A critical analysis of the NAPLAN spelling test

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A critical analysis of the NAPLAN spelling test

The 2009 IAEA conference theme, Assessment for a Creative World, celebrates a movement towards schooling for creative students. Modern curriculum documents recognise that functional literacy, which enables students to be creative individuals within language, cannot be developed by formalistic methods such as memorising word lists.Nevertheless, aspects of such old-fashioned approaches to spelling persist in the spelling component of the National Assessment Program of Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN).This paper critiques the design of the NAPLAN spelling. We outline a coherent model of spelling as epitomised in good curriculum and contrast this with the one implied in NAPLAN. (We need to infer the NAPLAN model because there is no NAPLAN test framework.)We also contrast the test form used in the NAPLAN with the principles of valid assessment and item formats. We cast doubt on the validity and reliability of the NAPLAN spelling data. Our critique suggests two areas of special concern: that the test has a negative effect on classroom practice by delivering unhelpful or incorrect information to teachers and by encouraging the spread of discredited spelling constructs and instruction styles.To substantiate our critique, we report on the results of our own longitudinal equating study.

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