CANBERRA, Aug 5 - But states have rushed to highlight individual areas of achievement in the NAPLAN results released on Wednesday, even if the national performance has barely moved.
The head of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority Robert Randall says while stability is good, the community will expect more improvement over time.
"Literacy and numeracy are the foundations of learning at and beyond school," Randall said in a statement.
"If student knowledge, skills and understanding are not improving in these areas, it is a cause for reflection."
The lack of improvement, particularly in maths, has led Australia's Chief Scientist Ian Chubb to warn it should be a wake-up call.
"We've got to do something about it soon," he told ABC radio.
Although results overall remained stable, there were some national improvements in specific areas, notably in Year 3 reading and Year 5 numeracy.
However, writing results for Year 7 and 9 students have dropped since 2011.
On average, more than nine in 10 students are meeting minimum benchmarks across all areas.
Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne says for national results to lift the focus needs to turn to the coalition's four pillars of education: curriculum, teacher quality, parental engagement and school autonomy.
"We need to stop this obsession with talking about money, which has been proven by the NAPLAN outcomes today is not how to improve the outcomes for students," he told Sky News.
New South Wales and Victorian students topped the class in spelling while those in the ACT excelled in reading.
The nation's capital kept its spot as the best-performing jurisdiction - a position it's held since 2008, ACT Education Minister Joy Burch was quick to point out.
Tasmania's NAPLAN results showed an improvement across the majority of areas.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said while the state's education standards might still lag behind the national average, reforms are helping its students catch up.
Queensland children were ranked seventh overall when the nationwide test began eight years ago but climbed to fourth in the 2015 results.
Palaszczuk put the improvement down to education reforms, including adding a Prep year and moving Year 7 into high school.
The NAPLAN results have been released two weeks earlier than in previous years, after a government push for a faster turnaround.