I love the buzz and activity of school photo day – there is no other day like it in the school calendar. It is a day when staff and students alike come to school dressed at their best. It’s a day when boys arrive with their shirts pressed and neatly tucked in, buttons done up all the way, ties straight and blazers on. The girls have spent time before school deciding on the most flattering hairstyle and arrive with freshly washed, straightened or curled hair. Parents in Junior School hover about trying to ensure that their children stay out of the dirt before class begins. All this to ensure we get the perfect school photo!
Although both my children are now grown and no longer at school, I still have a catalogue of school photos that represent each year of their schooling. Like most parents I periodically look back on these photos with fondness and reflect on their time at school reminiscing about how much they have grown and changed over the years.
While these photos are important to me they are certainly not the only photos that I have of my children growing up. Instead they are simply a snapshot in time and depict how my kids looked on just one of their many days of school that year. While each of the photos are precious to me I understand that they only capture a part of who my children actually are. They do not show the grit and determination on my son’s face as he raced in Cross Country, they do not show the delight in my daughter’s eyes as she received a high grade for an assessment task she had worked so hard on. These photos don’t show the skinned knees and scuffed shoes that my son wore as a badge of honour, earned through his many triumphs in lunchtime handball. Nor do they show the nervous excitement that was evident on my daughter’s face as she participated in her first inter-school public speaking competition. In fact, when I think about it there is a lot these photos do not show us as parents about our children’s experiences at school. Nevertheless, they are still an integral part of school life and I am grateful to have them.
Like school photos, each year many students throughout the College participate in NAPLAN testing. These nationwide tests are one way in which we gather data about our school and individual students to track and monitor progress in reading, writing and numeracy. These tests provide important information that assists teachers in their planning and programming enabling us to tailor learning to best meet the needs of the students in each grade. However, just like school photos it is important to realise that these tests are essentially a snapshot in time and represent student performance in just one set of tests over three days.
At Cedars our teachers use various forms of formal and informal assessment to help us track the learning journey of each of our students. As well as the data from NAPLAN testing we conduct our own standardised testing which adds further information to each student’s individual learning profile. This data combined with teacher observations, class tests, formal assessment tasks, individual and group projects and a myriad of other forms of assessment contribute to a more complete picture of a student’s performance. We also recognise that academic performance is just one part of the make-up of a Cedars student. Along with academic achievement, we value and nurture in our students traits such as; compassion, faith in God, respect, discipline, resilience and the pursuit of excellence in whichever field of endeavour our students may choose to engage. None of this can be captured in a NAPLAN test.
Thus, my encouragement to every student and parent involved in NAPLAN testing next week, is to consider these tests in the same manner as we do our school photos, understanding that both capture only limited information contributing to a much bigger overall picture. And as we all know, there is so much more to each of our children than can be captured by any one photo or through any one test.