NAPLAN! It’s everywhere right now!

NAPLAN! It is everywhere in the news right now! Why even is it? The test dates are still over a month away! (Is anyone else thinking we might suffer from NAPLAN fatigue this year???) Well, it is in the news because the federal government has just conducted an inquiry into the administration and reporting of NAPLAN. The ACT government has also just finished an inquiry into it and released its report! And its league table creation season! (results have just been released to the myschool website)

Now the media might like you to think there is a debate over the validity of NAPLAN, but I think both sides of federal politics are fairly invested into there always BEING some kind of NAPLAN for our education system. (Except the ACT Education Minister, who is anti-NAPLAN) This has never been a debate over whether we SHOULD have NAPLAN, the questions have been around if the test is administered correctly and are we doing the right things with the data that it generates? (See how the media puts a spin on things!)

APFACTS was involved in shaping the Australian Parents Council’s (APC) submissions on both inquiries. After coming together with all of the states of Australia the council landed on the idea that parents really appreciate an independent snapshot of our children’s education. Don’t get us wrong, this never should replace the report card we get from the person who has cried beside us as we wondered if our child would ever learn to read the word cat! (True story that one!)  But isn’t it nice to get an idea of where our child is situated generally? Parents feel that it complements the other information that they receive directly from the school.

APFACTS and APC certainly have concerns about how the data is used. We feel the government is asking the right kinds of questions! We don’t think NAPLAN results should be used to form league tables. Quite frankly we are little bit confused about the comparisons that the my schools website give us about other ‘like’ schools. APFACTS and APC both feel there is much work that could be done in this space.

We are more concerned with how the data derived from the tests is communicated to parents and what parents can do with it. Has anyone ever used their NAPLAN results to formulate a discussion with a child’s teacher? Probably not, because the data is outdated by the time we received it! So delivering the results in a more timely matter would be advantageous. It is quite interesting to note at this time that parents from different state receive different information. For ACT folk, that information on the back page that shows which questions were answered correctly or incorrectly without actually giving you the question, isn’t supplied in all jurisdictions! That is sad because we think this is where NAPLAN is gold! We play a game at dinner in our house to see if Mum and Dad know the answers! Its called NAPLAN Jeopardy! One time we even had to bring in Aunty Teacher to be the adjudicator on what an onomatopoeia is!

What the data shouldn’t be used for is outside the school walls (parents are included inside those school walls too!).  The media isn’t helpful in its reporting of NAPLAN. I understand the government is looking for an avenue to make the state of our education system transparent. But is NAPLAN the right tool for this? Just because every child in the country in certain years sits it doesn’t make it an accurate reflection on how students are all going. But in the absence of any alternative we should continue to use it but actively be looking for better methods.

But in the end what does all of this media mean for you as parents of children who may sit NAPLAN later this year? Nothing! You will still need to give them a good breaky before the test (but you do that every morning right??!!), they may or may not need an extra hug (my son in year 9 certainly did NOT want that!)  And then it is up to if you would like to read the report or share the report with your child in November when it arrives!

But most of all, let’s not get ourselves all worked up so that we are exhausted and suffering from NAPLAN fatigue by the time it rolls round in May!