NAPLAN (The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) testing seems to become more controversial as the years go by. As it is here to stay (at least for the time being) we might as well ask what the benefits are.
Many critics rightly point out that one test may not give a clear indication of what a student’s general abilities might be. He/she could have a cold or be feeling depressed about something totally unrelated to schoolwork.
That being said, the ACARA (the body that sets the tests) website tells us that the tests are to provide a snapshot at the time of the tests and to be fair, it is difficult for nationally administered tests to do much more than this.
There is no doubt that many students are placed under far more stress than is necessary in the lead up to these tests. They were never actually designed to be tests that are studied for; they are supposed to be a reflection of a child’s general abilities.
While simply placing a child under stress, in our opinion, has no benefit, NAPLAN does provide a good opportunity for students to learn test-taking techniques. Reading questions actively, dealing with mental blanks and applying time-management strategies are all important tools that students will need in later years anyway. Unfortunately, for some reason this aspect of NAPLAN testing seems to be overlooked by the majority of schools.
In theory at least, NAPLAN results should be most helpful to teachers, as they should isolate general areas that need additional focus and as the years go by, schools should be able to refine the delivery of curriculum content to ensure that improvement occurs in NAPLAN results.
Our beef is not actually with the principle behind the tests, but with the tests themselves. Multiple choice testing, in our opinion, does little to assess a child’s skills.
Not only can children guess correct answers, but having a portion of students answer, say, 25% correctly through guesswork skews the results and makes it almost impossible to gain detailed information. It also does not allow students to demonstrate that they understand processes behind an answer, which really should be the objective of such tests.
When the vague bands, dots and triangles are combined with the complicated explanations, it can seem difficult to make much sense at all from the outcome.
We would say that from a parent’s point of view, the results should be taken as general indicators. If you note something alarming, find out more. Talk to the class teacher or ask us.
Our advice? Understand NAPLAN’s limitations and seek further clarification of the results if necessary. If your child has anxiety related to NAPLAN, rather than trying to deny this, treat it as an opportunity to learn new techniques.
It also helps to get information ‘from the horse’s mouth’. Here are the official government websites. Keep in mind that at Mesh we will always try to give you straightforward results that are detailed, directly relevant to your child and easy to understand! Call us for more information.