Changes to NAPLAN numeracy testing in high school

Depending on how thoroughly you read your updates from ACARA or QCAA you may not be aware that this year the numeracy test for years 7 and 9 is changing.

In the last 10 years since the beginning of NAPLAN in 2008 the numeracy component of the year 7 and 9 NAPLAN test has been divided into two tests. Each test is 40 minutes long, sat in consecutive sessions. There has traditionally been a calculator test and a non-calculator test.

On the 21st of February ACARA announced via their website that the year 7 and 9 numeracy tests would now be sat as one exam but still divided into 2 parts. The calculator section will be part A and will go for 50 minutes; students will then have their calculators removed and begin the non-calculator section which has an allocated 10 minutes to complete. The corresponding statement made by ACARA can be found here

According to the statements made by ACARA these changes to the paper version of the numeracy test are to bring it into line with the online version of the NAPLAN test with a total of 48 questions instead of 68.

In information provided by ACARA they detail that the removal of 20 questions from the numeracy tests previously conducted will have minimal impact on students results.

With NAPLAN being one of the two publicised high stakes data in education why was an announcement only made in February of the year that testing is to be conducted? This I think is a question that we should all be asking.

While ACARA is claiming the data will still be comparable, I still remain a skeptic about the sets of data comparability.

As well as these changes, schools are in for a roller coaster ride with the implementation of  NAPLAN online to be compulsory in 2019. This year ACARA expects that up to 10 % of students that currently sit NAPLAN will sit it online in 2017 and schools have the option to opt in until it’s compulsory in 2019. Once schools opt into NAPLAN online students will receive a tailored NAPLAN test which adjusts the level of questions depending on your previous responses.

The NAPLAN online format will have the benefits of a faster data turn around and also more in depth information about students. While these benefits have the possibility of being helpful to both students and teachers there is a need to ensure students have the appropriate skills to take an online test. There is a study here that looks at the comparability of students that take an online test vs the paper version, the results vary depending on the study however all study’s agree that there is a variation in results skewed towards the paper mode of testing. ACARA has also conducted research into the effects on online testing and tailored level tests, find the link here.

Teachers can now get an idea of the format that NAPLAN online will take through the Public Demonstration here.

The key skills that need to be addressed for students across the different tests include:

  • Typing speed and accuracy
  • Reading on screen for comprehension.
  • Working between paper and screen for Numeracy
  • Using an on screen calculator
  • Spelling correctly when typing (most students use auto correct and predictive text)

These 5 skills are only the surface aspects that schools will need to address. With the move to BYOD in QLD being able to regularly train students to be competent in these skills will be difficult with less than 10% of students in some schools bringing their own device.

What do you think about the current and coming changes to NAPLAN? How is your school planning for and addressing these? Comment below or on our facebook page.



About cmcaton

I am a Secondary Teacher and Head of Department Mathematics in Education Queensland. I am passionate about the development of pedagogy that engages the 21st century student and love to explore their implementation in the classroom. Disclaimer: The thoughts on this page are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.
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