Posts Tagged ‘naplan’

3 Reasons Why Writing Standards are Falling in the Classroom

August 2, 2017


The standardised Naplan tests are back and surprise, surprise, it shows a decline in writing standards.

Many will be scratching their heads and asking why?

Below are 3 theories I have to explain the decline.


  1. Kids hate writing – It’s a struggle to get kids to write. They detest it. And don’t even bring up a second and third draft. No way are kids amenable to fixing up their already “perfect” first attempt. Teachers, in their bid to engage the class often keep writing lessons to a bare minimum. This of course has a major impact on the quality of their writing.
  2. Technology – There is a technology race among schools. Schools are constantly trying to outdo each other by embracing cutting edge technology. Technology does next to nothing to improve “bricks and mortar” skills like writing.
  3. Teachers Choose What Writing Genre to Focus on – Teachers are often given the choice as to what writing genre to focus on. They often choose the easy ones and the ones they are most comfortable with. Recounts and procedural writing are popular mainstays in classrooms. Instead of finding out the genres the students have already covered in previous years, teachers are only to happy to revise the same old tired genres for no other reason that they are easy to teach, write and mark. In the meantime, more difficult genres are hardly ever looked at.



Click on the link to read You Can Blame Me for My Students’ Standardized Test Scores

Click on the link to read Teacher Writes Truly Inspirational Letter to Her Students

Click on the link to read Redirect Your Frustrations About Common Core

Click on the link to read Perhaps There Should be a Standardized Test for Teachers

Click on the link to read Reasons Why I am Forced to Teach to the Test

You Can Blame Me for My Students’ Standardized Test Scores

May 10, 2015



On Tuesday my students begin their arduous week long testing regime. I hope they do well, but if they don’t you can pin the blame on me.


And while you’re at it …


  • You can blame me for running a happy and vibrant classroom
  • You can blame me for teaching to the curriculum instead of the test
  • You can blame me for challenging the achievers and assisting the strugglers
  • You can blame me for replacing any hint of bullying with unity and comoraderie
  • You can blame me for turning pressure and anxiety into confidence and determination
  • You can blame me for putting learning into perspective
  • You can blame me for regarding character and values as more important than test scores


So go ahead. Blame away!



Click on the link to read Teacher Writes Truly Inspirational Letter to Her Students

Click on the link to read Redirect Your Frustrations About Common Core

Click on the link to read Perhaps There Should be a Standardized Test for Teachers

Click on the link to read Reasons Why I am Forced to Teach to the Test

Standardized Tests for Teachers!

August 2, 2012

After what I put my students through last term, I’m sure they would love to see me sit for some exams. They would be more than happy to preside over the testing and ensure I don’t try to cheat from the teacher sitting next to me:

The Indonesian Government’s been forced to defend its attempt to test the country’s one-million teachers, after the first run was plagued with problems and allegations of corruption.

In an attempt to improve education, Indonesia has begun testing the performance of teachers, instead of students.

This week it launched the first online exam to assess the abilities of those who are educating the country’s children.

One million teachers will be tested in 3,500 locations across 33 provinces.

But the head of the Education Ministry admits that on the first day, only 10 per cent of the teachers who attempted were able to log on and sit the test.

Click on the link to read Oops, We Seem to Have Lost Your Exams

Click on the link to read I’m Just Gonna Say It: Standardised Tests Suck!

Click on the link to read Too Many Tests, Not Enough Teaching

Standardised Testing Meets Spin City

May 15, 2012

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?


Pushy Parents and those Awful Standardised Tests!

May 13, 2012

So it turns out that some parents are so keen to have their children perform at the NAPLAN tests (Australia’s standardised tests) that they have started preparing them as early as kindergarten age. I couldn’t think of anything more dispiriting for a child. It’s bad enough I have to teach my Grade 3’s based on the questions they are bound to encounter during the tests, what could be worse than being subjected to it, up to 5 years in advance?

PUSHY parents are training kindergarten kids for Naplan – four years before they have to sit the controversial literacy and numeracy tests.

About a million students – in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 – will sit this year’s tests over three days next week.

But the pressure to perform is beginning years early, with some parents forcing their four-year-olds to take grade 3-level tests at home.

Dr Les Michel, from the Senior Students Resource Centre, said pre-school parents had joined the soaring demand for practice Naplan tests.

“This year we’ve even been getting kinder parents,” Dr Michel said.

“We would have had dozens, I’d say.”

Dr Michel said kindergarten parents bought the grade 3-level booklets, costing up to $24.95 each.

“They are really pushing their kids,” he said.

School Education Minister Peter Garrett said Naplan practice for pre-schoolers was “highly alarming”.

“It’s putting more pressure on kids at such a young age that they really don’t need, and it’s usurping the role that teachers in the classroom play, which is completely unnecessary,” he said.

However schools are also increasing the pressure, with “teaching for the test” now beginning as early as grade 1.

“We’re aware of it happening, even though people won’t admit it on the record, and why would they?” Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy said.

“It demonstrates the desperation of some schools – their reputation hangs on it.”

Victorian Independent Education Union secretary Deb James said there was an “increased and unwelcome” focus on the tests in schools.

Australian Education Union state president Mary Bluett said: “Kids sitting down and practising tests is not the way to learn.”

Lucky for these pushy parents, I have some suggested exercises for them to set for their children.


To prepare them for the persuasive writing exam, you could set your child some of the following topics:

1. What is more fun, studying language conventions or playing outside with friends?

2. Is doing practice tests with mum and dad considered quality time?

3. Is learning for fun overrated?


To prepare them for the maths paper, I have the following suggested activities:

1. Count up the blisters that you have accrued from all the writing you’ve done and round the number to the nearest ten.

2. If Johnny went to school from 8:00 a.m until 4:00 p.m. and then spent the next 2 hours completing timed reading comprehension exams, how much time does he have to relax?

3. What percentage of pushy parents ends up rearing appreciative kids?

Good luck parents!

Too Many Tests, Not Enough Teaching

March 30, 2012

The rise of standardised testing has replaced authentic teaching and learning with a saturation of practise and formal testing:

SATURATION testing is seriously undermining the quality of primary school education and should be stopped immediately, parents and educators claimed yesterday.

Thousands of kids are subjected to trial exams every week in the lead up to the compulsory Naplan tests, as well as exams for opportunity classes or selective high schools, and coaching by private tutors.

But while Naplan, which forms the basis of performance ratings on the My School website, focuses on literacy and numeracy, experts claim they are being “taught to the test” at the expense of other areas such as arts, physical education and music.

With the barrage of testing beginning in kindergarten, education consultant and public schools principals’ forum official Brian Chudleigh said the system was “out of control” and skewing education in the wrong direction. A former senior principal who is the education expert for The Daily Telegraph’s People’s Plan, Mr Chudleigh said the testing regime was contributing to a “massive dysfunction” in the state’s education system.

“We have become a system that is manic about measurement – the main problem is that it is so convenient for the politicians,” he said. “They want to reduce things to the value of a percentile or a number, and that has an impact on education.

“If a kid can’t be measured they don’t want to know about it.

“It reduces the value of anything that you can’t measure and the curriculum becomes focused on the measurable stuff,” Mr Chudleigh said.

“So the development of the whole child – including socialisation, emotional welfare, physical fitness and cultural factors – are relegated in importance.

“Many schools are having two or three lessons every week practising Naplan-style tests and that takes valuable teaching time away from other subjects. A lot of the best stuff we do with kids, particularly in primary school, is not measurable.

“It’s out of control. But our universities are littered with these kids who don’t do as well there as the generally all-round educated students.”

Federation of Parents and Citizens’ Associations spokeswoman Rachael Sowden said being taught to the test was “not what parents want”.

“They do not want to know that their child scored three marks more than the kid down the street,” she said. “Parents are as concerned about the whole child and how they are going in creative arts, physical education and music as much as in literacy and numeracy.

“Parents do want to know where their child is up to at school and they do that best by having a conversation with the teacher.”

I hate having to prepare 8 year-olds who have never sat for a formal test before for the rigours of the 3 day marathon that is NAPLAN. It’s just not fair! They are too young!

I’m Just Gonna Say It: Standardised Tests Suck!

March 4, 2012

I completely and utterly detest standardised testing. My Grade 3 students are just 8 years old. How unbelievable insensitive of our Federal Government to subject these kids to a week-long torturous array of formal testing!  These kids have had little to no experience with test papers and exam conditions, and no matter how calm and stress free I am trying to make my classroom, my students know that it’s coming and they don’t like it one bit!

HIGH STAKE standardised tests, such as NAPLAN, are having a negative impact on children with experts saying such examinations reduce the ability to learn.

Nationwide testing of students in years 3, 5, 7, and 9 was introduced by the federal government four years ago to allow parents and teachers to benchmark the numeracy and literacy levels of individual children and specific schools.

But a review of academic literature on the issue released by the University of Western Sydney’s Whitlam Institute revealed national testing programs such as NAPLAN were a source of significant stress for young people and their families.

Institute director Eric Sidotti said schools can become ”emotional cauldrons”.”It should come as no surprise that the introduction of a national regime of standardised external testing would become a lightning rod of claim and counter-claim and a battleground for competing educational philosophies,” he said.

The review found ”a range of concerns” about the reliability of standardised testing, quality of learning experiences, structure of the curriculum and health and well-being of children.

There is also evidence of negative effects on service delivery; professional-parent relationships; and stress, anxiety, pressure and fear experienced by students.

Research also found a negative impact on teaching, with standardised tests putting pressure on teachers to emphasise results over holistic learning.

”Teachers will focus on the areas in which students will be tested, while reducing the proportion of class time devoted to curriculum areas not included in state tests,” the review notes.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said tests measuring the progress of more than a million Australian students over the past four years allowed parents to identify schools where students achieve comparative improvement over peers of a similar background.

Ms Gillard said NAPLAN lifted the academic performance of students, giving teachers feedback on education strategies and providing disadvantaged schools with access to extra funding.

”We want every child in Australia to have access to a world class education,” she said.

”My School is pivotal to this. It helps us see what works and which schools need support to improve.”

There is nothing positive to come out of these tests. It negatively affects the way my students view learning, it affects the way I teach and it prevents what should be a fun year from eventuating. If you want to test high school kids, go ahead. But leave my Grade 3’s out of your mean experiment!

The Atlanta Cheating Scandal and Those Blasted Tests

July 12, 2011

There is no excuse for teachers or officials to cheat.  We are there to provide a moral example for our students, and cheating of any kind is clearly unacceptable.

But we must not leave the matter at that point.  There’s a reason why some teachers have cheated on standardised tests.  Those tests  are anti-education.  They measure success through pressurised outcomes rather than authentic teaching and learning.  They expose teachers to unfair stress and scrutiny and force them the teach to the test, rather than teach to enrich and engage.

Officials in Atlanta deserve the condemnation they are receiving.

Officials and parents here are reeling after revelations of one of the largest school cheating scandals in history.

Last week, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal released a report showing that officials at nearly 80 percent of 56 Atlanta elementary and middle schools examined cheated on annual student-performance tests, called Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

Former Superintendent Beverly Hall, who was named National Superintendent of the Year in 2009 and retired last month as head of the 48,000-student district, is accused of creating a culture of fear, pressuring faculty and administrators into accepting ever-increasing targets of achievement and turning a blind eye to the way those goals were achieved.

For a decade, teachers and principals changed answers on state tests.

But we must reflect on the merits of standardised state and national tests.

In Australia we have the NAPLAN test.  The NAPLAN test like other National tests around the globe have an important function.  Their job is to give information to parents about their childs’ progress, which includes a comparison against all others taking the test in that age group.

But what it also does is set up the teacher.  The teacher carries the blame for the results.  It is the teacher that is the first port of call when parents seek an explanation – it is the teacher that is labelled as insufficient when the school analyses the data.

Such pressures lead teachers to teach for the test rather than the typical authentic adherence to the curriculum.  This is not the way teachers are supposed to teach.  It also puts more pressure on teachers.  Teachers are already under significant strain.  We must be mindful that this system puts them in a situation where their performance is scrutinised like never before.  And finally, a test is just a guide.  It is not a perfect form of assessment.  Many factors can cloud and effect the conclusions made by the data such as student anxiety, outliers etc.

Cheating is wrong, and teachers and officials that cheat deserve to be punished.  But somehow, I feel that by administering national tests, teachers are getting punished regardless.

National Testing Leads to Bad Teaching

May 10, 2011

Today school students all around Australia are going to be sitting the dreaded NAPLAN tests – a National test covering language, literacy and numeracy.  A test many children don’t take all that seriously, leaving their teachers to explain disappointing results and unmet expectations.  The students will often sit for the test without ever finding out how they went afterwards.  Why should they?  For all they know, this test is nothing more than a hurdle requirement that seems to stress the teacher out far more than themselves.

And that’s where these tests fail.  The pressure placed on the teacher forces them to teach to the test.  Weeks out from the NAPLAN date, teachers forgo their best laid plans, and instead force their students to undergo countless practice tests and mindboggingly boring skills sessions.  The students don’t know what hit them!  All of a sudden, they are bombarded with these tedious, non-interactive lessons, where the teacher often loses his/her temper in a state of panic and utter desperation.

“Guys, if you don’t listen, you wont know what to do come NAPLAN time.”

This argument is futile.  They know that if they don’t understand how to answer a question, all they have to do is leave it out, or better yet, guess.  No need to lose sleep over it!

For teachers, these tests are becoming even more important, now that test results are connected with teacher bonuses:

TEACHERS are continuing to “teach to” national literacy and numeracy tests, despite warnings from education authorities.

The first of three days of NAPLAN testing begins for year 3, 5, 7 and 9 students across the country today.

But educators warned the pressure being put on schools to perform well was having unintended consequences.

And the weight placed on NAPLAN results will increase today when the Government links them to financial bonuses for the country’s best teachers.

Today’s Budget is expected to commit $425 million to provide bonuses of up to $8100 to the top 10 per cent of teachers.

Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Frank Sal said that some schools were already under pressure to post high NAPLAN scores, even before they were linked to teacher bonuses.

While many schools have been doing practice exams to prepare for this week’s tests, parents have been told they can do nothing to boost their children’s performance.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority chair Prof Barry McGaw said regular learning was the best preparation for students: “NAPLAN is not a test students can prepare for, because it is not a test of content.”

Gone are the days where good teaching meant innovative and engaging lessons.  Gone are the days when teachers were valued for new, fresh approaches to developing skills and nurturing the collective sel-esteem of the class.  No, nowadays teaching is about meticulously preparing for a test that comes every 2 years in a student’s life and ultimately doesn’t truly capture what they know and what they are truly capable of.

These lessons can be monotonous, lack opportunities for critical discussion and go against the grain of authentic teaching, but as long as you persist, there may be a bonus in it for you.

Girls Performing Much Better in the Classroom

May 1, 2011

It is no surprise that girls are out doing boys in the classroom.  This has been the trend for quite some time.  But it should focus our energies on how we can teach boys in a more effective manner.

Girls are teaching their male classmates a lesson, blitzing them in almost every subject in Victoria’s classrooms.

Details of NAPLAN tests conducted last May also show Melbourne students narrowly outscore their country cousins, while those with highly educated or professional parents get the best marks.

Girls scored better than boys in 19 of the 20 categories measured in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

Nationwide, boys fell behind in almost all categories. Overall, Victoria’s students placed second in half the categories and lead the nation in three.

Year 9 boys were cause for the most worry – 15 per cent failed to meet the writing standard. However, their struggles matched those across Australia, meaning Victoria was still the best in the subject.

There are matters I would like to raise on this topic:

1.  We must do more to engage our boys.  Whether it’s a lack of male teachers or a teaching style that doesn’t work as well with boys, we must get to the heart of the problem and help mend the disparity.

2.  It is absolutely mind-boggling that in todays age we do not have more women in high positions and on multi-national company boards.  It is insane that we even need to talk about employing a quota system to get more female C.E.O’s.  Whilst it isn’t always the choice of women to sacrifice other aspects of their lives for a time-consuming and stressful career, there are many who are keen to get as far as they can go up the corporate ladder.  The argument that positions should be filled by those who are most qualified and capable is true.  However, that should result in females overtaking males in these leadership positions, because they are proving how much better they are in critical areas of learning and thinking.  Unfortunately, I suspect competency has nothing to do with it.

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