Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Day 1680 - Naplan and Dyslexia

Here we go again ... NAPLAN testing

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A couple of years ago I wrote about NAPLAN and the pressure our book-based learning and testing system puts on children whose strengths lie outside of their ability to read.  It's definitely not a true indication of the academic level of children with dyslexia. Today as Darby heads off for his year 5 NAPLAN tests I would like to chat about it again.  This time not to complain or feel frustrated, but to explain how we handle it in our house and explain why I won't withdraw Darby from the testing.

Firstly we put no pressure on Darby in the lead up to the tests.  For him it's just another day at school.  Sure we'll buy the practise books and weave them into his home learning, but not because we want to pressure him to get a good result ... but rather so that he feels confident and at home with the actual testing process. Plus it helps us feel confident he actually DOES know his work.  He just can't read or write about it. 

Secondly we highlight his strengths in the lead up to NAPLAN week.  We talk about his physical abilities, his clever insights, we commend him on his story telling and we acknowledge his sense of humour.  

Then we tell him to just be the best that he can be.  We don't care what the test results show because we know where his strengths lie and we don't need a test to tell us that.  We just want him to approach it with a good attitude knowing that NAPLAN testing doesn't define who he is.

In the lead up to NAPLAN I meet with his teacher and his learning support coordinator to chat about the pros and cons of Darby actually sitting the test and whether or not we allow him to have a reader.  This year we have chosen not to do anything that is different than the other children.  We've decided to just let Darby do the tests just like everyone else. Why?  Because this is his reality and learning resilience in his reality is as much a part of life as achieving results. 

So today Darby will head to school like any other day and he'll sit down and do his test like anyone else. His eyes will hurt and he'll probably come home with a headache.  He may feel frustrated or he may not.  He may even come home and proudly announce (like he did two years ago) that his NAPLAN test was good because "he almost answered half the questions".  But he will get through.  And he won't feel marginalised by it.  Because we won't let him.

The moment those "results" arrive in the mail in a few months time, they won't be discussed.  Sure I'll open them, find out what we already know, and file them.  We know that Darby isn't average and we don't need the national testing system to tell us that.  We know that we are already doing all we can (and then some) to make learning with a challenge that little bit easier for him. We know that he'll have some challenges in his life that others may not understand. We know that we'll/he'll have to be innovative in order to get by.  We know that his smarts won't come from books.

NAPLAN doesn't need to tell us that our boy is exceptional.  

We know that already ...


  1. In theory, Naplan is great. It lets the teachers at a school see what they need to focus on and improve (and areas to help the children with). In practice, parents have turned it into a means of judging and selecting schools. This is bad. High schools have used it as a way of selecting students - also bad. We shouldn't blame the tests themselves. This is good information to have, regardless of the outcome. That's why studying for them is silly, as it skews the results (though I did have my son do practice tests, so I am indeed, part of the problem)

  2. My daughter loves school so much and always gets good marks and is quite competitive with herself about it but she was a flurry of nerves last night as her first Naplan day was today (yr 3).
    Normally she loves tests but this one had her very nervous.
    We haven't studied for it at home, I figured the school had them doing so much of that already, I just made sure she had a great breakfast and told her this doesn't effect her report card so try and relax. It is a big thing for them!

  3. I live in fear of these tests and I am not too sure I agree with them or not. I guess that part doesn't matter. My son will be sitting them in two years time and I have two years to just wrap my head around that reality. Love your attitude to these tests and your amazing, exceptional son xx Josefa #teamIBOT

  4. What a beautiful post, Leanne. Darby is lucky to have such wonderful and supportive parents and teachers. I might email you when I get home tonight about dyslexia and your experiences actually if you don't mind. (Don't want to write about it here)

  5. I love your reasoning for letting him do it; that developing resilience is a valuable life skill. I think that's such great attitude to have.
    My second child is doing her first one today, and there was a bit of nervousness, but we keep it so low key. It's just another day, another test, and do your best. Which you should do every day anyway, so it's nothing different. I don't like how some schools and parents use it as a weapon, which is how it can feel. They miss out by doing that, because of all the exceptional kids like your boy, whose talents lie in so many other places.
    Hope he goes ok xxx

  6. How awesome to have such a caring mum and I have to agree the Naplan should not be made a big deal out of, especially for those with difficulty in learning. xx

  7. I will adopt a similar approach when my girls do Naplan if it's still in place by the time they go to school. I hope Darby doesn't get to stressed from the testing.

  8. A really inspiring post for me, Leanne.

    You are such a positive and nurturing mum!

    SSG xxx

    PS - how is T going? Hope she's continuing to recover.

  9. Your last comment sums it all up, Leanne.
    Darby is a lucky boy with a wonderful mama x

  10. It's great you are this way. I heard all the kids groan when the school announced it was time for Naplan. My kids are too young at this stage for it, they also have learning delays so when one of them got average on a report card last year it was very exciting.

    I hope I am able to teach my daughters Naplan is not the be all and end all and that they can just relax.

  11. I hope that Darby felt ok doing the test. It seems to be such a massive point of stress for so many kids. I remember doing the 3,5 and 7 tests at school and it was no bid deal for us. We just did the test, got the results back a few months later and not much changed.


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