According to Australian policy-makers NAPLAN is being pronounced by Australian policy-makers and politicians as the diagnostic tool that will save our schools, and by extension, develop our students into exceptional learners. In concert with the MySchool website, schools and education departments will somehow deliver resources to those students who need help most – and they claim it can only be done by using a standardised test which all students must sit in grade 3, grade 5, grade 7 and grade 9.
These claims, however, remain generally untested. Based on data from other countries that use standardised testing, caution is warranted. There are several things NAPLAN will not do, and these things matter. Our politicians don’t seem to be aware of these faults with the ongoing push for more and more standardised testing in our children’s lives.
Here are a few things NAPLAN will not do for your children
NAPLAN won’t make a difference to your kids’ employment prospects
In a recent US workplace report, employers stated they seek teamwork, ethics and social responsibility, professionalism, and oral communication as valued skills in prospective employees. NAPLAN does not measure, test, or diagnose these skills.
NAPLAN won’t improve your child’s performance in tertiary learning
At university your child won’t see the questions in advance, nor will answers be force-fed as they are in school. At university you’re expected to think critically, learn independently, inquire, and generate answers to real problems. NAPLAN does not measure, test, or diagnose these skills.
NAPLAN won’t improve your child’s literacy – despite claims to the contrary
Teaching children to colour in bubbles does not teach kids to do anything but shade bubbles. Children become literate and engaged in learning when reading is for reading’s sake and writing is meaningful to the person doing the writing. NAPLAN reading and writing offers little intrinsic meaning to anyone, particularly the student.
NAPLAN provides nothing in terms of education for life skills
Children’s NAPLAN scores will not develop them into good mothers and fathers or husbands and wives. These are the most important roles in life, and they require confidence, cooperation, and compassion. Standardised tests produce stress and anxiety and promote competition. Children in Australian schools are experiencing headaches, stress, depression, stomach aches, and fatigue in growing numbers. The percentage of children being medicated is increasing at alarming rates.
NAPLAN will not tell us anything about student achievement
Answers are graded by a computer. Written answers are graded by ‘independent examiners’ who subjectively review hundreds of responses per shift. NAPLAN tells us nothing about teacher effectiveness. Great teachers create a positive environment, promote curiosity and love of learning, participation, cooperation, and leadership. NAPLAN does not tell us about these things.
NAPLAN won’t improve your child’s education
Standardised tests do not improve student achievement. To the contrary, curriculum is narrowing. Many schools are reducing time on music, sports, and art. In some schools, children have been kept in class to ‘practice’ testing rather than attending alternative activities – such as lunch!
NAPLAN will not create a positive and respectful school climate
Income is highly related to NAPLAN scores. It is particularly damaging to children with disabilities, children whose first language is not English, and children from low-income families. NAPLAN tells us even less about school quality. Scores on a high-stakes standardised test tell us nothing about the social cohesion, morale of teachers and students, bullying, extra-curricular successes in sports, music, the arts, and so on.
NAPLAN won’t help relationships between parents, students, and teachers
Instead, particularly if NAPLAN is linked with proposed merit-pay for teachers, NAPLAN will punish teachers, lead to increased pressure on students, and will promote hostility between administrators and parents.
NAPLAN (and standardised testing generally) runs precisely against research on what makes for quality learning, and the very core of academic engagement. It also fails equitable opportunity, and ignores developmental differences in children.
Our children need teachers and parents who provide opportunities for curiosity, exploration, and mastery. They need less pressure, less high-stakes, and more opportunities to grow and learn at their own pace with appropriate support. Our children need exposure to a wide range of options, activities, and arts. NAPLAN does none of this.