Yes, NAPLAN. For those who don’t know, NAPLAN stands for National Assesment Program Literacy and Numeracy. It is a standarized test that helps the government decide which schools to fund.
This year the government put NAPLAN online, this is great for the environment and costs less but makes it a lot harder for students to read and has many variables that were not accounted for, such as students not owning computers or headphones and poor wifi. This meant that many students missed the test or had to repeat it.
NAPLAN is the perfect example of an easily avoidable high stress situation. Even without the added variables that come with online testing, NAPLAN is known to be a hellscape for students.
Reasons it is a hellscape:
1. During NAPLAN all normal school work and assesments go ahead regardless of the added pressure. I personally had 3 assesments due the same week as NAPLAN and missed performing for another one because of the make-up sessions.
2. NAPLAN has no topic specific study areas. Given its broad assesment NAPLAN has no specific areas to study in, this causes stress for all students and teachers trying to prepare. Tests from prior years can be used but aren’t reliable.
3. The knowledge that your report impacts the schools reputation and funding. This is less of an issue for the early years of NAPLAN, however the knowledge that you are directly contributing to the judgement of your school and teachers is extremely stressful, even if your impact is minor.
4. NAPLAN is designed with no consideration towards the needs of the person assessed, whether those needs are extended time to read the questions or if the person doesn’t speak English as a first language.
5. NAPLAN is a standardized test with one answer per question, this leaves little room for critical thinking and the differences between student thought processes.
What could be done instead of or to minimise the stress of NAPLAN:
1. The attitude to schools survey. The Attitude to School Survey is used alongside NAPLAN to choose what schools to fund and what programs to use in schools, if this survey got further elaborated on it could make it easier to choose the schools that prioritized people, more specifically students, over their performance in the limited areas of literacy and numeracy.
2. More communication with classroom teachers. Many of the government officials who made NAPLAN aren’t classroom teachers or are teachers who aren’t in the same area of teaching as many primary and highschool teachers. The disruption of routine caused by NAPLAN makes a classroom harder to work in for students and teachers therefore making the voices of the teachers more important.
3. Assess schools based on the quality of student wellbeing and student encouragement instead of a standard grade. This was mentioned in the attitude to school survey however it could be brought up in regards to the schools’ wellbeing programs or the students’ access to help services within the school. Eg. Does the school have a safe space for students to go when overwhelmed or frightened? Does the school encourage the students to support each other emotionally and to get help when needed? Etc.
4. Accommadate the students during NAPLAN. Put regular test dates on seperate weeks to NAPLAN or have specials at the canteens for that week, let the students know that NAPLAN is optional and tell them that it’s okay to be stressed if they are participating. Remind the students that they are more than a grade on paper. If the student needs more time to finish the test because they read slower or can’t type as quickly give them more time to finish the test. It’s not hard to help the students, ask them what they need.
5. Look at the schools art, music, drama and sport programs. Promote creativity and self expression rather than fitting into the HB pencil shaded bubbles. Literacy and numeracy are important however they tend to draw away from the thing that will show student potential the most: passion. Literacy and writing in particular can show the students potential creatively and numeracy shows analytical thinking and pattern spotting, however the students who don’t excel at either of these components get left behind in school because there is a lack of encouragement from a governmental standpoint.
To conclude, NAPLAN isn’t a positive reinforcement of learning nor is it a useful for students. Please share to any Australians you may know to spread the message.
Written by Darrell, an annoyed student who very much dislikes NAPLAN.