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Cambridge High School Accreditation At Risk

12 August 2004

Cambridge High School Accreditation At Risk

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority, NZQA, has told Cambridge High School it must stop assessing students in its Achievement Recovery room or else the school will lose its accreditation.

The compliance notice, under s255A(2) of the Education Act 1989, was issued to the school following an NZQA review of assessment carried out in June this year.

NZQA Chief Executive Karen Van Rooyen said it was disappointing to have to take such action. It’s the first time NZQA has issued a compliance notice to a secondary school.

The NZQA team found that the school’s Achievement Recovery room fails to meet the Authority’s requirements relating to The Quality Assurance Standard for the Accreditation of Secondary Schools.

“Cambridge High School has been running an Achievement Recovery activity which isn’t supported by a teaching programme and isn’t supervised by qualified teachers. Essentially, the activity is focused on helping students gain ‘catch up’ credits with questionable educational benefit,” said Ms Karen Van Rooyen.

The school’s Achievement Recovery activity is driven by a philosophy that every student entered for National Qualification Framework standards gain the total number of credits required for a National Certificate within that year.

“That philosophy is flawed, and contrary to the learning principles that underpin standards-based assessment - that students are assessed within the context of a meaningful learning programme.

“Assessment should complement and recognise learning, not dominate it. There is more to learning than collecting credits and completing qualifications. Cambridge High School is now aware of that,” said Ms Van Rooyen.

NZQA has suggested to the school that it adopt a new philosophy that every student leave the school with a meaningful National Certificate at a level appropriate to their abilities and learning.

NZQA is also requiring the school to rewrite the assessment procedures document before the start of the 2005 school year.

“The document, which is a compendium of all the policies in the school relating to qualifications, needs to include more professional guidance for staff and be presented in a more logical and systematic way. It was updated to incorporate our recommendations following our 2003 visit but it still remains inadequate and needs rewriting,” said Ms Van Rooyen.

Other recommendations relate to the need to formally establish an annual review of assessment policy and procedures, a more clearly defined appeal process, better guidelines for when an internal assessment is missed and clear guidance to staff that students be awarded grades that reflect their actual level of achievement.

To ensure the school addresses the issues outlined in the draft report, NZQA School Relationship Managers will meet fortnightly with Cambridge High School. NZQA will also conduct another formal review in October. “We will now work closely with the school to make sure the requirements, recommendations and suggestions in the report are dealt with appropriately and as quickly as possible to minimise disruption to students.

“Cambridge High School is now fully aware of the seriousness of the issues we’ve raised.”

Ms Van Rooyen said there is no evidence that similar activity is taking place in any other school.

“As with other professions, we rely on teachers and schools to act with integrity and to provide with us with all appropriate information and accurate samples of marked student work,” said Ms Van Rooyen.

ENDS

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