A recurring theme on this blog has been the inappropriateness of, and the difficulty faced by children sitting, large-scale external exams which require an immediate response to a stimulus that may have little relevance or interest to them. I have written about it here and here.
Making a judgment about student progress or achievement from one piece of writing, particularly one completed under conditions not necessarily conducive to encouraging one’s best work, is problematic.
It would be unrealistic of me to expect that everyone would agree with me, (though who wouldn’t want everyone to agree with them?) but it is always affirming to find that others share similar views. Maybe if enough people voice their concerns, change may occur.
Recently I read an article in our local newspaper that had me nodding in agreement. The article NAPLAN writers have trouble writing a writing test by Mary-Rose MacColl explained that a good part of the reason students didn’t do well on the NAPLAN writing task this year, is that the task itself wasn’t well written!
MacColl said that the task was wordy and the standards themselves (the criteria against which the writing is marked) poorly written. She pointed out how ludicrous it was for the ACARA CEO to write a letter explaining to parents that students should not view the test as ‘pass or fail’ when many children were experiencing extreme anxiety in the lead up to the test and parents were withdrawing their children from the tests in increasing numbers.
In addition to writing newspaper columns, MacColl is also a writer of fiction. She is pleased that the focus of NAPLAN is on persuasive rather than narrative writing, and goes on to describe some wonderful writing that is going on her son’s class.
Many teachers are doing wonderful things helping students develop a love of writing. Unfortunately, those setting external assessment tasks aren’t listening to the professionals.
I have given only a brief indication of what Mary-Rose MacColl had to say. Please read her article to fully understand her views.
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