Some schools offered students special inducements to do the NAPLAN tests last week. One Tasmanian school offered free breakfasts, raffle tickets and lunch and a movie with a teacher to encourage students to do the tests. Tasmanian education officials also organised an award ceremony with dignitaries and media for the best performing students in NAPLAN 2012.
A school in Tasmania’s south last week gave each student sitting the tests a raffle ticket for each test the student did. Each ticket went into a draw at the end of the week for an $80 voucher for a family meal at a local hotel.
The school also provided free breakfasts for students to induce them to come to school to do the tests. It also organised a special BBQ for one day of the tests. Last year, there was a very high absentee rate from school in NAPLAN week.
The school also requested each teacher to choose up to five students doing the tests who displayed “enthusiasm, risk taking, responsibility, reliability and persistence during the testing phase”. The students chosen were invited out to lunch with a teacher and to a special event such as a movie or ten-pin bowling.
There have also been reports of schools providing free food prior to and during the tests and rewards such as free time and DVD movies on the Friday after the tests.
Inducements for students to do NAPLAN debase the value of education. It conveys a message that education is about testing. It teaches children that education must have rewards attached to it in order to be worthwhile. It assumes that students need some sort of material incentive in order to perform better in school.
This is the wrong approach. Schools should concentrate on inculcating a love of learning in children. Love of learning is the greatest gift that schools can give students; it is something that they can take through their whole life. It is more important for schools and teachers to provide fun ways of learning to engage students so that learning itself is the justified reward.
The NAPLAN tests were also given top billing at a special ceremony held last week by the Tasmanian Government. The Minister for Education, Nick McKim (a Greens member of the Government) presented certificates to the top performing students in the 2012 NAPLAN tests. There were 149 students from grades three, five, seven and nine in 84 Southern Tasmanian schools who received awards. Of these, 97 students received a certificate for being in the top one per cent of students in the state and 85 students received certificates for being top in their school.
Special inducements to do the tests and high profile government ceremonies to reward students with the top NAPLAN results demonstrate what a big event NAPLAN is in the life of schools and students.
School newsletters highlight NAPLAN week and dates of practice tests in the lead-up to test week. Much of first semester spent on preparing for the tests. Parents are encouraged to buy NAPLAN test booklets for their children to practice at home. NAPLAN booklets are everywhere in supermarkets, newsagencies and Australia Post offices.
Some parents say that the hype surrounding NAPLAN make it the equivalent of Year 12 exams for younger children. Official ceremonies to celebrate the top NAPLAN students at each Year level certainly make it appear so.
NAPLAN is such a big deal in most schools that there can be little wonder that many young children suffer extreme stress during the test week. Principals and teachers feel their reputations and careers on the line with the posting of school results on the My School website. Regional education officials pressure principal to improve their school results – regional meetings are often devoted to planning for NAPLAN.
NAPLAN has “high stakes” attached to it because of My School and the Federal Minister for Education, Peter Garrett, has his head in the sand if he thinks otherwise. NAPLAN and My School are a plague on education. Rewards and inducements for children to participate in NAPLAN are just another form of the plague.