Testing times

Hard at work preparing for the next round of NAPLAN tests at Tumut Public School were Remy McDougall, Josh Barr and Ethan Stuckey.
Hard at work preparing for the next round of NAPLAN tests at Tumut Public School were Remy McDougall, Josh Barr and Ethan Stuckey.

AROUND one million students in years three, five, seven and nine from all across the nation this week sat the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN).

The battery of tests that are designed to assess students’ reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy were carried out on the same days across Australia on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The tests have been issued to school students since 2008 and each year the controversy surrounding the papers raises its head with questions of relevancy, fairness, teaching to the tests and the need for one-off, once a year testing questioned.

In preparation for NAPLAN schools practice the testing method with the children so they are equipped with the navigational skills required to sit the exams.

Franklin Principal, Darryl Ryan, said the lessons are not based around NAPLAN testing, but the school does like to ensure the children know what to expect.

“Most schools like to give the children an idea of what they are in for,” Mr Ryan said. “They learn to manage their time and become accustomed with how the questions are set out and worded.

“The tests give a glimpse of what the students can do, but schools and parents can’t base everything around one set of tests. They do not determine the overall success of a child.”

The data obtained from the NAPLAN tests are collated and used to show a school’s average performance against other schools in the country on the Government My School website. Each child is also given a comprehensive score card that outlines which areas and questions the student has achieved in.

The students are also able to gauge an understanding as to where in the state and nationally they sit academically.

Other curriculum areas such as science, COGS, sport, drama and social skills are not tested.

With the results not due out until September, many other relevant assessment tasks, assignments and comprehensive testing methods will have been employed to provide parents and carers with a more detailed indication of their child’s abilities and difficulties.

“Once the results are released I encourage parents to seek clarification of their child’s strengths and weaknesses as the NAPLAN results are just one testing method,” Mr Ryan said. “It needs to be looked at whether the child is doing their best and reaching their potential on a day to day basis, that is what is really important.”

The responses to one across the board question would have made interesting reading, with students provided with a stimulus picture, which was the word ‘hero’, then asked to write a persuasive text about their hero and why they deserved recognition.

With mums, siblings, astronauts, dads, sport-stars and even Jesus getting a run in the answers, Mr Ryan said he imagines the responses would have been persuasive and entertaining.