Save Our Schools has warned that the administrative guidelines for NAPLAN provide loopholes for schools to rort their results by excluding lower achieving students. Trevor Cobbold, National Convenor of SOS, said the Federal Education Minister should stop schools pressuring parents of lower achieving students to withdraw them from NAPLAN tests in the future.
“Julia Gillard has left the gate open to fraud in reporting of school results. Apart from inadequate security arrangements for NAPLAN last week, schools were also able to exploit exemption provisions for the tests to make their results look better.
“Many schools bent the rules about exemptions from NAPLAN by contacting parents to suggest they keep their children home during the tests. Many lower achieving students were excluded from the tests as a result.
“If this loophole is allowed to stand, more and more lower achieving students will excluded from NAPLAN in the future. Every school will understand that they can exclude a few more of these students to get higher average results and a higher league table ranking.
“The decision not to allow a child to participate in NAPLAN should be left to parents alone. They should not be subject to pressure from schools to withdraw their children as many were last week.”
Mr. Cobbold said that the manual of procedures issued for NAPLAN is explicit about the exemption of students from the tests.
“All students are encouraged to participate in the tests but students can be exempted on three grounds: students with a significant intellectual disability; students newly arrived from overseas and at the request of parents. In each case, the decision lies with parents and they have to apply for an exemption.
“Clearly last week, not all schools were encouraging all their students to participate – they were actively encouraging some of their lower achieving students not to participate. In this, they were acting outside the letter and the spirit of the guidelines.
“Some schools even went beyond the exemption criteria in pressuring parents to withdraw their children.
“One school principal defended the school’s action in contacting parents to withdraw their children on the grounds that the student concerned “may find doing the test sitting for that length of time frustrating”. Another defended asking the parents of some students not to sit the tests because the students “would be distressed by the tests”.
“While we may sympathize with these reasons in certain circumstances, the fact is that allowing schools to approach parents to withdraw their children on these grounds is a significant extension of the exemption criteria. If allowed to stand, they will be used more frequently to exclude lower achieving students from NAPLAN so that school results will look better.”
Mr. Cobbold called on the Federal Education Minister to take action.
“Julia Gillard may dismiss the incidents last week as few in number. But, this is only the beginning. If she continues to turn a blind eye to them, we can expect that next year many more schools will see it as a green light to pressure parents to withdraw their children. Having opened the gate to fraud, she must now close it.
“Without any action from the Government, schools will resort to rorting and rigging their results on a grander scale under the pressure to improve their league table ranking.
“It is incumbent on the Federal Education Minister to stamp out these practices in future NAPLAN tests. Schools must be instructed that they should not initiate action with parents to suggest they withdraw their children. Severe consequences must apply for those that continue to flout the guidelines and bend the rules.”