NAPLAN testing is in Australian news again, with a mixed bag of results released this week leaving many unimpressed.
As an early childhood educator let me be up front: I don’t like NAPLAN.
3 Things You Need to Know About NAPLAN
I think it is a giant waste of time and resources. It is the cause of unnecessary stress on children, families and teachers.
Literacy and numeracy skills are clearly important and perhaps there is more that we as a country can be doing to ensure children have opportunities to develop to their potential in this regard.
Yet I don’t believe this testing is the answer.
The release of the results this week and the subsequent media coverage and ‘outrage’ have left me feeling deflated. And here’s why.
The focus of the conversation is on the results. Good, bad or otherwise, it’s about the results and what the state governments, schools, teachers and parents need to do now. The focus should be on the children!
What Is NAPLAN?
The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy is an annual national assessment for all Australian students in Years 3, 5, 7, and 9.
All students in these year levels are expected to participate in tests in reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy.
Sounds pretty simple – what’s the problem?
The Problem With NAPLAN
There are many who oppose the NAPLAN testing, including educators and psychologists. They cite many issues with the testing, one of which I recently discussed with a colleague, after she removed her child from a local school.
Although her child was ‘doing well’ on tests and was thriving in an academic sense, she had become concerned at the amount of time being dedicated to NAPLAN preparation. So much time in fact that other areas of the curriculum, such as music and physical education were being limited.
I was saddened to hear this, yet not surprised. In the early childhood sector, our curriculum document (The Early Years Learning Framework) puts play at the forefront. It recognises the overwhelming research and evidence demonstrating children learn best through play, and when they have a say in what and the way they learn.
Many of my colleagues in the early children education show great concern for children who leave these supportive environments, where their wellbeing is prioritised.
In play based learning environments, their learning and development journey is recorded rather than being measured or ranked against other children. When they move into environments where the focus is on test scores and rankings and how ‘smart’ you are.
What You Need To Know About NAPLAN
#1: NAPLAN Is Optional
Several years ago a friend told me about her child who had been diagnosed with learning difficulties and often had trouble concentrating in class. The school had been quite supportive of the challenges he faced and provided a teacher’s aide in the classroom.
Yet as NAPLAN time rolled around, it was suggested he remained at home and didn’t take the tests.
I would like to think this was a decision made with the best interests of the child in mind and not an attempt to improve the overall scoring of the school. However the cynic in me struggles to be silenced.
This action by schools makes it very clear that NAPLAN testing is not compulsory. We, and our children, can make the decision to opt out of NAPLAN testing. We can choose to not have our children exposed to unnecessary pressure.
Want to know how your child is doing at school? Ask their teacher!
Having a child in Year 1, NAPLAN is not something I have had to face just yet, however I already know we will be opting out. My child loves literacy and numeracy. He is one of those kids who can often be found with his nose in a book. He would probably do fine on the tests.
But it’s not the results that I am concerned about. It’s him. It’s the pressure, the self-doubt, and the worry. And for what? These tests don’t tell me all of the amazing things that my child can do or the kind of person he is.
I am fortunate his school does not put the pressure on children for NAPLAN (they actually told parents how to opt out if they wished!) and doesn’t seem to ‘teach to NAPLAN’.
But there are so many schools that feel pressured to do just that.
#2: NAPLAN Is About Competition
Plain and simple. NAPLAN is designed to rank children and schools, and that is just not okay. Yes, it is important to see how children are progressing, but this can be done in many other, more meaningful ways, just as it is in the early childhood sector.
There is a quote that resonates with me, which says “the only person you should compete with is yourself”. I think that is where we should be looking in terms of education. Schools should empower children to learn, to grow and to achieve, but not in an attempt to be better than someone else!
#3: NAPLAN Doesn’t Measure What’s Really Important
Some children are destined for a creative future, while others may pursue athletic endeavours. Some children will work with their hands, while others will enter professions which require years of relentless study. All children are different. And they are all amazing!
NAPLAN testing measures just one aspect of a child’s being.It doesn’t measure their creativity, what a kind friend they are, or how responsible they are.
At a time when school bullying is a regular headline, I want to know how my child interacts with others, that he treats his peers with respect.
No test will measure the qualities which make your child a caring, compassionate member of society. No test will highlight the wonderfully creative, imaginative ideas they have, ideas that may change the world!
Don’t Say No To Literacy And Numeracy – Say No To NAPLAN!
As someone who writes for a living, there’s no way you will hear me suggest we shouldn’t focus on literacy and numeracy skills. I do worry about literacy skills in particular, given our heavy reliance on technology.
However, we can support children’s literacy and numeracy skills without subjecting them to ineffective, standardised testing.
There’s a lot of support for saying no to NAPLAN, including a great organisation called Protecting Childhood.
We can say no to NAPLAN!