The NAPLAN Test has, for a number of years, been part of the schooling experience for Australian students.
It provides a valuable opportunity to map the growth and achievement of young people in the areas of literacy and numeracy. But it can also cause a lot of extra stress and pressure, especially if you have a child who strives for perfection.
NAPLAN (or the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) is conducted in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. It assesses the skills developed in Australian schools and reflects the Australian curriculum. Although it does evaluate each child individually, the goal of NAPLAN is to analyse the grade as a whole.
The NAPLAN test assesses each grade on literacy (reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy. These two capabilities are strongly linked to later achievement and wellbeing. Thus, being able to see where students are in these two subjects helps develop the Australian curriculum. It also ensures our children are learning at a satisfactory level.
NAPLAN also provides a valuable opportunity for parents, schools and young people to reference achievement and growth against students in the same grade across Australia.
But, as many parents and students need to remember, NAPLAN is not the be-all-end-all of education. In fact, NAPLAN is more about assessing the grade as a whole, not the student as an individual.
It is simply a tool to measure the benchmark of learning. It is only a very minor piece to their educational puzzle and one that shouldn’t instil stress or fear.
TAKING THE STRESS OUT OF NAPLAN
I’ve spoken to many parents who believe NAPLAN is a cause for concern for their kids and an inaccurate representation of their skills. It is important to remember that NAPLAN is just one of the many ways that students and parents receive feedback on learning and only one of the many, many, many tests a child will take during his or her educational journey.
To remove some of those pre-NAPLAN jitters, it’s important to explain the role of NAPLAN to your child. NAPLAN does provide valuable information about student growth and achievement in key areas. It is also one of many opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know and can do. But it does not carry the same potential consequences as high-stake tests such as Year 12 exams.
It is not a personal test – it is simply a way to gather data on learning and prepare children for an assessment environment. That’s it. There are no bonus points, rewards or punishments and if your child completely blanks out during the exam, that’s okay too.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that NAPLAN results can also help teachers and parents direct extra attention where it is needed. If your child’s NAPLAN result is quite low, it might indicate he or she needs a bit of extra support in the classroom – something that will have a positive effect on their learning.
GET NAPLAN READY
It is the job of your child’s teacher to prepare the class for NAPLAN examinations. This is normally done in class. It will involve practice tests as well as exercises that are similar to the questions and requirements of the exam.
So what can parents do? If your child is worried about NAPLAN or you would like to learn more, speak to your child’s teacher about it. They may be able to provide some additional worksheets to do.
Help your child prepare for NAPLAN in the same manner that you would prepare for any other day of school. A good night’s sleep, a healthy breakfast and a positive and encouraging start to the school day.
You can read more about creating a supportive learning environment at home here.
Another option is to head online to the official NAPLAN website – www.nap.edu.au/naplan/the-tests – where you will find sample questions and practice tests for all year levels.
In terms of the literacy component, students will need to write either a persuasive or narrative text. You could ask your child to write either (or both) of these at home if they would like extra practice. NAPLAN allows for 40 minutes to write. So, you could also set a timer in 10 minute increments to help them manage this time. Use the first 10 minutes to plan, the second and third 10 minutes to write and the final 10 minutes to edit.
THE FUTURE OF THE NAPLAN TEST
The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) first introduced NAPLAN in 2008. Since then, there have been some heavy debates surrounding the testing system. Many believe that NAPLAN encourages teachers to ‘teach to the test’. And, as a result, it is narrowing the curriculum while putting increased pressure on students.
But despite the backlash, the then Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, confirmed that NAPLAN would be staying in place.
As we move into the future, the style of assessment will no doubt reflect a more contemporary approach. Currently the transition to an online writing assessment is underway. 10 per cent of students took the test online in 2018. The goal is for this number to continue to increase with all schools to be online by 2020.
Moving online has many benefits. The testing will allow for more diversity in assessment tasks, enable a broader range of skills and ensure quicker results