Yes Folks, it’s that time again. The NAPLAN results are out and children and parents all over the country are either bragging about how their child is in the teeny triangle bit at the top of the scale or feeling very disappointed.
When these tests were introduced, we (teachers) were informed that the purpose was to identify struggling students and provide the necessary funding to better support them.
Sounds good, eh? Well, what has actually happened is that the results are now published like league tables and they being used by schools to tout for clientele and by parents to decide on the perfect school for their children. The funding is still provided to buy extra teacher aide time etc. for intervention strategies that the schools decide to put in place but, it seems to me, that money has become the central issue to NAPLAN rather than the welfare of the students.
These days, in many schools, the first term is spent “preparing for NAPLAN” in Years 3, 5 and 7. My students at the tutoring centre also report that the Year 4 and 6 classes at their schools have already begun preparation activities for the next year’s test. This horrifies me. Add this to the prescribed curriculum units which have to printed out and followed to the letter and you might just as well have a team of robots operating in our classrooms.
I know I couldn’t cope within this system. I am glad that I am no longer a classroom teacher. I enjoyed planning out my sequence of lesson plans, discussing plans with the children, differentiating for my students’ varying interests and abilities, integrating areas of study etc. Couldn’t be doing too much of that now, could I?
Here is a piece of a letter that was sent out by one principal to parents in an effort to explain to them that NAPLAN and other such devices are not the be all and end all of the teaching/learning experience. It provides a healthy perspective for those parents to ponder. I applaud him.
“We are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you– the way your teachers do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way your families do. They do not know that many of you speak two languages. They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or that you can dance or paint a picture. They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day. They do not know that you write poetry or songs, play or participate in sports, wonder about the future, or that sometimes you take care of your little brother or sister after school. They do not know that you have traveled to a really neat place or that you know how to tell a great story or that you really love spending time with special family members and friends. They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful, and that you try, every day, to be your very best… the scores you get will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything. There are many ways of being smart.”