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Endorsement Of A Call for a Summit on the NCEA.

From Lois Burns

A Call for a Summit on the NCEA.

I wish to endorse the call for a summit on the NCEA.

As Head of the Languages Faculty of St Oran's College, I am deeply concerned about the implementation of NCEA, Level 1 English. My concerns centre around five key issues. These are the equity, integrity and credibility of the NCEA level 1 English qualification as it is currently being implemented around the region. In addition, there are further issues of resources and the question of professional responsibility to our year 11 students.

The following points illustrate my arguments.

1.1 Creative writing.

· It seems that some schools are completing the tasks involved in 5/6 school periods. Other schools are allowing the task to be completed over a three-week period. These variations in time allowed for the tasks are inequitable. One of the criteria for assessment given to the students in this achievement standard is "accuracy in spelling, punctuation and paragraphing"

· It seems that some schools are allowing use of computers with grammar and spell check functions utilized, whilst others are insisting that the work is handwritten and only the use of dictionaries is permitted. These variations of assessment conditions again are inequitable and one must question the integrity of the assessment outcome. Not only does the technology do part of the task for some students, but has consideration been given to the students who don't have equivalent access to technology?

1.8. Produce a media presentation.

· It appears that some schools have interpreted work studied to be unseen new stories that the students have to read and interpret. They then create a static image based on their interpretation. Other students are allowed to base their image on any piece of literature already studied in class. There is a difference in the two tasks, yet the guidelines seem to allow interpretation either way. Furthermore it seems that individual departments make the final decision about what constitutes "teacher supervision". · Some schools have interpreted this to mean that work for this achievement standard can be done at home in as much time as the student chooses to take, whilst other schools have insisted that the work be completed in class under direct supervision and time constraints. Again these variations of assessment conditions are inequitable and reflect a lack of consistency. How can authenticity be guaranteed? Does it matter? If it is deemed appropriate for the work to be completed outside the classroom, what about the students who don't have access to a suitable environment to work in or materials to work with?

I am quite sure that all involved with NCEA level1 English could contribute many more examples of inconsistencies - perhaps it is time these were all tabled.

Whilst I am fully aware of the need for a common sense approach in all of this and must state that there are positives to NCEA, it seems painfully obvious that we are creating an assessment system that is flawed, offering little credibility in its final form.

Inter school variations could mean that employers will look to certain schools as having better qualifications than others and more reliance will be placed on the external exam. Isn't this the situation we were trying to avoid?

While the guidelines remain so open to interpretation, the variations will continue. Is this laissez faire approach a responsible attitude for us to take when implementing a new national qualification that we hope will, in its later levels, be recognised as having international standing?

One must also ask; where is the resourcing from the government to monitor the implementation of this much touted new qualification? Where is the research into implementation procedures and application of assessment conditions? Or is this something we are expected to carry out in our own time in cluster groups? Again one must ask, where is the funding for this? Or is it the goodwill of teachers that is required to prop up this developing system?

I think it is ludicrous that our schools even have to fund our relief to attend top up courses such as the one I recently attended. It is also ludicrous that there is not enough money allocated to pay for the resourcing of this qualification in terms of even the most basics of items needed, such as the colour photocopying of exemplars of static images for 1.8. Why should a Regional Advisor have to be embarrassed by explaining this state of affairs?

Has any school received an increase in operational grants to cover the huge photocopying and resource preparation costs we are all facing? Why should
individual Boards of Trustees have to foot these bills through Departmental budgets? I do recall voting at a PPTA meeting for continuation with NCEA Level 1 IF it was properly funded and resourced. What happened?

I think it would be foolish in the extreme to embark any further on Level 2 NCEA implementation until issues such as these are worked through. These fundamental problems will prevent the establishment of a new qualification of international repute and they need to be resolved.

I therefore support the call for an urgent summit on the NCEA, fully funded by the government, to discuss and resolve these issues. After all it is our new New Zealand National Qualification we are discussing here. Surely it is worth investing the money to get it right. I believe that this is the very least we owe to all our Year 11 students who are acting, involuntarily, as guinea pigs in this brave new educational experiment.

Lois Burns

- See also April's edition of PPTA's electronic newsletter Our Shout.

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