The National Assessment Program is run at the direction of the Education Ministers Meeting (previously known as the Education Council) and includes a range of national and international school tests that are undertaken so governments, education authorities, schools and the community can determine whether or not young Australians are meeting important educational outcomes.
National assessments in the program are run by ACARA with test administration authorities and include:
International assessments in the program are managed by the Australian Government Department of Education and include:
All of the assessments, except NAPLAN, are sample assessments undertaken only by selected groups of students.
The National Assessment Program (NAP) provides useful nationally comparable evidence about student achievement. The data can be used to inform future policy development, resource allocation, curriculum planning and intervention programs.
It helps governments, education authorities, schools and the community to see whether young Australians are reaching important educational goals. It helps drive improvements in student outcomes by providing information about how education programs are working, areas for improvement, and which schools need support in teaching and learning. It also allows governments to monitor the success of policies aimed at improving the achievement of different student groups, such as First Nations students.
The NAP can support school improvement by enabling teachers to monitor their students’ progress over time against the national measure, to identify strengths and areas to improve in teaching programs, and to set goals.
Australians can expect education resources to be allocated in ways that ensure all students achieve worthwhile learning during their time at school. The reported outcomes allow the Australian public to get a general national perspective on student achievement and, more specifically, understanding of how their schools are performing.
About the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN)
As children progress through their school years, it is important that checks are made along the way to see how well they are learning the essential skills of reading, writing and mathematics – skills that will set them upon the path to success as adults.
NAPLAN is the only national assessment that all Australian children undertake and provides comparable data about student performance in literacy and numeracy, nationally. It ensures there are consistent and well understood measures of student achievement around the country.
About NAP sample assessments
The NAP sample assessments test students’ skills and understanding in science literacy, civics and citizenship and information and communication technology (ICT) literacy. Only selected groups of students in Years 6 and 10 participate in these sample assessments, which are held on a rolling 3-yearly basis. NAP sample assessments began in 2003 with science literacy (NAP–SL), followed by civics and citizenship (NAP–CC) in 2004 and information and communication technology literacy (NAP–ICTL) in 2005.
About the international assessments
Development and management of the NAP
ACARA oversees all aspects of the NAP including:
- test item development for NAPLAN and NAP sample assessments
- ensuring appropriate accessibility of NAPLAN tests, such as provision of disability access versions and special print versions
- central analysis of NAPLAN data
- the ‘item trial’ tests
- research and provision of evidence-based recommendations on improvements to the NAP.
ACARA convenes an advisory panel made up of international and national assessment and educational measurement experts who provide expert technical advice. The group is a formal advisory panel within the ACARA governance structure.
Administration of the NAP
ACARA works with a wide range of partners to oversee the delivery of the NAP.
Test administration authorities (TAAs) are the government departments or agencies responsible for the implementation and administration of the NAPLAN tests in their state or territory. ACARA staff work with the TAA in each state and territory to ensure the administration of NAPLAN is nationally consistent. ACARA provides the following advice to ensure consistency in test administration:
These guidelines provide a national framework, which is supplemented by support material and advice that TAAs provide to schools.
In 1999, ministers of education released the Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the 21st Century (Adelaide Declaration), agreeing to report on progress towards national goals comparable by state and territory. The NAP was agreed to collect, analyse and report nationally comparable data on student achievement against key performance measures for literacy, numeracy, science, ICT, and civics and citizenship. NAP sample assessments began in 2003 with science literacy, and NAPLAN began in 2008.
Also in 2008, the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (Melbourne Declaration) replaced the Adelaide Declaration.
The 2008 NAPLAN was overseen by the then Ministerial Council for Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, which became the Education Council and now the Education Ministers Meeting (EMM).
This was the first time all students in Australia in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 were assessed in literacy and numeracy using the same year level tests. NAPLAN replaced a raft of tests administered by Australian states and territories, improving the comparability of students’ results across states and territories.
The Melbourne Declaration set the educational goals for young Australians:
- Goal 1: Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence
- Goal 2: All young Australians become:
- successful learners
- confident and creative individuals
- active and informed citizens.
One of the 8 agreed actions to help achieve these goals was to ‘promote world-class curriculum and assessment’. The Melbourne Declaration stated:
Assessment of student progress will be rigorous and comprehensive. It needs to reflect the curriculum, and draw on a combination of the professional judgement of teachers and testing, including national testing.
The learning areas of English and Mathematics were identified as fundamental in all years of schooling. This is why literacy and numeracy skills are assessed in the NAPLAN tests that all Australian students undertaken.
The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Declaration that replaced the Melbourne Declaration in 2019 continues the commitment to ensure student progress and achievement is measured in through the development and enhancement of national and school-level assessment.
It also reaffirms that literacy and numeracy skills are the foundation of learning and essential to achieving one of the goals of the Declaration: that 'All young Australians become confident and creative individuals, successful lifelong learners, and active and informed members of the community'.