HIGH STAKE standardised tests, such as NAPLAN, are having a negative impact on children with experts saying such examinations reduce the ability to learn.
Nationwide testing of students in years 3, 5, 7, and 9 was introduced by the federal government four years ago to allow parents and teachers to benchmark the numeracy and literacy levels of individual children and specific schools.
But a review of academic literature on the issue released by the University of Western Sydney's Whitlam Institute revealed national testing programs such as NAPLAN were a source of significant stress for young people and their families.
Institute director Eric Sidotti said schools can become ''emotional cauldrons''.
''It should come as no surprise that the introduction of a national regime of standardised external testing would become a lightning rod of claim and counter-claim and a battleground for competing educational philosophies,'' he said.
The review found ''a range of concerns'' about the reliability of standardised testing, quality of learning experiences, structure of the curriculum and health and well-being of children.
There is also evidence of negative effects on service delivery; professional-parent relationships; and stress, anxiety, pressure and fear experienced by students.
Research also found a negative impact on teaching, with standardised tests putting pressure on teachers to emphasise results over holistic learning.
''Teachers will focus on the areas in which students will be tested, while reducing the proportion of class time devoted to curriculum areas not included in state tests,'' the review notes.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said tests measuring the progress of more than a million Australian students over the past four years allowed parents to identify schools where students achieve comparative improvement over peers of a similar background.
Ms Gillard said NAPLAN lifted the academic performance of students, giving teachers feedback on education strategies and providing disadvantaged schools with access to extra funding.
''We want every child in Australia to have access to a world class education,'' she said.
''My School is pivotal to this. It helps us see what works and which schools need support to improve.''