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The NAPLAN farce

By Phil Cullen - posted Friday, 20 January 2012


ACARA the governing body for the administration of NAPLAN, and now clearly in charge of the Australian schooling system as designed by Joel Klein of New York and imported by Ms Gillard about 2008, has recently released its report on incidents attached to the 2011 NAPLAN tests. It’s a riot. Today, Wednesday’s Courier Mail comments that Queensland won the ‘cheating’ contest, hands down. God bless Queensland.

The ACARA report says that “...cheating occurs when there is intent to gain an unfair advantage or improperly influence test results .”

Not one of the schools that practised heavily for the tests or those that made the children use Test Practice Books to ‘improperly influence test results’ is mentioned. Big-time ‘cheating’ of this magnitude seems to have been ignored. Intense practice is done only to influence results, and those who practise better or longer get a greater advantage. Those who teach the full curriculum until May are clearly in the purest condition for serious testing; but they are at a disadvantage as far as test results are concerned. And those who are in a multiple grade situation, such as a small school, won’t be able to have their practice sessions supervised as diligently as a single-class group. It a clear advantage to a school that has single-grade units with lots of help, lots of time and lots of money. Those of them who do the most practice, cheat the most. Some schools have been reported in the press as concentrating on NAPLAN tests in Year 1 and 2. No mention of any in the incidents report. Next year’s report, maybe, if NAPLAN lasts that long. Confusing and farcical, isn’t it?

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I asked a lady teacher last weekend if she was looking forward to going back to school. She replied, “Gosh. It’s just NAPLAN, NAPLAN, NAPLAN at our school for the first few months! What do you think?”

Most of the incidents mentioned in the ACARA report are really funny – both “funny ha-ha” and ”funny peculiar”; and the administration of six-cuts to some miscreants is passed off to some-one else beyond or below ACARA. The poor State Department has to wield the cane.The boss-principal had to do the dirty work in our day.

There is a serious side. One wonders if any ACARIAN or NAPLAN supporter or fence-sitting politician has ever been in a classroom where test-induced tension prevails. It can be like water-torture at its most efficient. Nervousness and agitation pervade the atmosphere. Wonder at what the test might contain and worry. worry, worry is thick. It’s in the faces and the gestures and the antics. As the test gets going and the teacher empathizes with the demonstrated pain revealed in the faces the temptation to help their young friends...somehow...is great. They can’t. Those who do...maybe a few minutes extra..maybe pointing at an obvious error...maybe a grunt or ‘uh-uh’ at a mistake about to be made...can get mentioned in the SUMMARY OF REPORTED INCIDENTS and their future is in jeopardy. As a teacher-supervisor or invigilator, you wonder what masochist dreamed up this idea. Why can’t these little people enjoy learning?

A comment in the most recent Save Our Schools article says “Several schools were also found to have encouraged some parents to withdraw their children from the tests'.” As my friend Fred would say, “That’s their bloody duty, mate...to tell it to us as it is! We need more spunk.” Spunkiness is the only way to contest this malicious, threatening and degenerative regime that focuses only on testing special bits of a wide and exciting curriculum. We want to know what our principal, unthreatened, thinks of national blanket testing. It’s our kids’ future on the line. We want our [thinking] principal to tell it as it is.

One incident was described as follows : “Principal reported in media interviews that he would not allow students to sit the tests and subsequently that parents would be encouraged to withdraw students. Relevant to: Years 3,5,7,9.’’ No prizes for guessing the school. Kimberley College, a private school, is one of the best in Australia, with spunky, heavy curriculum-based, achievement-oriented leadership. It doesn’t need unreliable, curriculum-wrecking external blanket-testing. What did ACARA record in its ‘Action taken and outcome’ column in its report? "Matter was substantiated. No further action taken.” Well done, KC.

AND .....this NAPLAN testing is the centre-point of Australian schooling. It defines us as educators...all of us.

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Fair go.

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About the Author

Phil Cullen is a teacher. His website is here: Primary Schooling.

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