Tuesday, August 15, 2017

NAPLAN online testing confidentiality

The New South Wales Teachers Federation and the Independent Education Union said they were acting on legal advice when advising public and private school teachers not to sign the agreements that cover testing of trial questions underway in about 440 schools across Australia.Two unions have told teachers not to sign confidentiality agreements about NAPLAN questions contained in online trial tests because of fears they may be sued if they disclose the contents of the test.
The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) manages the development and delivery of NAPLAN, which is an annual assessment of reading, writing and numeracy for students in years three, five, seven and nine.
Maurie Mulheron from the Teachers Federation said the authority could not require teaching staff to sign the documents because ACARA is not their employer.
He said he was worried the agreements did not specify the ramifications for teachers if they inadvertently breached them.
"So, we don't know whether they intend to possibly sue them if they somehow inadvertently leak information about the test," he said.
"There's no information as to why ACARA is collecting the agreement from the teacher and our advice is there's no reason for a teacher to sign such an agreement."
The trials of potential NAPLAN questions have been undertaken every year as part of the test development process, ACARA said.
"The security of test content is paramount," it said in a statement.
"For this reason, those involved in item trialling are requested to maintain confidentiality of the content of items being trialled so no student has an unfair advantage when taking NAPLAN the following May."
The New South Wales Education Department said the agreements had been in place since 2008 but the unions said they were not aware of similar confidentiality agreements being circulated to teachers in past years.
The agreement states "teachers will not disclose the contents of the test or any related materials or procedures to any other persons apart from Pearson and the students undertaking the NAPLAN Online Item-Trial test."
The unions said they were also concerned about the private international company Pearson, which is administering the online NAPLAN tests.
"We've seen examples in the United States in the past where Pearson, as a company, have gone after individuals for allegedly breaching or disclosing information about some of the assessment items for students there," said Chris Watt, the federal secretary of the Independent Education Union.
"And, so our fear is that in the absence of detail or any understanding or knowledge of what might constitute a breach, our members could be putting themselves in a very dangerous legal situation.
"They might be inadvertently talking about matters with colleagues or a principal or consultants from the employment authority they work for and find that the curriculum authority or the company Pearson might construe that to be inappropriate conversation and a breach of the agreement, and they get into legal trouble."
The Online Item-Trial test is separate to School Readiness Testing (SRT) which is also happening in August and September to ensure schools are ready to do NAPLAN online.
It is set to be introduced in 2018. Technical issues forced its rollout to be scrapped this year.
SRT assesses the technical readiness of a school and lets them assess their bandwidth, wireless connectivity, and device capacity, ACARA said.