Canberra public school principals have called for an end to the NAPLAN testing regime in favour of a "less intense" PISA-style assessment from a sample of students.
Appearing before an ACT inquiry into standardised testing in schools this week, representatives from the ACT Principals' Association said NAPLAN had largely become a disruption for teachers and, in some cases, very upsetting for students as results came under public scrutiny.
Stories of parents shopping around for high-performing schools suggested the test was now a "driver" in Australia's education sector, but principals reported the results arrived too late to offer any meaningful help in the classroom for individual students.
Gordon Primary School principal Murray Bruce said the data could still be collected by taking a valid sampling approach, such as the kind already used by the OECD's international assessment PISA as well as the TIMSS and Australian Civics and Citizenships assessments.
"[This would be] less expensive, less intrusive and less likely to have the negative impact on the curriculum," Mr Bruce said, echoing concerns raised by the association about a narrowing of learning around NAPLAN.
"Put the money into more proactive [and real-time] formative assessments," he said.
Anna Chrysostomou, a retired teacher and NAPLAN marker, said too much classroom time devoted to preparing students for the test had skewed its original purpose.
"I'm aware of one school [where] preparation began in term four of year 2 for [second term] in year 3," she said.
Ms Chrysostomou also slammed the publication of NAPLAN results on the My School website and its past presentation in The CanberraTimes as immoral, saying league tables comparing schools had created a fanfare around testing not previously known in the ACT.
Ten years on, that pressure was now being felt by students sitting down to the annual test.
Latham Primary School principal Elizabeth Bobos said this year she had found a normally energetic and happy student waiting to be picked up by his mother after just a few minutes into the first day of NAPLAN testing.
"He said 'I couldn't write anything and everyone else was writing' ... He didn't turn up for school the next day," Ms Bobos said.
"He was comparing himself to the other kids because he felt frozen, that broke my heart...This is a point in time, a measure we use...[it's about] putting [NAPLAN] in its place rather than making it bigger than Ben Hur."
On Friday, new analysis from lobby group Save our Schools questioned the validity of standardised testing such as NAPLAN and PISA, which records lower levels of motivation from students than Year 12 exams.
National convenor Trevor Cobbold said that, while Australia was seeing solid improvement in Year 12 results, its scores in PISA had fallen at one of the fastest rates in the world, and NAPLAN results had also stagnated.
By contrast, the percentage of year 12 students completing school rose from 68 per cent in 2001 to 76 per cent in 2016, with 42 per cent achieving an ATAR score of 50 or above compared to 25 per cent in 2006.
Caution was needed in interpreting NAPLAN and PISA results, Mr Cobbold said.
"[They] could be as much a measure of student effort as a measure of student learning."
The ACT has one of the highest retention rates for year 10, 11 and 12 students in the country.
In June, ACT education minister Yvette Berry, who has also raised concerns about NAPLAN, pushed through a national review into the "high stakes" comparison of school results on the My School website.
The review, which was backed by state education ministers under a watered-down remit, will report back to the Education Council on its progress by December.
The ACT inquiry continues.