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Family forum: NAPLAN challenge or opportunity?

I am considering pulling my child out of it this year…

QUESTION:

I’m a parent of young children, with the eldest yet to sit NAPLAN. I’m considering pulling him out of the test this year, if that is even possible. What is NAPLAN for anyway? Is it really worth all the stress, on students, parents and teachers?

ANSWER:

The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) was originally introduced to help schools and education systems identify areas where students needed extra help to meet standards of numeracy, literacy and writing. Unfortunately, it seems to have become a tool for ranking schools, education systems and even countries instead of providing principals and teachers with information that will help them to assist students.

There have also been recent discussions about the accuracy of data obtained from NAPLAN due to a factors such as: whether students using an online version have an advantage; if some schools “teach NAPLAN” and spend considerable time getting students to do practice tests; that no consideration is given to socio-economic and social factors that can affect results.

There is currently a push by some educators to modify or update NAPLAN and perhaps couple it with an in-school assessment, which could take into account such areas as creative thinking, problem solving and social skills as well as the literacy, numeracy and writing skills currently tested by NAPLAN. Such a scheme may give schools more valuable information about how to help students reach their potential and may give administrators and politicians a better guide when deciding what resources are required and where they are most needed.

In answer to your specific question about pulling your son out of the test, we believe that you have the right to do so if you wish. However, we suggest that you discuss the matter with your boy’s teacher before doing so. The teacher may be able to lessen the risk of undue stress by explaining that the test is not to see if he is “smart” or “dumb” but to find if there are areas where he might need some extra help.

It’s also worth considering that the challenge of sitting NAPLAN may be a positive experience and catalyst for growth. We would advise against removing challenge from children’s experience and focus instead on helping them to manage emotions and stress.

More information is available on the NAPLAN website (nap.edu.au), including pages on parent/carer support and student participation. If a student is to be withdrawn from the testing program, a formal application must be submitted to the school principal in advance. Students absent on the day of the test who return to school within the week of NAPLAN testing are usually given another opportunity to participate.

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