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Standardised Testing Meets Spin City

A few weeks ago I sought to have an interview with Australia’s Education Minister regarding the upcoming NAPLAN standardised tests. I am still waiting for a reply.

Luckily, I came across his op/ed piece over the weekend, where he tries to allay the fears of the parenting community and make a case for these highly pressured, incredibly unpopular series of tests.

In his piece, he claims that:

Parents and the community should rest assured that the NAPLAN tests are simply a way of measuring how our students and our schools are performing in the three key areas of reading, writing and numeracy. Nothing more, and nothing less.

I assure you Mr. Garrett that parents of 8-years olds subjected to 4 rigorous exams in 3 days understand that these tests represent much more than just a simple way of measuring child progress.

There is nothing in any of the tests that students need to learn above and beyond what is already being taught in the classroom, namely the curriculum.

I am not sure that is true. Whilst my students are expected to write persuasive essays, there is no mention of persuasive writing in the Grade 3 curriculum.

By measuring how our students are performing as they progress through school, we can get a clear national picture, for the first time, of where we need to be directing extra attention and resources.

This is just spin. This implies that these tests exist to help direct the Government in regards to spending and programs. There is no evidence of any Governmental response whether it be financial or a simple change of priorities based on the yearly NAPLAN results. Instead, the outcome of the NAPLAN is designed to expose failing schools, inept teachers and anything and everything that can divert attention from a Government good at measuring performance but poor at performing themselves.

It needs to be made clear to schools and teachers that excessive test practising ahead of NAPLAN is unnecessary. While it helps to be familiar with the structure of the tests, carrying out endless practices should not be encouraged. NAPLAN matters, but it is not the be all and end all.

Unnecessary to whom? If you and your staff were to be tested on the performance of your portfolio wouldn’t you take the time to prepare? When a class gets appraised, so does the teacher. Are we meant to sit back and watch 8-years old kids sit for their first formal exams without preparing them for the kinds of questions and scenarios they are likely to encounter?

Mr. Garett, your opinion piece tries to win over parents, yet it completely deviates from the very issue that parents are most concerned about. Parents do not like seeing their young children exposed to so much pressure. They don’t like to see their children who may currently enjoy learning, subjected to such a negative learning experience.

Today, one of my students was so frightened by the prospect of these exams that he was reluctant to get in the car. We are talking about a child that loves learning.

I have no problem with High School children being tested. But 3rd Graders? Is it really worth it?

 

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2 Responses to “Standardised Testing Meets Spin City”

  1. Anne Says:

    I don’t quite understand the consistent opposition to standardized tests. I wish they existed when I was at school. I was subject to a very poor education in rural schools in Western Australia. Instead of learning standard grammar I learned about the structure of pop songs. Instead of learning the maths I would need later in life I was given simple worksheets and then sent to play games in the computer labs once I finished them. Somehow I made it into university. But during my first term I was required to take a standard literacy test. I failed. I could not write. Why was this not caught earlier? No one held the teachers to account. I think standardized tests are needed to help hold some schools to account. In my case it took many years of private study, and personal expense to catch up. I strongly support public education and a diverse curriculum but at the end of the day students need to have basic skills. I want someone who opposes standard tests to explain how they are going to make sure that all students graduate with solid basic skills.

    • Michael G. Says:

      Thanks for your comment Anne. I propose that teachers ensure that their students graduate with solid basic skills by covering the curriculum in a thorough and engaging fashion.

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