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NCEA Flawed for Scholarship

9th February, 2005

NCEA Standards Based Assessments Fundamentally Flawed for Scholarship

"The recent public assurance employers were given by the NZ Qualifications Authority that the NCEA is always consistent between schools and over time is again blown apart," said Alasdair Thompson, Chief Executive of the Employers & Manufacturers Association.

"The scholarship exam results debacle is not just the consequence of throwing out scaling results this year. NCEA'S Standards Based Assessment is a fundamentally flawed measurement of achievement in academic subjects. Its flawed also because it is not possible to smooth aberration in a Standards Based Assessment System.

"Standards Based Assessments are appropriately used where the standard to be achieved can be clearly defined, such as in typing, bricklaying, music and sports. They are good for measuring a person's ability in clearly defined, narrow areas, such as multiplication tables.

"But, in NCEA, the knowledge required for academic subjects is complex and multi-dimensional and it is incredibly difficult to set standards for them. Hence the so-called standards are vague, fuzzy, ambiguous statements capable of many interpretations. They are not pre-tested for difficulty and they are not consistent from year to year.

"Knowledge-based subjects like English, Science, History, Geography and Economics simply do not lend themselves to this approach.

"Employers have expressed concerns and raised questions as have school principals and experts in measuring external results, but the Minister of Education and NZQA have been dismissing them.

"Maybe now, with this latest fiasco, the Minister of Education will listen and direct that the review of NCEA to be undertaken will look at its processes and results, and be reviewed by independent educational measurement experts to identify areas for improvement.

"Steadfastly defending the current standards based system by dismissing its critics as elitist and out of step with the PC concept that people's performance should not be ranked and the extent of their failures ever acknowledged, nor even reported, isn't in the best interests of lifting educational achievement in New Zealand, said Mr Thompson.

Additional points -

Objective assessment - not subjective assessment

Unit standards/achievement standards are appropriate where the evidence is clear and consistency between the assessors can be achieved with little or no debate.

Subjective assessments vary between individuals, overtime, in different locations, etc. Unless moderation techniques can, and are, used successfully

Variations between assessors produce distortions. Unfairness, unevenness and inconsistency enter the assessment process.

Unless eliminated or 'moderated', these inadequacies guarantee that the system will lose credibility and be rejected by the stakeholders.

This has happened to NCEA.

Suppressing criticism, stamping feet or bluster will not hold back the tide of rejection.

Review, identify inadequacies, apply remedials and redesign the process to achieve consistency, fairness, acceptance of the assessment process.


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