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March, 2019

Leading US academic warns NAPLAN computer marking could damage learning

Computers will mark NAPLAN writing tests from next year. A leading US education academic has warned that it would be “extremely foolish” and even damaging to student learning if NAPLAN writing tests were marked by computers next year, as education ministers across Australia back a move to online marking.
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Les Perelman, an internationally renowned expert in writing assessment from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said a report on automated marking of NAPLAN was “so methodologically flawed and so massively incomplete” that it could not be used to justify any use of automated essay scoring of NAPLAN.

A group of year 9 students at Cerdon College in Sydney’s west were asked how the new NAPLAN tests, which they will be required to pass to receive their HSC, will affect both their current education and their prospects.

Dr Perelman was commissioned by the NSW Teachers Federation to review a report by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) into automated NAPLAN marking of persuasive writing tests.

ACARA’s report, released in late 2015, said a “significant body of literature” confirmed that automated essay scoring met or surpassed the quality of human markers. But Dr Perelman’s review said a major failing of the ACARA report was that it “completely ignores” any research that was critical of automated essay scoring.

“Until these critical studies are completed and carefully evaluated, it would be extremely foolish and possibly damaging to student learning to institute machine grading of the NAPLAN essay, including dual grading by a machine and a human marker,” Dr Perelman wrote.

The release of Dr Perelman’s review comes as ministers at September’s meeting of the federal Education Council gave in-principle support for NAPLAN writing tests to be marked by a computer and a human in 2018.

Stanley Rabinowitz, general manager of assessment and reporting at ACARA, said all NAPLAN writing tasks completed online next year would be marked by a person as well as an automated scoring system.

“This is to provide reassurance that automated marking achieves scores comparable to human markers, but faster,” Dr Rabinowitz said.

Dr Rabinowitz said ACARA had done further research since the 2015 report, including work based on Dr Perelman’s research, which would be released next month.

He defended ACARA’s report and said Dr Perelman and the Teachers Federation “are known critics of automated marking systems and the report findings should be viewed with this in mind.”

The acting president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Gary Zadkovich, said parents, teachers and principals had not been consulted about the “radical plans” to move to online marking.

“The federal agency in charge of NAPLAN is rushing through with plans to have robots mark next year’s NAPLAN tests despite their justifications being discredited by world-leading research,” Mr Zadkovich said.

Mr Zadkovich urged education ministers to reject ACARA’s plan to “bring robots into the marking of extended pieces of children’s work”.

Mr Zadkovich said Dr Perelman’s report warned that computers could only detect “low grade attributes of writing” and cannot detect “the most important elements of a text”.

Automated marking can discriminate against some social groups and is even flawed when it comes to grammar checking, he said.

Robyn Cox, the president of the Primary English Teaching Association Australia, said she did not oppose the role of artificial intelligence in education but warned that its ongoing involvement in areas such as writing could have negative consequences.

“My concern is that this will serve the needs of the computer and not the needs of humanity,” Dr Cox said.

“It won’t take us long before big corporations or text book publishers start developing software or text books that prepare kids for the writing task that a computer wants to see.”

The ACARA said the number of schools taking part in the double marking had not yet been confirmed but the Education Council was told that the move will deliver a “significant increase in costs”.

The ministers also agreed to extend the timeline for all schools to transition to NAPLAN online to 2020. All year 3 students will do NAPLAN writing tasks with pencil and paper regardless of when their school moves online.

The Sydney Morning Herald

Man stabbed in Mosman street in fourth armed robbery this week: police

GENERIC Police. Picture: GEORGIA MATTS
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A gang of knife-wielding thieves has been terrorising pedestrians in Sydney’s lower north shore this week, robbing four and leaving three with stab wounds.

Police are appealing for public assistance after the latest attack, in Mosman, in which a 50-year-old man was stabbed in the arm and back on Wednesday night.

The armed robbery is the fourth since Monday, with police saying they are believed to be linked.

The crime spree started on Monday night when a 15-year-old boy was approached by a knife-wielding man near North Sydney train station at 11.15pm.

The boy was stabbed and the man stole his phone and wallet.

About half an hour later, a 28-year-old man was threatened by two men on Bay Street in Waverton. One of the men was armed with two knives.

The two men stole his wallet, phone, iPod and shoes and left him with cuts to his legs.

Both victims were taken to Royal North Shore Hospital.

About 10.45pm on Tuesday, a 28-year-old man was walking in Wollstonecraft when he was approached by three men, one of whom threatened him with a knife.

The men stole his wallet, phone, watch, laptop and headphones but left him uninjured.

The latest victim is a 50-year-old man, who was confronted while walking on Spencer Street in Mosman about 10.40pm on Wednesday.

Police said the man was stabbed in the arm and back, and was treated by NSW Ambulance paramedics before being taken to Royal North Shore Hospital with injuries which are not considered life-threatening.

Investigators would like to speak to three men who may be able to assist with their inquiries.

One man has been described as being of Mediterranean or Middle Eastern appearance, in his 30s, with a full beard and wearing a red jacket.

The second man has been described as being of Caucasian appearance, with a beard and short haircut with a curly fringe, and was wearing a hooded top.

The third man has been described as having a large build, balding head and was wearing a blue shirt.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Affleck caught in Weinstein fallout, apologises for ‘acting inappropriately’

Actor Ben Affleck has apologised for an incident in 2003 in which he “acted inappropriately” towards actress Hilarie Burton.
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Burton was the host of MTV’s TRL at the time; Affleck, who was on the program promoting a film, allegedly groped her breast.

The incident was partially captured on tape and has been discussed in the media since.

However it was raised again in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault levelled at Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein when Affleck lent his voice to a chorus of disapproval.

Ben Affleck concedes he “acted inappropriately” towards TV presenter Hilarie Burton during an interview in 2003. Photo: Richard Shotwell

In a statement issued via a social media account, Affleck said he was “saddened and angered” by the Weinstein allegations.

Affleck’s remarks prompted an exchange on social media in which a New York-based writer noted “he [Affleck] also grabbed Hilarie Burton’s breasts on TRL once. Everyone forgot though.”

Burton chimed in at that point with the words: “I didn’t forget.”

Affleck’s response was speedy: “I acted inappropriately toward Ms Burton and I sincerely apologise,” he said on social media on Wednesday.

Affleck also came under fire from Rose McGowan, one of the actresses who was the target of Weinstein’s unwanted advances.

McGowan’s remarks – “I told him to stop doing that, you said that to my face… you lie” – would seem to suggest that McGowan had confided in Affleck and that the 45-year-old actor had asked Weinstein to stop.

That would would jag slightly with the implication in Affleck’s statement that he, like others, had only recently become aware of the issue.

“I am saddened and angry that a man who I worked with used his position of power to intimidate, sexually harass and manipulate many women over decades,” Affleck’s statement said.

“The additional allegations of assault that I read this morning made me sick.”

In the last week a scandal has exploded around now-ousted Hollywood studio chief Harvey Weinstein in which details of decades of sexual harassment allegations have been made public.

Those revelations were followed by a bombshell report in The New Yorker magazine detailing at least three cases of alleged sexual assault.

Since then a number of high-profile Hollywood actresses, including Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, have also come forward to say they were the target of Weinstein’s harassment.

Others, such as Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette, said that after rejecting Weinstein’s advances they found it difficult to find work and alleged the studio boss had essentially acted to punish them.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Controversy cultivated online before Milo Yiannopoulos tour starts in Australia

Controversy around Milo Yiannopoulos’ Australia visit is being cultivated by Mark Latham’s alt-right linked outfit before the internet personality has even arrived in the country.
Nanjing Night Net

With fewer than 1000 names on a petition to ban Yiannopoulos because the “clear risk that members of the public will react adversely to his presence”, the former Labor leader has issued a call to fight the effort.

“Milo Yiannopoulos is coming to Australia in early December but anti-free speech extremists want to stop him from entering the country,” Latham posted on Facebook. “He criticises lunatic feminists, cultural Marxists, Islamists and the politically correct. And that’s why they want to keep him out.”

In making his pitch to the public, Latham posted the link “Don’t Ban Milo”, which was purchased by Rebel News Network only five days after the tour was first publicised, in other words, before any sizeable outrage built.

Rebel Media, which hosts Latham’s web-only Mark Latham’s Outsiders website, has been at the centre of a number of scandals linked to the alt-right overseas, including the coverage of the Charlottesville, Virginia protest that left three dead, as well as the MacronLeaks which sought to sway the French elections.

As of Tuesday morning there were less than 850 signers on the Change.org petition. By early Thursday morning, after further media attention, the number of names still had not reached 1000.

University of Sydney linguistics professor Nick Enfield likens the media strategy of fighting the feared ban of Yiannopoulos to the “Streisand effect”.

Named for the singer, it is the tendency for the suppression of information or idea – in this case Yiannopoulos himself – to actually generate more interest and publicity among the public.

The reality, says Professor Enfield, is in terms of free and open debate “you want to have people like Milo precisely so you can tear them down with good arguments.”

Fairfax Media has sought comment from Rebel Media and tried to contact Latham.

Yiannopoulos’ tour also appears timed to coincide with the aftermath of the same-sex marriage postal vote.

As the Change.org petition notes: “To allow a visa to be issued to a provocateur who encourages right wing activists to troll on social media while the debate is still happening is to encourage those opposed to marriage equality to act in a similar manner.”

In a one-time departure from Australia’s traditional mandatory voting, the nation is conducting a postal survey of households to learn whether voters approve of allowing same-sex people to marry.

Yiannopoulos’ tour is being planned for capital cities, and yet the locations aren’t being released until a week before the event at the end of November and start of December.

For all of the furore around Yiannopoulos, Professor Enfield is sceptical about how well he will play in Australia because Australians, he says, are more moderate and less ideological in their views than Americans.

Latham, a former leader of the Labor Party, was a columnist for the Australian Financial Review who resigned following controversy over his views on feminism and other social issues.

Since then, Latham has joined the libertarian-leaning Liberal Democrats. The AFR is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

Follow Chris Zappone on Facebook

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Prison alternative leads to sharp drop in re-offending

New court orders diverting offenders from prison and into community-based supervision and treatment programs are more effective at reducing re-offending rates than prison sentences, according to groundbreaking new research.
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The state’s prisoner population is at a record high of 13,092 and the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) has said consistently there is “strong evidence that prison exerts little to no deterrent effect”.

BOSCAR says its research shows intensive correction orders are a cost-effective alternative to prison.

It will publish a report on Thursday showing intensive correction orders (ICOs) – which are an alternative to short prison sentences – have led to a drop of up to 31 per cent in the odds of a person re-offending, compared with offenders given a prison sentence of up to two years.

“If ICOs are more effective than short prison sentences in addressing underlying causes of offending behaviour and reducing recidivism rates, expanding their use would have a significant impact on the imprisonment growth rate in NSW,” BOCSAR says in the report.

The orders, which include a number of mandatory conditions such as a minimum of 32 hours’ community service a month, along with drug and alcohol testing, were introduced by the former NSW Labor government in 2010 and replaced periodic detention as an alternative to full-time custodial sentences.

The court may impose a range of other conditions, including around employment and electronic monitoring.

The orders can only be imposed in cases where the offender is at least 18 and a sentence of no more than two years would otherwise apply.

Corrective Services assesses the suitability of individual offenders for an ICO and those convicted of a range of specific sexual offences are excluded.

“NSW is currently experiencing unprecedented growth in imprisonment numbers,” BOCSAR says in its report.

It said the rise in prison numbers and strong evidence that prison exerts little to no deterrent effect “has increased the urgency to find effective alternatives to imprisonment”.

The research compared rates of re-conviction among 1,266 offenders given an ICO and 10,660 offenders given a prison sentence of less than two years.

“The two groups of offenders were matched on a wide range of factors, including age, gender, race, offence, prior criminal record and prior penalties,” BOCSAR said.

The bureau found a reduction of between 11 per cent and 31 per cent in the odds of re-offending for an offender who received an ICO, compared with an offender who received a prison sentence of up to two years.

It said “even larger reductions in reoffending are observed when the prison group is restricted to offenders serving a fixed prison term of six months or less”, who are released with no supervision or treatment.

“In this case the odds of reoffending among those receiving an ICO are between 25 and 43 per cent lower for offenders across all risk categories and between 33 and 35 per cent lower among offenders in the medium to high risk categories,” it said.

Don Weatherburn, the executive director of BOCSAR, said the findings showed ICOs were a “cost-effective alternative to prison for offenders who would otherwise be sent to prison for short periods of time”.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.