N APLAN stands for National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy. In 2008, the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) commenced in Australian schools. Every year, all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 ( children aged approximately 9,11,13,15 yrs ) are assessed on the same days using national tests in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions (Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation) and Numeracy. There is consideration being given to increasing the number of subject areas covered. In recent weeks in Australia, much research is being shared in the media regarding the disadvantages of the NAPLAN testing that are affecting increasing numbers of students, their families and teachers- who, as you will read, no longer feel that school is about learning. We, at progressive, alternative and democratic schools have been sharing the following ideas with our families since our inception. It is a pleasure to see articles such as that which follows in the public domain and ‘mainstream’ folk starting to question the value of testing.
From the recent report on NAPLAN entitled “The Experience of Education: The Impact of High Stakes Testing on School Students and their Families: an Educator’s Perspective” as reported in The Australian newspaper by Dr. Karen Brooks, an associate professor at the Univeristy of Queensland Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies.
“Some parents have described NAPLAN years as “wasted learning”, where history, science and other subjects suffer because so much time and energy is spent on mock tests, that, as one respondent noted, contribute more to a student’s self-doubt.
Surely the best way to teach literacy and numeracy is through the broader curriculum – through reading, writing, engaging with history, art, film, science, music, maths and real-world experiences. Yet for some reason we persist in the delusion that these kind of “high-stake” tests, that often stress students, parents and teachers and lower morale, help us keep track of our kids’ (and schools’) educational performance, and function as valuable intellectual yardsticks.
The international evidence consistently contradicts this. Ironically, we appear to have a resistance to learning from other countries.
Despite repeated expert advice, we misguidedly place so much emphasis on the results.
We’re creating a culture whereby the quantitative (figures) not only outweighs, but also dictates the qualitative (the learning experience).
What does NAPLAN really achieve? What does it actually measure? And do the benefits (for the students, teachers, school and family) outweigh the disadvantages?
If we fail to ask these questions then we’re failing children.
We’re allowing statistics to govern classrooms and, in doing so, we’re taking the teacher out of teaching and the human and humanity out of learning”.