Earlier this week the results of Australia’s progress in our national assessments over ten years was released. Why does this matter? Too often these assessments become an opportunity for various people to nay say, blame and generalise about the poor performance of teachers.
I decided it was time to provide a different perspective – one that sought to move away from blaming and negativity. Amazingly, this perspective was picked up in some newspapers across Australia. This led me to show my students (after much fist pumping and all round ridiculous jumping around) just how important it is to invest in sharing your ideas, as you never know the impact you can make – just like our teachers across our country.
When I first started teaching there was an overwhelming sense of fear within my graduate friends, colleagues, parents and students whenever NAPLAN season came along.
I will never forget investing time preparing for NAPLAN preparation sessions, feeling like I had printed out a forest’s worth of sample tests and generally freaking out about the possible judgment that would befall me later in the year.
Throughout those stressful years, my concept and knowledge of assessment was minimal. I didn’t actually know why we assessed kids…the purpose behind assessment was unknown and unclear. Matter of fact, often “the kids” didn’t seem to get mentioned that much.
If we don’t know the purpose behind our assessment there really is no point progressing.
Which leads us back to NAPLAN. Now, I don’t know about you, but usually when people start speaking about NAPLAN, all hell breaks loose…well, as much as all hell can break loose in a staff room of primary school teachers.
Usually, when it comes to NAPLAN people search for someone or some thing to blame.
Teachers, parents, students, cohorts, policy makers, state governments, federal governments, unions, class sizes, media beat ups, principals, school systems and even the kitchen sink (let’s be honest, when has it ever helped us improve our mathematical reasoning?).
Instead of throwing around blame and distraction, we need to get back to the heart of the matter, the moral and social purpose behind education:
Having the knowledge, understanding, skills,and values necessary for a productive and rewarding life for citizens in an educated, just and open society.
That purpose is from NAPLAN’s website.
I don’t know about you, but that purpose fits quite contently with my purpose for getting out of bed each and every morning.
Whilst our nation’s ten year data of NAPLAN shows small gains, before we move into the usual blame game, there is something you need to know.
In Australia, we are incredibly lucky with the teachers we have. You need to know that.
But they’re unknowingly being held back because we also have teachers who are constantly getting focused on what isn’t working, instead of building up knowledge of what is working.
Yes, the gains might have been small over ten years, but why aren’t we talking about what has worked? Why aren’t we talking about the five and ten-year trends that show growth?
Why aren’t we asking questions about what we can learn from those trends to shape the future we want? Yes, there is room to improve, but here’s something you might not realise – there will always be room to improve when it comes to learning (even Einstein battled with this).
If we are serious about providing our future citizens with the necessary knowledge, understanding, skills and values, shouldn’t we invest in better understanding what could help them do that? Isn’t that a better investment in all of our time?
Now isn’t the time to simply start targeting the gaps. Now is the time to target our greatest strengths and explore how we can use these within every area of education.
Like we say each and every day in my class – let’s use our best strategies to maximise our learning.
It isn’t ten years of loss – it’s ten years of knowledge we can tap into. If we are brave and willing enough to stop naysaying.
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