tell me that my child was below level? This last question is often the opening comment when parents enquire about assessment following NAPLAN assessment.
It should be remembered that the NAPLAN report indicates how your child is travelling in relation to educational standards put in place federally. The testing is indicative but definitely not diagnostic. If the profile is below standard, it does not tell you what the problem is nor what is causing it.
NAPLAN testing starts at Year 3. Because the curriculum delivery up to this time is mainly oral, this may be the first time that there is a real indication that there is an issue with learning, particularly with literacy and numeracy. In a perfect world, one would hope that there would have been some indication from the teacher before, but many parents report that that this is just not the case. Certainly however, if below standard achievement is indicated on NAPLAN, the next step should be to investigate this further, as targeted support is invariably indicated.
Deeper assessment than what NAPLAN can offer should involve both achievement and ability testing in learning, as well as in areas that underpin learning, such as language and memory. Comprehensive assessment will provide a clearer picture of where your child is functioning, as well as provide indications of how they can make gains in their learning. Getting in early is critical, so these key times when NAPLAN is given, become more concerning if you are finding out for the first time about a child's underachievement in Years 5, 7 or 9.
If your child's NAPLAN report indicates below standard achievement it is vital that this is pursued. Comprehensive assessment is the best response, as the last thing you want is for NAPLAN to mean NO PLAN.