How to explain NAPLAN to your child


Mirella and Charlene are teachers and education consultants who met in 2012, growing close over a shared love of Ellen Degeneres and The West Wing. Their professional concern for wanting to “do more” for mathematics education led them to create Education Equals – a pioneering educational space. 


Learning is most effective when students feel that they are a creative force in their own education. It is often the case that children feel that learning just happens to them, rather than growing from them, especially if conversations about their learning are absent.

Whether we’re a fan of NAPLAN or not, it exists as a significant element in your child’s education. But do they really know what it’s for? Do they know how it relates to their own education or even what each test is about? Hopefully these sorts of discussions happen in their classroom, but having a conversation with you is all the more personal and powerful.


Here are a few ways to discuss NAPLAN with your child.


What is NAPLAN?

NAPLAN is like a snapshot in time, showing teachers, parents and students what skills and abilities each student has in numeracy, reading, writing and language. Just like we have photos to record moments in our lives that we can look back on and see our growth, NAPLAN is one way to record and watch how individuals, schools and Australia are growing in their education.


Teachers and parents can then look at these snapshots to help them make decisions about how to best help students learn more and how to gain the most from their education. Teachers and parents won’t use only NAPLAN to help students learn, but it’s useful to have a common starting point that students all around the country have used.


What is each test about?


NAPLAN only focuses on the areas of numeracy, reading, writing and language. Each of these are thought of as the important and foundational skills that students need to be successful in all areas of learning.


The Numeracy test is not really a maths test. Instead the test aims to see how well students can work, think and solve problems with numbers and mathematical ideas. There are many questions that are similar to school maths tests and these are used to measure what sorts of skills students know well or need to improve. There are also questions that measure how well students can fit pieces of information together to solve problems.


The Reading test aims to measure how students think about what they read and how students navigate different styles of writing. During the test there are a few different articles to read in the Magazine, with questions to measure how well students can interpret meaning and context in what they have read.


The Language test looks at how well students can work with the building blocks of the English language, which includes skills like spelling, using punctuation and constructing sentences.


The Writing test gives students an opportunity to demonstrate how well they can present their ideas in writing. Students are given an idea or topic to write about and the aim is to see how well they can communicate their thoughts and construct their thinking.


Why do I have to do NAPLAN?


An important part of the educational journey is to measure where students are starting from in their learning, how much progress they’ve made and where there is still room for growth and development. There are many tools that can be used to take these measurements, and NAPLAN is just one of them.


NAPLAN isn’t about testing how smart students are, it’s about testing how well students are learning and how well they’re developing the foundational skills. The data and information gathered from these tests helps parents, teachers, schools and the government make decisions to improve education for everyone. The information is more useful and valuable when every student sits the tests and tries their best.


Sitting down with your child to discuss NAPLAN and why it is useful to them in their own education journey might just be the most valuable thing you can do in the upcoming weeks to help them get in the right mindset. Often the fear around NAPLAN stems from the unknown, and discussions like these can help your child understand what it’s all for and why it is helpful to them and their learning.


Mirella is a Mathematics Teacher and Education Consultant and her mission is to help parents raise mathematically confident and competent children through her site

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