NAPLAN NONSENSE

Finally, my colleagues are vindicated in their anti-NAPLAN comments! This morning’s news featuring the report from Dr Ainley showing:

“There has been no improvement in maths and reading among students in a decade and the results of disadvantaged students have declined sharply, a major report obtained by the ABC reveals.” (link at end of this blog)

I train teachers around the country and many outstanding educators have privately shared their NAPLAN concerns with me.

These concerns include:

  • Having to teach to the test- not the curriculum.
  • Reducing child development to grades and benchmarks and not taking learning styles into consideration
  • Children’s fears and anxiety around these tests.
  • Parents making children work on endless worksheets that purport to give better marks- a whole industry has grown up around this reduction of the education process to grades and numbers!
  • Children are pretested,  post – tested- they are tested so often there is little time to teach!

I regularly give workshops to SE Asian teachers as well, and my Singaporean colleagues have asked me why we have so many national exams.

Singapore has very high standards of education and has been very exam oriented in the past but is gradually injecting more creativity into the curriculum.

We NEVER had to go this way.

Sure- literacy and numeracy standards needed to improve and we needed more rigour in our education process.

This could have happened with a tighter curriculum, more effective professional development and extra teachers and assistants to work with children.

NAPLAN was always a broken, inferior tool to mend an education system that needed serious improvement.

Read more about it here-

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-07/naplan-call-review-after-report-reveals-no-change-in-decade/9519840

 

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What NAPLAN won’t measure

 

I have a lot of anxious kids at our centre this week.

One young lady told me she had not been to sleep properly for three nights because she was so worried about NAPLAN. We do our best to reassure kids that this is just a snap shot to help schools provide the best possible education but kids know the truth!

They know the letter will arrive.

They know they will be judged.

I watched the children intently yesterday as they chatted, grappled with maths problems and composed sentences and paragraphs. I listened to these children as they read their written maths aloud to help them comprehend the needed processes.

I watched a young man write a cohesive essay about the Stolen Generation and a year one child concentrate valiantly as she tried to get her letters to “bump up” against each other!

I was in awe as students compared a written text versus a filmed version of a fable. They were easily able to do this- even though there were quite young children in our class.

Our students continually inspire me. Sure- some of them have spelling and reading issues and quite a few seem to have an aversion to maths BUT there are so many elements involved in education and the important ones simply cannot be captured by NAPLAN.

e.g.

Kindness: the children showed great patience as a student attempted over and over to interrupt the teaching to avoid the inevitable writing that would follow! They certainly showed a much greater degree of patience than I did!

Creativity: One young student thought a writing task I had set was a little boring so his answer was all in rhyme- all six sentences!

Confidence: after telling a child that the way she had spelled a word was not the usual way, she looked at me in a kindly way, “Vicky this is the way I spell it!”

Persistence: One of our students came to us totally illiterate and yet yesterday could write 1.5 pages about herself and possible career paths within 5 minutes!

The children’s intelligence, persistence, creativity, resilience and confidence and kindness will never be measured in national testing and yet surely these are the most important qualities of all?

 

 

 

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SURVIVING NAPLAN

Whether or not you agree with NAPLAN- it is arriving next week!

These tests are given to provide a snapshot of a student’s academic skills and the results help schools determine the effectiveness of their programs and the specific needs of their students.

Some children enjoy tests and many do not.

We have found many of our students are over-concerned and we know that stressed students are more likely to fail. This is the reason teachers and parents need to stay calm and help kids to de-stress.

Simply tell your child you know they will do their best and if they have problems you will help them and so will their school.

Don’t try to second-guess what might be in the test. It is far too late for that!

Now is the time for calm and focused thinking. Your children need good sleeps, minimum screen time and plenty of exercise.

Above all they need your calm attitude and a little fun! Laughter is excellent to lower stress levels and help children to stop worrying. No amount of worrying will help children to get better scores.

On the day of NAPLAN make sure your children eat a nutritious breakfast, get to school on-time and have a healthy packed snack and lunch.

They will probably want to chat to you about the tests after school but if not, just leave it be! They need a little down time to process and it is far better to simply continue with usual daily routines.

When you get the results, please do not stress if they are not what you expected. If your child gets nervous during tests they may make many mistakes and not really show what they can do.

Stay calm and congratulate them on pleasing results and tell children you will make sure they get all the help they need if the results are not good.

Remember-NAPLAN is just one measure of progress. Their teachers are also keeping dated samples of work, test results from class tests and observational records to make up a far more comprehensive picture.

Above all, help children to celebrate all their successes as well as difficulties and to let children know that their mistakes are simply signposts to success!

 

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THE HIDDEN CONCERNS OF NAPLAN

 

There are emerging concerns about children’s high stress levels during NAPLAN testing but the hidden, huge concern is massively increased teacher stress load and this is being largely ignored. Teachers are deliberately staying quiet and not commenting in the media for fear of their jobs.

We conduct a great deal of professional development around Australia with thousands of teachers and I can assure readers they ARE experiencing severe stress. Their time is taken up with administering and marking many practice tests – especially in term one where they get kids ready for this testing. Traditionally this was the term to thaw out Aussie kids’ brains from the long, hot summer baking and help them become receptive to the knowledge they will receive in the new school year.

Naplan years are now practising test papers instead and even “off year Naplan testing” is happening as enterprising companies have devised test papers for children in other grades.

Of course this is educational insanity and takes time away from good teaching. We are likely to drive our education standards down further as we know that quality teaching is the one factor that can make a difference.

Teachers simply cannot do their jobs as so much time is taken up with test preparation.
Any education system that uses testing as a major aid to check on levels of attainment is putting out a clear message- we don’t trust our teachers!
If the Government really does not trust teachers to be able to help children reach their potential we need to address this. Why this lack of trust? Does this lack of trust existing in other professions?
We need to honour our teachers, nurture them, show trust and provide the tools they need. A huge number of our attending teachers pay their own fees for our courses and report they have to buy their own JOLLY PHONICS and JOLLY GRAMMAR handbooks. Their salaries are not high- less than most professions and that sends a clear message- you are not worth it!
We can carry on down this destructive and negative pathway and increase teacher and student stress or we can look at truly successful educational models such as the one in Finland and start to trust our teachers, provide higher quality training for them and stop the massive waste of energy, time and money related to NAPLAN testing.

 

 

 

 

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NAPLAN WASTE

brain 1So there have been no significant gains in student results this year.

So what?

Can we measure the more intangible but more important outcomes with tests?

E.g.

  • Curiosity and wonder about the world
  • Formulation of ideas, dreams and goals
  • Ability to socialise and communicate
  • Determination to overcome difficulties
  • Fresh, creative writing
  • Ability to think logically and problem solve
  • Children’s ability to empathise with others and ability to manage their own strong feelings
  • A feeling of self-worth and optimism?

Of course we can’t! You need careful observations and skilled teachers and parents to identify the above qualities.

All teachers know how important the above outcomes are to children’s lives and yet we concentrate on such a narrow band of abilities.

Why do we think education is always about measurable results?

Why are we so scared of aspects of education we cannot pin down?

A good education is so much more than the results in the areas that NAPLAN measures.

Once again, children are being likened to machines that just need information rammed in tightly.

NAPLAN completely ignores the fact that children have at least 8 intelligences. Children who lack skills in maths and literacy feel like complete failures.

We see children with amazing art ability and aptitude for thinking deeply and logically. We see children who know so much about science and have “out of the box” ideas for helping our environment. These kids are still consigned to the rubbish heap.

We have not come very far!

So many years and so little progress!

“Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them.”
Charles Dickens, Hard Times

The money spent on the development and administration of NAPLAN could so easily have been provided to schools for extra teachers, resources and ongoing professional development of teachers. That would have contributed to long lasting benefits for all Australian children!

Charles Dickens had it right- “There is a wisdom of the head, and… there is a wisdom of the heart.” – Hard Times

Hard Times ahead for education if we don’t get our heads out of the sand and stop applying flawed pedagogical principles to the education process!

 

 

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Your child won’t amount to much….

AllKids are Smart Front CoverYour child won’t amount to much….

At least 10 times over the last 2 years I have had sad, hurt parents tell me the teacher of their child (primary years) has cast a very negative judgement on their child. Here are a few typical ones:

  • “Will never be academic,” (turned out to be an A student),
  •  “Will not amount to much,” – child picked that up and then pretty much believed it and went on to tell her Mum that the teacher “knows I will never be able to do it!”
  • “Will make a good hairdresser”- yes- that really WAS said! Apologies to all hairdressers as I think you are amazingly gifted!
  • “You need to lower your expectations because he will NEVER go to Uni- just doesn’t have the capacity.”  (That one went on to top his high-school year and will definitely be going to uni!)

How can trained educators do that?

How can we judge human potential so lightly and go on to trample on everyone’s dreams?

Whenever I look at the groups I teach I am always aware that I might have an Einstein, a Richard Branson, Maria Montessori, Marie Curie or a Bill Gates sitting in front of me. They might wriggle around, show little interest and be downright non-compliant at times. So what? Maybe my chosen teaching method that day was boring. Maybe they already knew the material. Maybe they were tired or had a fight with their best friend………

Many very successful adults did very poorly at school and in fact failed!

What does that tell us?

STOP JUDGING!

It could be us as educators or our inflexible exam based system that is breaking the spirit of our children and holding up their potential.

I have met many successful people with terrible memories of school. They were made to feel stupid, inept and eventually angry and resentful. Luckily anger has lots of inherent energy and they used it to fuel their future success.

The interesting thing is that behind all these failures who made good was a parent or mentor who really believed in them.

Just one person to believe in them made the difference!

If not for Einstein’s mother the scientific world would be so much poorer.

My take-away message is two-fold:

  1. To teachers- stop judging potential and treat EVERY child as potentially gifted. Look instead at your teaching methods.
  2. To parents- keep believing. Refuse to swallow the negative, bitter pills given to you. Let your child know you believe in them, provide a positive learning environment and let your child’s mind unfold!

So what if they fail the test, exam or forget the facts? There is a lot more to education than those things.

We believe EVERY child is smart and this is why I wrote a book of the same name.

Refuse to believe anything less.

Contact us on 61 8 92714200 to get a copy of the book. If you are in Singapore you can purchase it from www.september21.com.sg

Email me privately on victoriacarlton@iinet.net.au if you have any matters re your children you would like to discuss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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