Home' Teacher : March 2011 Contents 28 TEACHER MARCH 2011
spelling, for example, then you'd better get
your ducks in a row regarding the teaching
of spelling. If you see a long-term trend in
poor inferential reading, then you should
be addressing the way teachers teach read-
ing comprehension. If you see a long-term
trend in poor decoding and fluency and you
don't have a synthetic phonics program, you
should introduce one.
NAPLAN also provides a bit of a yard-
stick for young teachers to know how well
they and their students are doing. By seeing
what NAPLAN expects, young teachers can
benchmark their teaching to that. We know
that the expectation of teachers changes the
expectations of children, so if NAPLAN is
linked to high expectations, that can only
be a good thing.
NAPLAN, My School and school
The biggest problem with NAPLAN is not
to do with how teachers and school leaders
use the data to improve teaching and learn-
ing in their school, though; it's to do with
the way the data can be used to compare
Keep in mind, of course, that NAPLAN
and the My School website are not the
same thing. The problem is that schools
are microcosms, each with its own student
demographic, its own stresses, its ow n cul-
ture and even its ow n personality, so even
the most like of like-schools in a like-school
comparison are going to be quite different
in some way. My School enables you to
compare schools that are quite different
as though they're the same. Essentially, it
enables you to compare apples and oranges,
without you necessarily realising, which is
simply not fair.
Grouping schools on the basis of lan-
guage background is a good example. Let's
say 80 per cent of the student population of
School A are from a non-English speaking
background. Their first language, oral and
written, is highly developed, they are from
generally stable families and their parents all
went to school in a safe and well-governed
country. School B also has 80 per cent of its
students from a non-English speaking back-
ground, but these students have come from
a country where they've had an interrupted
schooling or no schooling at all, little or no
exposure to writing, but plenty of exposure
to war and violence -- including in some case
witnessing the murder of family members.
To compare these two schools is patently
Similarly, schools are compared as like-
schools despite the fact that their teacher
demographics are quite different. Consider
School C, where 48 per cent of teachers
are in their first one or two years of teach-
ing, with School D, where 96 per cent are
in their 20th year of teaching. To compare
these two schools is likewise patently unfair.
For the first time, we now have a national
test that relates to a national curriculum.
If and when the Australian curriculum is
adopted, NAPLAN will be fairer than a
national test against state curriculums
because we're actually teaching what we
will be testing. Cu rrently, it feels a little
bit hit-and-miss. When the whole country
is teaching using the same curriculum and
students are learning the same things and
being tested on the same things, it'll obvi-
ously be much better.
It's possible, of course, that NAPLAN
tests and the data they generate have the
potential to be misused as a stick to beat
educators, but they can also be used to
improve teaching and learning.
At the end of the day if our students know
their stuff, they know their stuff. NAPLAN
simply tests how well they've learned it.
Improving our students' NAPLAN results
is the responsibility of every teacher and
every school leader.
Jo-Anne Dooner is a literacy trainer, pri-
mary school vice principal and author of
Get Reading Right's lite racy program .
or visit www.getreadingright.com.au
We know that the
expectation of teachers
changes the expectations
of children, so if
NAPLAN is linked to
high expectations, that
can only be a good thing.
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