Sunday, 9 April 2017


NAPLAN starts in May and the pro and con stories will be filling up column space and air time from now until May and then again when the findings are released.Its all very predictable.

The story below comes from Huffington Post. I agree with a lot of it. Results take too long to come through but it is improving, we are asking kids (especially those in year 3) to do things that we wouldn't normally expect them to do. (The writing test is a classic example of this. No teacher expects children, especially in year 3 to write a polished, thoughtful piece of writing in one hour without going through the draftinhg process. it just doesnt happen)

There are examples of schools, primarily independent schools, coaching and drilling kids in NAPLAN in the months leading up to the test but I don't know of many state schools that bother unless they are just familiarising the kids with the test format and writing persuasive texts with year 3, probably 2 years before you would normally do it. (Primary kids, unless you choose your topics well don't have the life experience to write decent persuasive texts. I know why they choose it because its easy to mark.) I have had some exceptional students do well in the writing test but most struggle with the topic and the time constraints. I dont have a problem with the Maths, Reading and English tests but I know many that do.

You can exclude kids from NAPLAN. Parents have the right to do that. I believe its a big thing in the ACT (I often read, in Huff Post about the gruesome NY state testing regime and the debate about those and the large numbers of parents who boycott it.) I'd suggest not boycotting NAPLAN.(I know some schools, again most independents who take that choice out of parents hands! Cant have that data looking ordinary or god forbid....bad!) as it is useful so long as it is not taken out of perspective. Teacher assessment over the long haul, with full knowledge of the child and the baggage they bring with them  always provides better data than one off exams.

From Huffington Post

With May just around the corner, so too is NAPLAN, The National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy. Australia wide, students in Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 will be assessed over the course of three days to determine if their reading, writing and numeracy skills are up to scratch.

If your own child is in one of these year levels, you may be feeling curious as to how they will measure up or consumed with nerves about whether their test-taking anxiety will raise its ugly head. Like me, maybe you're still hung up on the relevance of NAPLAN and why it exists in the first place.

We're told that NAPLAN produces valuable data, essential for initiating improvements in student learning. However the statistics provided are somewhat limited in use, partly due to their four month turnaround. More significantly, the data compiled can't compete with the rich observations made by an experienced teacher, which evolves over time and in different contexts.

We're told that NAPLAN doesn't dominate classroom learning. However, as you read this, classrooms across the country are knee deep in NAPLAN preparation. 

Carly, a Year 5 teacher, said: "The data may be useful to the government but not to me in the classroom. By the time we get the results in September/October, I know these kids and what they need far better than a piece of paper can tell me."

We're told that NAPLAN is just a little test, a part of life that children need to adapt to. Education critic Alfie Kohn refers to this mindset as the 'Better Get Used To It' principle. Sure, the experts in child development may be recommending against young children's participation in standardised testing but with it lingering in their future, we prioritise getting them ready nonetheless, with little concern for the damage.

Eight-year-old Keli, first-time NAPLAN participant, said: "The teacher told us that we need to practice getting it all done otherwise we won't be able to in the real test. I sat there and cried and thought about how hard tests are going to be in high school."

We're told that NAPLAN doesn't dominate classroom learning. However, as you read this, classrooms across the country are knee deep in NAPLAN preparation. They may be revising content or they may be taking mock tests. The sad truth is that there's too much riding on the results not to.

Accountability is a huge driver behind NAPLAN. The data is used to give schools and teachers a gold star or a giant red cross. But it ignores the obvious truth that we can't make children learn if they're not ready. Nor should we only value the style of teaching and learning that can be assessed in a written test.

Stephanie, an educator, said: "I don't know a teacher that doesn't give the students some practice of this test taking. We should be teaching concepts that make a difference, are relevant and motivate students for lifelong learning."

Anthony, an ex teacher, adds: "Kids get less of an education because so much time is spent teaching to the test."

Schools want your child to participate. The government wants your child to participate. But do you? And, even more importantly, does your child?

Here's where things get interesting. Did you know NAPLAN isn't compulsory?

Schools want your child to participate. The government wants your child to participate. But do you? And, even more importantly, does your child?

It's time to make a decision. To support NAPLAN this year or to avoid it? My advice is simple. Ask your child: "Do you want to participate in NAPLAN this year?"

If he or she says "yes", let them. Reduce the pressure surrounding the results and allow them to experience the process. If she or he says "no", support them. Ask for a withdrawal form at your school's front office. This one-page document simply requires you to write your child's name, school and year level, tick a box for which parts of NAPLAN are being sat out (all) and sign it.

Repeat this conversation each year that NAPLAN rolls around. Your child's answer may be the same or it may change. With their feelings valued and their decision empowered, the big hairy monster that is NAPLAN need no longer be a thing of nightmares.

PS Ive just been up at school and so far we've come out of the storm uscathed. We didnt even lose power! That's a first! 40 mls of rain yesterday. A photo taken yesterday just before the storm and the clean up continues in Murrwillumbah.

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