The National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy, or NAPLAN, is a national educational assessment given to children in Australia in grades years three, five, seven and nine. Introduced in 2008 by education minister Julia Gillard, the NAPLAN test includes writing, spelling, grammar, reading and numeracy. Here is everything you need to know about NAPLAN and how to prepare your child for it.
Why Is the Test Important?
On the surface, it is a general assessment of your child and all other children in that grade. It is a way for school administrators to measure the performance of the school and how well it teaches children. Furthermore, it allows parents and administrators to compare schools against each other.
The test may reveal strategies in the classroom that improve children’s performance. For example, poor spellers may be found to be overly reliant on phonics. Poor writers often write how they speak. These children benefit from targeted instruction to correct these deficits. Unfortunately, we aren’t seeing increased funding from the government for this after the Gonski reforms. In theory, ACARA, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, could make changes to the curriculum to improve overall education.
How Do You Prepare Your Child for NAPLAN?
Some sources would say that you can’t prepare your child for the exam and even recommend against it. They’ll cite concerns about triggering performance anxiety in kids that may hurt their results.
Parents can also prepare their child in this area, however, by framing the exam as a measure of how well the school teaches your child instead of grading the child. Others suggest relying on the school’s preparation for the exam. Approximately two thirds of schools dedicate several hours a week in review of the material to try to improve students’ performance.
However, many parents want to do more. NAPLAN preparation is something parents can start at home. For example, reading is an important skill on all NAPLAN exams. You can help prepare your children by reading with them every day and asking them exam style questions about what they read.
Time management is another issue that can trip up test takers. Have your children take practice tests and learn how to pace themselves. This can help them learn how to complete a writing assignment before time runs out. It can also reduce any fear of writing essays or taking tests.
Why Is There So Much Confusion about NAPLAN?
For starters, NAPLAN doesn’t draw on the Australian curriculum. There is also the criticism that the test doesn’t address the creativity, collaboration, critical thinking or the 3 Cs, often considered a requirement in education. Some fear that the formal, structured tests kill a student’s love of learning. Yet the schools need such neutral, universal assessments to determine where children stand academically and which schools are failing their kids. This is why schools hype the importance of the NAPLAN test for months before kids actually take it.
NAPLAN is supposed to be an assessment of what your child has been taught. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t also proactively work to improve your child’s academic skills.