Squiz Today / 13 March 2024

Squiz Today – 13 March 2024

Squiz Today Podcast

Today’s listen time: 6 minutes

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Squiz Sayings

“Pinch me! This is everyone’s dream.”

Said Melanie Raymond, the co-owner of 3yo Australian Shepherd Viking, who ran past more than 19,000 other dogs to be crowned Best in Show at the 2024 Crufts dog show in the UK. Question: Are there any Aussie Shepherds actually in Australia?

A Naplan of attack

The Squiz

Over the next 2 weeks, about 1.3 million students at over 9,400 schools across the country will participate in National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy tests (affectionately – or not – known as Naplan). What that means is all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are involved in the nationwide standardised tests, which were established in 2008 to help determine how they’re tracking against performance targets in key areas of reading, writing and language conventions (aka spelling, grammar and punctuation), and numeracy. It’s a big deal for students, parents, teachers and administrators, and every year, the tests attract controversy… 

What’s new?

There have been some major updates this year, including bringing the tests forward from May to March – a “key benefit”, along with testing being 100% online and results coming back within 4 weeks, as opposed to several months in previous years. That will enable teachers to address areas for improvement ASAP. Last year, tougher proficiency levels were introduced, which some experts say contributed to poor results, with 10% of students falling short of standards in literacy and numeracy, particularly for those living in areas of high socioeconomic disadvantage. This year’s results will also be comparable to 2023, as the “time series” dataset was fully reset last year, meaning results couldn’t be compared with previous years. Educators will be keeping a keen eye on whether the 33% of students in the “needs additional support” and “developing” categories have caught up.

Why is any of this controversial?

The Queensland Teachers Union is encouraging parents to boycott the exams in a bid to avoid “high levels of stress and anxiety” (paywall) in what it calls a “high stakes, but low-value testing model”. And they’re not the only critics… Last year, researchers found Naplan had “strayed from its original purpose” of identifying struggling students by “insidiously infiltrating everyday teaching and learning practices”, which ultimately undermined student learning. Teachers have also complained that curriculums and staffing decisions have become dictated by Naplan results, making it a “troublesome and influential policy driver.” But other experts have defended Naplan, saying that deciding what to do in response to the results is the “crucial part” rather than the results themselves and that students “should not feel apprehensive about the assessment”. 

If the upcoming Naplan tests are on your agenda, check out today’s Squiz Kids podcast for a kid-friendly rundown. 

Australian News

Squiz the Rest

An age-old dilemma

Young Aussies aren’t the only ones making news… Controversial aged care reforms are back in the spotlight after an Albanese Government-appointed taskforce handed down its report on the sector. It made several recommendations, but the one that got tongues wagging is the “strong case” for wealthy older Australians to pay more to help fund the system. It’s been suggested because aged care is a big strain on the Federal Budget, and with the number of Aussies aged over 85yo tipped to triple by 2050, costs will rise. Yesterday, Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said it’s not “fair” for taxpayers to foot most of the bill but ruled out “increased taxes or a new levy” or changes to how older Aussies are assessed for government assistance. Wells says the government will “continue to analyse” the report – it’s expected to share its response before the May budget.

AusPol Australian News

It’s a wild world

US intelligence agencies have given a grim outlook on America’s place in “an increasingly fragile world order” in their 2024 Annual Threat Assessment, saying there’s more competition for power, transnational challenges and regional conflicts. Presenting the report to members of the US Congress, the nation’s top security officials called out “an ambitious but anxious China” and “a confrontational Russia” as challenges. Boss of the CIA William Burns says continued support for Ukraine has “sobered” Chinese President Xi Jinping and cooled the country’s aggression toward Taiwan. Adding to the tension between Israel and the US, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu also ranked a mention, and the report predicts there may be protests demanding his resignation… And overnight in the Caribbean, Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced he’ll resign after weeks of gang violence and anarchy, saying “Haiti needs peace.”

World News

A whistle falls silent

As Boeing’s safety crisis continues, it’s been revealed that a former employee who was giving evidence in a lawsuit against the company has died. Reports say 62yo John Barnett, who worked for Boeing for 3 decades until retiring in 2017, took his own life. He’d been a quality manager for Boeing, but in 2019, he became a whistleblower, telling the BBC faulty parts were being fitted to planes by staff pressured to meet production deadlines and flagged there could be problems with 25% of oxygen masks being installed. Boeing denied the allegations at the time and said yesterday it was saddened by Barnett’s passing. A US Federal Aviation Authority review released yesterday has found dozens of problems with Boeing’s 737 Max jets… And Chile and New Zealand have opened investigations into Monday’s Latam flight emergency, which saw 50 people injured after the cockpit’s “gauges just blanked out”.

World News

Step away from the kettle

We’re no strangers to riding the caffeine-powered wave, but we didn’t know it was possible to get “intoxicated” on the stuff… Common signs you’ve overdone the coffee/tea/energy drinks include jittery fingers and a racing heart, but intoxication is a whole another level… US authorities say we shouldn’t exceed 400mg a day, which is about 4 cups of coffee – note that’s filter coffee, not your fancy espressos (which are stronger)… Exceeding that slightly won’t be catastrophic, but if you’re a hardcore caffeine fiend slugging 12 cups a day, your health is at risk. Serious side effects include cardiac arrest, gastrointestinal issues, the loss of essential minerals, and neurological issues like anxiety, hallucinations, migraines, and seizures. There are medical ways to get caffeine out of your system, but none are very nice… So, like a lot of things in life, moderation is key. Anyone fancy a decaf?


Can you keep a secret?

A project run by Canberran Gabe Trew has found a lot of us are itching to get confessions off our chest… When he asked his 24,000+ social media followers to share their “secret crush story”, he was inundated with nearly 3,000 responses in 24 hours. But psychologist and Columbia University Professor Michael Slepian wasn’t surprised. He’s spent a decade digging into the juiciest of human secrets – for research, of course – and says the hardest part about keeping them is that opportunities to share “rarely present themselves”. Slepian says the average person keeps tight-lipped on around 13 secrets – even world leaders manage to keep a few. But Trew’s project has given some people the opportunity to share – he says 8 couples have connected IRL after admitting their secret crushes on each other. Aww…

Australian News Quirky News

Apropos of Nothing – Bottoms Up Edition

It’s Japanese sucker bum squids’ time to shine, with scientists closely monitoring coral reefs for evidence of the tiny critters. They’re notable for their martial arts moves to hunt and wrestle much larger shrimp, and scientists say their presence is “a sign that the ecosystem is healthy”.

There’s been a spill on California’s Interstate 5 – a toilet paper spill, that is. Boxes of bog roll fell off a truck, with Highway Patrol officers called to unclog the multi-lane highway after the rolls caused it to get a bit backed up… 

If you’ve ever found yourself wandering through the ladies’ underwear department in bewilderment, Aussie fashionistas have given their reccos on the best (and comfiest) pairs on offer. Or you could follow Emily Blunt’s Oscars dress lead with a decorative pair

Quirky News

Squiz the Day

10.30am (ACDT) – Professional cyclist Rohan Dennis will make his first appearance before court, charged over the death of his wife Melissa Hoskins – Adelaide 

12.00pm (AEDT) – ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr will deliver the annual ACT State of the Territory address – Canberra  

12.30pm (AEDT) – Greece’s former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will give an address to the National Press Club – Canberra 

NAPLAN testing begins at schools around Oz

ABS Data Release – Monthly Business Turnover, January

Start of Brain Awareness Week (on until 17 March) 

Anniversary of:

  • William Herschel discovering the planet Uranus (but he mistook it for a comet) (1781)
  • Labor PM Paul Keating’s election win “for the true believers” (1993)
  • the election of Pope Francis (2013)
Squiz the Day

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