Naplan Testing

Reporter: Damien Hansen

Kimberley College is a school that has turned its back on the National Assessment Program for literacy and numeracy. The man leading the revolt is Principal, Paul Thompson. "Every teacher I know, every principal I know and the vast majority of parents loathe Naplan, it is detested", Paul said. "It's a woeful waste of money and time and an extraordinarily destructive strategy", he added. His stance pits him against education bureaucrats at the highest levels. "I've been investigated in the last 20 years -- when I first started to speak out about corporatisation - I have been investigated 29 times. I have a passionate allegiance to the truth", Paul said.

At the college, south of Brisbane, Mr Thomson actively discourages his 150 eligible students from participating in this week's multiple choice tests. In 2008 Naplan was introduced into schools nationwide, as annual assessment for students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. In five years it has been dogged by controversy, allegations schools stop poor performing students from doing the test to boost their school's performance and that teachers are pressured to focus on Naplan results not what's best for their students. "Tests have taken over our schools and the results have been narrowed curriculum dumbed down teaching and learning waves of cheating to boost scores by artificial means and unfortunately no real increase in educational quality or equity", said Bob Shaeffer from the National Centre for Fair and Open Testing in the US. is critical of the Australian Naplan model.

He says it is based on an American system which he says has been a failure. "We've seen across the U.S. an explosion of cheating in which teachers and administrators have manipulators to boost the result because they are being judged based on their student's scores on standardised exams", he added. We adopted the controversial reforms from former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. He said, "I don't think there is anything wrong with tests but you should knock tests that are not very good and if you had one set that would help".... Since then Mr Klein's vision has become reality. "Naplan is becoming the curriculum and that is where their narrow focus is", said Vanessa Trieger. Vanessa is among a growing number of parents questioning the educational benefits of Naplan. "My son, Remi, who is in grade 5 now and will be sitting the test; five weeks before the end of grade four, he started to have his first Naplan practice test given to him by the teacher, to prepare", she said. "Our teacher was just talking to us about how we next year it is going to be hard for the first six weeks until Naplan or whatever and then we can relax", Remi said.

"I don't accept the simplistic comparisons that people make between how it is being used in the U.S. with how we use if for school improvement in Australia", said Robert Randall, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority which administers the exams. "It does need to be kept in perspective and I am really pleased as I get the feedback, notwithstanding some of the media reports, as I get the feedback the majority of schools and teachers have got that perspective in place", he added.But highly regarded experts disagree. "Naplan really is quite harmful when you look at the impact it's having on classrooms, on teachers", said education commentator Dr Kevin Donnelly. Dr Donnelly studied New York's education system and left unimpressed. "Results in New York have either gone backwards or flat-lined so they haven't improved standards", he said.

Joel Klein -- the man who inspired the much maligned regime -- is now employed by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation as the head of the company's newly formed education business called Amplify. Amplify has already began supplying classrooms with tablets and testing material to schools in the U.S. "It really is an industry. There's a testing industry in Australia and often I think that could be dangerous because what is the motive -- actually profit instead of education", Dr Donnelly said.

Contrary to common belief, Naplan is not compulsory and parents can withdraw their students by approaching the school.