“It is my strong view that there should be no disadvantage to any student who had technical difficulties,” he said.
Up to 10 per cent of the 900 Victorian schools that took part in NAPLAN Online experienced issues.
Some students struggled to log on to the online platforms, while others were confronted with white screens and lost up to 15 minutes of the 45 minutes allocated to the writing task.
Under the plan, schools would advise state authorities if students were impacted by glitches and this would then be verified.
Mr Merlino, who has now threatened to withdraw Victoria from NAPLAN Online, blamed the chaos on “inept federal authorities” and a distracted federal government.
A spokesman for the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority said resitting the tests would be optional.
“Students who do not wish to retake tests will not be required to do so,” he said.
“The result of the second test is the result that will be recorded for those students for NAPLAN 2019.”
Australian Principals Federation president Julie Podbury said resitting the test would create even more stress for students, teachers and principals.
She said a better solution would be withholding impacted schools’ results from the MySchool website, or labelling them as flawed.
“If the amount of money spent on NAPLAN testing was spent on disadvantaged students who need extra help, we would see far greater improvement,” she said.
Principals had foreshadowed the chaos, with The Age revealing on Monday that many school leaders feared technical glitches would plague the roll out of NAPLAN Online. This followed students struggling to log on to the platform during practice tests in March and April.
It’s understood the failures were related to NAPLAN’s national firewall, which is designed to prevent hackers from accessing the system
Federal education minister Dan Tehan defended the NAPLAN online rollout, saying more than 350,000 tests were successfully completed.
“There are procedures in place to manage issues and tests can be paused, resumed and rescheduled so that all students have the opportunity to complete NAPLAN testing,” Mr Tehan said.
“Online delivery of NAPLAN brings significant benefits including better and more precise assessment. All state and territory Education Ministers agreed to transition NAPLAN to online delivery in 2014.”
Labor deputy leader and education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek labelled the NAPLAN glitches “another disaster” from the Coalition government and said student wellbeing shouldn’t be harmed by an “inadequate” rollout of online testing.
“There is actually not an IT project that this government can’t stuff up,” she said, pointing to previous issues with the National Broadband Network rollout, 2016 census, childcare systems and the Centrelink “robodebt” initiative.
About 50 per cent of Australian schools are expected to sit the online test this year, up from 15 per cent last year.
All Australian schools are expected to bid farewell to pen and paper tests and sit the online version next year.
The Victorian education department assesses principals’ performance on their school’s NAPLAN results, while many parents flock to the MySchool website to judge schools on the same measure.
Education Editor at The Age
Fergus Hunter is an education and communications reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.