NAPLAN set kids up to fail: principals

Trinity Anglican College principal Steven O’Connor believes national and state NAPLAN data indicates a question in this year’s test was too complex for years 3 and 5 students.

Trinity Anglican College principal Steven O’Connor believes national and state NAPLAN data indicates a question in this year’s test was too complex for years 3 and 5 students.

BORDER teachers believe a question in this year’s NAPLAN test may have been too complex for their younger students.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority this week released a summary of the results from the test, showing a decline in writing across the country since 2011.

The authority assessment and reporting general manager Dr Stanley Rabinowitz said the fall could be due to a number of factors, including a question asking students to choose a rule or law they thought needed to change.

“A small minority in years 3 and 5 may have had difficulty engaging and understanding the writing task,” he said.

“From what we understand, schools tend to be rules-oriented and the idea of being able to change a rule comes with being older.”

Trinity Anglican College principal Steven O’Connor said the national and state NAPLAN data indicated the authority had got it wrong.

“While I haven’t seen our own results, it’s fairly likely they will reflect the national data,” he said.

“The concepts on which children in year 3 and 5, were asked to comment were too complex for their level of reasoning and emotional intelligence.”

Mr O’Connor said the question was also well beyond what children were taught at that age.

“It’s against our educational philosophy to set these children up to fail, which is essentially what has happened by posing a question of this complexity,” he said.

He said Piaget’s theory of moral development suggested younger children believed rules were created by indisputable authorities and should not be challenged.

“NAPLAN should be about testing students’ knowledge and skills in the areas of literacy and numeracy, not about trying to trip them up with a question,” he said.

Wodonga West Primary School assistant principal Sharon Mawby said she understood how the question could be hard.

“The term law or rule might be a tricky term for students,” she said.

“We talk about behavioural expectations at school quite a bit.”

Dr Rabinowitz said the authority stood behind the writing task and thought it was balanced.

“In coming years we can make it better,” he said.

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