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The Forum > Article Comments > The smell of NAPLAN in the morning > Comments

The smell of NAPLAN in the morning : Comments

By Nicole Mockler, published 4/5/2011

Like napalm, NAPLAN can kill off much of the actual learning that might otherwise be taking place.

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The question we have been asking ourselves is why, as a society, do we continue to perpetuate this outdated and inadequate system? Tradition, perhaps, or maybe it is the lack of a viable alternative? If the answer is the latter, then we have been working on a solution! We are educators of children and it is our business to keep the doors of the human imagination open to enable pathways of possibilities and journeys to otherness.

Education, as with society, is currently based on accountability and comparison. The discussion surrounding performance based pay in Australia exemplifies the current test and score values in education. This also reflects the individual, competitive and comparable nature of our schools. Because of accountability high-test scores have become the focus of education. Studentís achievements are measured by how well they have done in comparison to their neighbour and schools are judged against one anotherís academic scores. The emphasis is on measuring education (Eisner, 2005). If education can be measured it is easier to know how effective and successful it is. In doing so, learning becomes a process of getting the best marks and success is based on the individual learner. So why have become technically orientated?
Posted by NAPLAN tutor, Wednesday, 4 May 2011 10:38:48 AM
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Cute title,but this article perpetuates so many of the myths surrounding school education in today's Australia. In a democratic society, schools and teachers ought to be accountable for the quality of the teaching they provide, accountable not only to the parents of the young people in their care but also to the taxpayer who provides a fair whack of the funding.

My two children did well at school but there were still times when I was forced to complain about the lack of teaching in their classrooms and about their teachers' reliance on assignments and projects which virtually required our children to teach themselves or us to teach them where we could.

One might complain about some of the individual items in NAPLAN but accountability requires some standard, objective measurement. I'd much rather have the My School information to help me choose the school to which I send my children than be forced to rely on local gossip and innuendo.

It's Nicole's responsibility as a teacher educator, also funded by the taxpayer, to teach her students how to use the rich NAPLAN diagnostic data so that they can better respond to their students' needs.
Posted by Senior Victorian, Wednesday, 4 May 2011 3:59:18 PM
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I am very keen to see how students at my school perform in NAPLAN this year. Over the past couple of months, we have done some (minimal) preparation, but we have not 'taught the test' or diverted time from our curriculum for the sake of NAPLAN. We have done some activities in a 'NAPLAN sort of way', but that's about it. The administration guidelines point out - quite correctly, really - that the best way to prepare for NAPLAN is to teach the curriculum. It is meant to be a test of what kids know and can do, rather than a test of students' readiness for a point-in-time analysis of their learning. I have hammered that home in my department, and it is business as usual even in 'NAPLAN season'.

It's what we do after the test that counts - not what we do before. After last year's results were released, I spent quite a bit of time analysing the data and identified our weakest areas. I investigated strategies for enhancing student ability in those areas, and integrated them into our units of work. Note that I didn't do so just so we would be better at NAPLAN - I did so because those are obviously areas of the curriculum that need a bit of attention. I will do the same this year, and I believe that, for our students, that's the best way of using the opportunities opened up by NAPLAN.
Posted by Otokonoko, Wednesday, 4 May 2011 5:12:17 PM
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[continued from above]

Of course, if our results don't improve, I'll have some questions to answer. One of them will be 'why didn't you do more NAPLAN prep?' the publication of results has taken some of the 'diagnostic' nature of the tests away, and made them a point of prestige and competition. I don't object to the publication of results, though - I object to the way schools have responded to it. Parents and members of the community pay taxes to fund our schools, and we must be accountable. Arbitrary and pointless preparation for NAPLAN fudges the results, detracts from learning and renders the tests meaningless. They are no longer tests of curriculum coverage, but have become tests of test-taking skills. I have a problem with that.

Thankfully, MySchool 2.0 has a better system for reporting on NAPLAN than its predecessor, and shows how students have improved over the past two years. The schools that should be concerned are those with shallow improvement gradients, rather than those where performance is low but the kids are coming along in leaps and bounds. A few more revisions and MySchool just might get it right.
Posted by Otokonoko, Wednesday, 4 May 2011 5:12:48 PM
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Advocates of "accountability" seemed convinced that NAPLAN provides data on "what kids know and can do" and so on despite ACARA's Professor Barry McGraw rightly pointing out "that 70 per cent of the differences between schools is explained by whom they enrol rather than what the school does."

The failures of standardised testing to lift scholastic abilities in the USA (just look where they rank in the OECD's PISA) has been documented by Ravitch, Kohn, Bonner, Robinson et al, yet supporters of NAPLAN persist with their insistence that metrics on literacy and numeracy will help inform the public of which schools are failing or succeeding.

To those people I ask: How does NAPLAN measure individuality, creativity, imagination, critical thinking, a willingness to experiment, a willingness to explore, to collaborate with other students to solve problems or do projects, to think about issues in the community in which they live, and all the other attributes necessary in an increasingly complicated world where we just can't predict what "basic skills" will be needed in the future?

Posted by LessonsfromRavitch, Sunday, 8 May 2011 7:37:57 PM
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