83 educators, including 57 primary and secondary teachers in Australian schools, have signed a statement calling on the Federal Government to “end NAPLAN” and “shut down the MySchool website”. Full statement is published here:
Their public criticism of education policy comes at the risk of reprimand from education departments for breaching public sector codes of conduct. The teachers are also encouraging parents to withdraw their children from NAPLAN as part of a campaign to end the NAPLAN testing regime.
Victorian secondary teacher and co-author of the statement Fiona Taylor says, “As teachers, we can see first-hand the disastrous impact of NAPLAN. Even state education ministers are now conceding it’s a faulty test, but they’re still not recognizing the real problem with NAPLAN. The entire approach of reducing students’ learning to standardised scores and enforcing competition between schools has poisoned our education system.”
Victorian primary teacher and co-author Ella Ryan says she is not hopeful that Gonski’s “Growth to Achievement” recommendations can correct the problems created by NAPLAN. “NAPLAN has driven a data obsession in education, and Gonski’s recommendations continue that. As a teacher, I want to encourage deep thinking and a love of learning. But instead, I’m caught in a system geared toward superficial data-chasing strategies, with the constant pressure to teach to tests.
“Teachers need trust and time so that we can meet the needs of our students at a human scale. We need to be respected as the people who can make nuanced assessments and useful interventions. Standardised tests should not be prioritised over that important work.”
The statement describes the way “(r)esources are diverted away from year levels, subjects and programs that are not considered to have a high impact on the data. The pressure to improve test scores also promotes a culture of teaching to the test and countless hours wasted on practice tests.”
Victorian secondary teacher George Lilley says that the impact of NAPLAN on students’ mental health is particularly troubling: “At our school, we have major problems with student anxiety and depression. These tests add to that anxiety and remove the time that teachers have to address individual student problems. Another compulsory standardized test won’t improve this and will probably add more stress.”
The statement also draws attention to the way inequality in education is cemented through NAPLAN test scores: “The MySchool website puts terrible pressure on parents to “shop” for the school with the best NAPLAN scores and avoid “bad” schools, while federal and state governments evade their responsibility to fully resource every public school to teach their local students. This market model of schooling means local diversity is no longer reflected in schools; instead students are increasingly segregated according to socio-economic status.”