This opinion piece was published in the NT Sun Newspaper on June 4 2019 under the title NAPLAN tests online fizzer.
NAPLAN this year went online. Selected schools within the Territory and around Australia had Year 3, 5, 7, and 9 students sit the tests online for the first time. That followed testing and trialling which determined NAPLAN was ready for this advance. Lots of assurances were given about this being the right move.
The online program declared ready for use by a significant number of schools, turned out to be fraught with operational glitches. Students in many schools including the NT, experienced major frustrations. In some cases schools could not establish internet connection. In other instances, servers dropped out and disconnected children who were in the process of completing their tests.
Steve Vivian reported in the NT News that “more than a third of NT schools were affected by technological glitches during … NAPLAN online testing. … Thousands of kids across Australia will resist NAPLAN after technical problems derailed the new online test.” (NT gets NAPLAN ‘disaster’ warning, 24/5/2019)
It was fortunate that the online testing program was only rolled out across “the 32 most ready NT schools” this year.
Twelve schools reported technical issues. It is small comfort for students (who must feel like experimental guinea pigs), that they have been the option of re-sitting disrupted tests.
For once, NT schools were advantaged by being in the vanguard of NAPLAN cyberspace progress. Elsewhere around Australia, the percentage of schools in which students were sitting for online tests was much higher. Technical failure and glitches confronting those sitting the tests was far more confronting. So much so that, “Victorian schools have been told they can scrap online NAPLAN tests and switch to paper and pen after computer glitches affected students taking the assessments across the country.” (ABC News 15/5/2019) The Sydney Morning Herald (15/5) reported on student tears and teacher dismay as children reverted to pen and paper tests.
There were online access problems for students in Queensland, South Australian and Western Australia. Major flaws were exposed in a process that was both premature and deeply flawed.
A major program of this nature has to be 100% foolproof before being released as part of standard testing practice. Hundreds of students have been let down by the system.
The botched testing of 2019 may soon fade from Australia’s collective mind. However the failed experiment will be long remembered by those who were the victims of this year’s NAPLAN program. Students due to sit tests in 2020 be not be looking forward to online testing with any great relish.