Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Do you remember the dreaded

"Friday Test" at school - or are you too young to have had them? Maybe the dreaded Friday Test did not happen in other parts of the school world.
Where I live my infant and primary school years were marked by these tests. On Friday mornings you were "tested" in the "spelling" for the week from the "primer" - ten words, "mental" - ten simple arithmetic calculations, "sums" - five slightly more complex calculations (like a "money sum"), "reading comprehension" - a paragraph to read with questions to answer or "compostion" - a topic about which we had to write a page. Occasionally there would be "history" or "geography" or "nature science" as well. "Writing" was judged as well and "neatness" in arithmetic - did you have your numbers lined up under each other in the correct way so you did not make mistakes?
We accepted these "tests" as part of school life. I suppose they told our teachers something. They certainly told my mother something. We were expected to get full marks for spelling and mental and sums at the very least. If we did not we had not worked hard enough and precious play time over the weekend would be devoted to doing more.
At the end of term there would be the same sort of tests. The only difference would be that they could cover the entire term's work. In the final primary year "grade seven" we did the "PC" - the "Progress Certificate". It sorted out students into high school or technical high school if they lived in the city, "area" or "PEB" (Public Examinations Board) if they lived in the country. There was no absolute "must" about the latter but most people accepted that the results entitled them to one thing or another.  
Now they have something called NAPLAN instead. It is done once a year but not every year. The results are scrutinised at a national level. Schools as well as students are graded on the results.  I have seen some of the "practice sheets". The Whirlwind showed me some given to her by a neighbour. The neighbour was appalled to discover that the Whirlwind's class was not being drilled in these the way her own child was.
The Whirlwind was equally nonplussed. At her school they get regular "snap" tests. They might take up ten minutes of lesson time. The girls never know when they are coming although they know they will come. "Snap" tests do not appear to bother them. There is no specific preparation for the NAPLAN tests. The school's philosophy is that this should not be necessary.
Inevitably the NAPLAN results lead to things like "league" tables. These are nonsense of course because they do not take into account an enormous range of factors that can affect the overall performance of a school.
            "These are so boring," the Whirlwind told me when she showed me the practice sheets. She is right. They are. I have no doubt her class will do very well on the NAPLAN tests. Her school did very well when the last set of results came out. They did it all without a fuss. There might have been one or two anxious students but the junior school head told me that they did not see the results as a reflection of the ability of the students or the standard of the teaching.  Parents have had that made very clear to them. The tests are just something that have to be done.
We also reflected on our own "Friday tests". They were just something you did really.

1 comment:

the fly in the web said...

I had these at primary and junior school.One moved up or down a desk as the results were announced.
Good training for the 11+ later on...