NAPLAN Online must have seemed like a great idea at the time. Australian schoolchildren in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 were sitting the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy test each May, but the results weren’t coming back until September. Eight months into the school year, they were unlikely to be revelatory; four months after the tests were taken, they may well have been redundant.
Migrating the test online promised to speed up the turnaround while delivering another benefit. For students at either end of the learning spectrum, a one-size-fits-all test can indicate little more than the fact they are utterly overwhelmed or, at the other extreme, all over it. An adaptive online test could serve up increasingly tailored questions and provide a granular picture of what each child knows.
That was the theory. In practice, NAPLAN Online has been bedevilled by setbacks and snafus to the point that its very existence is in doubt. First, the rollout was repeatedly delayed. Then, after 15 per cent of schoolchildren sat the online version in 2018, it was revealed that the NSW education department had told its minister that their results couldn’t reliably be compared with those of students who had done the test the old-fashioned way.
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