Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Day 2399 - NAPLAN and why it's a no go zone for us this year

I have pulled my son out of NAPLAN.



NAPLAN is the National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy. It's a national assessment for kids who are in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

All Australian children in these years are expected to participate in the tests to check out how individuals, schools and the country are doing when it comes to reading, writing, spelling, grammar, punctuation and maths.



NAPLAN has been developed as a way to track progress.  It's a standardised, large scale test to assess our education system.

Nobody loves it (least of all the kids) but it helps to create some accountability and highlight any problem areas.

I am not against NAPLAN.  It is what it is and for the general population it's probably a decent measure.

It's not so good for kids with learning challenges though.

It's definitely no good for dyslexia.

For the year 3 and year 5 NAPLAN testing we strongly encouraged our boy to attend and do his best. We knew he had learning challenges and that the NAPLAN system was not a true indication of his academic abilities, however we felt the need to push him through for the purposes of resilience and non-segregation.  Plus we're not a family to buck the system.

The reality is that NAPLAN is not an effective test of our boy's knowledge.  It is a test of whether or not he can read and process the written word effectively to then share his knowledge within a given time frame.

Because of dyslexia/Irlen Syndrome, our boy's biggest hurdle in life is reading and processing the written word.

In our house, receiving his NAPLAN results is not a positive exercise for anyone.  It would not be a positive experience for him which is why we've never shown him his results.  It's not positive for us because it highlights that our boy is not equipped for a book based learning system.  It's not positive for the school because it brings down their averages.  It's not positive for the community because low scoring schools make communities look inferior when the school lists are released.

So this year I've decided I'm not going to put my boy, us or the school through it.

This has not been an easy decision.  This is not about stress levels or lack of confidence or pride.  It's not even about bucking the system.  It's simply about the test not being able to test him effectively. It's a reading based test.   It does not test his knowledge, analytical skills or comprehension.  It tests his ability (or inability) to read and then relay his knowledge back via the written word.

Our boy is a smart kid.  He dazzles us with his brilliance daily.  Being part of an education system that relies so heavily on the written word is very tricky for him, but he finds innovative ways to get through and with the support of the adults around him he is becoming more and more equipped every day to handle the challenges of education.

If and when the powers-that-be recognise that there are other ways to test knowledge and where our kids are at from an education point of view, we'll participate. But until then I'll be turning away from the system that focuses on my son's weaknesses.

To withdraw I simply started a conversation with the school highlighting the pros and cons and together we agreed that it was not in our best interests to put our boy through it.

Then it was simply a matter of filling in a form which they then submitted to the education department excusing him from the process.

It's official. I've pulled my son out of NAPLAN.


What are your thoughts?

How would you handle this situation?

Would you ever consider pulling your child from the national testing system? 

PS: The school did offer to extend his testing time and put him in another room to assist his ability to concentrate.  In previous years we have also talked about the idea of having a reader in the room with him.  After careful thought and much naval gazing I have chosen to not put him through that type of attention this year because again it simply highlights his weaknesses and has no credibility when it comes to testing his knowledge.  I'd prefer to put that extra energy into his strengths instead. 

PPS: I am keen to find out more about the new "Dyslexia Font" that has just been introduced to some Aussie schools. It may well be a great option for NAPLAN of the future. 

29 comments :

  1. Good for you- I might take a leaf out of your book!

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    1. I didn't take the decision lightly, that's for sure. But it's done now and it was the best for all I think.

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  2. I'm sure your son will appreciate the elimination of the unneccessary stress!

    It's good that things may change somewhat with the development of the dyslexia font.

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    1. Dyslexia is an interesting beast and we so often get our hopes up only to have them dashed. But at last people are looking into it and trying to make a difference. Thanks positive forward movement in my books.

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  3. You know I have never looked at NAPLAN from this perspective and I thank you for putting this post out there.
    NAPLAN is just another school day to my kids. I have never coached them about it, or even encouraged them to try their hardest over these tests. To be honest, we don't even discuss the tests at all.
    You are right though, when it comes to kids with challenges. If it were my own child, I would do exactly as you have done. It is also great that your school offered up alternatives for your son too.

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    1. Never been an issue for my daughter, we never talked about it or coached or emphasised it in any way. But yeah, very different for our boy.

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  4. In Primary school, Naplan is a brilliant idea - it unfortunately has been destroyed by parents who use NAPLAN results as a way to pick schools. This means that schools teach to NAPLAN (waste of everyones time), parent get tutors to teach to NAPLAN (waste of NAPLAN results) and schools ask kids not to sit it if they don't do well (absolutely disgusting and why any parent would agree to that is beyond me). If teachers use the NAPLAN results to focus on weakness, and thus improve the area in the class overall, then NAPLAN is great. In High school, however, I doubt the English and Maths teachers use the NAPLAN results in this way, as they have 7 classes or so, so how do the results effectively show areas of focus? So I think in High School, there's probably little practical point in sitting NAPLAN.
    That said, one of the reasons I picked our high school is that they did midyear exams as well as end of year exams, because if the HSC is an exam, it makes sense to do as many exams as possible so that you don't get nervous in exams....

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    1. That said, I was pushing a different school for one of my kids that didn't do that well academically but had AMAZING extra curricular offerings, and am lamenting I was outvoted as I think it would have suited him much better - so I don't think exam results are the be all and end all for success in later life....

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    2. There are definitely pros and cons to NAPLAN. There are also good uses for it. It can also end up very limiting if people are using the results to judge the worth of a community, a school or a child.

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  5. I have seen a lot of ASD kids asked to not participate in the NAPLAN (on ASD parent forums).
    Did you ever watch the HBO series The Wire? It's quite a few years old now but was some of the most brilliantly written television that I ever seen, much more like a complex visual novel. Anyway, one of the series dealt with the school system (it was set in an impoverished US city) and it dealt a lot with their standardised testing and how schooling stops being about educating, or being about the children when these tests become the focus point.
    I went to an ASD parent support group last Tuesday and one of the women had an ASD son and a daughter who she described as profoundly dyslexic. She said that the school that she had her daughter in treated her as slow because of her dyslexia, so the parents had her IQ tested and she came back in the top 2%, so they changed schools and the new school taught her as the gifted student that she was. Sorry for the essay!

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    1. Don't apologise for the essay. This is interesting! Thanks so much for sharing.

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  6. One of my children has learning issues and she has never sat NAPLAN. She misses nothing

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    1. Thanks Natalie. Good to know I'm not alone with this decision.

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  7. I think you've made the right decision by the sounds of it. There's no point placing that unnecessary stress on your son and your family. As you say, you're already aware of his capabilities. Good on you.

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  8. My son sat the Year 3 Naplan last year; sure enough he scored poorly. When I suspected dyslexia in Grade 2 I was shut down. "He can't be dyslexic, he can read". Yes he can read, but he reads by shape and memory. He can't decode unfamiliar words or spell to save himself. Naplan was the catalyst to getting him tested. After extensive testing he was finally diagnosed. Thank you Naplan for the kick up the ass but No Thanks to any future testing.

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    1. Wow. Yep, it's tricky! Dyslexia is an interesting beast and can look very different to each individual. I have found it very interesting talking to dyslexic adults and hearing their perspective too.

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  9. I applaud you on your decision. It is a shame that something supposedly so important, isn't offered in different testing formats to suit kids like your son.

    Visiting from Team IBOT

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    1. I agree Janet. I agree. So for now we'll walk away ...

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  10. It sounds like you've done the right thing to me. You know your child and what's best for him. That's the most important thing. xx

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    1. Yep! You're right. I didn't take the decision lightly but even now after the fact I know it was the right decision for us.

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  11. I really don't know much about it, but it does seem that standardised tests just don't cope with the breadth of human reality. It sounds like a wise decision.

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    1. I agree with the breadth of human reality statement. Nailed it!

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  12. The best decision a parent can make about NAPLAN involvement is the one that suits their child's needs. I have a couple of students who have been withdrawn completely or withdrawn from a single test that was inaccessible to their child. It's not about how withdrawals might help or hinder a school's results (we are not actually allowed to suggest a student withdraw). It's about what is best for the child.

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    1. That's the exact line our school had too when I spoke to them about it.

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  13. I salute you for doing right by your boy - gold class parenting right there!

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    1. Why thank you Sammie. I'll hang the gold star with pride!

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  14. You did what was in the best interests of your child and I applaud your right to do so.

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    1. Thanks Denyse. And yes, there are mechanisms in place to allow for us to make these decisions which is why Australia continues to be a great place bring up our kids.

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