AEU policy on statewide standardised testing

AEU Victoria's policy, developed in 2019, outlines its opposition to statewide standardised testing in Victoria's schools.

It argues that statewide standardised testing has no educational value. Instead, it is a costly exercise in political expediency, which interrupts student learning and has a negative effect on school systems overall.


  1. The AEU is adamantly opposed to the imposition of statewide standardised testing into Victorian schools.
  2. Such testing will provide no new useful or authentic information about student progress or learning needs, will not improve student learning outcomes and will have only negative effects upon the curriculum, students, teachers, parental understanding of school education and the government school system as a whole.
  3. The AEU is convinced that parents, students, teachers and schools will get the most comprehensive picture of student progress when:
  • assessment is linked to school-based curriculum and not political interests;
  • curriculum and assessment are part of the same school-based planning and evaluation process;
  • the professional expertise of teachers is recognised as integral to this process; and
  • when there is constant interaction between parents and teachers to ensure assessment strategies are responsive to the needs of each group.

Political Purpose

  1. The imposition of statewide standardised testing is a costly exercise in political expediency. Instead of providing resources to address the needs of students identified by teachers, funds will be misused in one-off decontextualised testing to give the appearance that the government is doing something about those needs.
  2. Little, if any, funding has been allocated by the government to provide the necessary support to students and teachers to address the outcomes of any testing programs.

Effects on School Communities

  1. Statewide standardised testing has no educational value. Its aim is comparability between students, teachers, schools and systems of schooling.
  2. Experience in Australia and educational systems elsewhere indicates that comparative information gained through mass testing is misused and has negative effects upon individual members of the school community, the school itself and the public system of schooling as a whole:
  • Students: Norm-based tests which use statewide averages mean that success for some is based upon failure for others.
  • Teachers: Class results are compared and poor student performance is associated with deficiencies in individual teachers. The information can be misused in performance review processes. Further, the professional judgements of teachers and the status of teachers as experts in pedagogy and child development are undermined.
  • Parents: A distorted view of student learning progress is gained with only a small fraction of the curriculum being tested.
  • Schools: League tables of schools are developed, either formally or informally, particularly in deregulated and devolved school systems,
  • Public systems of schooling: Media use of data, gained either formally or informally is used to criticise and undermine the government school system, particularly as test results do not address the differences in student population in the different sectors and systems of schooling.

Curriculum Outcomes

Statewide testing produces a range of negative curriculum outcomes:

  • Distortions occur to the school curriculum as teachers teach to the tests. The curriculum is narrowed as time and resources are focused on improving test scores.
  • The integrity of subject disciplines and the role of critical learning are threatened.
  • Curriculum diversity and complexity aimed at serving local and individual needs are reduced.
  • Programs and learning processes which are most effective for students with special needs receive less attention and are replaced by drill and practice routines.


  1. Statewide standardised teaching is an inappropriate, invalid and unreliable means of making teachers, schools or public schooling systems "accountable".
  2. Test results:
  • Reflect cultural bias and reaffirm pre-existing social divisions based on socio-economic status, the use of English as a second language etc.
  • Do not provide new information about student skills or capacities and yield little, if any, diagnostic information.
  • Provide information about low order skills rather than more complex higher order skills.
  • Focus on abstract skills isolated from the school's curriculum.
  • Provide a one-off distorted snapshot of student achievement which bears little relationship to student learning outcomes resulting from the completion of a course of study.
  1. Genuine accountability processes focus on improving student learning outcomes through comprehensive school-based assessment and reporting programs, which:
  • Arise out of the learning intentions of the school's curriculum.
  • Provide students and their parents with a comprehensive picture of a student's progress and directions for future learning.
  • May include agreed state or national curriculum profiles which have the potential to link student progress to common external criteria indicating the developmental stages within a learning area.
  1. The legitimate needs of system self-monitoring can be met by representative light sampling methods which are relatively inexpensive and can provide accurate and useful information without any of the negative outcomes of mass standardised testing.

10 December 2019