So the NAPALM results are out. Oops did I say that out loud?
Sorry I meant the NAPLAN tests. There is a reason that the tests are often referred to this way. I know referring to them this way is politically incorrect and I certainly don’t want to offend anyone but when you see the first hand effects of the tests on some children it is devastating. As a teacher it is hard not to groan when I hear the word NAPLAN because of what it has become. It has become a way for politicians, media and public to judge children, teachers and schools. Schools have become businesses and NAPLAN results via MySchool are a way to uphold a school’s image and competitive advantage.
There is pressure placed on teachers to prepare their students to perform on the tests, and as a result, everything else drops in priority until the tests are finished. All the while these teachers are doing their best not to place too much importance on the tests, mindful that the last thing they want to do is stress the children.
Three months later, the results are released and education political football season begins. Politicians, media commentators and public wax lyrical about what’s wrong with our teachers and kids. All the work to reassure the children that the tests aren’t important is undone.
This year has been no different. Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s press release titled “NAPLAN results: Plateau not good enough” is a disappointing disparagement of Australian schools, teachers and children with the intent only to justify his government’s policy to reject needs-based funding as per the Gonski model.
Birmingham intends to introduce Year 1 literacy and numeracy assessment – NAPLAN by another name – and annual reports to parents on literacy and numeracy standards, adding to the burden of data collection, assessment and reporting already felt by schools, children and teachers.
Results are “plateauing” because there’s only so much you can achieve by a narrow focus of education aimed only at a narrow test. We have likely reached a glass ceiling. Introducing online testing will do little to break it.
There are many things that are important in the development of a child and that will help in determining how well he/she does in life. NAPLAN is not one of them. It can’t tell us whether your child has an innate talent for science, art, music, sport, drama; or whether they are a kind, caring friend, whether they have a social conscience and are a champion of important causes. It saddens me how over time these tests have been given so much power. NAPLAN practice books, tutors for NAPLAN, NAPLAN results used by elite private schools to determine acceptance of students.
The reality is NAPLAN really isn’t that important except to the politicians. We all have different talents and abilities. We all have different passions and there is a place in the world for all of us. NAPLAN results do not determine that place.