In two weeks my students sit the NAPLAN tests for the first time. NAPLAN Tests have been referred to as NAPALM by several other educators I know, which in some ways is quite apt. They do tend to “blow up” any focus on other aspects of the curriculum in the lead up period and leave you feeling devastated and rather flat as a teacher.

This year, I am teaching grade 3 and have to shepherd a class through the tests for the first time in about four years. It’s not a nostalgic concept to return to… Pressure and anxiety gets passed down the chain from DEECT -> Region -> PCO -> Leading teachers -> Classroom teachers – > students, with a concurrent stream bearing down from the media and parent community. It’s not a fun time. I hate the way that some educators espouse all these grandioise ideas of teaching the “whole child” and offering a “value added” curriculum but when it counts, its only successful literacy and numeracy data that effective teaching is judged upon. The hysteria is hard to avoid in the 6-8 weeks leading up to NAPLAN and I too, currently find myself getting worked up and anxious about the performance of my eight year old students. “Oh no, those weak struggling students are going to drag the whole cohort down!” “We haven’t got time for other special events and engaging activities because we need to prepare kids properly.” Then we get this flood of data coming in – your students are weak in space; spelling; inferential reading. They need to write persuasive text. Panic stations!!!

I wish that our politicians looked to Finland and the Netherlands and other high performing education systems that don’t administer this constant barrage of tests to raise standards. I wish I worked in a system that doesn’t seek uniformity and consistency and in doing so drive passion and creativity from the job. A system that sees more value in breadth and depth in learning than “right” and “wrong” answers to simplistic questions. One that acknowledges and respects individuality – in leaders, learners AND teachers. A schooling system that places a high value on applying and transferring knowledge to new contexts and respects teacher professionalism and judgement so much that they let us teach our students the best way that KNOW. Sometimes, I feel that we try to “hold people” back in this drive for consistency and high achievement on tests. I know I have seen passionate and individualistic educators “discouraged” for trying new things or straying from the chosen pathway in the relentless drive for high performance. Sigh…

Sorry for ranting and rambling.

There is an advertisement on TV for a PC at the moment, which asks viewers to “Imagine a education system that was different.”  The sad thing is that good teachers can imagine it – that’s not the crux of the problem. Unfortunately, they are mostly powerless to do much about it.

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