Naplan! What is it good for?
NAPLAN is designed to help governments and schools gauge whether students are meeting educational outcomes in numeracy and literacy. But educators, parents and students believe that NAPLAN is the most outdated way to measure this.
Teachers across the nation have been calling for a review of NAPLAN because test results haven’t improved since the test began ten years ago.
NAPLAN does have some benefits though; it gives teachers guidance to help them determine what to teach students and when to teach it.
On the other hand, many teachers are accused of just teaching to the test. Some teachers feel so much pressure for their students to achieve a high score that they do end up teaching to the test, whether they want to or not.
“Teachers work their guts out and all of that work is being negated by a stupid initiative that has not been implemented properly.” said Stephen Breen, Former Western Australia Primary Principals Association (WAPPA) President
NAPLAN gives parents a good idea of how their children are doing as compared to students across the nation and locally.
But this puts school systems are under great pressure to raise their scores so they have resorted to decreasing students breaks. This can have negative impact on children’s emotional, social, academic and general well-being.
In a study conducted for the International Journal of Personal, Social and Emotional Development found that “This pressure from parents is perhaps the largest source of stress for children aged ten to 11 who are working towards their exams.”
Laura Nicholson, an esteemed writer for The Conversation wrote that “One Year 6 pupil my colleagues and I interviewed described the source of the pressure he felt: You want to get them [questions] right because other people want you to get them right and, like, you don’t want to disappoint people.”
Since all students are taking the same test, NAPLAN provides an accurate comparison across groups. Over the years great improvements have been made with regards to test bias, which has led to more accurate assessments and comparisons.
But as much as the Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority (ACARA) try to do away with testing bias, it may be impossible to rid tests of it altogether.
I once mentored a student in year three who did not know anything about writing narratives.. When she was to write a narrative for NAPLAN, that child would have been at a huge disadvantage because most year three students know and have had at least some knowledge about writing, but she did not. There is just no way to know for certain that every child being tested has a fair amount of knowledge going into the test.
In a report for the New South Wales Teachers Federation, Les Perelman, a professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said that “Teachers across the country use many other assessment tools to chart the progress of their students.” He also described NAPLAN as a “bizarre” way of measuring students education. Perelman found that the test placed far too much importance on spelling, punctuation and grammar at the cost of “higher order writing skills.”
For the majority of teachers, the effects of NAPLAN are negative, as the pressure schools and teachers, and the desire to be ranked highly, impacted for many teachers on the content taught and the effect on learning opportunities and experiences of students.
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