Posts Tagged ‘Testing’

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!

Teaching to The Blasted Test!

March 29, 2011


It sickens me to see the Government so smug about the upcoming round of National Testing.  In Australia it’s called the NAPLAN (I refer to it as “NAPALM”), and like other National tests around the world it compares student data against the average.  The Government uses the National tests as an easy way out of doing something constructive about Education.

Before I slam these pathetic tests, in the spirit of goodwill, I will acknowledge some advantages of National Testing:

  • It uses these tests as a vehicle for pressurising schools and teachers to lift their game and secure good results for their students.
  • It forces teachers not strictly following the curriculum to adhere to the syllabus
  • It gives parents some real data to consider, rather than the deliberately vague school reporting, which essentially tells parents nothing.
  • It gives parents an opportunity to become more involved in their child’s education.

Now for the disadvantages:

  • It forces teachers to stop what they are doing, and spend weeks if not months practicing for the test.  Everything gets put on hold while the sample test papers get wheeled out.
  • It fills students as young as 8 years-old with anxiety, pressure and insecurity.
  • It causes schools to “encourage” the parents of special needs students to keep their kids at home during the testing week.  This is to ensure that their child doesn’t affect the school’s results.  It also achieves in further marginalising these children who, in many cases, already feel disconnected from their peers.
  • It puts enormous stress on teachers.  This stress has an effect on their quality of teaching.
  • It turns education into an extreme negative at a time when kids still show an interest in learning.

I am currently teaching Grade 5 for the first time.  I am preparing my students for the rigours of NAPLAN (they sat for them 2 year ago).  It means that my emphasis has had to change.  Instead of teaching in an engaging and creative way, I’ve been forced to teach to the tests.  The result has been a succession of comparatively boring and turgid lessons on strategies for answering multiple choice questions, “debugging” sample tests and revising basic skills.  My students are not enjoying these lessons at all!  I fear that when they sit these tests they will sabotage the process by rushing through it as revenge for what its done to their enjoyment of school.

What makes these tests even worse is that they are testing the children at Grade 5 level even though they have just started Grade 5.  Because of that, my students haven’t covered some of the concepts being tested.  Surely, if they wanted to test a Grade 5 class against the Grade 5 benchmarks they should have done it at the end of the school year, not at the beginning!

When are Governments going to stop being so lazy and start taking on a fresh and innovative approach to learning?  Why must my students be subjected to sample tests and other turgid preparatorylessons, instead of conventional, authentic lessons?

Parents have the right to know how  their child is progressing.  At the same time though, their children deserve the right to have a pressure reduced primary education, where the teachers are able to harness their natural curiosities, instead of burden them with weeks of test prepa
ration!


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