It’s shocking. Children are supposed to be lovingly guided through their education with kid gloves, never facing the prospect of getting anything less than a B+ and a gold star, thereby preparing them for a life of constant angst and confusion upon their entry to “the real world”.

What do you mean I have to spend a few hours demonstrating my capabilities, without Mum?

Instead, we’re told, some of them are reporting symptoms of stress and anxiety before sitting their NAPLAN tests. To stave off this epidemic of totally normal behaviour, teachers are reportedly “teaching to the test”, spending extra time teaching what will be tested in the exam, and even making them sit dummy runs in the lead-up.

This means children are being made to learn things such as maths and reading and writing. Won’t someone think of the children!

There’s a fascinating chapter in a new report from the University of Western Sydney’s Whitlam Institute, into NAPLAN testing.

NAPLAN was introduced by the Gillard Government as a way to standardise the measurement for the educational progress of Australian children.

Opponents of the testing regime decry school “league tables” and now decry the stress the testing is placing on students.

The Whitlam Institute surveyed teachers on what negative effects children and their parents (relating to the effect on children) reported to them in relation to NAPLAN.

“The evidence from the data suggests that a large proportion of educators are now reporting that at least some students are suffering health and well-being issues as a result of the NAPLAN. Difficulties include physical responses such as crying, sleeplessness, and feeling sick, as well as psychological responses such as an inability to cope emotionally, feelings of inadequacy, and concerns about the ways in which others might view them.”

But most disconcerting was surely this observation:

“There were some participants who viewed testing as simply a part of normal life.”

One such respondent teacher said:

“While test anxiety is of concern, NAPLAN testing has in no way created hysteria beyond what would be expected of any test situation. Being anxious about a test is quite normal and probably a useful emotion that all humans experience as part of life’s great tapestry. To mount a case that somehow NAPLAN is damaging a generation of children says more about parenting than it does about the test itself.”

That teacher must be found.

And cloned…

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54 comments

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    • Robin says:

      11:19am | 26/11/12

      Testing times we live in eh?  All a big storm in a teacup.  You are tested at all stages of life, just deal with it and move on.  Now, on to more serious matters - - - ah to hell with it.  Gonna have a cup of tea and a nice nap.

    • Testfest says:

      12:45pm | 26/11/12

      Can’t have too many tests, I always say. I’m going to start a festival of testing, as soon as I come up with a good name for it…

    • Robin says:

      01:42pm | 26/11/12

      So, would the supervisors be the testers?  If so, then the ones who sit the test would be the testies.  Suddenly I understand why people don’t like sitting for tests.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      11:22am | 26/11/12

      Dock any family welfare payments to the parents of a child who doesn’t sit the Naplan exam and dock the federal payments to any school which has students that skip the Naplan exam. Only exemptions are the certified disabled students.

    • Macca says:

      11:46am | 26/11/12

      Can’t say I’ve ever been in favor of a compliance based approach, at least for individuals (institutions are another matter). By failing to send your child to the test, you are simply undermining the education process and the school; you are setting your child up to be a loser.

      Far be it for me to tell apparent what they can or cannot do. However, I’ll happily discuss the potential outcomes of their decisions and let them do what they think is right.

    • Chris says:

      11:29am | 26/11/12

      20-30 years ago when I went to a school with multiple classes per year it was common to have tests which were common across all the classes. Presumably in order to get a better idea of relative performance between classes. Weekly class tests were common and so not seen as unusually stressful. We also had big end of year tests from year 8, so year 12 exams were not that different.

      Perhaps more rather than fewer tests are needed if some children are finding exams/tests particularly stressful so they get used to them and learn the skills they will need later in school and university life to cope with examinations.

    • Gordon says:

      11:31am | 26/11/12

      Good article. Between the teachers union and (a few) parents, this is turning onto a preciousness outbreak of epic proportions.

      Breaking news: Kid taught to read & do math, passes test. Outrage as vast self-esteem industry faces unemployment.

    • Brian says:

      11:37am | 26/11/12

      There are plenty of reasons to oppose NAPLAN (overemphasis on certain parts of the curriculum at the expense of others, for example), but most of the time the opposition is to do with publishing the data and any attempt to use it for teacher evaluation. To complain that it causes stress? New one on me, and utterly ridiculous. Stress happens, whether it be because of an exam, job interview, upcoming marriage. To remove it will simply cripple people’s ability to deal with those things.

    • Macca says:

      11:54am | 26/11/12

      Exactly, Brian.

      Resilience is a term I often hear in the workplace regarding leadership and performance etc. but I never remember hearing it at school.

      Gen Y are often generalized as lazy or fickle, but its a team effort, and complaining that your younger peers lack tenacity when you cook dinner for your live-at-home adult-child every night is simply hypocritical.

      NAPLAN is no different. You can’t complain about poor teaching or education standards and than refuse your child be assessed.

    • AdamC says:

      12:05pm | 26/11/12

      I entirely agree with this.

      Like I mentioned in the Open Thread, the educational establishment is implacably opposed to accountability in education.

    • Steve says:

      12:06pm | 26/11/12

      We do want to teach our students reading, writing and maths, but in a way that actually works and not in ways designed to boost NAPLAN results. In an ideal world NAPLAN would simply assess skills, but as long as parents automatically assume that higher test scores makes for a better school, then principals and directors will put far too much pressure on teachers who then put far too much pressure on students, also avoiding balanced teaching in order to teach to the test. How many parents actually questioned the abundance of persuasive writing tasks given to their kids this year? Not too many I bet, when realistically they should be horrified that one genre is overemphasised.

      By far the best way to improve teaching would be to divert NAPLAN funds to support regional moderation do teachers can learn from each other and feel confident in their teaching and assessment. But that won’t happen because what people really want is a table with their kids’ school somewhere near the top. Quality teaching be damned.

    • AdamC says:

      12:28pm | 26/11/12

      How does teaching ‘NAPLAN’ literacy and numeracy differ from teaching bog-standard, garden-variety literacy and numeracy? What are the differences? You mention an overemphasis on ‘persuasive writing’. What evidence is there that this is actually happening and is not merely a figment of the AEU’s anti-NAPLAN imagination?

      Personally, if I was absolutist King of Australia, my first act would be to increase class sizes by 10%, sack the bottom-performing 10% of school teachers (as determined by individual school leaders) and give the top 10% of teachers (as determined by indivual school leaders) a 20% bonus that year and a permanent 10% salary increase.

      I would do the same thing each year thereafter.

      I would also keep NAPLAN.

    • Jess says:

      12:51pm | 26/11/12

      @ AdamC
      Teaching the test is different to teaching the concepts of the test. Teaching the test is children are taught specific examples of the test and how to eliminate incorrect answers, how long to spend on each question. It is directly related to the test and how the test questions are phased and the style of the test. There is very little whole concept understanding and children are taught to look at the little things rather than the whole.
      In teaching concepts there is a wider and deeper understanding and children are more likely to see the forest and the trees.
      NAPLAN will only be acceptable (and meaningful)  when there is a national curriculum and it is written to the curriculum.  (I don’t support either)

      I’m glad you aren’t King of Australia. You’d do better by pushing more children into public schools to raise the standard of education in Australia. You’d run out of teachers within the the first 5 years if your method is implemented. You would loose probably the bottom 80% of teachers each year.  The pay discrepancy between the top 10% each and the teachers who are still good at their job would be too big. I suspect there would be a bell curve in your rating system regardless.

    • jade (the other one) says:

      01:15pm | 26/11/12

      @AdamC - evidence occurs from the Queensland Government’s directive to all schools to teach the genre of NAPLAN.

      The problem is that rather than students having an understanding of the language features and text structures in persuasive texts, they are drilled in how to write one.

      I think the big problem is that people like you have no understanding of how much information about each student teachers actually gather, and why this information is more meaningful than a single, multiple choice test in determining teacher quality.

      There are a range of assessment instruments that give a much fuller picture of what goes on in a teacher classroom, over and above NAPLAN. Have a school auditor take a look at the folios complied by teachers, and rank them according to how far their students have progressed. The problem with NAPLAN is that it unfairly disadvantages teachers teaching in the poorest, most disadvantaged areas, including rural and remote communities, over those teaching in independent schools, or wealthier, or better funded metropolitan schools.

      For instance, despite increasing the literacy levels of his/her students from a year 1 level to a mid-year two level, a teacher ranked under your system would be seen as a bottom performer in comparison to a teacher whose students entered year 3 at the year 3 benchmark level whether they moved beyond that level or not, because his/her students would naturally do worse in NAPLAN. This would be despite him/her effecting an increase of 18 months in a relatively short space of time.

      A better system would be to use the data gathered in tests such as the PM Benchmarking test, and South Australian Spelling Tests and map the progress of each student. So a Year 1 teacher whose students only moved 6 months on the PM benchmarking scale, because they could already read and write effectively when entering year 1, would not automatically be seen as a better teacher than the one who took students from not knowing what a book was to being able to identify their 100 sight words, a much more significant shift.

      However, such a system would require such a fundamental shift in recognising teacher professionalism and ability, as well as a significant increase in funding, that it will never be implemented.

    • AdamC says:

      01:54pm | 26/11/12

      Jess and Jade, individual teacher assessment has to be undertaken at the school level. You cannot assess an individual teacher’s performance from a Canberra office. However, you can track school performance over time with NAPLAN results. Clearly, there are other factors at play in determining school performance, but choking off access to infomation is a pretty perverse response to complexity.

      In the Open Thread, I mentioned some NAPLAN practice materials for NT schools that I found online:

      http://www.det.nt.gov.au/teachers-educators/assessment-reporting/nap/schools/tests/2009-practice-tests

      On quickly reviewing those materials, it seems to me that the most efficient way for teachers to ‘teach to the test’ would be to teach their students basic mathematics, problem solving, reading and writing. That is not a bad thing. Am I missing something here? Teaching reading comprehension, for example, by giving pupils written materials and asking them questions about them seems pretty sound to me.

    • Tim the Toolman says:

      12:07pm | 26/11/12

      I love(d) exams.  Short burst of mental energy as opposed to the long, boring, tedious slog of assignments.

    • TimB says:

      12:24pm | 26/11/12

      Yup. I can agree with this.

      I loathed assignments. Put them off until the last minute.

      I would blitz through exams though. My favourite subjects were the ones where it was just exams, and no assignments.

    • Gordon says:

      12:42pm | 26/11/12

      Agreed, and aptitude tests were even better: usually multiple choice and no studying. A gift. There was something 35 years ago called (tautologically as usual) the ASAT test. Basically a mildly challenging free period. Have no idea to this day if I “passed” or if anyone else cared either.

    • Mahhrat says:

      12:44pm | 26/11/12

      Double agreed.  I found that no matter the study, I would know or I would not know.  It was over pretty quickly.

      I suppose I’m lucky that i mostly knew…

    • kieran says:

      12:16pm | 26/11/12

      NAPLAN was started in 2008. I believe that would make it the Rudd Government not the Gillard..

    • jade (the other one) says:

      12:17pm | 26/11/12

      What an uninformed piece of tosh, Tory. The problems are not simply that students are experiencing normal stress. It’s that 7 and 8 year old students (yes 7 years old is the age that children sit their first NAPLAN test) are exhibiting signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety far outside what is normal for their age group. Signs and symptoms include - bladder control issues, vomiting, hair loss, insomnia, and the development of tics or stutters.

      You also manage to show your complete lack of understanding of the very comprehensive assessment regime that exists outside NAPLAN, and that provides a far greater wealth of information about children’s literacy, numeracy and spelling than a test such as this can ever show.

      Measures such as the South Australian Spelling Test, PM Benchmarking, and associated mathematics related tests, that occur throughout a year, and allow a student to show their growth in literacy and numeracy understandings are far more relevant to determining teacher quality. All NAPLAN tells you is which students were literate when they arrived in Prep. Not which teachers have created the most growth in their students.

      If you want a real measure of teacher quality, how about you test all students at the beginning of each grade on what they are supposed to know at the end, then retest them on the same content? That is a typical approach used in business, and will allow you to see whether they moved along the continuum from not knowing to knowing, or stayed at the top and didn’t move? That would be a far greater test of teacher quality.

    • martinX says:

      01:16pm | 26/11/12

      Then that stress is being transmitted from the teachers.

      I agree with the method of assessment you mention being used within the class, but I’m not sure if it’s applicable across the country. Naplan just tests “reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy” and not all of the other subjects. It’s meant to be a broad assessment of where things are, not a pinpoint tool. That’s Peter Garrett’s job.

    • Chris says:

      01:25pm | 26/11/12

      This is the type of stuff that frustrates the hell out of me, my hair has just fallen out and I have suddenly developed a nervous tic…

      If a 7 year-old kid has such problems over a simple test then they have deep issues way beyond the test - and in this case the test is a good thing as it has created a way for a professional educator to spot a child in deep trouble making it possible to get some kind of intervention / management program in place.

      What this is not is a rationale for tens of thousands of other more balanced and sustainably adjusted children to get on with life and learn some great lessons (and sitting an exam is an important life lesson).

    • jade (the other one) says:

      01:41pm | 26/11/12

      @martinX - it’s also being transmitted by over-anxious parents who want their child to be the best. Teachers do their best to allay the concerns of children, but when you have parents then taking their child from school to special NAPLAN tutoring, what the teacher does in the classroom has much less impact.

      Furthermore, if you were in a job where your worth was based on the outcome of one test, not on the breadth and depth, don’t you think you might be a little stressed too? Perhaps if the media wasn’t so lazy as to present these results as the be all and end all of teacher quality, and actually made an effort to represent the totality of what a teacher does, then teachers wouldn’t feel that they had to drill their students.

      And martinX - that method of testing is common to all classrooms across the country. I fail to see why NAPLAN is necessary, when the same data collected by NAPLAN is already being collected, in much more meaningful ways by other, better quality assessment instruments. It’s just that governments are too lazy to sift through the vast quantities of data collected by teachers, and would rather something to wave in their faces.

      For instance, NAPLAN consistently shows independent school students outperforming their public school peers. So we hear constantly that this must automatically mean that independent schools are better. However, NAPLAN does not allow for differentiation between students who are already above benchmarks versus those below. If we were to determine teacher quality based on this test, that information is necessary. If independent school students are entering Year 3 at the exact same level as their public school peers, then it’s fair to suggest teacher quality as a possible reason. But if they are not, it is not clear whether the independent school teacher is actually better quality, or simply has better working materials. For example, a public school teacher whose students perform worse in NAPLAN, but whose students entered year 3 at a year 1 level, and exited year 3 at a beginning year 3 level, should rightly be considered more effective than an independent school teacher whose students entered year 3 at a mid-year 3 level and exited at a beginning year 4 level. However, NAPLAN does not allow for these kinds of differentiation. And as long as we are using NAPLAN results to rank schools and teachers, we will never get a true measure of teacher quality.

    • AJ in Perth says:

      02:40pm | 26/11/12

      I thought the first NAPLAN test would be in Year 3, and that would make kids 8-9 years old?  Not that it matters really. 

      You get 2-5% that will get hammered by their parents to do well and you will get 2-5% that will be stressed out by the thought of having to write a test.  Deal with these kids to let them know it’s normal to be stressed, and so on.

      You will notice that 90-96% of kids will be ok and I fail to see what the problem is other than dealing with the exceptions (1-2 kids per class?) and leaving the majority be.

    • Gavin says:

      12:22pm | 26/11/12

      I honestly don’t get the fuss over NAPLAN. As I understand it if a particular child doesn’t do well in the tests or in a particular area of the tests they are easily identified and given extra help to bring them up to a satisfactory level. Surely that’s what all parents want. If a school as a whole doesn’t do well the test results highlight areas that need work and the school together with the education department can adjust the teaching strategies so that the educational opportunities for all kids at the school are improved. Surely that’s what parents want.

    • PsychoHyena says:

      12:32pm | 26/11/12

      Personally I’m more concerned about my children being taught to pass a test rather than the broader range of topics. It’s the equivalent of taking an entire Year 12 course in Physics and teaching only those bits that will appear on the final exam, great, kids have learnt the limited range that you’ve taught them but not what they need to properly understand Physics when they get into Uni.

      Removing NAPLAN and bringing in the weekly tests a’la Chris’ suggestion, I remember doing daily Language and Numeracy tests in primary school and it needs to continue.

      I’ve been against the restricted teaching methods since high-school where we were required to resolve problems involving graphs using one method and I came up with an alternative, was told that it was a valid and accepted method that is the one used in the real world, however, they are not allowed by the Department of Education to teach it.

    • Stuss says:

      12:37pm | 26/11/12

      I remember sitting tests issued by the state government when I was in primary school in the early nineties. I’m pretty sure the purpose of these was ensuring that all schools across the state were teaching the tested parts of the curriculum to a similar standard, and allowed the department of education to offer assistance to those schools that were struggling.

      I thought this was the idea of NAPLAN, but on a national basis?

      On the stress issues, don’t remember too many problems from my time. Maybe we were prepared differently, or were informed that it wasn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, not sure. I’m not a teacher, and my kids have not yet hit school age, so can’t speak for what is happening in classrooms today vs what was happening in the nineties.

    • Jess says:

      01:18pm | 26/11/12

      NAPLAN is a nationally set test which doesn’t really work when the curriculum is different in each state and territory. It’s how the results are used that causes the stress. If it was just used to pick up struggling kids (which their teacher will know anyway) and struggling schools it would be fine.  But it’s used to compare schools at a public level which in reality doesn’t help poor performing schools at all.

    • martinX says:

      12:48pm | 26/11/12

      It SHOULD be like our ASAT exam in days gone by: you couldn’t study ‘for’ it, it was simply a test of where you were at.

      If the kids are getting stressed to the point of “crying, vomiting, insomnia”, then that’s being transmitted to them via their teachers.

      Maybe they should just have it on day 2 of the school year.

    • jade (the other one) says:

      01:25pm | 26/11/12

      Its being transferred to them by over-anxious parents, and independent school teachers who have immense pressure on them to keep their school’s results at the top of the league tables.

      And yes, I guess when you place such tremendous pressure on teachers by basing your assessment of their quality on one point of time test, they might exhibit symptoms in the classroom that students pick up on.

      For many year 3 students, it’s the first time they have had to sit a full day of testing. It can be a terrifying experience to see the pomp and ceremony with which the tests are delivered to the school, and to be ushered into a room which may not have their teacher’s familiar face, and to be confronted with a range of rules and regulations which they don’t understand.

      Contrast that with running records, where they simply read a book, while their teacher sits beside them and marks off how many errors they made, and what type of errors, asks them some identified comprehension questions, then later, maps these to determine what the child’s strengths and weaknesses are, and what age level they are currently reading and understanding at. Then retests them a term or two later to see whether they have improved. Why not simply use the data we already have? Data that gives us a much fuller picture of what children are capable of than one test?

    • Kev says:

      02:04pm | 26/11/12

      Jade - You can’t stop testing kids purely on the basis that exams are stressful because you aren’t doing them any favours by sheltering them. Sooner or later they will need to be introduced to this scenario be it in an entrance exam, VCE or university.

      Most stress would come from being ill-prepared for the exam itself and the exam situation. Teachers can easily alleviate this by running mock exams and teaching them techniques for sitting exams.

    • Al says:

      12:49pm | 26/11/12

      I always loved tests at school, for the simple fact I always completed them in around 2/3 to 3/4 of the time alocated, gave me plenty of time for a nap afterwards (even HSC exams).

    • TimB says:

      01:30pm | 26/11/12

      I remember my School Certificate maths exam. Ran through it, had enough time to check my answers *twice*, and still had 10 minutes of time left over.

      Ridiculous.

    • Philosopher says:

      02:35pm | 26/11/12

      I had aced my International Baccalaureate by the time the examiner had finished handing out the papers. NAPLAN? Pfft.

    • Tim the Toolman says:

      03:52pm | 26/11/12

      I completed a two hour exam on Saturday with 30 minutes to spare, and that includes completely rewriting an answer.  I love exams.

    • PsychoHyena says:

      04:58pm | 26/11/12

      Speed in tests does not show how smart you are. Doing absolutely no study and ending up in the top 3% in English, Chemistry, Maths and Physics however….

    • Bec says:

      01:30pm | 26/11/12

      I agree with this article, but I would be interested in hearing your opinions about a similar matter. Last time I went to visit my cousin, I learned that her daughter is required to do an hour of homework every weeknight and some on weekends too. This would be fine for an older kid, but the girl is five years old - she’s in kindergarten. Does anybody else think that’s a bit extreme for that age group?

    • Gordon says:

      02:11pm | 26/11/12

      Teachers reckon ambitious parents get upset if they don’t set homework. I’m with you on the foolishness of this for such tiny children and I’d be looking to see if some pushy mob are in school council, or if the principal is angling for the “gifted & talented” market.

    • TimB says:

      02:37pm | 26/11/12

      I didn’t even HAVE homework in Kindergarten.

      They didn’t start us on that until 1st grade. And even then, it was like a single worksheet to be competed over the course of a week.

    • Bec says:

      03:07pm | 26/11/12

      Same here, TimB.
      I think overloading kids with too much academic work is going to do a heck of a lot more damage than good. How can a child play sport or take music lessons if their whole life is taken up by school work? One hour is a lot when your bed time is 7:30.

    • Sarah says:

      04:11pm | 26/11/12

      Its a tough one. Kids should be allowed to be kids of course and this child’s age does seem a little young for homework - but in all honesty I don’t think its an awful idea. This child is learning that her parents have expectations of her when it comes to her schooling. Plus she’s quite young so such a routine will surely help her as she gets older and into more demanding homework set by the school?

      As a kid myself, from about the age of 7, if I didn’t have homework at night, my Dad would make a game at dinner for about 40 minutes of throwing out math sums to me that I had to answer on the spot. He made it seem fun and I kicked butt in maths all throughout my schooling years.

      He also insisted on each school holiday period that I read at least one book.s week - which gave me excellent reading and English skills.

      I’m 30 now and I still plow through a book a week to this dayv- and if I’m with any of my younger cousins who are still in school I throw random math sums at them as well as words to.spell out.

      Knowledge is power, I think as long as this little girl has positive, encouraging parents - she’ll be fine.

    • Murray says:

      01:56pm | 26/11/12

      There are a number of issues to clarify here.
            First, if you want students to do well in an assessment task you have to both teach them how to undertake that particular style of task and also teach them any content related to that task. Imagine being asked to write an essay on the French Revolution without knowing how to write an essay. You can know everything about the History, but you will do poorly in that task.  Similarly, what teachers are doing is teaching how to tackle a particular testing format, and that is what is taking time away from other disciplines.   
        Secondly, there is a decline in literacy and numeracy accross the western world, as the far superior PISA tests have shown. However, PISA testing does not disrupt schools, skew the curriculum and lead to industrial action.
      (http://www.oecd.org/pisa/) What to do about that decline is where the debate should be.
          Thirdly, while NAPLAN is an adequate test of literacy and numeracy, it is only one of a barrage of tasks students undertake. All of them are informative. Given that teachers already provide rich information on what a given student can do, the diagnostic benefit of also undertaking NAPLAN is unclear. What it does do that no other assessment task does is compare them to all other students in the country. It provides a ranking of students and that is bound to be confronting for students, parents and teachers. Despite, the ‘get used to the horrors of life’ talk this is not exactly how it works in the ‘real world’ anyway. All social workers in the country are not ranked every two years, neither are police officers, or advertising execs. They are compared to performance standard. School students could be compared to an agreed standard as in Universities, and indeed most schools and the International Bacalaureate system work that way. Instead their NAPLAN ranking is made clear to them. I wonder if 7 and 8 year olds really need this sort of ‘toughen up buttercup’ talk.
          Third, the AEUs problem with the test is the unsuitable purposes to which the test is being put. It is not only being used to assess student abilities, but also the abilities of teachers and schools. Teachers and schools that are required to deliver a broad ranging curriculum by society,  not just literacy and numeracy. People need to make some choices here.  Accountablity is important, but it is also important to use the right instrument for holding people accountable. NAPLAN does not contain sufficient data about the baseline at which students start. It does not provide sufficient data about the varied outcomes teachers achieve. A teacher could spends six months teaching a student to sit still and making the student breakfast and lunch, then the student finally starts to learn something. When the student inevitably performs under the average in NAPLAN, that teacher and that school has not failed. In the word of Richard and Karen Carpenter, they have only just begun. The sad truth is some students start so far behind that it is difficult to measure what teachers and schools are doing for them in a NAPLAN style test. A more complex metric is needed for teacher performance, not a crude ranking of students. 
        The good side of NAPLAN is that schools with low performing students might get more resources.  Of course, these students were known before and they didn’t get resources then. States had profound knowledge about entrenched educational disadvantage.They told the federal government, which used scarce resources to help build additional playing fields at elite private schools instead.  The Gonski Review might provide an opportunity for funding intensive intervention for the students that started so far behind and continue to be diadvantaged. The reporting of NAPLAN and the Myschoolswebsite might finally draw people’s attention to the problems of society that schools can’t fix,socio-economic inequity, and get people to spend the money needed. Then the decline in literacy and numeracy might be addressed.

    • Richard says:

      02:34pm | 26/11/12

      Slightly off topic but when I was in primary school and high school, class sizes were larger yet results appeared to be better. Our generation is more literate and has better numeracy skills. Is this because we were not part of the computer revolution or do teachers no longer have the skills necessary to be good role models and teachers. Testing of students is part of school life.

    • Milly says:

      02:39pm | 26/11/12

      The issue is that NAPLAN is being used as so much more than a measure of how well an individual child is learning.  It is being used: to determine funding in schools; to judge teachers’ performances; to judge a school’s standing against other schools; to track individual students even when their NAPLAN tests could have been in 3 different schools….. 

      The thing is that the poor little blighter sitting the test has all of these ‘other’ issues resting on their shoulders.  They feel the pressure from teachers who will be judged on their performance; and the teachers feel pressured by the Admin. of their school because their class’s performance could effect staffing levels and the yearly budget. 

      Some may say ‘too bad’... just teach better, but the reality is that good teachers can have students that do poorly in NAPLAN tests, and it has nothing to do with the effectiveness of their teaching.  THIS is the big issue that hasn’t been addressed. 

      Parents of ‘lower achieving’ students probably also put pressure on little ‘johnny’ or ‘jemimah’, because they fear that THEY may be evaluated as poor parents if their child does badly.

      Having said that, I’m not against NAPLAN or national testing, it just has to be done better than it is.  Too much back slapping and self congratulations from Minister Garrett, and not enough fixing the problems with the test.

    • ramases says:

      02:42pm | 26/11/12

      To stop this so called stress of the little darlings lets just lob the test on the doorstep the day of the test, no warnings, no extra coaching and then see how they fair. They will have no time to stress, precious teaching time will be saved by not allowing coaching and we will get a better idea of how the schools, teachers and the Education system is really going.
        Another thing that needs to be looked at is this idea that multiple choice questions are the way to go. Now if there are multiple choice and you can only be tested on about 10% of the subject in such a small time with a one in four chance of snagging the right answer then a pass mark should be 100% as this shows that at least they know a bit about the subject they have been taught. Anything less shows that they are major failures and they should have to re do the exam until they get 100%. Lets put the onus on the children and the teachers to get it right.

    • Cat says:

      02:57pm | 26/11/12

      My parents did the Qualifying Certificate to decide whether they would go to high school or “tech” school. They also did regular Friday tests.
      I did the Progress Certificate and regular Friday tests. I also survived the ongoing stress of always getting 0/10 for handwriting because of my physical disability - perhaps because I still managed full marks in the things that mattered.
      I went on to the Public Examination Board stream and did examinations at the end of the then 3rd, 4tth and 5th years. I went to university both here and in the UK. In the UK I discovered they had the 11+, O levels, A levels and even some S(cholarship) levels and that the academic standard at university was much more rigorous than it was here - but there, for the first time, I was allowed the luxury of typing exams.
      I survived and so did the vast majority of my generation. I don’t think a five year old needs an hour of homework but older child does need exams.

    • Robin says:

      04:03pm | 26/11/12

      I had forgotten all about that.  I went to England in 1973 and when we went to enrol me was when I found out about this 11+ test.  I did that, then went on to Grammar School.  In hindsight, I regret getting a good score (my cousins were all at the local public school having a ball)

    • Ms Woo says:

      03:07pm | 26/11/12

      How about Primary Schools emphasise the three biggies, reading., writing and arithmetic so NO CHILD EVER LEAVES PRIMARY SCHOOL wihtout being able to read, write and do basic arithmetic -
      I happen to think it is disgraceful that any child who enters high school cannot do all of the above

    • Michellemac says:

      03:27pm | 26/11/12

      First. As a parent, I had no idea where my son sat with regards to reading/writing/maths etc. His NAPLAN results were fantastic and now I know how hard/soft to be with him NAPLAN revealed him to be at the top of his age group for everything but he is lazy. I know how to deal with this myself and with the teacher to enable him to be the best. If he ranked lowly, then so be it, I would know how to help with that too.

      Second: when I was a kid, we did tests all the time. Like ALL the time. And the important ones - for getting into academic extension or whatever - we were never warned on. We just rocked up to school one day and were presented with a test which we duly completed as required.  So no stress.

      Third, I work in an industry where every single aspect of what I do is measured and transparent to the rest of my colleagues and myself. I am constanly ranked and compared to my colleagues and my results are there for all to see, so I have trouble symapthising with a profession who seem to never want to rank themselves. There must be many teachers out there who know they are good at their job and it must be hugely demotivational and annyoing to know you earn the same as your colleagues who coast. Worse still if you have to carry them or pick up the peices when you next get that group of kids. Why is the teaching profession to opposed to this?  There are aspects of my job which are not ‘meaurable’ and ‘intangible’ too and yeah, it can be argued that some of the measurement tools are rather blunt. But the alternative where I am lumped in with everyone else is just not attractive to me at all…and would not be good for my business if we were.

    • ATeacher says:

      04:55pm | 26/11/12

      As a teacher with over 30 years experience in the “real world” before becoming a teacher 2 years ago, I wonder how you allow for factors that teachers have no control over ?

      1. Parents who think a can of energy drink is sufficient for breakfast - result = hyperactvity in periods 1 & 2 and a sugar “crash” in period 4.
      2. Children who arrive at school without any materials (I purchased 300 exercise books, & 200 pens out of my own money in the back to school sales at the start of the year, I only teach about 120 students - I have 20 exercise books & no pens left)
      3. Children whose parents refuse to allow them to be issued the “free” school laptops because they don’t want to be responsible for the damage - hard to do a class where the students are asked to research something on the internet, or perform a specific task such as create a presentation without a computer.
      4. Students who didn’t pick your subject and are only doing it because it was the last one left
      5. The kid who lived with dad under a bridge for 3 months
      6. The kids who come to school strung out
      7. How do you measure my contribution (4 hours a week) to literacy/numeracy when I am a computer, or food technology or industrial arts or music teacher ?
      - And I don’t even make mention of the underlying ability of the student
      To give a real world examples in the “real world” do you
      1. change project teams of 20-30 staff with another project manager every 60 minutes ? Oh and you only see that team for 4 hours a week (this is high school)
      2. Between 10&15; of that team are only there because Centrelink sent them and otherwise they would receive no income? (didn’t pick the subject)
      3.Be sworn at by HR because you gave a member of staff a poor review when they did absolutely no work all year - they are one of 10-15 referred to above ? (HR = parent. I gave a student an “E” as he handed in no work, despite letters home - luckily I had the paper trail to prove it)
      4. Be sworn at by HR because you are “picking” on one of the team, btw that member of the team was rubbing himself up against a female team member and was walking around the office knocking equipment of desks ? (true story, and that student also ate a glue stick !)
      5. Feed some members of the team breakfast because their spouses/significant other think a can of energy drink is plenty to get them through the day ? (sadly very true)
      6. Deal with Mary and Sue feuding and carrying on disrupting everybody else because Lisa called Mary a skank because she slept with 4 guys on the weekend (it was only 2 !) and Sue is Lisa’s BFF (true story year 7 - names changed to protect the guilty)
      7. Deal with staff that swear at you and blatantly lie to you and HR, and management(school executive) defends them ?

    • Gratuitous Adviser says:

      04:01pm | 26/11/12

      To its detriment Australian society does not appreciate teachers and rewards them as such. 

      As with the police, who would want to put up with some little cultural yobbo telling you to F Off while standing behind a purple haired social worker, car chasing lawyer or Green politician.  We get what we deserve.

      My Headmaster cousin always complains that at report time he has to correct his teachers spelling.  Again, like our pollies, we get what we deserve.

      Maybe we can off-shore it to India like pathology companies and banks do.  Again we get what we deserve.

    • Tom says:

      04:59pm | 26/11/12

      I think there are a few issues that come up in the article and comments that need addressing. I’m writing as a high school teacher in a very disadvantaged school who primarily teaches students whose most recent NAPLAN results place them in the bottom 10% of the nation.

      Firstly, NAPLAN testing does give some useful data for pinpointing weaknesses across a cohort and planning interventions to deal with these. On an individual level however, the length of time between students completing the test and teachers accessing the results makes it mostly useless. I know my students strengths and weaknesses because I spend every day working with them and by the time the results roll in I like to think (and the kids work shows) they are already improving.

      When it comes to whether NAPLAN encourages ‘teaching to the test’ and whether or not this is a bad thing I’d give the following example. When preparing students to complete a persuasive writing task I can either: ‘teach to the test’ and drill students that a persuasive essay has an introduction, 3 body paragraphs and a conclusion and push them to rote learn a generic response.

      Or, I can teach students to break apart a question and organise their thoughts. I can show them a variety of different text types and discuss the effect of these on the reader and trust the students to select what type of writing will best address the question. I can show them how to use a variety of different literary techniques and devices that help make a convincing argument and push the kids to use these in their writing.

      The first approach will produce good NAPLAN results quickly, the second approach will produce better results eventually, but it will take a great deal longer. I’ll leave it to the reader to determine which approach will be more valuable in the long run.

      When it comes to the tests stressing the kids, for most kids I’d say to harden up a bit. Life is stressful. Get used to it. But that’s not the case for a small proportion of those I (and many others) teach. These kids come from horrific backgrounds that most of the writers above would struggle to imagine, let alone live through.

      Performing badly in tests like NAPLAN is deeply shameful for these kids and I can understand why these kids, who are already marginalised, are stressed by a test that, from their perspective, provides no chance of success.

      Finally NAPLAN test results shouldn’t be used to measure teacher or school performance. The tests show how a collection of students responded to a specific set of questions at a specific point in time. Nothing more, nothing less. They don’t show the circumstances a child comes from and they don’t show the efforts their parents, their school and their teachers have put in.

      Take for example one of my students who entered my class at the beginning of the year completely unable to read. Two years ago he guessed answers at random on the reading test and received a poor result. This year after much teaching and support he attempted most questions and received a similar mark. Now, with support, he reads the same texts as his peers and can independently read simpler texts. These improvements won’t show up in his NAPLAN results for another few years and he will still be far behind his peers even then.

      I have no issues with being judged on my performance as a teacher or our performance as a school. I welcome it. I just think that NAPLAN results don’t show the whole story.

    • Chris says:

      05:50pm | 26/11/12

      I’m a secondary English teacher in western NSW (non-govt school). If I get a year 7 or 9 class, I know the school powers will be anxious for the faculty to teach towards the exam. So what? I work for a living and do what I am told. I also teach towards the HSC exam. It’s called “giving students practice that might assist them on the day”. It’s a revolutionary concept, this idea of preparing students for particular exams.
      Regarding the use of NAPLAN results: when the My Schools website came out, there was uproar from the teaching profession. My attitude is this: who cares if they publish a summary of our results and compare them with other schools in the area? It does not matter to me at all, not one bit. The decision to send a child to our school is rarely ever made on the basis of a NAPLAN summary.” It’s better to do well than to bomb out, or course, but NAPLAN is hardly the high point of a person’s education.

 

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