As if NAPLAN wasn’t controversial and in many cases stressful enough, the introduction of online testing has added a whole new headache for students trying to get a grip on it and the teachers who have to make sure everybody gets a fair chance.
While there is no sign the new technology has suffered a Census-like meltdown at this stage, there are certainly some limitations on what it can do.
Wisely it appears the introduction of the online testing has at least been staged. But the need to rotate students has probably added another layer of uncertainty and confusion to a project that has had its fair share of difficulties.
But if the system is to keep track with modern education; the technological update is a reasonable expectation, even if the timing has been questioned.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham says going online is a "groundbreaking event" in terms of making NAPLAN better for students and more useful for teachers
The minister is talking up the system, convinced the national standards tests are here to stay even if they will require tweaking. His argument at one level is sound; a basic measuring stick on the basic levels of learning across our education system.
His justification is based on what he feels is the pragmatic outcome: “You don't get world-class researchers without them first having the fundamental basics of literacy and numeracy,” he said.
Teachers have often argued the time would be spent better elsewhere and the unions are equally vehement, saying many schools don't have the capacity or resources to test online, reinforcing inequality in classrooms and students from low socio-economic backgrounds would be disadvantaged.
A NSW minister has split from his federal counterpart and agrees with the union’s ‘incomplete picture’ criticism. Rob Stokes says the tests are being misused as a school rating system and an "edu-business" industry has sprung up around it to extort money out of worried parents. He feels the tests have been turned into a rating tool for schools rather than a measurement of student progress.
While the My School website was all about giving families “choice” in education and that choice could only be fully exercised with proper and objective measurements, it seems there is still some way to go before that principle can be achieved or believed.