The Dreaded NAPLAN 

As a tutor it is interesting to see different teachers attitudes towards this dreaded N word. The standardised test launches itself into primary and high schools this week from Tuesday to Thursday. And everyone has an opinion. Including me. 

NAPLAN is a great tool (stick with me; don’t give up just yet) for teachers to review where their kids are at and to determine what they need to alter in their ongoing teaching and learning programs to fill the gaps, strengthen the areas of weakness, etc. 

However, some teachers are not using it to do that. NAPLAN has become a device to terrorise some children as teachers fear their programs don’t quite hit the mark and they scramble with saturation. 

One of my students, who has been very worried about not meeting the minimum Band 8 standard for HSC this year, asked me why her school had been providing additional support to the kids who had already achieved Band 8 and not to the students, like her, who hadn’t. 

Interesting question. And let me assure you, this child was very articulate in her questioning of the school’s logic and the perceived injustice, as well as how it made her feel significantly less important/valuable/worth something. 

The school, I imagine, is feeling pressure to value add to their top performing students so opted to place their resources there. I am absolutely certain that they intended no harm whatsoever to their lower performing students … but this is the epitome of school fear manifested. 

Another student that I tutor had a negative experience at school in the lead up to the standardised test. She was unsettled during our session and I caught her tapping her head (our strategy for stress management) several times during it. She has had a relief teacher who was putting such high level stress on the kids to perform that my student’s confidence and self-value took a significant hit. We will rebuild it but we shouldn’t have to. 

I personally see some merit in the testing. As an ex-facilitator of a school wide literacy program, I could gather data about the impact of the program on our students’ achievement. I could determine the growth in my own students (in Year 9 from Year 8). My Year 7’s last year struggled with making connections (inference) so in one of our units we focused on exactly this. I also ensured that we continued to visit inference in different ways. NAPLAN data can be used to support student learning. 

But I see so much damage rendered to our students, because of adult mismanagement, that I don’t think the damage is worth the positives that are currently gained for the few teachers who use the data constructively. I do not saturate my Year 9 students prior to the test because I have embedded aspects of the test throughout their prior learning. I try to put their stress into perspective for them by informing them how I use their results. I also tell them that their results are a snapshot of a moment in time and have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with their value as a human being. 

It is so important that adults minimise the stress rather than buy into the drama that can be created. And if NAPLAN stays, and it is likely to, that teachers and schools use the results to modify their programs rather than teach stress. 

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