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Ignorance of your child’s education is not really bliss

BENEFIT: NAPLAN data provides a wealth of information for teachers, schools, parents and carers and students.Simply put, NAPLAN is a vital tool for parents, educators and the public to see if Australia’s children are meeting essential literacy and numeracy standards.

Taking NAPLAN requires less than four hours over three days, four times during a student’s time at school. It is a snapshot assessment of a student’s achievements in the important areas of literacy and numeracy. And from that small investment comes a wealth of student, school and national information.

There’s a lot that goes into a student’s education and I know there’s more to school than literacy and numeracy. NAPLAN doesn’t test everything happening in the classroom or a school and isn’t designed to assess a student’s diverse and creative learning, entrepreneurial skills or risk-taking ability. However, it is focused on the critically important skills of literacy and numeracy, and NAPLAN data provides a wealth of information for teachers, schools, parents and carers and students. Why wouldn’t adults want to know about their child or student’s abilities and, if necessary, seek assistance for their child or studentas early as possible?

If students, either individually or sub-groups, can’t read, write or understand numbers to a minimum standard, this has negative impacts right through their life. Ignorance of a student’s abilities, strong or weak, in literacy and numeracy cannot be considered appropriate policy or strategy. NAPLAN allows us to know at important developmental stages areas of strength and development needs. Where intervention is needed, this can be sought as early as possible. And the more quality information we get on our students’ literacy and numeracy abilities during the years, the better quality our response can be.

The idea of abandoning a test that provides us with nationally comparable data on a student’s abilities in literacy and numeracy, and which we know benefits students,is an irresponsible proposition. As a country, we would then have no high-quality, nationally comparable literacy and numeracy data about our students’ learning and no way of tracking trends in how students are improving across their schooling.

I’m never happy to learn about students who may find NAPLAN distressing, but it’s the adults in our students’ lives who need to keep NAPLAN in context and work with young people to help them manage this and other “tests” that they will face. I have always maintained that while some familiarisation of NAPLAN and its style of testing in the weeks leading up to NAPLAN is important, I do not agree with buying NAPLAN books, or with excessive coaching or drilling, or diverting a student’s attention for weeks on end to NAPLAN.

Students should approach NAPLAN as they do any in-school assessment and try their best. There are no prizes for doing well in NAPLAN and no repercussions, other than support and assistance, for those who don’t meet the minimum standards.

Parents and carers – before you listen to people proposing you boycott NAPLAN,I encourage you to sit down with your child and work through these questions with them. As you do this, please, ask yourself – what part of what you’re seeing there do you not want your child learning or knowing about, and crucially, what part do you not want to know about if your child needs assistance in developing their literacy and numeracy skills? When it comes to your child’s education, ignorance is not bliss.

Robert Randall is CEO of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority

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