High Stakes testing and our kids: International research leaves Australian developments in question

High Stakes Testing

A new report, released by the Whitlam Institute within the University of Western Sydney, canvasses the existing research on ‘high stakes’ testing. It finds that despite ‘high stakes’ testing of Australian primary and high school students becoming more and more entrenched, there are serious concerns internationally about the impact the tests have on students.

What emerges consistently in the international research are serious concerns regarding the impact of high stakes testing on student health and well-being, learning, teaching and curriculum. Although much of the literature is focussed on the USA and the UK, the consistency of these findings raises legitimate questions and deep concern regarding the Australian experience.

The literature review ‘The Experience of Education: The impacts of high stakes testing on school students and their families’ by Professor John Polesel, Ms Nicky Dulfer and Dr Malcolm Turnbull was commissioned by the Whitlam Institute to provide context for a new research project on High Stakes Testing which is a collaboration between the Whitlam Institute, the University of Melbourne and the Foundation for Young Australians.

The purpose of the project is to examine whether the regime of high stakes testing (such as NAPLAN testing and related MySchool reporting) throughout the school years is in the best interests of the students.

The research project aims to identify what the impacts are on school students and their families, with regards to students’ health and wellbeing.

Eric Sidoti, Director of the Whitlam Institute, sees the report as an essential piece of work, laying the foundations for the original Australian research that is now in train.

The research raises critical questions about the purpose of education in Australia.

“There are few things more important to parents than our kids’ education, and we believe that there is a need for research that explicitly recognises the best interests of the students as a primary consideration, and which collects evidence from a range of stakeholders, including the young people themselves,” Mr Sidoti said.

 “The introduction of a national standardised testing program such as NAPLAN is a significant educational reform, and one which should be underpinned by rigorous research to ensure that it advances the interests of students. This must consider not just questions of educational attainment but of the students’ health and well being. The overall quality of their educational experience.”

‘The Experience of Education: The impacts of high stakes testing on school students and their families’ is available to download.


1 February 2012

Contact: Paul Grocott, Senior Media Officer