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KATE: The sneaky way some schools are using NAPLAN.

Kate Hunter

By KATE HUNTER

Next week two of my three kids will sit the NAPLAN tests, and I couldn’t care less.

Seriously, if the testing was done and I wasn’t informed of my kids’ individual results I wouldn’t be bothered at all.

But I seem to be alone in my ambivalence. There are NAPLAN preparation books on sale at Coles, and parents are saying no to birthday parties and soccer camps this weekend so their kids are ‘fresh’ for the tests. Teachers are pulling their hair out and private tutors are raking in the cash.

My understanding is the test was introduced so the government would have accurate information about which schools need more resources. Who’s falling between the cracks? How are ten year old kids in north Queensland doing compared to ten year olds in western Sydney?

The concept of a standardised test is a great one, in my opinion. That’s stuff administrators and legislators need to know. No problem at all with my kids sitting the tests.

It’s how the results are being used that burns my crumpets.

Because from where I sit, it’s being used as (a) a cheap selection tool for private and independent school principals and (b) fuel for people to feel either smug or ashamed about how their kids’ school ‘performs.’

“It’s being used as a cheap selection tool for schools.”

Over the past couple of years I’ve applied for places at 5 independent schools for my kids. Every one asked for NAPLAN results to be supplied. A couple did not even ask to interview us or meet our kids.

It seems they’re using NAPLAN as a cheap, easy way to choose the best and brightest. It’s that and the usual old boy / old girl network and a family’s ability to pay the fees.

The last two I think are fair enough, they’re businesses after all, but asking for NAPLAN results is wrong because it’s not what the tests were designed for. If a school wants to select academically, fine, but they should do their own testing.

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Interestingly some of the most expensive private schools don’t ask for NAPLAN results, they’re happy to take anyone whose name was on the list at conception and can pay the $20k a year.

But it’s not a private v public school thing. Bloody myschool.com.whatever pits all schools against each other.

Publishing a school’s results makes ‘school browsing’ a new kind of recreation. The schools that do ‘badly’ will haemorrhage students (and funding) and those that do ‘well’ will be swamped. The divide between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ schools will get wider and all kids and families will suffer, but the ones at the ‘bad’ schools will suffer worst.

People will reject the school down the road and travel ridiculous distances for ‘the best’ even if it’s inconvenient and unaffordable. Schools used to be the heart of a community. Kids walked to school together, knocked about on weekends and parents socialised. It wasn’t about, ‘what’s best for my particular child,’ but what’s right for us as a family, as a community.

Now education is a commodity. Something to be shopped for, like a fridge or a new car. And no kid will be taken seriously by the salesperson unless there’s a decent NAPLAN result in their back pocket.

I realise the NAPLAN genie is out of the bottle, and it would be nice to think NAPLAN stress is something parents could choose to buy into or not. But as long as results are being requested as proof of a kid’s ability and myschool publishes results like some kind of academic Tripadvisor, the ante will continue to be upped.

How do you feel about the way NAPLAN data is used? Do you care about your kids results?

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