School support for NAPLAN

SCHOOLS in the region are still hopeful that the NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) tests will go ahead in mid May – despite a teachers’ union moratorium on them.

But they support the union in its stance against using the test results to create league tables, based upon the Federal Government’s controversial My School website.

Geoff Spargo, principal at Byron Bay Public School, said he hoped the Teachers Federation and government would be able to reach some agreement in coming weeks.

“The NAPLAN tests are a fantastic tool for us as a school and we don’t want them to go away,” Mr Spargo said.

They were an excellent means to show areas of strength and weakness, he said, and to set benchmark levels to work towards.

The results also provided parents with a snapshot of ‘where their child is at’, within a nationwide context.

However, he shared the teachers’ union’s concerns about the use of NAPLAN results in league tables.

“The only problem the Teachers Federation has with NAPLAN is their use in My School,” Mr Spargo said.

“We are not against the My School website. The problem is the use of this information by the media to create and publish league tables.”

The relevant information was already available to parents about a school, through data obtained by Best Start kindergarten assessment and the NAPLANs held in years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

“League tables do not build any positives.”

Mr Spargo said he used the site quite often, as it provided a useful summary. My School was able to crunch the data through its technological power, he said.

“It will point up the areas we need to work on. Byron Public is a high-performing school, but as a principal I always look for improvements by drilling down deeper into the numbers.”

Byron Bay Public received frequent inquiries from overseas, Mr Spargo said, and My School was able to provide them with a superficial level of information.

But he urged parents to look deeper, and use the links on My School to check schools’ own websites for the bigger picture.

Ron Ritchie, principal of Lennox Head Public School, echoed these sentiments.

“NAPLAN provides a one-day snapshot and is a useful diagnostic device but the tests should not be used to put schools in competition with each other.

“They give a very narrow view.”

A better approach would be to look at how a school ‘grows’ a child, Mr Ritchie said.

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