My son will be 9 years old at the end of next week. We were chatting about this wonderful upcoming event (his B’day) today and he also said, “Oh and I’m so happy it doesn’t land on a NAPLAN day.” I asked him why it mattered and he said, “oh you know, I’m a bit nervous about having to take all those tests”. I asked him whether he understood what the tests were for and it quickly became apparent that he didn’t really understand.
So I did the only logical thing and that was to try and explain NAPLAN (standardised tests) to my son. I showed him the My School website and we had a look at the information for his school. I then explained the meaning of the dark green, light green, white, pink & red band colours shown in the NAPLAN Results in Bands page and we looked at the results for the last few years. He saw a lot of white (average) and some light green (above average). We had a mini lesson on what is “average” and how to calculate “average”.
He then said, “They must not have been very good a couple of years ago, look at all that pink (below average)”. Hmmm, OK, so then I had to explain to him how NAPLAN testing, like other standardised tests around the world, are LIMITED and only show a small part of a child’s ability……AND that it only tests children in a very NARROW way. Oh WOW, what a conversation we had! We talked about diversity, about how people are good at different things and also about how some types of testing (like multiple-choice) are not a good measure for some students. We also talked, just lightly though, about how NAPLAN and the expectations that result due to NAPLAN impact the way teachers teach, what they teach, what they concentrate on and also what they may ignore or skip.
I think it is IMPORTANT to have this conversation with children who have to do standardised tests. I think they need to know what it is, why it is done and how people interpret the results (the good & the bad). With limited knowledge my son had initially put-down the school’s NAPLAN efforts a couple of years ago because he saw some pink bands….imagine what the uninformed adult does who might be considering what community to live in and what school to put their children into. We need to talk about this more so that there is more understanding of the impact of NAPLAN.