NAPLAN. It’s the word that will make some teachers shudder and some students have sweaty palms. Standardised testing for years 3, 5, 7 and 9. Every single student across the states sitting down to the same tests, at the same time and being leveled up against each other. Other schools, other states, the country as a whole.
As a teacher, I believe national assessment is necessary. It’s necessary to support the ability of schools to focus teaching on areas of need and to help parents see how their child is progressing against national standards.
But what I believe even more, is that NAPLAN doesn’t work.
This is why:
1. It focuses on the scores.
Dr Stanley Rabinowitz, assessment and reporting general manager from the organisation that runs NAPLAN (the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)), said that there is too much focus on scores.
And that is one thing I can certainly attest to.
So many teachers, as well as parents, focus on getting those few pieces of paper at the end of the day and seeing how their child measures up. Some parents will even send their children to specific NAPLAN tutoring to prepare them for the exams.
That’s not measuring learning – that’s tutoring your child on how to score well in an exam.
2. It isn’t fair.
ACARA has warned schools not to conduct “NAPLAN boot camps” and cramming sessions. Yet that’s exactly what happens.
I have worked in schools that spend months and months of class time, teaching students how to divide their time equally between sections, how to read the questions and deduce the correct answer. Even how to shade the bubble correctly.
How can we be certain that ALL students have this level of support? We don’t. And that’s why results are skewed to begin with.
And then you have schools that are asking some students to stay home, to enhance the school’s overall results. One parent told The Daily Telegraph last year, “It is sad indeed my little boy was asked to stay home so as not to sit it and lower the average.”
3. It plays schools off against each other.
I’m sure you’ve heard of a website called My School. What I’m even surer of is that you looked up how your school weighed up to the one down the road. And where does all of the data on My School come from? NAPLAN. So anyone in the whole world can log onto that site and see how the entire student population measures up.
I’m all for parents having the ability to choose the best school for their child. What I’m not for is public schools being pitted against each other, to get their school-wide results up so that they can have a higher rate of student enrollments when compared to the school one kilometre down the road. And they do this by asking certain students (those who won't score high) to stay home. Seriously - I have seen it happen.
4. It adds unnecessary stress to students and teachers.
If a student performs badly in NAPLAN, the first person who is judged is the teacher. And they are often faced with questions from parents like:
“Why didn’t they perform better?”
“What have you been teaching them?”
“Have you been giving them extension work?”
And that’s only the surface. Teachers are hard enough on themselves as it is. Some students take well to testing, some don’t. Students learn in a multitude of different ways.
The abilities of a teacher, as well as their students, should not be reduced down to one test, once a year.
5. It causes a loss of genuine learning time.
For those schools who prep their students for NAPLAN, which I’ll assure you, the majority do – what an utter waste of student learning time! Instead of teaching students valuable and necessary life skills and to reach their individual learning goals, we’re teaching to a test.
In a system where you’re trying to teach students that the only person they have to compete with is themselves, to make themselves better – we have NAPLAN. NAPLAN itself goes against all of the core values we’re meant to be teaching in schools.
I’d rather take my students outside and teach them how to measure with jugs and cups, with real world experiences supported by theory than sit them down with a pencil and a test booklet, showing them tips and tricks to score better on an exam.
With so many negatives that clearly outweigh the positives, I only have one question left to ask:
Why are we still putting ourselves - our teachers and our kids - through such a mental and psychological wringer?
Put simply, NAPLAN, as a national assessment program - it just doesn't work.
School has changed a lot since we went. Watch below to see just how different things are now... (Post continues after video.)
How do you feel about NAPLAN, do you think it's a good or bad idea?