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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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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OVER TESTING LEADS TO UNDER TEACHING

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So now Year Ones are to have a new test to determine who has problems.

By this time of the year Grade One teachers have already identified these youngsters and doing all they can to help them catch-up and have success with basic literacy and numeracy skills.

The money to develop this new test could be used to put extra teacher assistants in the classrooms and purchase adequate teaching resources. (Teachers buy their own!)

Australian kids are over-tested and under-taught!

There are problems that results from this over-testing:

  • Parents naturally worry about the tests and are concerned the results will affect their children’s futures. According to parents, judgements about who can enter certain private schools are sometimes made using NAPLAN results.
  • MANY schools are holding time-consuming NAPLAN coaching sessions for entire classes and teachers who attend our professional development sessions are concerned about this.
  • Every time teachers coach kids to pass a test they are not teaching to the needs of their classes.
  • Students are really worried- we have so many year 3 children who are really frightened of NAPLAN
  • Parents are buying assessments books by the dozen and coaching kids at home. Kids are not getting to play and relax. This leads to stressed kids learning less in classrooms.

NAPLAN has always been a very expensive, ineffective and time wasting stick to try to scare teachers into somehow drilling facts into kids in Dickensian “Hard Times” scenarios.

I had a parent tell me her Pre-Primary son has been identified as at educational risk because he counted to 100 and missed 89 and became mixed up!  This is the result of teacher stress reaching out and affecting children.

We taught this particular child with some extra “hands-on” sessions. He had NO problems at all – in fact his maths intelligence was very strong.

We need to regain our sense of perspective and look at what actually DOES work. We say we do this but Finland is a leading light and they have very little testing.

Singapore is known to be a school system that is reliant on rigorous testing but I am regularly asked by my colleagues there why we have SO MUCH testing in Australia- and yet very little effect!

We need to honour and trust our teachers as professionals and give them the resources and help they need to help ALL youngsters reach their potential!

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SAD CONVERSATIONS

bambino disperato si copre il voltoAlmost everyday I have sad conversations with parents and children about school work and homework they cannot understand.

A little challenge is healthy but to be constantly confronted with work they have no chance of succeeding with is just plain depressing. Then – just to rub salt in the wound, the NAPLAN results arrive and another nail is driven into the coffin of self-esteem!

F grade and a sad smilie, written in red letters in a spiral pad, shallow DOF

Of course there are curriculum guides that tell teachers the content expected to be mastered at different grade levels BUT a teacher’s task is always to take a child metaphorically by the hand and lead them through the curriculum. If they have not reached a certain stage you cannot just MAKE this happen. Children need to be given work they CAN do and then be shown how to get to the next level.

Children are not machines to be suddenly accelerated by a switch. They are wonderful gifts from God for us to nurture, love and lead gently through the education maze.

There is NOTHING more demeaning than to not be able to do school work all day (with classmates teasing and goading) and then to be given homework that you can’t do either. Schools need to be aware of how many families spend hours on homework tasks every night with resultant frustration and tears. These kids are not getting time to play, chat, daydream and generally be kids.

There is very little evidence that copious amounts of homework help children at all. Reading, practising basic spelling, phonics and times tables is appropriate. Any more than 30-40 minutes per evening is too much and children under 8 should have even less.

We need to stop robbing children of their childhoods and help them at point of need.

That’s why tuition that targets specific skills not understood, and that builds self-confidence and self-esteem really works!

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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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THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN – HARD TIMES ARE BACK!

Our education system is broken.
We have lost the plot – seriously!
We treat children like vessels to be filled with knowledge- like Mr Thomas Gradgrind, the school board superintendent, in Charles Dicken’s “Hard Times.”
“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.”

There are more and more schools that rip kindergarten children from the sandpits and plop them in front of boring workbooks, taking them away from play-based learning and thrusting them into formal school learning – all in the name of acceleration. Acceleration for what? Acceleration towards boredom and disengagment!

Some schools have the stated aim of getting all the children to be 1 year ahead before they get into year one! Why? What will this tension lead to?

Broken children will be the end results and already our level of anxiety amongst children has grown to worrying levels.
https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/lifestyle/a/25294925/anxiety-rising-among-children/
We are enrolling more and more children who are very anxious about NAPLAN, reports, academic performance and not managing to get all their homework done!
Schools are discussing children in terms of marks, stanines and percentages – not needs, personalities and learning styles.
The humanity, fun and excitement has gone from education and will continue to go.
Just over the last 7 days I have met broken children who believe they are failures at 8 years of age! I have met broken teachers who love children but have been instructed that children are no longer at the centre of the educational stage – it is all about exams results and, marks.
Even children are now describing themselves using the marks they get. I have children who have told me they desperately want to achieve a pass or get better than a C but believe this is no longer possible.

I have seen many reports that tell the exact position children come in their class. That is unbelievable and unacceptable in this day and age. It has to be stopped.
We are dishonouring our children and robbing them of motivation, hope and love of education. We CAN improve standards and reform our education system without taking away all the hope, enthusiasm, fun and creativity and breaking the hearts of the next generation!

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