The Trouble With NAPLAN

Yes, I am going there.

My son is sitting NAPLAN for the first time today and I have very mixed feelings about it.


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Personally I am proud that he is going to give it a go. I’m also grateful that his school have been supportive and have encouraged him to participate. They have done all they can to organise special provisions so he has a chance to complete the tests (such as bigger text, rest breaks and the chance to complete the test electronically).

I am really pleased that he’s being included and accepted.

Because, for a lot of kids with special needs like him, instead, they are being asked to sit the test out.

This is one of the problems I have with NAPLAN. How can standardised and comparative testing work if students are purposefully excluded? What is the purpose of the test if it is not a way to see how students are progressing? Even the kids who are not expected to perform well?

Now I have no problem with allowing students to sit out the test if it’s in their own interests to do so – for instance when it would overly distress a child to undertake the test. But I do not agree with schools making that decision for students and their families – I do not think it is right for students to be encouraged not to participate simply because they might not perform well.

Which brings me to the problem I have with the opposite ways NAPLAN data is used. Schools are obviously keen to improve their scores hence the preparation and the planning and practice that students undertake beforehand. Some schools start this work in infants, some even in Kindergarten – these days, the culture to succeed and do well is entrenched early.

However in NSW, the lowest 10% of NAPLAN scores are also used to calculate a Student Learning Need Index (SLNI) to determine the amount of flexible funding that goes to schools to help students with lower level learning and special needs. This funding helps those students, like my son, who are not eligible for individual funding for their conditions.

You don’t have to be a genius to work out that excluding students from the test is counter-productive if the scores are then used to determine funding to help these very same students. The logic escapes me, it really does.

And who knows what other states do with NAPLAN data – according to ACARA, “school systems and governments use results to review programs and support offered to schools”. So it seems NAPLAN can be used for any purpose, as long as it’s in relation to a review of programs or support offered to schools.

Then, there’s the stress that the kids feel in undertaking the testing. I was called to my son’s school this morning as he had soiled himself from worry while undertaking the first part of the test. He was coaxed back in to undertake the second test of the day but I will be giving him an early mark so he can settle himself to do it all again tomorrow.

It all seems a lot of hassle for a simple test that should just be used to assess a student’s progress. Nothing more, nothing less. Yet it has grown into something much more – and I’m still not convinced that is a good thing.

Any other newbie NAPLAN parents out there? How are you feeling today?

BTW – I just realised that I will be a NAPLAN parent for the next 8 years (Gilbert and Matilda are in Yrs 3 & 2) so they will be taking turns with NAPLAN for the foreseeable future. Lord help us all…


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16 Responses

  1. I have more issues with NAPLAN than I could even put into words. It makes me so angry! Though I was relieved at junior school parade last week when the deputy principal mentioned the grade 3s who would be doing their testing, and she said to them all it was nothing to stress about, all they expect is your best, you have been learning everything on it, and it is ok if you don’t get it all right. She really tried to play it down for them. Just don’t get me started on the political side of this ridiculousness! x
    Aroha @ Colours of Sunset recently posted..The Best Laid Plans

  2. Rhianna says:

    I like the idea of our children being tested, scored and compared. I am just that kind of person. What I don’t like though is the way that some go about that and the emphasis they put on the results. I believe we need to know where I kids sit but it needs to be done in a relaxed and appropriate manner. Hopefully I will have a NAPLAN post up in the next day or so. This marks Miss 12’s, third sitting. She is less than impressed and has requested that I allow her to be excluded.
    Rhianna recently posted..Well at least I didn’t break my arm..

  3. Ness says:

    My 9 yo is doing NAPLAN today too and he was really stressed about it and he isn’t special needs, so I can’t imagine the stress you are going through. I don’t remember stressing this much about tests until I did the HSC. Like you say, it seems that too much emphasis is placed on succeeding and doing well when they are way too young.

    I’m sorry your boy has been so upset. Hope you both survive it all. xo
    Ness recently posted..Fashion Fails: Bogan Style

  4. Annie says:

    I worry about the stress it puts on the kids too. How scary for them! I always got so stressed about exams at school that I didn’t perform to the best of my abilities. It felt like everything was all about those couple of hours. I got great marks for assignments because it didn’t come down to just a couple of hours, it was spread out. The pressure was less. Good luck to your little boy xo
    Annie recently posted..Goodbye My Twenties šŸ™

  5. Me says:

    I hope you all make it through the next two days – sending heaps of love, hugs and positive energy your way !
    Me recently posted..Are You Tired ?

  6. As a teacher the most important thing is to not make too much of a big deal about it. A big breaky and lots of rest before hand help. As a parent of a child with special needs I also believe they should sit the test – too bad about the school scores – it does help funding – and it also helps provide extra base line information to help teachers and other staff provide direction.

    I really hope he relaxes and realises its not that bad. So pleased the school have helped him to sit the test in the best way possible for him. xx
    Annaleis from Teapots and Tractors recently posted..Hayden’s First AFL Game

  7. Hi Yes my daughter is doing it for the first time – she wants to have a special naplan dinner when she gets the results but I told her it wasn’t special – just a snapshot – i think it’s a great learning experience for them – but that’s it.
    Kim @ bachelormum Style recently posted..10 things you don’t expect when you become a parent (part 1)

  8. Grrrr Naplan, I have had years of it and thank goodness next year will be our final year.

  9. iSophie says:

    Naplan for us this year too, grade 3. And the next time he does it (grade 5) I will have another doing Grade 3.. and so on for 4 kids. Oh joy.

    My eldest struggles with spelling and was very stressed about today. I made it clear that his father and I didn’t care about the results, that Naplan was to test the school’s performance and nothing more. Also that he would get a reward for this week. I hoped this would relieve some of his stress. It seemed to work, he came home pretty happy with how he went. Luckily for him, he is a Maths ace and wont have any trouble with the reading one either.

    Hugs to you and your boy this week Kirsty. xx
    iSophie recently posted..The Tanty Files – Part Four

  10. Great words Kirsty, and I can imagine that your heart was in your mouth most of the morning. Bravo for Gilbert sitting the NAPLAN tests.
    As I have written before and elsewhere I won’t bore you again with my responses.
    However, most of your commenters are on to it. It’s politically driven and its funding driven. It is NOT the best way to measure a child’s success at all. It’s a one test snapshot. Let’s hope that as the years go by, the stress/hype etc (and the ridiculousness of exclusion) go as well. Cheers
    Denyse Whelan Education Specialist recently posted..School Kids NEED Sleep!

  11. Oh Kirsty, I have to agree with all that you say, I can’t see how the school system benefits from it. I never had to do tests in my day, and I still seemed okay. I had a wee moment when I read about soiling, and I have to take my hat off and give you a bit hug, it can’t be easy when you have children that don’t fit the school norm. But in saying that – I’m UBER proud of your son and you for breaking stereotypes. Em x
    Emily @ Have a laugh on me recently posted..Iā€™m creating a chocolate pool serviced by half-naked men ā€“ a post written using search engine terms

  12. I think I’m a bit sitty on the fency at the moment about whether or not its a good thing to do all these tests, I can see both sides. But I certainly don’t agree with the pressure it seems to be putting on the poor kids! I also absolutely agree with you that ALL children should be tested otherwise what is the point, like you say?? Oh and don’t get me started on the NSW government school funding – I am NOT a fan for personal reasons!!!!

  13. NAPLAN is one of those things I actually ignore as a necessary evil. Our school has a really relaxed approach to it, and the teachers are constantly saying it’s not indicative of how much a child knows, but rather how they perform on that one particular day.
    I don’t agree with the way it is used to make some schools look superior, but honestly, those schools that use it that way, are no doubt the ones putting the pressure on the kids, and so I don’t want my kids to go there.
    I hope he’s got through today ok and tomorrow goes well.
    And I just realised I’ve got lots of consecutive years of it too as Bridie is in year 2 this year, and Taylah in year 5 :/
    EssentiallyJess recently posted..Diary of a SAHM

  14. I couldn’t agree more Kirsty, it’s a silly system and when it comes to my children doing it I hope it’s changed. Hang in there and I hope Gilbert goes okay with all strangeness that is mass testing!
    Have a great weekend x
    Emily @ Have a laugh on me recently posted..I got a Random Act of Zen when it was needed the most!

  15. Thank goodness our school really plays it down, so as not to stress the kids out. Big high-fives to Gilbert for giving it his best! šŸ™‚
    Lisa@RandomActsOfZen recently posted..Double Dream Hands

  1. March 15, 2017

    […] NAPLAN is used for many purposes, not just for its core purpose. Which is to measure and track individual […]

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