Ministers cane NAPLAN online after IT glitches; teachers want it expelled

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Ministers cane NAPLAN online after IT glitches; teachers want it expelled

Confidence in exam "shattered".

The Australian Education Union has renewed calls to dump the online version of the NAPLAN numeracy and literacy benchmarking tests after the platform experienced technical glitches on exam day.

The peak organisation for state-based teacher's federations pounced on the widespread problems with the online test on Wednesday after connectivity issues plagued the first day of testing for 2019 on Tuesday.

“Yesterday’s NAPLAN online debacle has shattered any confidence that the teaching profession has in NAPLAN going forward,” the union said in a statement.

It's never really been a fan of the national benchmark.

The call to exclude the online test came as state education ministers lined up to give Canberra a caning and sent Australia’s national curriculum authority, ACARA, to the naughty corner over the big national bungle. 

"I'll be asking questions, I'm told it's up to 300 schools in New South Wales that have reported glitches. I don't think that's acceptable," said NSW education minister Sarah Mitchell.

Victoria's education minister James Merlino was similarly frustrated.

"We've got about 900 schools in Victoria that are undertaking NAPLAN online, dozens and dozens have reported failures."

Victorian schools have been told they can switch back to pen and paper tests by Merlino, who said it was time to review the program.

Despite being described as a teething problem by ACARA, the online test failures appear widespread. 

The AEU said its members had reported that “thousands of public school students [were] unable to log on or finish the test due to NAPLAN online connectivity issues”.

Around 50 percent of schools expected to conduct the annual benchmarking exams online this year, up from 15 percent last year.

The glitches have been blamed on an incorrectly configured firewall, though ACARA is yet to confirm this.

ACARA said on Wednesday that Education Service Australia - the national, not-for-profit company providing the online assessment platform for NAPLAN - was investigating the cause of the issues.

The union’s federal president Correna Haythorpe, who has long campaigned for NAPLAN online plans to be scrapped, said the rollout of the online component had been “hasty and ill-conceived”.

“The AEU has repeatedly called on Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan to show some leadership and be completely transparent about finding the solutions to the issues being experienced with NAPLAN online,” she said.

Haythorpe said issues were also experienced during the first online tests last year, which only around 15 percent of schools - or approximately 190,000 students - sat.

“After last year’s debacle with the delivery of NAPLAN online, Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan had the opportunity to institute a full review of NAPLAN. However he failed to do so,” she said.

“NAPLAN has already been widely condemned within the teaching profession. Following the chaos of the widespread NAPLAN online IT outages yesterday, no one can have any faith in the data which is produced by this round of testing.”

Haythorpe also criticised ACRA’s “response to both the 2018 NAPLAN online debacle and yesterday’s IT collapse”.

“ACARA has had months and months to fix the widespread issues from last year, but this year things are even worse. How can anyone have any faith that this is a valid testing process when we have such significant issues? It’s absurd,” she said.

With Julian Bajkowski

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