Teachers blamed for stress of tests

By , 09/10/2019 18:46

The agency in charge of national literacy and numeracy tests has blamed principals and teachers for pressuring students to do well on the controversial exams.
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It says student anxiety stems from ”poor communications between schools and their communities” leading to false perceptions that NAPLAN is a high-stakes test.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority has used its submission to a Senate inquiry to warn that principals’ and teachers’ influence on ”their parent community cannot be understated”.

”School leaders play an important role in setting the tone and expectations around NAPLAN tests,” it says.

The authority also takes aim at the media for heightening pressure on students and teachers.

The claims come as the Senate education committee prepares for its first hearing on the topic in Melbourne on Friday. It is investigating how NAPLAN – an annual test of the reading, writing, spelling and numeracy skills of year 3, 5, 7 and 9 students – affects teaching methods and student stress.

The authority acknowledges concern over educators who spend too much time ”drilling students” in the standardised tests, but insists it is ”up to the professional judgment of teachers” to avoid excessive training.

That schools feel the need to devote large amounts of time to test preparation says more about their ”lack of confidence” in their normal literacy and numeracy programs, the authority argues.

Greens school education spokeswoman Penny Wright, who triggered the inquiry, said it was irresponsible to blame individual teachers and schools.

”This is really head-in-the-sand stuff from ACARA. I think ACARA is in denial in the face of overwhelming evidence coming into the inquiry,” Senator Wright said.

The Australian Education Union complains in its submission that a ”high-stakes environment” has sprung up around NAPLAN and pressure on schools, teachers, students and parents continues to rise.

Separately, the Australian Primary Principals Association warns about use of NAPLAN results to prepare league tables comparing schools. It says the student stress, anxiety and illness reported by principals is unacceptable and teachers are also feeling the pressure.

But, the authority says, the positives outweigh the negatives, with the publication of school data on the MySchool website stimulating discussion and showing how schools have improved. It insists the NAPLAN tests should be considered ”low stakes for individual students”, contrasting them with the stressful standardised testing in the United States that can lead to American students being held back a grade.

The education committee will report by Thursday next week – the final sitting day before the September 14 election.

Senator Wright said that, due to the impending election, the committee should make an interim report and continue the inquiry afterwards to do justice to the submissions.

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