Brands cash in on NAPLAN test fear

Brands cash in on NAPLAN test fear.

Jewel Topsfield and Daniel Hurst

Stuffed toys that help children deal with ”difficult emotions” are being spruiked as a way of assisting ”with the stress of NAPLAN”, as companies cash in on the emphasis placed on next week’s national literacy and numeracy tests.

The range of Kimochis educational toys, which are designed to help children identify and manage their feelings, ”may come in useful” for children facing NAPLAN on May 14 to 16, according to a media release issued this week by Evil Twin PR.

”With many teachers saying that some students show increasing levels of stress before the tests, including sleepless nights and crying, the feelings related to these tests can be difficult for both children and their parents to deal with,” it says.

Cat Kimochi.Kimochis educational toys.

The promotion comes after television advertisements linking Nature’s Way Kids Smart Omega-3 fish oil supplements to NAPLAN results were pulled last month after a public outcry.

Meanwhile, the Australian Tutoring Association said private tutors and coaching colleges had been helping children prepare for NAPLAN, while Nielsen Bookscan data revealed more than 180,000 NAPLAN-related books had been sold in the year to date – up from 60,000 last year.

Federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett said he did not believe there was any need for parents to fork out extra money for NAPLAN practice books. The test, he said, ”should be treated as simply another routine part of the school year”.

The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, which runs the tests, insists that NAPLAN are not tests for which students can ”prepare”.

”Students should be familiar with the format but not engage in unnecessary practice or tests,” a spokesman said.

However, some education experts warn the industry building up around NAPLAN reveals the growing importance placed on the ”high stakes” tests, which are held every year for students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. And the Greens have vowed to push next week for a Senate inquiry into NAPLAN amid fears it is causing too much stress for teachers and students.

Dymocks managing director Steve Cox said the number of NAPLAN-related books sold in 2012 was almost double that in 2011, with growth predicted to increase at a similar level this year. ”Given the product started in 2010, this is obviously a significant rise,” he said.

Dymocks now sells 70 titles by publishers including Pascal Press, Five Senses Education and Hinkler, and is dedicating more floor space in its stores to the practice books.

”Parents are looking for the product and publishers are responding,” Mr Cox said.

Mr Garrett said everything children needed to know for NAPLAN was already covered in the curriculum.

”A few practice tests at school or at home are fine but I’ve always warned against over-preparation and putting too much pressure on young kids,” Mr Garrett said. ”NAPLAN is not a pass-fail test, it has no bearing on end-of-year results.”

But Save Our Schools national convener Trevor Cobbold this week said school reputations and the careers of teachers and principals now depended on NAPLAN.

”NAPLAN is now high stakes … because school NAPLAN results are published on the My School website and are used to publish partial or full league tables of school results in newspapers,” he said.

”A whole industry is being built around the tests that plays on parent fears and aspirations and the pressure on schools to improve their results.”

Brian Caldwell, managing director of consulting group Educational Transformations, said it was important to assess students’ literacy and numeracy capabilities and NAPLAN was a carefully constructed test.

However, he said the high-stakes nature of NAPLAN and the impact it was having on the curriculum, such as sidelining the arts, meant he was inclined to think the harm outweighed the benefit.

Professor Caldwell said he advocated the approach taken by Finland, which has one of the world’s top-performing education systems and where teachers were trusted to test well. A random sample of students sit a standardised national test every year, but the results are not made public.

”There is nothing wrong with monitoring the educational health of the country, but we’ve got every parent and teacher on edge now because of how we’ve allowed this to dominate the educational landscape,” Professor Caldwell said.

The Australian Greens’ schools spokeswoman, Penny Wright, said she would move a motion next Wednesday calling for a committee inquiry to investigate the benefits and pitfalls of NAPLAN, including whether teaching practices had changed over the six years the system had been in place.

jtopsfield@theage.com.au
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/brands-cash-in-on-naplan-test-fear-20130510-2jdma.html#ixzz2TKOKnrp5

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