Monday, May 8, 2017

Dear Teacher/Dear Parent....About Naplan

Dear teacher,

I want to let you know that my child feels worried about NAPLAN this week. She was talking with a year four girl who told her that the tests go forever and it's the worst thing she has ever done at school.

I feel so frustrated that my child has to go through this. 

Four tests in three days. Really? Couldn't you even space them out?

What's the point of them anyway?

If you could quietly help my child with the tests I would really appreciate it.

From a year three parent.

Dear Parent,

Thanks for your note. To be honest, I don't like NAPLAN either. It upsets the children and makes them feel worried about school. I want my classroom to be a happy place where children feel safe to have a go at things and do their best without being worried they'll get it wrong. I don't think my team leader or principal likes them either, but sadly they are a necessary part of modern day schooling.

I am actually glad they are squashed into three days, it gets the whole experience over and done with quickly. The problem with NAPLAN days is that they interrupt our normal routine and as you know, children like their routines. I know it is a daunting thought to have four tests in three days, but to be honest with you, the Tuesday tests are over by lunchtime and the Wednesday and Thursday tasks are over by recess. They are really only a small part of our school week, and once they are over, the children quickly forget about them.

As far as the point of them - well there is actually a good reason for them. The information that we get about each individual child is not so important as the overall trend we are seeing in the school. State and federal government funding is influenced in part by NAPLAN results and help identify schools that need more support. The school is also able to look at the overall results and see if they are making progress in the education of students over time.

As far as individual results go, yes, we check that each child is within the bounds of what would we would expect for a child at their age. If a child is performing below what we were expecting, then the school leadership might check in with the teacher to see if the child needs further support in their learning. If a child is performing above what we were expecting, then we might explore ways to enhance their educational experience that meets their interests and needs. If your child is performing as we would expect, then it is truly business as usual and we consider their results to just be confirmation that things are heading in the right direction in their academic education.

The real problem with NAPLAN tests is that the results are made publicly accessible on the Myschool website. This leads some schools to feel anxious about how their results may appear to prospective parents. Sadly, NAPLAN tests may show how a school is doing academically, but it doesn't tell you about how the children are taught. It doesn't tell you what lengths the school went to in order to achieve their results. It doesn't tell you how happy the children are in the playground. It doesn't tell you about the community spirit that lives in the school. It doesn't tell you about how children with additional needs are loved and embraced by the school community. All it tells you is that in May 2017, this is what the average child at a given school knew.

My advice, give your child a big hug and kiss tomorrow and send her off to school as you always do. When the results finally arrive in September, have a quick peak to see if your child may need additional help or needs more challenges at school, and then chuck the results in the recycling bin.

Instead of worrying about NAPLAN, celebrate the person your child is becoming. Celebrate the fact that they are learning more and more everyday. Celebrate their perseverance when things are hard. Celebrate the kindness they show to the children who find school a real struggle.

Celebrate that we live in a country that wants to keep schools accountable for what they are teaching our children.

And maybe go out for pizza on Thursday night to celebrate the end of NAPLAN.

Kind regards,

your child's teacher

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