Australia

Government says NAPLAN here to stay amid online glitches

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More than a million students across the country have started the annual NAPLAN tests, but questions about its viability still swirl.

The rollout of the new online NAPLAN testing system has come with some hiccups for students, as another education minister called for the controversial test to be scrapped.

More than one million Australian students sat the tests on Tuesday, with about one-fifth of them taking the exam online.

Students at a public school in Sydney’s west had mixed reviews about the online component.

“If you used a rubber (eraser) it would take a long time to rub out but now you just use the backspace button,” one year five student told SBS News.

But others experienced technical difficulties, saying they preferred pencil and paper tests.

“It took me a long time to log on,” another pupil said.

More than a million students across the country have started the annual NAPLAN tests.
More than a million students across the country have started the annual NAPLAN tests.
SBS News

Test results ‘invalid’

The NSW Teacher’s Federation, which has long lobbied against NAPLAN, said the margins of error in the usual test were high. But they said this year, it would be “even more invalid”.

“Once you go to a multi-modal model like that you can’t compare apples and oranges so the test data itself is going to be unreliable,” Federation President Maurie Mulheron told SBS News.

“One of the basics of the test is that students should have a level playing field. In other words, students should have the same conditions in which they are undertaking the test.

“But when some students are doing it in paper and pencil and some online, that immediately invalidates any data that comes from that test.”

But the agency which administers NAPLAN, the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, says the online system offers more precise results for parents and detailed information for teachers.
It also enables results to be received more quickly.

“Once we get it online we can improve the nature of it so we get a better assessment of it, we get information back to schools more quickly and certainly once we get everyone online we can continue to talk about how we can evolve it,” ACARA CEO Rob Randall told SBS News.

Further, the online component also allows tailored testing of a student’s ability – the more difficult questions they pass, the more points they get. For those who struggle, the questions will be aligned with their capabilities. 

“We can zoom in on what they are able to do - now that's a better thing for teachers, it's a better thing for us all to build upon what young people can do rather than what they can't do,” Mr Randall said.

NAPLAN here to stay: minister

NAPLAN has been under sustained pressure recently with various state and territory education ministers calling for its cancellation.

NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes called for an overhaul. On Tuesday, ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry echoed those sentiments, saying NAPLAN was leading to schools marketing themselves against each other.

But Mr Randall is confident of NAPLAN’s future, despite recent criticism.

“I expect NAPLAN will be around for a few more years yet,” he said.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said NAPLAN was “here for the long-term”.

“I would say to those who seek to cause trouble about NAPLAN, to take a step back and treat it like any other school day,” he said.

“This is just one assessment undertaken four times in the life of a child during their 12 (or) 13 years of schooling. It is not the be-all and end-all of anything.”

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