9th September 2011
The controversial introduction of mandatory national testing in Australian schools is affecting teacher morale and student learning, according to a study being led by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Professor Barbara Comber.
The three-year Australian Research Council funded project is looking at the impact of the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) on schools, teachers and students.
Professor Comber, who is a research capacity building professor with QUT's Faculty of Education office, said the study had found NAPLAN was putting extra pressure on teachers, particularly in the first term of the school year.
"We are seeing evidence (that is true internationally) where you have high stakes assessment, that the teachers are narrowing the curriculum. They are adjusting what they do in order to help children prepare for the test," she said.
"Teachers are spending more time on literacy and numeracy and less time on the arts, society and environment, science and physical education, and we are finding this particularly in first term, right up until the tests in May."
Professor Comber said this "pressure" was having a big impact in schools in terms of teacher morale.
"Many teachers are feeling they have a loss of professional autonomy. Their own ability to make decisions, their status as professionals, they feel is being called into question," she said.
But what is of particular concern, according to Professor Comber, is the impact NAPLAN is having on changing the workload of teachers in schools where there are high numbers of students where English is their second language.
"In schools that have high numbers of students whose first language is not English, the work that teachers need to do in preparing the children for the tests is significantly more than in schools where the children speak, read and write English," she said.
Professor Comber said one of the things teachers and principals were most critical of was that testing was undertaken in May and the results were not available until September.
"So in terms of their usefulness in providing information about the students, teachers don't find them helpful, because by the time the parents get the result, the school year is almost over and those results no longer represent what those students can do at the time," she said.
Professor Comber said the study was important because it aimed to understand the impact NAPLAN was having on students' education and the teaching profession.
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