We are continually affronted by the pressure on teachers and schools to perform in the NAPLAN test - responding to government and community pressure that the NAPLAN provides an informative and meaningful representation of students and schools. We work in schools across the country from elite private schools to remote indigenous communities in Arnhem Land and we hear over and over these types of comments.
In a recent conversation with a principal about the role and meaningfulness of NAPLAN - the response went something like this ... I disagree with you about NAPLAN, we are an education institution and we have a responsibility to educate children .... And this is the vexed question! Of course we have a responsibility to educate children - but what is education and what is a meaningful assessment of this education? Meaningful assessment cannot be understood before there is a common understanding of education itself.
If we think the education of children is about being able to rote learn, to be competent in numeracy and literacy and nothing else ...... and then to be compared to every other child across the country then NAPLAN is the way to go. If we think of education as the development of the skills required for our children to become successful in life (including numeracy and literacy) then NAPLAN fails dismally as an assessment tool.
Meaningful assessment starts with teachers reflecting upon the following question: What do I know about this child in relation to where:
Shona Bass and Kathy Walker