Why Don’t Half of Kids with NCEA Level 1 Meet Literacy and Numeracy Benchmarks?


I’m not going to answer the question. But you might want to read below if you have your own ideas.

I want to talk about a presentation that did the rounds today. If you click this link below, you’ll be able to download the slides. It’s on literacy and numeracy levels in relation to NCEA year levels.

If you look past the poor design, some interesting pieces of data pop out. Here is how I have interpreted these… in bullet form because I know you won’t read the presentation:

  • Proportions of students achieving at or above the national standards haven’t really moved at all between the years 2011 to 2014
  • Percentages of students at or above the national standards  drop as they go through the year levels.
  • Teachers at years 7-11 are teaching content and content vocabulary, but minimising literacy challenges for students. The report says they’re doing this with the best interests of the students in mind.
  • The numbers of 18 year-olds with NCEA level 2 or equivalent has dramatically increased from 2011 to now, including for Maori and Pasifika.

And here’s some connections to data from the TEC’s Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment Tool (LNAAT). This is where it gets really interesting.

Just in case you are wondering, all tertiary education providers – that is, post high school –  delivering foundation level learning are required to use the LNAAT as a condition of funding.

The benchmark here was Level 3 from the ALL Survey which they have lined up with Step 4 for Literacy and Step 5 for Numeracy.

  • Just over half (51%) of year 11 students with NCEA level 1 reading are below the benchmark for reading. This means half of students with NCEA level 1 are at step 3 or below in the LNAAT.
  • Just under half (47%) of year 11 students with NCEA level 1 numeracy are below the benchmark. This means that these students are at step 4 or below in the LNAAT.

Just an example: If your kid read at step 3, but not at step 4, this means they have a basic vocabulary of everyday words. What they probably can’t read and understand is any academic language, like the kinds of “teacher words” used to describe the tasks they have to do at school. They also probably can’t understand any of the technical or specialised words they need to make sense of the subject matter that they’re learning.

What they probably can’t read and understand is any academic language, like the kinds of “teacher words” used to describe the tasks they have to do at school. These words kind of slot in at step 4 and 5. They also probably can’t understand any of the technical or specialised words they need to make sense of the subject matter that they’re learning.

They also probably can’t understand any of the technical or specialised words they need to make sense of the subject matter that they’re learning. These words start at step 5 but they sit mainly at step 6. Here we’re talking about the specialised language of a trade, or of any content area really.

Remember, these students in the stats above already have NCEA Level 1 signed off. This means that they have already achieved the required number of credits for literacy and numeracy. That means they passed at least 20 credits dedicated to literacy and numeracy.

Just so we’re clear: teachers already signed off that these students met the requirement for literacy and numeracy for NCEA level 1.

But the test data indicates that they are below the level literacy and numeracy levels of actual literacy and numeracy standards.

Here’s the data for year 12 according to the presentation.

  • 42% of year 12 students with NCEA L2 reading are below the benchmark. That is they are at step 3 or below on the LNAAT.
  • 41% of year 12 students with NCEA L2 numeracy are below the benchmark. In other words, at step 4 or below on the LNAAT.

Highlighted in red in the presentation is the following (I’ve tidied up the grammar):

  • The data suggests that students achieving [NCEA] requirements only through unit standards have lower performance on the LNAAT.
  • Year 12 students who met requirements through unit standards [only] were less
    likely to achieve NCEA Level 2.

Here’s a question to consider:

  • If this data is correct, does it mean that high-school teachers, already pushed for time and working under less than ideal conditions, need to think about better ways of integrating or embedding literacy and numeracy into their content teaching? 

If this is correct they need to rethink their fundamental approaches to teaching their content. And here’s another question, although more of a prediction:

  • The Ministry of Education – through the TEC – already owns a well-researched and now widely implemented tool for measuring literacy and numeracy gains. They even have a “Youth” version. If you were working in Government, wouldn’t it make economic sense to you to apply this tool to the years 11 – 13 to assess literacy and numeracy gains? I’d start with the vocational areas first.

I’m not advocating for it. And I’m not judging. Well, maybe a little. Anyway, finally a suggestion:

  • If you were a school teacher, or principal faced with massive new compliance requirements on the horizon related to literacy and numeracy gains, wouldn’t it make sense to look at a home-grown and already existing model for embedding literacy and numeracy into trades and other content areas?

How Do I Become A Remote Worker…?

I want to become a remote worker

I want to become a remote worker.

I don’t think I’ll be able to sit on the beach and sip cocktails in Bali while I’m working. But I want the freedom to work more like a remote worker.

So I’m evolving. My workflow is changing.

I live in New Zealand. So that’s pretty remote anyway. I’m not moving house or shifting overseas. I’m just looking for flexibility. And greater productivity when I am “at work”.

I’m also looking to get out of the house and detach myself from my home office (as nice as it is).

I also want to detach myself from all the physical crap that comes with running a business. My home office and garage and parts of my roof are full of work crap.

And I’ve got some off site storage as well. Also full of crap.

Here’s my plan… I’m not saying that this will work for you, but this is what I’m doing right now. And it is working for me.

I’m moving out of home

I already work from home. We got rid of classrooms and offices several years ago. This was a great step as it reduced our overheads. I love not leasing a building.

My home office is comfortable. I have a nice desk, chair, big screen and storage. This is one of the problems. So I’ve moved out.

I’m working in a co-working space

I have a desk downtown at a co-working space called Kloud Collective. It’s a new startup run by a friend of mine who is also my Google guy. More on Google later.

To work there, I have to drive to work. That means I have to leave the house. It’s great.

It also means that I get to rub shoulders with others who are also working like this too.

This includes some cool Taupo-based startups including

  • Cloud-based accounting champions Beany.com.
  • Aviation video recording pros Eye-Fly.
  • Virtual office and personal assistant Rogue PA.

It’s a great bunch of people. Focused. If there’s a key here, it’s that working with other people working remotely works. Well it does for me at least.

I’m using Evernote as my memory

I’ve written about Evernote before. I have a love/hate relationship with the cloud-based notetaking app. I’m giving it another shot.

It’s working. As long as I keep things simple, it’s fine. I use it as my digital note pad for jotting down ideas. That’s about it.

I also keep a personal todo list in Evernote. Yes, I know there are proper todo list apps. I’ve used all of them.

Now I have one todo list note for the month that I’m in. And I write all my todo lists in this note.

I dump everything out of my head into the day’s todo list. Then whatever doesn’t get done gets copied to the next day’s list which just starts at the top of the same page.

If I’m not getting something done, there’s usually a reason. So then I’ll delete the item from the list.

Or I’ll transfer it out to another list where I can forget about it.

I’m using Basecamp to manage my business processes

We run an education business. We’ve been using Basecamp for this for years. It’s not perfect. But if comes close.

Here’s the secret: Every student is a project in the project management system.

We build every project from a template that we’ve been tweaking since 2007.  It’s a dynamic process, but this means we have consistency. There are more than 100 things that have to happen for every single student every single time.

And this manages every process from enrolment through to graduation and archiving. It’s also scalable.

I’m using Slack to communicate with my team. 

Slack is an instant messaging app for team. It’s touted as an email killer. Please don’t email me. I hate email so I’m always ready to look for alternatives.

I’ve been using Apple’s iMessage and Viber for a couple of years now as alternatives. But the big problem is that they are not searchable.

Slack is secure and searchable. And I can set up different channels for different kinds of chat. And we can all private message each other as well.

I’ve just figured out that I can link my Google Drive and Google Calendar to Slack. And I’ve also started using it to log my time for certain jobs.

Sure it’s another mouth to feed. But less email.

I’m using Sales IQ to keep track of new business

I’m terrible at marketing. My idea of marketing is waiting for people to ring me up.

I’m trying to be better. I subscribed to Sales IQ recently. Again, it’s cloud-based software as a service. I can use it to keep track of people that I send out marketing material too.

The idea is that it manages the sales pipeline for me. It will even do fancy reports. I don’t care about fancy reports.

This aspect of my business has always been weak. But then again, I’ve never had a good process or system.

Basecamp evolved into a bespoke student management system. I’m hoping that Sales IQ will evolve into something similar for tracking new business.

I’m using online banking

This one is a no-brainer. I never go to the bank. I can’t understand why banks still have buildings. I predict that soon all banks will no longer have buildings.

I’ve have a PO Box but I pay the courier to deliver my mail

I have a PO Box. I’ve had one since I started my business. It’s just one of those things I have to have as long as other people insist on sending me physical mail.

This might sound weird. But now I pay the courier a few bucks a week to clear the PO Box for me and deliver the contents to my house. Yes, like a mailman.

Yes, I know I could just redirect it to my house address. But it makes me happy to keep the separation between my business postal address and my home address.

I also don’t have to remember to clear the PO Box. That’s what I’m paying for. I also don’t care what you think about it.

I’m using online shopping for just about everything

I hate shopping in shops. This one has tipped for me. I now prefer the online experience for most things. Books. Clothes. Groceries. Office supplies.

I do like going to cafes and restaurants though. And some shops are cool. But they have to offer me some kind of experience now.

Luckily, there are lots of great coffee shops close to the co-working space. Like downstairs. I’m going there in about 5 minutes.

I’m using Google Apps for Business

I’ve been onto this one for a while. Gmail takes care of my work emails. And I have priority inbox turned on. That means that unsolicited or unknown emails get pushed right down the queue.

If you want to email me, please don’t. Use our office email instead: assess@alec.ac.nz. It’s my goal for the business to only have one email.

Google apps means that we use Drive for all our files. And it also means that we use Docs for all word processing and Sheets for all spread sheeting.

I’m forced by others to use MS Word or Excel from time to time. This makes me feel tired.

I’m using a virtual assistant

Actually, she’s more of a virtual administrator. She takes care of the emails and all incoming communications. This includes all student work coming into the organisation.

Sometimes we work side by side in real time in the same physical location. Like regular humans. At other times, we each work remotely for different places.

Slack allows us to chat about whatever we need to. Sometimes this is live. Sometimes it’s delayed.

I don’t tell her what times she needs to be “at work”. All the jobs get done. I trust her.

I’m trying to minimise all paper flowing in and out of my organisation

I can’t get rid of everything. Some things remain out of my control. But many of my statements come electronically. And I have many of my bills set up for direct debit or credit card.

I have a small portable scanner set up to scan receipts and other crap

I bought a scanner for this purpose about two years ago. But I couldn’t make it work. I just wasn’t disciplined enough to do it.

I think this was because I was so well set up at home with a physical filing system in place. And I actually couldn’t make it work.

And I actually couldn’t make it work.

Now I have ScanSnap sync set up. This means I can scan straight into my Google Drive. From here I can file receipts, share other documents, or just archive stuff.

Then I throw away whatever the useless paperwork is. I’m not your accountant though. So just take that one with a grain of salt.

I’m gearing up for outsourcing storage and distribution as well as print on demand and drop shipping

We send a lot of stuff by courier. Our students get a big study pack of printed material soon after they start.

Most of this is also online as well, but they really like it printed. I mean really like it.

And then when they finish they receive an exit pack with their certificate and other things.

All this takes up space. I have cupboards full of resources and shelves stacked with study packs. This occupies my home office, garage, and off site storage.

If I want to be a remote worker I need a solution to this. If I want to get my garage back I need a solution to this. And I think I’ve found one.

And I think I’ve found one.

I have a friend at a printing company who will print, store and distribute the study packs. It doesn’t matter that she is in a different part of the country.

What matters is that if we do the printing with her, she’ll store everything. And when prompted, her company will courier this out to our students and pass on the costs to us.

Also, changes at NZQA might mean that we can print our own certificates. At the moment, NZQA prints and ships us the certificate. Then we copy it and ship it to the student in an exit pack.

The paper goes up and down the country twice before it finds it’s home.

Once we can print our own certificates, I can outsource this to the printing company as well. They’ll be able to print and securely ship these as we need.

And I’m looking to get some of our other education resources for sale online with another company.

If it works this will be a print-on-demand, drop shipping arrangement. In other words, someone will be able to order one copy of a poster. This will then get printed and shipped to them.

Normally, this kind of one-off print on demand makes you the enemy of any self respecting print shop. But when it’s a global niche, it’s good business for someone. Even if they’re in Amsterdam.

That’s how I plan on becoming a remote worker. I’ll keep you posted.

Working from Bali is still a way off. Hopefully, though, it means more time for drinking coffee downstairs.

Mapping the Demands of a TESOL Course Using the Learning Progressions

Mapping the Demands

If you are a TESOL teacher, but you teach a course that is funded by the TEC you might find yourself having to complete the NCALNE (Voc) literacy and numeracy professional development.

And one of the things that you’ll have to do is demonstrate that you know how to identify and map the context-specific literacy and numeracy demands of your course.

What does this mean?

This means that you’re up to the third assessment in our course.

It also means that there are a couple of things to think about. First of all, context-specific means your ESOL context for our purposes. Next, to use an analogy from sports, it means you’ve answered this question with regards to your learners:

  • How high do they have to jump?

To meet the requirements you need to prove that you’ve looked at the demands for both literacy and numeracy. The literacy demands are straightforward for TESOL. They include reading, writing, listening and speaking.

The numeracy demands might have you scratching your head.

But ESOL teachers do discuss and teach things that we can identify as numeracy. Here are some examples.

  • In an “Everyday life in NZ” course you might discuss how to tell the time or how to read a bus timetable or schedule of some kind. Reading maps; giving, receiving and following directions; navigation tasks are all numeracy.
  • In a workplace ESOL environment, it’s possibly even easier. Many workplaces require staff to undertake tasks involving measurement or do calculations. If you are a workplace ESOL tutor, you’ll already be aware of the numeracy demands.
  • Other tasks could include looking at payslips or relevant financial material, or dosages for medication including for children.

Any of these tasks will be more or less demanding depending on what’s required by your context. This is what we want to see when you submit your evidence.

Here’s another example.

  • In an academic preparation course, you might look at how you interpret data in a graph or table and then write this down in words. The demands here might relate to achieving an IELTS band 5 for writing with an attached set of descriptors.

All the best with mapping the demands of your ESOL course and context. If you get stuck, get in touch with us assess@alec.ac.nz



Leather obsession becomes a family affair

The other day, I outed myself as an obsessive compulsive beginner leatherworker. Nevermind the education stuff. I just want to make things out of leather.

Anyway, this affliction has spread to members of my family as well. And if there’s a lesson here, it’s that hands on learning is the way to go.

Here’s the oldest one burnishing a wallet that we made.


Here’s the middle one having a go at stitching up a coaster that she’s making.


And here’s the youngest one doing some late night finishing work on another wallet.IMG_5979

How To Join Pathways Awarua As A New Tertiary Educator

Need to join Pathways Awarua so you can access the NCALNE professional development and training? This process is now streamlined.

These  instructions are current as of May 2016.Think of this as part one of a two-part process for enrolling. Please read these next bullet points:

  • Part 1 below will register you on the Pathways Awarua website.
  • Part 2 of this process is here. In part 2 you’ll need to move into our ALEC virtual classroom and complete the ENROL module.

1. Click the Tertiary Educator Registration button on the main Pathways Awarua landing page

PA New educator.png

2. Fill in the form with your details

PA form 1.png

3. Fill in your organisation details

  • Start typing the full name of the organisation and it should appear.
  • If you are an independent contractor and don’t belong to any particular organisation, please use the code: 9998 or contact us (assess@alec.ac.nz).
  • If your organisation is not listed you can email Pathways Awarua for support

PA org details.png

4. Type in a name for your class and accept the terms and conditions

Class name.png

5. Click the Register button

PA Register.png

6. Find the NCALNE Course

  • At this point, you should see a screen like this below

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7. You should be able to click on the NCALNE (Voc) link. This will open up the course and you’ll see the main NCALNE page below.

  • Well done! You’ve now completed part 1.
  • From here you need to complete part 2. That’s where you will move into our ALEC virtual classroom and then fill out the enrolment form and share it with us.

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Submissions open for workshops and presentations for the National Centre Symposium 2016

National Centre of Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Tukua Kia Rere

Submissions are open until 20 May if you are thinking of presenting a workshop or conference paper at the Literacy and Numeracy Symposium this year.

With the demise of ALPA, this is essentially our industry conference for adult literacy and numeracy education in New Zealand.

We’ll be there and hopefully presenting in a couple of workshops. And hopefully with some free stuff to give away.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Dates: 8 and 9 August
  • Venue: Te Papa, Wellington
  • Theme: E whakamana ana i te akonga. (Honouring the learner). Innovative Literacy and Numeracy Practice: What works well for learners?

You will need to submit your abstract online through the NCLANA website. The page is buried so

The page is buried so just go here for the link. Scroll to the bottom for guidelines and the online form. You’re welcome.