I have seen more tears and public humiliation at the Sports and Swimming Carnivals (My heart literally breaks watching those kids that can't swim the distance) than I have ever seen for Naplan. If NAPLAN is framed correctly, the only stress is getting to school on time and having the right 2HB pencil. I am waiting for the uproar to ban those carnivals because they're too stressful and make a lot of kids feel really bad about themselves, anyone with a kid that always comes last or never gets a ribbon knows how stressful the carnival can be. It's weird that we only seem to have this attitude about NAPLAN.
I have done some reading since (Beautiful Failures) that is quite anti Naplan, and while I in part agree, I still think it's what we the parents do with NAPLAN that makes it bad, and that the theory behind it is fine.
Last week, I saw a number of 'Dear Students, Naplan can't measure how wonderful you are' kind of posts. And yes, it can't. But neither can school or the HSC. So why have we magnified NAPLAN into a big bad wolf of injustice? I agree it doesn't measure which kid had breakfast or not, but neither does anything else, so how that came into the equation is beyond me.
It's not the government or even school's fault. It's us parents. We've become so fearful of failure and disappointment for our children. We've created a new monster, and like everything else, our children will suffer for it.
If everything in your school life leads to an exams (the HSC), then do a tonne of exams so you don’t get nervous, make them just another thing you do at school. There's no stress associated with tests unless we create it. This is proof alone in the High Schoolers reaction to NAPLAN. Their results of NAPLAN mean nothing at all to them (they're not used to get you into a High School or any special class), and as a result, I reminded three high schoolers on Monday night that they had NAPLAN the next day, and all three had been completely oblivious to the fact. So it is the parents of the year three's and fifth graders who have magnified the meaning of a simple test.
If NAPLAN was used so the school could focus on the overall weaknesses, then NAPLAN is extraordinarily worthwhile. For example, if the maths average of the year was weak, then the school could implement maths groups to help bring up the rear guard or if they clearly need to work on literacy, then they could start a literacy lockdown sessions with the K-2 groups (so that the standard by year three is improving) and so on. Doing well or bad in NAPLAN is only useful if the results get used to improve the school teaching methods, otherwise, it is only useful for the parents to help focus on those weaker areas. Maybe they need a maths tutor, or to understand how to write a story? There is something beneficial in knowing where to help someone improve.
Getting tutored to do well in NAPLAN means you’ve wasted an opportunity to see what you need to focus on. If you are being tutored for this BASIC skills test, it means you are covering up any learning areas that need focus. They may learn how to do one or two particular problems, but not understand the process completely - they see it just for the test and not beyond it. NAPLAN is meant to highlight how you are progressing at the most basic levels.
Schools that do endless practices for NAPLAN are equally at fault. Do a couple so the kids know how to fill in the boxes, where to write their name or how to write a story but then leave it. It should be a snapshot of what they know and what they don't, and what needs to be the focus in teaching.
This is the big issue, where the parents have distorted all meaning from NAPLAN. They started to judge schools by their NAPLAN results. Judging a school by their NAPLAN results may mean you ignore the key issues of what the school offers. A lot of schools do well because they tell students not to sit NAPLAN to skew the figures. If you want to know what's bad for a child's self esteem, it's not trying and failing, it's being told they have no chance so don't even bother. That any parent would agree to this insulting turn of events is beyond me.
Conversely, your child may do exceptionally well in a school that doesn’t do that well overall, but it’s a smaller school and the close attention worked well for him but being small, it doesn't have the numbers to get a high average. Or maybe a school doesn't do well because that school was chosen for many kids because of the Reading Recovery programme, so because of a special support unit, the overall result may read badly, however, the improvement those kids made from Kindy to year 3 as a result of the programme means the school is actually EXCEPTIONAL in real individual terms.
It is the parents who have created this distortion, and decided it is not something useful and destroy the whole meaning of it. If you judge a school on it's NAPLAN results, you're not looking at your child and their individual needs. All decisions on school selection needs to look at the details, not the number at the end of the day.
The biggest disservice we have done to our children is telling them testing is wrong and unfair. If they can sit out this test, why not sit out the HSC? That's stressful, that doesn't take into account if you had breakfast, you may not do that well in it so don't bother turning up. At the youngest level, we've decided we should tell our children they can dismiss the relevance of tests.
I think parents around the country need to step up and start using their brains a little. In the same way a midyear report card is completely useless if it doesn't give you something to focus on improving for the rest of the year, NAPLAN is just a guideline. It's not saying you are hopeless and a failure, it's saying the child, or the school, needs to focus on improving these areas. Guess what, you have two years to do that before it's measured again, and that's a lot of time to work on improvement.
Don't ask the school why they didn't get a good NAPLAN result, ask the teachers what they will be doing to strengthen those areas. Isn't that a good thing? Naplan was never designed to rank schools, nor to rank children, so let's not create that outcome.
I know this is not a popular stance, so feel free to let me have it!