Concerns over NAPLAN online testing plans and robot marking

A peak parents group has called on the Federal Education Minister to delay the implementation of NAPLAN Online because NSW public schools are not ready for it.

The Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations of NSW made the call on Friday after its annual general meeting unanimously endorsed a motion to ask for a delay.

Federation vice president Joel Matthews said: “We want the Department of Education to address a number of concerns before implementing NAPLAN Online. The foremost being a clarification on how the online testing will benefit our students over the existing paper based system.”

The Federation commissioned a survey which it said showed parents are extremely concerned about NAPLAN online testing as an accurate assessment of a child’s progress. Only seven per cent of respondents believe an automated marking system can assess creative work while an “overwhelming” 82 per cent said students lacking keyboard and computer literacy skills will be disadvantaged due to online testing.

The Federation said a recent analysis by leading US academic Les Perelman of a 2015 paper by Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has also revealed there are potential flaws in using Automated Essay Scoring (AES) to mark NAPLAN Online writing tasks, indicating that AES is virtually worthless as an educational tool.

Mr Matthews said: “It is the responsibility of the Department of Education to ensure that the key to an equitable education system rests with the Government, as this is the only way to ensure all our children have the same equitable learning resources.”

“The Federation seeks to act in benefit of public education by advocating on behalf of P&C Associations. We implore the Minister for Education to focus on what is in the best interests of our children and delay the implementation until 2020.

“Before pushing forward with Online testing, these concerns must be adequately addressed,” he said.

“It is important to understand the purpose of NAPLAN and whether NAPLAN Online meets those objectives or not. There is a lot of controversy on aspects of NAPLAN Online, from whether robots can mirror human markers when it comes to assessing humour and sarcasm; to parental concerns over equity and the technical capability of schools; and concerns about keyboard proficiency as there are variations in how fast a student can touch/type as opposed to write.”

“The Federation seeks to act in benefit of public education by advocating on behalf of P&C Associations. We implore the Minister for Education to focus on what is in the best interests of our children and delay the implementation until 2020.

“Before pushing forward with Online testing, these concerns must be adequately addressed,” Mr Matthews said.