Yes, I am going there.

My son is sitting NAPLAN for the first time today and I have very mixed feelings about it.

Personally I am proud that he is going to give it a go. I’m also grateful that his school have been supportive and have encouraged him to participate. They have done all they can to organise special provisions so he has a chance to complete the tests (such as bigger text, rest breaks and the chance to complete the test electronically).

I am really pleased that he’s being included and accepted.

Because, for a lot of kids with special needs like him, instead, they are being asked to sit the test out.

This is one of the problems I have with NAPLAN. How can standardised and comparative testing work if students are purposefully excluded? What is the purpose of the test if it is not a way to see how students are progressing? Even the kids who are not expected to perform well?

Now I have no problem with allowing students to sit out the test if it’s in their own interests to do so – for instance when it would overly distress a child to undertake the test. But I do not agree with schools making that decision for students and their families – I do not think it is right for students to be encouraged not to participate simply because they might not perform well.

Which brings me to the problem I have with the opposite ways NAPLAN data is used. Schools are obviously keen to improve their scores hence the preparation and the planning and practice that students undertake beforehand. Some schools start this work in infants, some even in Kindergarten – these days, the culture to succeed and do well is entrenched early.

However in NSW, the lowest 10% of NAPLAN scores are also used to calculate a Student Learning Need Index (SLNI) to determine the amount of flexible funding that goes to schools to help students with lower level learning and special needs. This funding helps those students, like my son, who are not eligible for individual funding for their conditions.

You don’t have to be a genius to work out that excluding students from the test is counter-productive if the scores are then used to determine funding to help these very same students. The logic escapes me, it really does.

And who knows what other states do with NAPLAN data – according to ACARA, “school systems and governments use results to review programs and support offered to schools”. So it seems NAPLAN can be used for any purpose, as long as it’s in relation to a review of programs or support offered to schools.

Then, there’s the stress that the kids feel in undertaking the testing. I was called to my son’s school this morning as he had soiled himself from worry while undertaking the first part of the test. He was coaxed back in to undertake the second test of the day but I will be giving him an early mark so he can settle himself to do it all again tomorrow.

It all seems a lot of hassle for a simple test that should just be used to assess a student’s progress. Nothing more, nothing less. Yet it has grown into something much more – and I’m still not convinced that is a good thing.

Any other newbie NAPLAN parents out there? How are you feeling today?

BTW – I just realised that I will be a NAPLAN parent for the next 8 years (Gilbert and Matilda are in Yrs 3 & 2) so they will be taking turns with NAPLAN for the foreseeable future. Lord help us all…