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PLEASE SHARE WITH PARENTS

A TIMELY MESSAGE FROM TREEHORN & RAY ARMSTRONG, former proud NSW primary school principal.

Parents, Your Kids Don’t Have To Do NAPLAN If They Don’t Want To

With May just around the corner, so too is NAPLAN, The National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy. Australia wide, students in Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 will be assessed over the course of three days to determine if their reading, writing and numeracy skills are up to scratch.

If your own child is in one of these year levels, you may be feeling curious as to how they will measure up or consumed with nerves about whether their test-taking anxiety will raise its ugly head. Like me, maybe you’re still hung up on the relevance of NAPLAN and why it exists in the first place.

We’re told that NAPLAN produces valuable data, essential for initiating improvements in student learning. However the statistics provided are somewhat limited in use, partly due to their four month turnaround. More significantly, the data compiled can’t compete with the rich observations made by an experienced teacher, which evolves over time and in different contexts.

We’re told that NAPLAN is just a little test, a part of life that children need to adapt to. Education critic Alfie Kohn refers to this mindset as the ‘Better Get Used To It’ principle. Sure, the experts in child development may be recommending against young children’s participation in standardised testing but with it lingering in their future, we prioritise getting them ready nonetheless, with little concern for the damage.

Eight-year-old Keli, first-time NAPLAN participant, said: “The teacher told us that we need to practice getting it all done otherwise we won’t be able to in the real test. I sat there and cried and thought about how hard tests are going to be in high school.”

We’re told that NAPLAN doesn’t dominate classroom learning. However, as you read this, classrooms across the country are knee deep in NAPLAN preparation. They may be revising content or they may be taking mock tests. The sad truth is that there’s too much riding on the results not to.

Accountability is a huge driver behind NAPLAN. The data is used to give schools and teachers a gold star or a giant red cross. But it ignores the obvious truth that we can’t make children learn if they’re not ready. Nor should we only value the style of teaching and learning that can be assessed in a written test.

Stephanie, an educator, said: “I don’t know a teacher that doesn’t give the students some practice of this test taking. We should be teaching concepts that make a difference, are relevant and motivate students for lifelong learning.”

Anthony, an ex teacher, adds: “Kids get less of an education because so much time is spent teaching to the test.”

Schools want your child to participate. The government wants your child to participate. But do you? And, even more importantly, does your child?

Here’s where things get interesting. Did you know NAPLAN isn’t compulsory?

Schools want your child to participate. The government wants your child to participate. But do you? And, even more importantly, does your child?

It’s time to make a decision. To support NAPLAN this year or to avoid it? My advice is simple. Ask your child: “Do you want to participate in NAPLAN this year?”

If he or she says “yes”, let them. Reduce the pressure surrounding the results and allow them to experience the process. If she or he says “no”, support them. Ask for a withdrawal form at your school’s front office. This one-page document simply requires you to write your child’s name, school and year level, tick a box for which parts of NAPLAN are being sat out (all) and sign it.

Repeat this conversation each year that NAPLAN rolls around. Your child’s answer may be the same or it may change. With their feelings valued and their decision empowered, the big hairy monster that is NAPLAN need no longer be a thing of nightmares.

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