That Time of Year Again

The NAPLAN testing for 2018 has been completed. As each year passes the value of such testing is to be questioned more and more. We are told by its supporters that the testing provides schools with valuable information around academic skills achievement. It also ‘supposedly’ assists the government in determining which schools are and which not, doing a good job of teaching. The My Schools website is one that is often consulted by prospective parents.

In its favour, NAPLAN can act as a ‘sign post’ in relation to academic skills achievement. It can indicate children who are possibly having difficulties with literacy and numeracy. It certainly cannot tell ‘why’ they are having difficulty. It can also indicate children who are advanced in academic skill achievement. In reality it is a rough measure at best.

Against the NAPLAN is the fact that many schools practice and train for it. A cynic would say that the motivation here is more to ensure a decent place on the ladder than to familiarise students with the expectations. More and more children are becoming anxious about the testing. Some of this would be coming from school expectations and focus and parent determination to have their child do well.

Many more parents now choose for their children not to sit this test, especially those parents whose children are struggling with skill development and for whom the NAPLAN process presents a significant stressor.

It is important that children who are having difficulties area identified. In truth, well before the first NAPLAN level of Grade 3 is the more appropriate time. Many of the child’s issues will present in Prep and are identifiable there so class teachers need to be alert, do appropriate screening and act at that stage or as early as possible, to have a child assessed.

In a more ‘dyslexia aware’ world, there are now many screeners in this area. These are useful, but each one comes with the direction that only deeper testing will provide a well-informed basis for developing an individual intervention plan. Weaknesses need to be considered along with strengths. The ‘why’ question and not just the ‘how’ one needs to be addressed.

The best thing we can do for our children is get in early and ensure that deep testing of strengths and weaknesses is done. Parent’s gut feelings are almost as accurate as screening so don’t ignore the ‘signposts’ as not knowing the detail and getting support can lead the child into the proverbial abyss.