The states pioneering NAPLAN online

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The states pioneering NAPLAN online

How many schools will transition in 2018?

Australian schoolchildren completing NAPLAN exams later this month will experience vastly different formats of testing depending on their location, with just over 12 percent of schools expected to conduct the tests online.

Approximately 190,000 students in years three, five, seven and nine are expected to sit the annual benchmarking exams online for the very first time in just over a week.

The first student cohort to go online will see tailored testing that automatically adapts to their performance and asks questions that match the achievement level.

It follows testing of the online platform during March, which was labelled a “success” by the COAG Education Council last month.

“The platform’s performance was a success and students reported positive experiences with the online format, while the small number of local issues that arose were dealt with at a school and state level,” a communique from the council states.

But the majority of students in the 9444 schools nationwide will continue to sit the same pencil and paper literacy and numeracy tests that have been running since 2008.

This is in part due to the ongoing issues with connectivity that originally caused all state and territories to abandon online trials last year.

However all jurisdictions remain committed to transitioning to online testing by 2020 – a year later than NAPLAN co-ordinator ACARA had first aimed for.

An investigation by iTnews ahead of the testing reveals that NSW is home to the bulk of the 1169 schools nationwide that will go ahead with NAPLAN online tests this year.

In NSW, 431 – just less than 15 percent – of the state's more than 3130 schools will conduct online tests this month, despite being one of the first states or territories electing to opt-out of the trials during 2016.

All 431 schools are understood to have participated in a practice test during March, with the majority also completing other readiness activities last year.

The jurisdiction with the largest proportion of schools transitioning, however, falls to the ACT.

Almost all of the ACT’s 116 schools - or 91 percent - will sit online NAPLAN tests this month, with only 10 independent schools not slated to transition in 2018.

A spokesperson for the ACT Health Directorate told iTnews that 98 percent of schools had participated in preparation activities or readiness testing for the introduction of the online tests.

This stands in stark contrast to Tasmania and the Northern Territory, where schools will only participate in NAPLAN online testing from next year.

Governments in both of these jurisdictions made the decision not to be involved in NAPLAN online trials during 2016 over concerns some schools lacked the necessary IT infrastructure to properly conduct the tests online.

However, as many as 140 Tasmanian schools – around half its 280-odd schools – and 12 NT schools participated in the 2017 readiness test.

A Tasmania education spokesperson told iTnews that the 2019 transition would allow the state “the time needed to achieve organisational and technical readiness and familiarise students with online assessment processes”.

It also gives the state time to “work on the national assessment platform... that will be used for the assessments to be completed and thoroughly trialled”, the spokesperson said.

Elsewhere in Australia, around a quarter – or 273 – of the 1051 schools in WA will sit their tests online, with the remainder expected to transition next year.

Participating schools year were nominated based on their technical capability and capacity, according to each state's curriculum and standards authority.

All completed practice tests and readiness testing in August 2017, but a number suffered technical glitches and internet connectivity issues at the time.

A similar number of schools – 141 or approximately 20 percent – are slated to participate in online testing in SA, all of which have now undertaken practice tests.

But a SA education spokesperson said this could change in the lead up to testing if a “technical issue arises”.

The laggards

Despite planning to transition this year, two states are behind the eight ball.

Victoria – Australia’s third smallest, but most densely populated state or territory – will have just five percent of its schools complete the tests online later this month.

As few as 124 of the state’s 2444 schools will participate, despite having “completed a range of activities in the lead up ... including participating in training and conducting a number of trials”, a spokesperson told iTnews.

Queensland, where it is optional for schools to go forward with NAPLAN online this year, will also see far fewer schools transition than in other jurisdictions.

Only 84 of Queensland’s 1751 schools – or just under five percent – are expected transition to NAPLAN online this month.

They were some of the 186 schools that participated in the 2017 school readiness test, a spokesperson said.

Schools also performed readiness training in 2018, having started platform trial and readiness testing with 111 schools as far back as 2016.

Queensland’s deviation from the pack is in part due to a Queensland Teachers Union directive earlier this year to ban NAPLAN online this year.

“All QTU members are hereby directed to cease the implementation of NAPLAN online in 2018 (including readiness activities, trials and other preparations),” it said in January.

But even with the limited number of schools in these states transitioning to online testing this month, other jurisdictions have done enough to hit ACARA's minimum expectation that 10 percent of schools transition during 2018.

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