NAPLAN should be conducted earlier in the year with results returned within days, a review into the standardised tests has recommended, as the teachers' union calls for the tests to be scrapped altogether.
The breakaway review into the National Assessment Program: Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) was commissioned by the education ministers from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT.
It recommended the tests conducted in year 9 should be moved to year 10 when students were more mature and were at the stage where they were making important choices about subjects in the senior years of school.
The review recommended the tests should be run as early as possible in the school year, instead of in May, and that when NAPLAN was fully online the results should be available within days for all sections except the writing component.
It also recommended a new test be introduced to monitor critical and creative thinking in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in years 5, 7 and 10.
The review, which was conducted by emeritus professor Barry McGaw, emeritus professor William Louden and professor Claire Wyatt-Smith, concluded standardised assessment was important in Australian education despite resistance among teacher organisations.
The NAPLAN review said the writing component was the most problematic because it has led to very formulaic writing in responses to a prompt, which suggested some schools had been teaching in a formulaic way in preparation for the tests.
ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry said the review reflected some of the concerns she has held since taking on the portfolio.
"The main concern raised with me through conversations with students, parents, teachers and the community remains the way NAPLAN is publicly reported and how that contributes to creating a high-stakes culture, particularly in stigmatising lower-scoring schools and the unfair stress NAPLAN can place on students," she said.
"I look forward to continuing to work to address this issue."
Australian Education Union ACT secretary Glenn Fowler said the union wanted to see an end to whole-of-cohort testing in favour of sample testing to monitor student performance across the education system.
"[The review] should have taken seriously arguments from the profession that they can get the results they need from sample testing," Mr Fowler said.
"This process is not what schooling is about."
Mr Fowler said teachers viewed NAPLAN as an annual accountability measure which made them feel distrusted.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said the government remained committed to NAPLAN and the transition to online delivery of the tests despite little change in results since it was introduced in 2008.
"Critics say NAPLAN has failed because results have not improved but that misrepresents the intent of NAPLAN," Mr Tehan said in a statement. "If NAPLAN results have not improved that's a failure of our education system, not the NAPLAN test. You don't blame the thermometer if you have a high temperature."
The national literacy and numeracy tests were cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.