Tech glitches force 50,000 NAPLAN re-sits

 

More than 50,000 NAPLAN tests had to be re-sat due to computer glitches around the country this year, testing authority ACARA has confirmed.

Just under 37,000 writing tests were taken on the re-sit day, May 28, with another 6500 for reading, 3300 for numeracy and 3500 for conventions of language.

Students taking the tests online faced a range of issues from short interruptions in service to being unable to log on or having their computer shut down, mid-question.

For the 36,822 writing tests that had to be retaken, 28,184 pupils elected to use pen and paper, while 8648 tried their luck online for a second time.

The figures come as preliminary NAPLAN results were released by ACARA today, showing an encouraging year-on-year upturn for all student writing results, particularly in Year 3.

ACARA CEO, David de Carvalho, said 50 per cent of schools across the countries undertook the tests online in 2019, up from 15 per cent last year, and a report of the underlying causes of disruptions would soon be given to the Education Council for review.

David de Carvalho acknowledges the disruption of tests was “pretty traumatic” for affected students. Picture: Supplied
David de Carvalho acknowledges the disruption of tests was “pretty traumatic” for affected students. Picture: Supplied

The tech hiccups have already seen the transition period to moving fully online extended from 2020 to 2021.

He urged parents and teachers to interpret results with care, saying teachers had the best insights into the progress of their students, but stressed there was "no obvious advantage or disadvantage to re-sit the test".

"Look at it this way - it's them sitting the test for the first time," he said.

"They had a different prompt for writing, so it's not (that) they could think for two weeks about what they were going to write because they got a different prompt."

Whether sat online or not, Mr de Carvalho said student results continued to be measured on one NAPLAN assessment scale, and were comparable.

The number of students that had to re-sit was a small proportion of those involved in NAPLAN nationwide, says testing authority ACARA. File picture
The number of students that had to re-sit was a small proportion of those involved in NAPLAN nationwide, says testing authority ACARA. File picture

ACARA's general manager of Assessment and Reporting, Peter Titmanis, said in numeracy, most students were able to continue on with the test, and the re-sit figures had to be taken in context.

"There were about 0.6 million students doing the online test - about 1.2 million NAPLAN altogether and about half of that was online - so in context of overall numbers, they are very small," he said.

"And with the disruptions, some were quite minor.

"The students would have only experienced a very small period of time of which they couldn't continue writing, some were only a minute or so."

However, Mr de Carvalho said the interruptions were not taken lightly.

"That is not of course to downplay the frustration and the experience of the students which obviously was pretty traumatic on the day, so we wouldn't want to point to that as a reason for discounting the actual experience of students," he said.

Three of the Hunter children — Miriam, eight, Lydia, 13, Josiah, 15 and Nathanael, 10 — sat NAPLAN tests this year. Picture: Supplied
Three of the Hunter children — Miriam, eight, Lydia, 13, Josiah, 15 and Nathanael, 10 — sat NAPLAN tests this year. Picture: Supplied


Sydney teacher Charlotte Hunter had three of her four children sit NAPLAN tests this year, with Josiah, in Year 9, Nathanael in Year 5 and Miriam in Year 3 - and said it was a tense week, for little gain.

"The test itself is a snapshot of a moment in time … and not a true representation of all the amazing things the children can do," she said.

"I also question how the results can be accurate when part of the state had to do a written test and part of the state did a computer based test - different skill sets for pen to paper versus computer typing which may be easier or harder for some kids.

"I think that it should be all one or all the other."