Primary aged kids these days are constantly being tested. Maths test on a Friday: no worries. Monday morning spelling list: standard. Oral presentation at assembly: piece of cake!
As a primary years educator, I have given many students tests, quizzes and exams and most of them take these challenges in their shiny-shoed stride. So it shocks me, every single year, that these same students flip into a frenzy at the mention of a single word.
It might sound like an app to help you organise your sleeping schedule, but this little acronym stands for the National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy and tests students annually in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. Snore.
I asked a handful of my students, “What’s the first word that pops into your head when I say NAPLAN?” Their faces fell, and their noses curled up as if I had just asked them to do yard duty with me. Obviously, I wasn’t expecting them to do cartwheels and shout out words like FUN or FASCINATING, but I was shocked by the intensity of which this test is negatively viewed by kids.
Granted, my small testing pool of a handful of fifth graders is no ground breaking psychological experiment, but it did make me wonder; Why the hell do kids care about this particular test so much? Is it peer pressure? Kids comparing their abilities to others is no new phenomenon, I’m still traumatised by the fact that Katie got her pen license before me in Year 4 – but while intense, I refuse to believe that this is the sole reason behind the fatal fear of the NAPLAN test.
So is it schools and teachers? Are the school big wigs putting pressure on their teachers by expecting impressive NAPLAN scores to come from each classroom? If so, teachers would undoubtably radiate that anxiety and pass it onto their students quicker than a lone nit can cause a classroom infestation. However, most teachers view this test as a giant waste of time. The NAPLAN only caters to a specific style of learner and while test results can be interesting, they are certainly not the holy grail when it comes to deciphering a child’s abilities.
There is another possibility. Here I go, I am gonna say it….
PARENTS. Is the stress surrounding this test bred at home? I acknowledge that most parents support and nurture their children whilst also encouraging them to challenge and extend their abilities. However, we all know parents who trawl the net for NAPLAN preparation courses and pepper their kids with test questions over the dinner table each night. They buy practice question booklets despite the fact that the official NAPLAN website specifically states that ‘excessive test preparation using previous tests is not necessary or useful’. I know that we all want what is best for each child but if a kid is starting to stress, is it really what’s best?
Look, I am not wanting to play the blame game and go around pointing fingers, so I think the best solution is for Principals, peers, parents and educators to present a united front during this year’s NAPLAN week (3rd- 11th of May ) and try to stop the cycle of hysteria!
Let’s remind our children, pupils and peers that the important thing is that they try their best because it really is just another test.