NAPLAN craplan… And on M’s anniversary

Another of those annoying stories prompted by the standardised test reporting season is in today’s Herald:

More than half of NSW year 9 students would fail at the first hurdle to get their HSC based on this year’s NAPLAN results, new statistics from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority have revealed.

It follows the surprise announcement in July by NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli that students would be required to meet a minimum literacy and numeracy standard to receive their HSC.

From next year, year 9 students will need to get a mark of Band 8 or above in their NAPLAN tests to be guaranteed of qualifying for their HSC.

This year’s full NAPLAN results confirm that in the 2016 year 9 cohort, more than half of all students in the reading, grammar and punctuation, spelling and numeracy tests received Band 7 or below….

No disrespect for Adrian Piccoli, by the way, who is the best NSW Education Minister in decades, generally. However, what a nonsense. First, you can’t “fail” NAPLAN and “Band 8” is NOT A MARK!

Bands and Scaled Scores

Student outcomes for the five NAPLAN domains (Reading, Writing, Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation, and Numeracy) are provided as scaled scores. These scores range from 0 to 1000, and form the numeric continuum from which the ten national reporting bands are derived.

It is important to remember that a band is a region on a graph, representing a range of scaled scores. A band is not a specific, finely tuned location.

The National Assessment Program scale maps student outcomes onto a ten band continuum. Where appropriate, the NAPLAN Data Service displays results against these bands. National, state and school distributions are presented as box-and-whisker plots graphed against the bands relevant for the year level as follows:

  • Year 3 – results will be reported in Band 1 to Band 6
  • Year 5 – results will be reported in Band 3 to Band 8
  • Year 7 – results will be reported in Band 4 to Band 9
  • Year 9 – results will be reported in Band 5 to Band 10


I’ve had quite a few goes at NAPLAN, PISA and related matters over the years, as these examples will serve to demonstrate:

2013: PISA is out and the maddies are having so much fun!

2011: “NAPLAN risks ‘repeating US mistakes’”–The Australian

2010: First draft: my South Sydney Herald NAPLAN story. Extract:

Check the toilets and staff rooms

Novelist and teacher John Marsden has a simple formula for testing the quality of your local school. In The Sydney Morning Herald recently he wrote: “The quality of the lavatory facilities is the single best indicator of the respect in which children are held in a school; far better than any number of glossy brochures stuffed with photos carefully staged to show what the school believes will be most attractive to the customers they want to enrol. If you are able to talk your way into the staff room, make sure your nostrils are quivering and your senses on full alert. A drab staff room populated by dispirited teachers is a red alert.”

Now I haven’t carried out that test in our area, but I have been talking to some schools and people connected with schools in our area and beyond. Some would talk to me, some wouldn’t or couldn’t. I have also been delving into the My School Website and trying to understand exactly what it does offer, and what it does not….

Well, I just can’t be bothered reacting to the annual frenzy any more, so I am doubly grateful to Jim Belshaw for so capably exposing the silliness if it all in his Australian education: the leaning tower of PISA last Friday. Do read it.


Worth a read: Suzanne Rice, University of Melbourne, and revisit my June 2016 posts Fly on the wall school doco: Revolution School and Last episode of “Revolution School”.

Meanwhile, having mentioned yesterday that it seems my main Christmas event this year will be Yum Cha in Sydney with M and friends I reflected afterwards that this is actually quite significant. M arrived from Shanghai in December 1989, so this year marks the fact that he has now spent half his life in Australia. When not travelling of course!

See Memories–mine and another’s, Tiananmen 25 years on, Linda Jaivin on Hou Dejian.


And there is M, taken in Sydney’s Chinese Garden sometime in 1990-1991. He is a friend of one of the witnesses you will see tonight on Foreign Correspondent, though M was in Shanghai at the time.

Shanghai 1989 – not M, but M witnessed a lot…

Through M and his friends and through my students in 1990 I was able to gain considerable understanding of what happened in Beijing and elsewhere 25 years ago now. See some of my posts: on Floating Life, for example Tiananmen and all that – 20 years on; Liu Xiaobo (2009) whom I actually met.

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  1. Pingback: My 1997: Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills | Neil's Commonplace Book

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