NAPLAN is a hot topic every May. There is a flurry of articles about the impact on children as well as ones which comment on the best schools based on last year’s results. It would be possible to conclude from this that schools are also focused on the results, and Principals are frequently asked to comment on NAPLAN as well.
The approach to NAPLAN at St Luke’s is that the results are considered to be a useful tool for telling us about individual children and their levels of literacy and numeracy. This is in fact what it was designed to do, so that educators might analyse the information to support the student’s learning needs. Thus, the focus at St Luke’s is not on teaching for a test, but rather on creating rich learning experiences for students.
The same issues arise every December as the HSC results are released. The publication of League Tables based purely on the number of Band 6’s gained as a proportion of the number of examinations sat, is not a reflection of the depth of the learning experiences the students have had. There is some evidence to suggest that achieving well in the HSC is not necessarily going to lead to success in tertiary studies. There are far too many students who drop out of first year studies because they are not equipped to learn.
The shift at St Luke’s has been to a learning model which clearly enables students to be able to learn beyond the school gate. Within the Learning@ST LUKE’S model, we speak about ‘ATAR plus’. This means that for our students, yes we will assist them to achieve academically, but we want more than that for them. We want them to be young men and young women who have been so equipped by their experiences that they can continue to learn in a less structured environment, they can take ownership of their learning and they can manage themselves in the wider world.
Whether it is NAPLAN or ATAR these cannot be the predominant measure of a school. Rather the measure should be the quality of the young men and young women who graduate, changed because they have been in a school which not only valued the academic but also valued the development of people of virtue who live compassionately, humbly, justly and graciously in the world.