A Letter to My Daughters About NAPLAN

Dear Girls,

The Government decided that all students would be tested in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 to monitor their levels of literacy and numeracy. In theory it seems a good idea. Parents get a sense of where their child sits in relation to other kids, schools can identify problems and so on. In practice, teachers teach to the test. Endless hours of practice for the one exam. We’ve moved the pressure of the HSC onto eight-year-olds. Children recognise when they don’t do well and wear the “label” of no good at maths or spelling or grammar in their classroom for the rest of their education.

I want you to know NAPLAN reflects just one or two days of your life. It may reflect that you were coming down with a cold that day and couldn’t concentrate, it may reflect you developed a stress headache and the words went all blurry so you just guessed your answers, it may reflect you forgot to take the necessary equipment (seriously Hippie Child if you don’t put that maths set in your school bag NOW), it may reflect on that particular day you were on fire, remembered everything your teacher had ever said and managed to nail a great result.

What NAPLAN doesn’t show us is your talent for creativity, for music, for art. It doesn’t show us your love of books and the diverse range of reading you do. It doesn’t let us see your kindness when you help the old lady at the shop who has dropped her purse, or when you make the day of an eight year boy by letting him  join in the fun of jumping off the town wharf with you and your friends.

NAPLAN won’t uncover your ability to question, consider and formulate your own opinions on a wide range of subjects – oh the conversations we have had!

NAPLAN can’t tell me about the hard work and perseverance you have shown when faced with a difficult task you really, really wanted to get right.

NAPLAN doesn’t capture your strength when times are tough.

NAPLAN will not display your sense of fair play and your ability to work in a team.

NAPLAN doesn’t define who you are. It doesn’t determine your level of success in either literacy or numeracy – it is just your level of success on one given day – you can change the result in the many other days you have in your school life.

I hope you finish these eight years of education able to write a coherent sentence and work out how much change you are due at the shop but I also hope you leave school with a continuing desire to learn stuff, a curiosity about the world and an ability to examine things for yourself and come to your own conclusions about their validity.

By the time we get the results of NAPLAN we will all have moved on (it takes five months after all), but if you have aced it we will celebrate your success, if you haven’t gone as well as you hoped we will celebrate having a go. Whatever the scenario we will find a way to celebrate ’cause you know your mum likes a party.

Good luck today Hippie Child (and next year Princess Child)



PS Here’s an interesting article on the NAPLAN

14 thoughts on “A Letter to My Daughters About NAPLAN

  1. How about they make the questions a little easier to understand, that might help the poor little buggers too. Thx for the reality check on the NAPLANS, much appreciated.

  2. I wish the school achievement tests (at least in America) were run on a local (rather than National) level. I think if classes were smaller and run locally (or at least by the individual States), the students would be recognized more as individuals and less as statistics themselves. It would also be nice, if those ‘special’ teachers that give so much to the world of education, were rewarded for their excellence. Just like students vary, so do the teachers that teach them. Some of our teachers are real jewels, and there are some that need to be relieved of their jobs … such is the case with all trades, I’m sure. 🙂

  3. I had the pleasure of taking Hippie Child and Princess Child to school this morning – when I arrived at Shambles Manor Hippie Child was very unhappy and nervous over the Naplan test. I decided to take her into town with me to drop Princess Child off at 8am and then take her back to school to save having to wait 35 mins. for the bus. We went via the Pacific Hwy and had to pass Maccas on the way so guess what !! we had to swing in and get a hash brown and bacon and egg thingo. We went on to school where she sat in the car and consumed it with great gusto. She went off with a great big smile on her face and said “Thanks so much Nana you have started my horrible day off great and I love you” – Go girl!!! you will do okay-Hippie Child the look on your face has made my day too – luv ya!!!!

  4. I love this post. My Girl Child (8) has been worried about NAPLAN since the Christmas holidays. She was home ‘sick’ yesterday. She thought was when NAPLAN started. We’ve told her that all she has to do is try her best, but she was still worried this morning.
    Hopefully once this week is over she will be much less anxious and stop having nightmares.

  5. My dander always goes up when this subject is addressed. The U.S. is big on standardized testing, but I think it is SO WRONG. You can’t measure every child by the same yardstick. Take the money spent on these tests and put it where it really matters–quality teachers, supplies, computers, programs for special needs students as well as those who are gifted, vocation classes… the list goes on.
    I’m sorry to see that other countries are following the same pattern the U.S. is. Maybe one day, they’ll get a clue.

    • I remember when it first came in critics were saying it hadn’t worked in the US, initially I didn’t have strong feelings either way, but having now gone through the process with the eldest and halfway through with the youngest I just can’t see that we have gained an awful lot by having the results. Even the eldest who doesn’t let a lot phase her gets stressed about it, while the youngest who is by nature an anxious child really gets upset by it. I also don’t think the system takes into account the impact of the results on the kids. Even at a really young age they can identify if they are not as good as their friends in a particular area, to have it spelled out on paper seems to highlight their deficiencies to them.

  6. Yeah, this sounds about right. First of all – that “teaching for the test” thing, I took a computer science class in high school and the whole time they taught for the test, the test had a hypothetical scenario about fish on it. I learned a lot about fish. Nothing about computer science. I would have rather learned computer science, it would have been more useful.

    Second of all, I pull that same argument for the SATs, completely overrated. I think I’m charming without a high verbal score.

  7. What a great letter. As a teacher I wish all parents were as sensible as you. I tell the kids in my class all the things you tell your girls. Unfortunately teachers do feel pressure and spending time on subjects like art and drama feels becomes less and less common. Poor kids AND teachers!

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