It’s teachers, not kids, who are afraid of NAPLAN
Parents and kids have nothing to fear from NAPLAN. In fact, we’ve got everything to gain from finding out how are kids are faring at school.
Teachers and schools doing their job well should also welcome NAPLAN, which is the national literacy and numeracy test given to kids in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. So why are so many educators trying to scare parents into thinking that standardised testing is a bad thing?
It makes me think some schools don’t welcome the accountability offered by the most rigorous national testing regime we’ve seen in decades As a parent, I want to know how my kids are shaping up against other kids in their class, in their school, and across the country. I also want to know their teachers are doing a good job, and I think NAPLAN helps us keep track of this.
I know sitting the NAPLAN test can be stressful for kids. But so what? Life is stressful, and they may as well get used to a little bit of pressure.
My son sat the grade three NAPLAN this year for the first time. In the weeks leading up to the test he talked about it quite a bit, clearly mindful of its importance.
He was nervous but I thought this pressure was good for him, and liked the rigour offered by the good old-fashioned exam-style testing.
There has been a lot of scare-mongering in recent days about NAPLAN.
Sure, there are some teachers who are clearly taking NAPLAN too seriously, and stressing their students unnecessarily as a result.
But these are in the tiny minority.
A recent University of Melbourne study of 8300 teachers found 40 per cent said most of their students had concerns, and half thought some of their students had concerns. The most common reaction was that kids were stressed – but isn’t this fair enough? A bit of stress every now and then is good for kids.
It is more worrying that some teachers reported kids crying and getting sick on test day, but again, this is a very small percentage.
Surely the problem in these instances is more about the approach of the teachers and schools, not the actual testing regime itself.
The same study also found 40 per cent said their kids were looking forward to NAPLAN. Another common criticism is that teachers are spending too much time “teaching to the test”.
I have a problem with teachers spending endless weeks and months on nothing but test preparation.
But this doesn’t seem to be happening.
The University of Melbourne study found half of the teachers got kids to practice three times in the weeks before the test, another third more than six times, and 13 per cent not at all.
This seems reasonable to me.
The same study found that in many schools, NAPLAN is only a “minor distraction”.
In any case, take a look at some of the practice tests on the NAPLAN website, and you will see it’s not a bad “distraction” for kids to have.
The skills and information tested is very useful.
In the literacy test, kids are given a range of different pieces of writing, and are asked to analyse them.
In the numeracy one, there’s a range of practical, commonsense maths problems. I have no problem with my kids spending their time doing school work like this.
Educators keep telling us that kids shouldn’t spend their time on endless NAPLAN preparation at the expense of “rich and important areas such as history, geography, physical education and music”.
Yes, these are important topics for kids to learn. But being able to read, comprehend a piece of writing, express yourself clearly, and have a good mastery of basic maths is even more important, I’d argue.
A broader criticism of NAPLAN is that bad results could have a detrimental effect on staff morale, the status of schools, and student well-being.
Well, of course. This is what happens to any organisation exposed as failing in its basic duties – and schools should be no different.
As long as the results are used to improve things that need to be done better, there should be no problem.
We don’t want kids to feel bad for being below the national average, but we need to know how they are going in order for them to improve.
Critically, any results must be used to boost struggling kids rather than punish them.
As a parent I want to know if my kid or my kids’ school are not up to scratch. We shouldn’t be allowing schools to shy away from bad performances. We may also gain some valuable information about what more we can do to help our kids at home.
Again, it seems to me that the bigger problem is schools and teachers who say they wouldn’t do anything about bad results.
The University of Melbourne study found less than half of the schools surveyed used the NAPLAN results to identify weakness and make improvements to teaching practice.
This seems ridiculous. In my opinion, the problem is not the NAPLAN testing itself, it’s educators who don’t want to be accountable to students and their parents.
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