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Mallard Conned on Percentiles/Marks

Concerned Teachers
P.O. Box 5035

Media Statement

Wednesday 22 November 2000

Attention: Education/Political Reporters

Mallard Conned on Percentiles/Marks

"The Minister of Education has been conned into dropping percentiles and the use of 'raw marks' on reports for the replacement for School Cert - the NCEA " said Concerned Teachers spokesperson Peter Calvert. He was commenting on claims made by Nick Smith, National's Education Spokesperson, during Question Time in the House today.

"The change occurred shortly after the last election when Mr Mallard's ear was bent by "wets" on the Secondary Sector Forum who were opposed to marks and percentiles being reported," said Mr Calvert. At the Nov 1-2 1999 Forum meeting the following comment was recorded:

"In view of the Cabinet position, the forum felt it had no mandate to change the decision that marks and percentiles should be reported. Members noted that Cabinet had included these requirements as part of a compromise designed to ensure that all schools would participate in the national qualifications system."

Mr Calvert stated that: "The key problem for both wets and dries on the Forum was that the (at least) 50% external assessment which would report marks and percentiles as well as three grades (excellence, merit and credit) would be seen by the community as superior to the (up to 50%) internal assessment which only reported in three grades."

"The obvious answer for the dries was to report the internal assessment with marks, percentiles and grades as well. Instead the Minister was conned into removing marks and percentiles from the external tests!"

"This was a total victory for the wets (pro-unit standards group) on the Forum and resulted in the dries (pro examinations group) withdrawing at its most recent meeting," said Mr Calvert. "The compromise was dead."

"Most teachers - let alone parents - had not realised that this change from marks has been made, until the issue was raised by Nick Smith. This is a further deathknell for the NCEA," said Mr Calvert.

For More information contact:

Peter Calvert 021 2111 825

E-mail Website

Quotation from Working Party Report Nov 1-2 1999

In addition, however, members noted that reports have to be meaningful to users of the qualifications. The forum considers that accurate reporting of achievement is important to both students and their families as well as to tertiary institutions and prospective employers. In this respect reporting of both detailed information about individual students, and comparative information are valued. Members noted that inter-subject comparisons and meaningful interpretations of grades and marks are likely to be assisted by the reporting of percentiles.

However there was significant disagreement amongst forum members about how best to resolve the tensions between the decisions of the Government and the apparent views of the sector in respect of those decisions.

In seeking to reconcile the concerns of the sector with the demands of the Cabinet paper, the forum discussed the following issues:

a.. Whether externally and internally assessed standards must be reported differently (as distinct from separately). The proposal to report externally assessed standards with marks and percentiles as well as credits and grades, while internally assessed standards are reported with credits and grades alone may imply a different (higher) status accorded to the former.

b.. Whether marks and percentiles might be ascribed to internally assessed standards as well as externally assessed standards. While this would remove the status distinction, members felt that some standards are assessed internally for the very reason that they need to be observed, and that ascribing marks to a performance might be subject to greater variability than grade allocations, thus requiring more detailed moderation and potentially increased workloads.

c.. Whether percentiles might be derived from grades rather than marks. It was noted that ranking students on the basis of their performance against each individual achievement standard (graded: no credit, credit, merit, excellence) would result in at most 4 percentile points. Forum members discussed the choices for awarding percentiles on the basis of:

d.. marks awarded to students for the standard (assuming these cover a wider range than the grade points). The forum noted that currently there is no consistency in the way "marks" for different parts of examinations are currently awarded:

e.. in some subjects marks are added up from individual points awarded for "correct" facts or processes within a larger answer (such as in mathematics)

f.. while some are awarded on the basis of more subjective refinement of a broad criterion referenced grade (as in the marking of English or history essays).

Marking in the latter case is dependent on the student's meeting standards, while that judgement is more problematic in the former case.

a.. an aggregation of marks, and/or credits and grades for all externally assessed standards in a subject. The forum noted that aggregation for externally assessed standards has further potential to advantage external assessment over internal. It also potentially reduces students' flexibility to accumulate credit towards a qualification in a wide range of ways.

b.. Whether marks and percentiles for externally assessed achievement standards should be reported on the Interim Results Notice only. This permits reference to marks and percentiles by those who wish to make use of them, without adding complexity to the Record of Learning.

c.. How the concept of ranking information (percentiles) can be made understandable

As the above discussion reflects, there was significant divergence of views amongst forum members about the resolution of the tensions between the demands of the Cabinet paper, the views of individual forum members and the concerns raised by the sector during consultation.

The following recommendations are an attempt to reconcile these tensions but they are not a unanimous view.

a.. That the record of learning include credits and grades for internally and externally assessed achievement standards, and credits for unit standards.

b.. That the Interim Results Notice include credits, grades, marks, and percentiles for externally assessed achievement standards, as well as credits and grades for internally assessed achievement standards and unit standards.

These two recommendations recognise the imperative and importance of providing marks, enabling comparability by the provision of percentiles and avoiding the potential complexity of adding additional information to the ongoing Record of Learning.


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