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NAPLAN online failures arose during practice tests, review reveals

About 30,000 students across the country eventually had to resit the tests, but the resits were also plagued by technical glitches, including at least one class that was unable to log on at all.

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A spokesman for the Department of Education and Training said: “None of the issues raised in the [PwC] report had anything to do with the problems experienced during the first day of NAPLAN online this year.”

The spokesman did not elaborate on the differences between the problems experienced during the trial run and the actual tests.

“This report assessed Education Services Australia’s progress in developing the online national assessment platform, in order to assure the Australian Government that ESA were meeting their contractual obligations,” he said.

Teachers, parents and NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell have previously confirmed that connectivity and system functionality issues persisted throughout the NAPLAN online testing window beyond the first day.

The PwC  report found that an incident occurred on March 28 during the Coordinated Practice Test which caused slowness or failure for students trying to connect to the platform.

“The root cause was found to be a single component of the infrastructure that had not been correctly scaled to cope with the anticipated load, as a result of human error where a defined process was not followed,” it said.

“The issue was resolved and the service returned to expected response levels.”

The PwC review also revealed that expectations that test data would be automatically saved in the event of a system failure were not met “due to limitations of the Microsoft Azure platform in Australia”.

The recovery point, which is the age of the files that will be recovered if the system fails, was 15 minutes rather than the required zero minutes at the time the online tests were rolled out across the country.

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The PwC review also questions whether the required recovery time of five minutes and recovery point of zero minutes will be achieved in the future.

“[Education Services Australia] continues to work with [Education technology provider] Janison and Microsoft to improve upon the current recovery time of 80 minutes and recovery point of 15 minutes, and believe that eventually an automated service may become possible, however the current environment is unable to do so,” the interim report finds.

Additionally, a number of accessibility requirements for students with a wide range of disabilities were not functional, including alternate text for students with auditory disabilities.

“Alternate text is incorrect, or missing, or not accessible by screen readers,” the report notes.

“[There is] insufficient colour contrast: students or other users will not be able to perceive information conveyed by colour, it is also required to be provided through another visual means…error checking [is] not fully accessible…[and there is] no label text for some form input controls”.

Governments in NSW, Victoria and Queensland are conducting a review of NAPLAN and the full rollout of NAPLAN online has been pushed back from next year to 2021.

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