ACARA news, August 2014

Reading for Australia together

29 August 2014

Across Australia, parents, teachers, students and school community members were invited to take part in the reading activity to help celebrate National Literacy and Numeracy Week (NLNW).

This year’s 'Read for Australia' activity involved a simultaneous reading of Aaron Blabey’s children’s book, Sunday Chutney, at schools all around the country at 2 pm.

Read Literacy awareness key to Read for Australia success media release by Minister for Education the Hon. Christoper Pyne MP.

Online trials off to a good start

27 August 2014

Since 2012, ACARA has been undertaking a range of research activities to look at the feasibility and practicality of delivering NAPLAN tests in an online environment. Delivering tests online gives opportunities to administer better testing, primarily through tailored testing (where test questions are tailored to the individual student’s ability), and to provide faster turnaround of results..

Between 18 August and 12 September this year, 300 schools are taking part in a study to finalise the targeting of the test design and its branching mechanism; that is, the way students are directed to certain sets of questions based on their demonstrated abilities. During the trials to date:

  • Testing has taken place in 56 schools in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia.
  • Two hundred and six test sessions in numeracy, reading, grammar and punctuation, and spelling have been delivered.
  • Students have completed over 5800 tests.
  • The first ever spelling tests via audio files have been trialled to 325 students in South Australia.

The tests have ran smoothly, with no major test delivery system issues. Program Manager Julie-Anne Justus said: ’I hope that everyone who has contributed to months of preparation – project staff, test managers, system testers – feels proud of what has been achieved. ACARA is delivering on our commitment to develop great tests for students’.

For more information on the online trials, see the NAP website.


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Tailored test branching mechanism

ACARA releases update to Australian Curriculum website

27 August 2014

Version 7.1 of the Australian Curriculum website was released today with some new features and iconography.

Updates include:

  • New icons for each general capability and for most cross-curriculum priorities: In order to make the icons easily accessible and downloadable for third parties, many of the icons on the Australian Curriculum update have been updated.
  • Revised identification of general capabilities for Phase 1 subjects, and new identification Phase 2 and Phase 3 subjects: General capabilities are now identified in content descriptions as well as in content elaborations for all subjects.
  • Updated cross-curriculum priority links for English, mathematics, science and history: This only applies to Phase 1 subjects at this stage.
  • Improved navigation panel in the Curriculum page: There is now a collapsible show/hide options for the curriculum browser and learning area pages to enable columns and the text to fit more readily on the screen.

Visit the Australian Curriculum website for more information.

20140827 AC website new icons

Australian Financial Review: Education in the age of technology

25 August 2014

Emily Parkinson of the Australian Financial Review writes about school teachers seeking new ways to engage and educate students in the age of digital technologies.

Read 'Education in the age of tablets' article by Emily Parkinson

National Literacy and Numeracy Week 2014: Top achievers awarded

25 August 2014

Schools around Australia have been encouraged to take part in National Literacy and Numeracy Week, which runs from 25 to 31 August 2014.

Minister for Education the Hon. Christopher Pyne MP said National Literacy and Numeracy Week (NLNW) aims to celebrate learning and raise awareness of the importance of reading, writing and mathematics skills.

This year's literacy activities include 'A Poem in Your Pocket' and 'Read for Australia'. The numeracy activity is called 'Reach for the Stars'.

Read 'Top achievers awarded as schools set to celebrate National Literacy and Numeracy Week 2014' media release by The Hon. Christopher Pyne MP

NAPLAN results: Open letter to parents

25 August 2014

More than a million of Australian school-age children in Year 3, 5, 7 or 9 took the NAPLAN tests (the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) in May.

The results for this year's tests will be with you over the coming weeks, earlier than in previous years. Some time in August or September – the exact timing varies from state to state – you will receive your child's NAPLAN report.In the NAPLAN report, your child's results will be shown against six levels of achievement. The black dot is your child's result. The black triangle is the average results for all Australian children in that year level.

ACARA CEO Robert Randall wrote a letter to parents, explaining how to read the test results and what to do after.

Read the letter by Robert Randall, ACARA CEO (PDF 193 kb)

Spotlight on industry links as National Science Week continues

20 August 2014

The central role of science in underpinning Australia’s many achievements in research and technology development, as well as enhancing our standard of living, is on show as National Science Week continues.

Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane visited Griffith University on the Gold Coast, where researchers are providing compelling evidence about the practical applications of science in a diverse range of fields, from a self-charging car to a 3-D printed bike and an app for monitoring chronic fatigue syndrome.

'Science is at the heart of our society and our community, but as well as answering questions about our place in the world, Australian researchers are also using science to solve practical problems and increase our standard of living,' Mr Macfarlane said.

Read National Science Week celebrates Australia's achievements media release by The Hon. Ian Macfarlane, MP, Minister for Industry

$350 000 for Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation

19 August 2014

The Australian Government is investing more than $350 000 to develop a school literacy resources and adult learning project in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) communities of Indulkana and Mimili.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, said the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation would use the funding to develop resources for students in the early school years and prepare them for literacy learning at school.

See more information on the Senator Nigel Scullion website

Children’s Book Week: Connect to reading

19 August 2014

Each year since 1945, the Children's Book Council of Australia has hosted Children's Book Week to honour and celebrate the work of Australian authors and illustrators. In 2014 it is held on 16–22 August.
Celebrations will focus on the announcement of the Book of the Year and this year's theme, 'Connect to reading'.

Schools and public libraries across Australia get involved and spend the week celebrating books and Australian authors and illustrators. Classroom teachers, teacher librarians and public librarians develop activities, offer competitions and tell stories relating to a theme to highlight the importance of reading.

Release of 2014 NAPLAN summary (preliminary) information

18 August 2014

Today ACARA has published 2014 NAPLAN summary (preliminary) information. Overall student achievement has remained stable over the 2008–2014 and 2013–14 periods, with some increases in reading, and grammar and punctuation across the 2008–2014 period, and a slight decline in writing.

This information is being released four weeks earlier than in the past. The early release reflects and builds on the Australian Government commitment for a faster turnaround of NAPLAN information. ACARA, with jurisdictions and contractors working together, has worked to shorten the analysis time and an earlier release of the summary information.

Individual student reports will also be released earlier than in past years (the exact timeframe varies between states and territories) with some individual student reports released before the end of August.

The NAPLAN summary information, released today, provides comparable data for the nation and for states and territories for each year level (Years 3, 5, 7 and 9) and for each test domain (reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy).

The report compares 2008 and 2013 results with 2014 results, except for writing where the comparisons are for 2011 and 2013 with 2014. As each new year of NAPLAN data are added, the nation obtains a more useful picture of large-scale (state, territory and national) NAPLAN performance trends over time.

See the results on the NAP website

Read the ACARA CEO’s open letter to parents (PDF 83 kb) about bringing NAPLAN results home.

The preliminary findings – 2014

The preliminary information shows that overall student achievement at state/territory level has remained stable across 2013–14 and for reading, and grammar and punctuation has increased across the 2008–2014 period.

  • Reading: The increase in performance relative to 2008 has been maintained in Years 3 and 5. There was no substantial change relative to 2013 performance in any year.

  • Spelling: There was no substantial change in spelling relative to 2008 or 2013 for any year.

  • Grammar and punctuation: Results for Years 3 and 7 indicate improvement on 2008 results. There was no substantial change relative to 2013 results.

  • Numeracy: There was no substantial change relative to 2008 or 2013 performance in any years.

  • Writing: Performance in all years appears to be lower compared to 2011. There appears to be a greater decrease relative to 2013 performance with Years 3 and 5 than Years 7 and 9.

  • National minimum standard: The summary results also indicate that there has been some movement (up and down) in the number of students at or above the national minimum standard compared to 2013, although these are within the range that has been observed over last few years.

ACARA does not consider that the decline in NAPLAN writing results represents an overall decline in writing standards. The decline may be partly because the writing task did not engage some students. It might also be because, for the first time, schools were not told in advance the style of writing that would be tested – persuasive or narrative – requiring students to be prepared to answer one or the other. ACARA is investigating these and other factors.

There is some evidence of a small increase in zero scores awarded to some students. This might mean that some students either did not understand the task or they were expecting a narrative task.
ACARA will continue with the arrangement of not announcing the style of writing to be tested. We will explore the use of different tasks for primary and secondary students. We will also consider using more than one style of writing. We believe that if there is a focus on teaching the full range of styles of writing then results should improve.

How is the writing task developed?

An information timeline on how writing questions are developed and trialled can be accessed on our website.

See the information timeline (PDF 1.5 mb)

NAPLAN – The future – Moving assessment online

ACARA has been working closely with partners and stakeholders in preparation to move assessment online. Moving NAPLAN online will deliver significant benefits that include:

  • tailoring of tests to students ability, to better meet and assess the full range of student ability

  • increasing the reliability and validity of the assessment for all students with no increase in testing time

  • significantly reducing time for providing feedback on student performance to students, teachers and parents.

NAPLAN will be linked to the Australian Curriculum from 2016. An assessment framework is being developed that articulates which elements of the Australian Curriculum: English and mathematics will be the subject of assessment through NAPLAN.


Over one million children took the NAPLAN tests in 2014. Illiteracy and innumeracy are high stakes. The parents and carers of these students will soon receive nationally comparable data that allow them to see their child’s strengths and/or areas for development. Approximately 2 per cent of children in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 withdrew or were absent from NAPLAN this year. ACARA is disappointed with any student’s non-participation; however, participation remains high and more than sufficient to provide reliable and robust achievement data.

Minister for Education, the Hon. Christopher Pyne, has issued a media release regarding faster NAPLAN results.


National Science Week

18 August 2014

This week (16–24 August) is National Science Week, an Australian Government initiative, with the schools theme for this year being ‘Food for our future: science feeding the world’. The theme was inspired by the International Year for Family Farming.

More than 1500 events will be held in towns, cities and communities, where they are expected to attract 1.5 million participants. National Science Week organisers have provided ideas for school events and activities (PDF 534 kb).

Read more about the Australian Curriculum: Science on the Australian Curriculum website.

Online assessment study starts

18 August 2014

Since 2012, ACARA has been undertaking a range of research activities to look at the feasibility and practicalities of delivering NAPLAN tests in an online environment. Delivering tests online offers opportunities to administer better testing and provide faster turnaround of results. This is primarily through tailored testing (where test questions are tailored to the individual student’s ability).

From today and throughout September, 300 schools are taking part in a study to finalise the targeting of the test design and its branching mechanism.

Making the switch to an online environment is an exciting step forward and, while a decision is yet to be taken on a start date, ACARA is undertaking this necessary research to ensure the needs of everyone, students, parents and teachers, are considered in the process.

Read more about online assessment research and trialling on the NAP website.

Partnership with principals brings parenting e-course to primary school communities

18 August 2014

The Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA) and Parentshop announce an Australian first joint initiative that brings online parenting education to primary school communities across the country.

With a recent Australian Institute of Family Studies report showing that up to 24 per cent of Australian parents want to learn parenting skills online, the Australian Primary Principals Association and Parentshop have recognised that the Talk Less Listen More e-course will benefit Australian families because it is practical, developed by experts and will contribute to our communities.

Parents can find out more about the Talk Less Listen More e-course through their local primary school principal or by visiting the Australian Primary Principals Association website.

Is hindsight 20/20?

13 August 2014

ACARA's latest blog, 'Hindsight is 20/20, or is it?', features our lead statistician Dr Jose Martinez, formerly of NASA, who tells a story of how astronomers over the years have gained a greater understanding of our universe. Jose poses the question of whether hindsight is 20/20 – and how it can be used to broaden our perspective and make reasoning more comprehensive.

Response to article in the Hobart Mercury claiming NAPLAN is prejudicial to boys

11 August 2014

In an article in today’s Hobart Mercury, Dr Ian Lillico states that NAPLAN is prejudicial to boys due to its format and 'if it included diagrams or oral aspects, or even multiple choice, boys did better'.

In fact, NAPLAN numeracy tests are 75 per cent multiple choice and reading tests are over 90 per cent multiple choice. Over half of the test questions in the numeracy tests contain visual prompts.

Questions included in the final tests have been analysed to ensure that there is no overall differential item functioning by gender – so that the number of items which somewhat favour one gender is balanced by an equal number which somewhat favour the other.

Looking for a career in mathematics?

11 August 2014

The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) has released the 17th edition of Maths Ad(d)s, a free online publication identifying the scope of careers available to university students who have included mathematics or statistics in their tertiary degree. Endorsed by Christopher Pyne, Federal Minister for Education, the publication calls attention to career opportunities combining mathematics and statistics with health, computing, data analysis, biology, business and meteorology – to name a few.

'By choosing to study mathematics … you will have a unique opportunity to contribute to the long-term prosperity of this country,' Minister Pyne says.

A career in mathematics or statistics is not possible without a strong foundation of maths and numeracy skills developed from an early age – you can view the maths curriculum for Foundation – Year 10 on the Australian Curriculum website.

New NAPLAN information timeline

04 August 2014

In May over a million students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 took part in the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests. This information timeline identifies key dates when individual, state and national results of these tests will be made available to parents, schools and the general public.

NAPLAN assesses students’ literacy and numeracy skills to identify strengths and areas for improvement. The results provide an opportunity for government and education authorities to better understand how schools, school systems and the nation are going in these important areas of the curriculum.

Click on the image below to see the full NAPLAN information timeline


Commemorating our Anzac heritage

04 August 2014

Today marks 100 years since the start of World War One (WWI) on 4 August 1914. This significant event shaped Australia's history, and its inclusion in the Australian Curriculum gives our young people the opportunity to reflect and understand Australia's military history and the impact of war on our nation.

Next year we recognise the centenary of the ANZAC landing on Anzac Day 2015. The ACT Chief Minister is giving students in Years 9 and 10 the opportunity to enter the Anzac Spirit Prize 2015, which will give four ACT students the chance to build on their studies about WWI and better understand the sacrifice made by thousands of soldiers in 1915. As a part of the Australian Curriculum, Year 9 and 10 students will have had the opportunity to learn about the impact of World War I, with a particular emphasis on Australia.

Read 'ACT Students to mark Anzac centenary' media release by the Chief Minister Katy Gallagher (PDF 17 kb)

Helping Indigenous Australians become teachers

01 August 2014

A joint project between the National Catholic Education Commission and the More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers Initiative is encouraging Indigenous Australians to take up teaching careers.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education, Senator the Hon Scott Ryan, said there was a need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators in schools so there would be positive role models available for young students.

'This government is committed to getting more Indigenous Australians to school and halving the gap in reading, writing and numeracy,' he said.

ACARA supports this initiative, which links with the Australian Curriculum’s cross-curriculum priority: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, and aligns with ACARA’s commitment to closing the gap in literacy and numeracy for young indigenous Australians.

Read 'Helping Indigenous Australians become teachers' media release by Senator the Hon Scott Ryan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education  (PDF 126 kb)

The Australian Curriculum: response to article in the Courier-Mail

01 August 2014

In reference to comments about the concept of national curriculum in today’s Courier-Mail, ACARA believes the Australian Curriculum is a robust and world-class curriculum which will shape young Australians to be confident and engaged global citizens.

Developing and implementing the Australian Curriculum has been a collaborative effort across our states and territories, spanning years of rigorous writing, development and consultation. It is a world-class national curriculum, building on the best of our current curricula and shaped by comparison with the best from overseas. The curriculum comes alive in the hands of teachers who make expert decisions about the learning experiences each student needs to succeed.

Read more in ACARA’s statement.