Parents and NAPLAN: how concerned should you be?

NAPLAN tests in literacy and numeracy will take place on May 14, 15 and 16 for all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9.
Both before and after those dates the media will probably feature a fair few negative articles about the test, and you might even wonder whether you should withdraw your child from the testing process.
But how much should you worry?
Firstly, it’s important to understand the purpose of the NAPLAN tests.  They’re designed
• to measure whether Australian students are meeting the outcomes outlined in the Australian Curriculum,
• to provide information about the achievements of individual students so that schools can be specific about meeting their needs, and
• to provide schools and education departments with information about the effectiveness of their educational programs.

Of course you are most interested in the impact on your child, so what’s the deal with NAPLAN?

The important thing to recognise is that NAPLAN assessment is just one part of a school’s assessment program. In no way does it provide a comprehensive picture of your child’s achievement and progress, and nor does it try to. It can, however, provide useful information about aspects of your child’s literacy and numeracy progress which might need further support. Importantly, in analysing the data provided by the NAPLAN results, schools draw on their own more extensive knowledge of individual students as part of their evaluation.
You can be reassured about this because there are various reasons why a child might not ‘perform’ on the day. Perhaps he or she is overly anxious or not feeling well, for instance. For this reason, attaching too much significance to the results can be misleading.
Having said that, I would reiterate that the information derived from NAPLAN can be extremely useful, so how can you help your child to prepare?
• Reassure children, but only if they seem to need that reassurance. If you link NAPLAN with stress, then maybe this will actually create anxiety. You know your child best, and you will know whether or not they need reassurance.
• Play down the significance of the tests, emphasising that they are just one part of the school’s assessment program and explain why they are held.
• Remind children that the focus is on effort, on doing their best, rather than on worrying about results.
• On a practical note, make sure they get a good night’s sleep before the test and a good breakfast in the morning.
Teachers will have shared examples of NAPLAN tests so that children are familiar with them. They will probably have practised answering questions.
There are four individual tests. The first one tests children’s knowledge of language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation); the second one asks children to complete a piece of persuasive writing on a particular topic; the third one tests reading skills, and the final one tests numeracy. The specific skills that are being tested reflect the Australian Curriculum.
Otisa offers children the opportunity to practise the skills described in the Australian Curriculum.

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