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National assessment goes digital as extra security blocks shortcuts

Olivia Jenkins and Susie O’Brien, May 9, 2022 7:00PM Kids News

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Thousands of students will complete NAPLAN testing online for the first time this week. Victoria’s St John Vianney’s Primary School has been preparing for the national online assessment to make sure it goes ahead without any tech troubles. Ivy, 11, and Leroy, 11, sit a trial NAPLAN test on laptops with fellow year 5 students. Picture: David Caird media_cameraThousands of students will complete NAPLAN testing online for the first time this week. Victoria’s St John Vianney’s Primary School has been preparing for the national online assessment to make sure it goes ahead without any tech troubles. Ivy, 11, and Leroy, 11, sit a trial NAPLAN test on laptops with fellow year 5 students. Picture: David Caird

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Thousands of students will sit NAPLAN tests online for the first time this week, with digital security beefed up to combat cheating.

Controls on school web browsers have been tightened as 1.2 million students nationally across years 3, 5, 7 and 9 prepare for the standardised* assessment from Tuesday 10 May.

The national testing body has blocked online dictionary and problem-solving websites such as Grammarly, which uses artificial intelligence* to correct spelling, grammar and punctuation.

A secure locked-down web browser blocking access to banned sites will be installed on every student’s device.

NAPLAN Laptops media_cameraThe move to online NAPLAN testing includes the installation of a secure, locked-down web browser on every student’s device that will block access to banned sites to curb cheating. Students from Victoria’s St John Vianney’s Primary School are pictured sitting a trial ahead of the real thing this week. Picture: David Caird

The move to online assessment comes after just one in 20 students used a computer to complete the test in 2018.

Australian Curriculum*, ­Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) chief executive David de Carvalho said the use of devices in classrooms for NAPLAN had been trialled.

“Extensive” tests picked up a software update that allowed students to install Grammarly on their MacBooks to work for any application, but this had been stamped out for the ­national assessment.

“That’s the kind of thing that we’re constantly quite vigilant* about,” he said. “It’s very important that we block access to those sites for the purpose of maintaining the integrity* of the test so that everybody’s on a level playing field.”

Features like virtual rulers in the maths test and scrambled letters in the spelling test also make the online test “more fun and engaging”, Mr de Carvalho said, adding that there was no need for students to worry about the test.

Teenage Students Sitting Examination With Teacher Invigilating media_cameraAustralian Curriculum*, ­Assessment and Reporting Authority chief executive David de Carvalho said that the online NAPLAN test would be more fun and engaging for students.

“NAPLAN is not a pass or fail test, and there is no need for any kind of ‘cramming’, which doesn’t work anyway,” he said. “NAPLAN is a test of what you have been learning in class for the last few years … (and) you don’t need any special preparation for it.”

It will also be the first time students will be given questions that match their ability. Students who answers more questions correctly in the first testing stage will ­receive different questions to students who answer questions incorrectly.

Curtin University Professor Karen Murcia said the online test was “a better tool for identifying the diversity* evident among groups of students achieving at the same level”.

“Online tests are simultaneously marked so children’s results could be made available more quickly to teachers, parents, and the child,” she said.

Professor Murcia said online success depended on suitable hardware and reliable internet access, adequate browsers and enough devices for children to access the internet and complete the exam during the testing window.

The year 3 writing task is the only portion that will be completed using pen and paper.

NAPLAN Laptops media_cameraAn Education Department spokesman said the transition to online NAPLAN testing would provide a more accurate indication of students’ academic performance. Picture: David Caird

Victoria’s St John Vianney’s Primary School principal Michael Schinck said he expected the assessment to run smoothly.

“We’ve done lots of training with regards to how to set up the actual NAPLAN online with codes,” he said. “The kids actually have to type in a code to access the test so they can’t actually get out and look up anything at all.”

Figures released with the state budget last week showed overall NAPLAN performance was below target, with 68 per cent of year 3 pupils above the bottom band for numeracy, which was short of a 73 per cent target.

Other areas where ­NAPLAN targets were not met included year 7 numeracy, year 9 numeracy and year 9 reading.

An Education Department spokesman said the new-look test would provide a more ­accurate indication of students’ academic performance.

“The transition to online NAPLAN tests is exciting,” the spokesman said. “The tests are more engaging, and allow us to provide more precise results with adaptive* testing, where the test presents questions which may get progressively more or less difficult depending on a student’s ­responses.”

This year’s national assessment will be the last time students sit for NAPLAN in May.

From 2023 the test will be conducted in March after a review found feedback on the ­results was ­delivered too late in the year for students.

GLOSSARY

  • standardised: setting or meeting a common standard
  • artificial intelligence: simulation or mimicry of human intelligence by machines
  • curriculum: subjects in a course of study
  • vigilant: watchful, observant, alert
  • integrity: honest, having strong ethics
  • diversity: variety, difference
  • adaptive: ability to change to suit conditions or in response to different needs

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. Which year groups sit NAPLAN tests?
  2. What proportion of students used a computer to complete NAPLAN in 2018?
  3. Which portion of testing is the only one that to be completed using pen and paper?
  4. Which four areas are performing below target in terms of NAPLAN results?
  5. When will NAPLAN be conducted in 2023 and why?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Testing time
How do you think teachers use the results from the NAPLAN test to help their students?

Do you think these tests are important to see how Australian schoolchildren are progressing in their learning and to compare to other countries?

Do you get nervous about completing NAPLAN tests or just treat it like any other school work?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English

2. Extension
Do you think completing the tests online is a better way to conduct NAPLAN? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
1. Summarise the article
A summary is a brief statement of the main points of something. It does not usually include extra detail or elaborate on the main points.

Use the 5W & H model to help you find the key points of this article. Read the article carefully to locate who and what this article is about, and where, when, why and how this is happening. Once you have located this information in the article, use it to write a paragraph that summarises the article.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science

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