The annual NAPLAN testing is set to return for 2017 and as always, it isn’t without at least some parents thinking about leaving their children home from school on those days. And in a way, I don’t really blame them.
I don’t view NAPLAN tests in a very positive light and many parents I have spoken to feel the same way.
The tests have not been designed to benefit students’ education at any year level and should not be viewed as reliable signs of academic results.
The tests are not entirely compulsory, although they may appear to be so, however students are not put front and centre in either the reporting of results or the nature of the tests themselves.
NAPLAN is a measure that is really only useful to schools and there is limited interpretation from individual results that can be considered even close to valuable.
It isn’t used to support the student’s academic progress
NAPLAN is not an indicative or accurate measure of an individual student’s progress or performance. If students’ progress were at the core of these tests, they would be completed by students each year as opposed to every second year, and the results would be used to inform the concepts that each student needs more assistance with Schools should be using the data from these tests to assist students on a more individual basis, rather than simply using the test as a benchmarking exercise for the school.
The results are not useful either and are usually in relation to being below, at or above the national minimum standard. Even though this is used, many parents are not fully aware of what the national minimum standard really means.
If your child’s results show that you are in line with the national minimum standard, it does not necessarily mean they are the same as majority of students at that year level.
For instance, in 2016 96.3% of Year 3 students were at or above the national minimum standard in writing and 95.5% of Year 7 students were at or above the national minimum standard in numeracy.
At certain year levels, a greater number of students are above rather than at the national average, showing that being just ‘average’ may not be enough to keep up with the rest of the class, let alone with the comparable academic performance of our international peers.
It’s wasted time
While it is beneficial to be familiar with the types of questions that may be asked, spending too much classroom or homework time preparing is pointless.
The time is much better spent on regular schoolwork that is likely to be useful in the longer term.
It’s also not useful to obtain a tutor solely for the purpose of achieving high results on the test.
Scooter Tutor has not seen a rise in tutor demand leading up to NAPLAN and I advise parents not to seek a tutor for this purpose.
Time spent with a tutor should be to help with classroom based work that is likely to impact progress for the whole year, not purely the week of the tests.
Finding a tutor simply for the purpose of increasing results on the NAPLAN test, or any individual test or assignment for that matter, reinforces the idea of cramming, and doesn’t give students the best opportunity to truly understanding the concepts that are taught at school.
NAPLAN just allows schools to brag
With NAPLAN results published, schools can utilise the opportunity to gloat about their achievements. This, along with VCE results, is just another means for schools to be ranked and private schools to justify their yearly fees.
These rankings may have little or no relevance to individuals and are merely another thing for parents to add to the mix when selecting a school for their child.
Even so, if a school were to have poor rankings, there are limitations on what can be done to improve given that these tests differ greatly to the general school curriculum. And again, time should not be spent trying to recover from bad results.
My advice for parents is to remind your child not to dwell on the tests or their results. Instead, it’s healthier to focus on regular classroom work and the entire school year.
Sam Robertson is the co-CEO of Scooter Tutor