We’re just a few days away from that time of year when students across Australia will sit NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) tests.
Taking a look at the research, however, suggests NAPLAN testing could be doing more harm than good.
Today I’ll be sharing critical information I feel that you, as a parent, need to know about NAPLAN and how it’s affecting your children. By reading this article, you will come to understand:
One study from 2012 showed that 7 out of 10 teachers felt NAPLAN didn’t improve literacy or numeracy skills. These teachers also felt NAPLAN was unable to properly reflect what students in their classes had learned.
NAPLAN is what is considered to be a high-stakes test by Education Researchers. A high-stakes test can cause negative effects on the classroom level, even though they have the noble goal of improving outcomes and equity.
High-stakes tests disrupt learning and distort the curriculum. They make having high test scores the goal of the classroom, rather than education. Children are taught how to pass a test, rather than taught applicable knowledge.
Further research has shown NAPLAN causes the focus of the curriculum to narrow. It has also caused a mentality where teachers teach to the test, and caused teacher-centric pedagogies that leave students feeling unengaged and unenthusiastic about learning. Teachers also report that focusing so intently on competition and preparing for test leaves them unable to properly cater to the students who need the most help.
NAPLAN disrupts the teaching process and the learning that should be happening in a school. The entire school is disrupted in the week of the assessments. Staff have to stop performing their regular duties and instead oversee the tests. Running the NAPLAN tests properly places a heavy burden on the teaching staff at schools, and it affects the learning of every student in the school.
Teachers find themselves forced to focus on “NAPLAN skills” rather than the regular curriculum. Students are forced to spend hours going through mock tests and practicing in the hopes of getting a good score on the real test. This causes many students to disengage and become uninterested in their learning. If students are not learning anything practical, then they stop learning.
There’s a very simple reason that NAPLAN doesn’t effectively assess students. This is because it provides students, parents, and teachers with only a limited view of the capabilities and learning of students. It goes against the very basic concept of being a valid assessment.
NAPLAN test results don’t tell the teachers – who are doing their jobs and caring for their students – anything they don’t already know about the progress of a student and how much they have learned.
The reason May is chosen as the time to run the tests is to suit the needs of the people administering the test, rather than the ones being tested.
It also takes three to four months for parents and schools to receive feedback of the test. By this time, the test results have become irrelevant and students have advanced their education.
The test results also lead to self-esteem issues for young students. They lack the maturity needed to look at the test from the right perspective. This makes them even more anxious and stressed out, especially if they already have problems at school.
Dr Elizabeth Green, a paediatrician who specialises in behavioural issues, believes that NAPLAN is placing a lot of unnecessary stress on children.
She says that every child she has seen from years five, seven, and nine in the past few weeks has told her they are scared and worried about NAPLAN. The children are worried that they will fail the tests, be unable to graduate, and that they will never succeed in life or find jobs. She believes the NAPLAN tests children and doesn’t educate them.
Dr Green believes anxiety is going to be the next big public health issue in Australia. Anxiety could manifest in children becoming quieter and more withdrawn, or they could do the opposite; they could externalise their fears; lashing out at their parents, teachers, and peers.
Even so, she says the most concerning thing is that children simply give up. They give up on school and disengage from it. Dr Green says she has seen plenty of children during the past few years who avoid school entirely and are likely not going to graduate. This should be a concern not just for parents and educators, but mostly for the children.
Every parent wants to give their child the best opportunities possible. This is something I understand deeply as I have two children of my own, and have spent the better part of a decade teaching over a 1000 children during my time as a teacher. I believe that – as parents – we must investigate how effective the education our children receive is, rather than just passively accepting the agendas of organisations.
The NAPLAN scores your children get will not help them become good mothers, fathers, husbands, or wives. I consider these to be the four most important roles of life. These roles require cooperation, compassion, and confidence. Standardised testing does not promote these traits. Instead, they cause stress and anxiety, and they encourage children to become competitive. Australian children are suffering from stress, headaches, stomach aches, fatigue, and even depression at alarming rates. Another disturbing trend is the amount of children that are being medicated.
Most parents aren’t aware they have choices in the education of their children.
If you feel that you agree with this article more than you agree with the agenda of the Education Department, then you have the choice to withdraw your children from NAPLAN. All you need to do is contact the school your child goes to and make an inquiry about the forms and process you need to go through to withdraw your child from NAPLAN.
To discover more about what's going on in Victorian schools and why students are falling behind in maths click on the link below and download my free Parent's Guide.