PPTA Submission - Implementation of the NCEA
Submission to Education and Science Select Committee
Inquiry into the Implementation of the NCEA
1.1 NZPPTA welcomes the opportunity to make a written and an oral submission to the Select Committee Inquiry into the National Certificate of Educational Achievement.
1.2 NZPPTA represents approximately 14,500 teachers who are members of the union, working in secondary, area and composite schools throughout New Zealand. This submission reflects the views of these members as they have been expressed through various consultation processes and correspondence with national office. We are disappointed, however, that the Select Committee has not chosen to receive submissions directly from individual teachers, principals, BOT members or students, but only from representative organisations.
1.3 This submission addresses the first two terms of reference of the inquiry, i.e. identification of Level 1 implementation problems and evaluation of the Ministry response, together. The third term of reference, preparations for Level 2, is addressed separately. We raise three further issues at the end: the timing of implementation of Level 3, problems about co-ordination of the project, and the need for independent research.
2 General Issues about Implementation
2.1 Consultation with the Sector on NCEA Development
2.1.1 NZPPTA was not directly involved in the early consultations which led to the 1998 Cabinet paper which set “Achievement 2001’ in motion. We were advised of the broad parameters which had been set by that paper once it was accepted by Cabinet. However after a number of months of trying to secure a voice on the developments, we secured representation on the Secondary Sector Forum which advised the government on the NCEA from late 1999 to 2001. It is of concern to the Association that this Forum has not met since early 2001, so it has not been able to fulfil the role of monitoring implementation. Many of the problems which have arisen during implementation could have been identified much earlier, and solutions found, if the Forum had been meeting regularly during 2001 and 2002.
2.1.2 Furthermore, neither the Ministry nor NZQA has an ongoing consultation mechanism which includes direct representation by NZPPTA, in the way that the union did on the Secondary Sector Forum. NZQA has a group called the “Learning and Qualifications for Secondary Education Advisory Committee’ whose members are told that they serve as individuals, not as representatives of constituencies. This places them in an ambivalent position as far as representation and accountability. The Ministry of Education has no ongoing consultative group at all.
2.1.3 NZPPTA had representation on each subject panel for the latter part of the development of Level 1 and for development of Level 2 standards. However at Level 3 our representation was diluted to a small group who were to spread themselves across a number of panels which were meeting at the same time. We have had no direct representation on Scholarship panels, but we do have representation on the Scholarship Reference Group.
2.1.4 The meetings with Heads of Department which were organised in Term 3 2002 by the Ministry and NZQA were a useful source of information about the difficulties which were confronting schools, however they were too little and too late in the profession’s view. Plans for 2003 and subsequent implementation years need to include regular forums with Heads of Department, and also with senior managers with qualifications responsibilities, so that problems can be identified early and solutions found.
2.2.1 The decision in 2000 of the new Minister of Education to defer the introduction of Level 1 of the NCEA from the planned 2001 to 2002 was a very sensible decision. However, we believe that insufficient extra resourcing was provided at the same time to the Ministry and NZQA so that maximum benefit from the extra preparation year could be obtained.
2.2.2 The dissolution of the Qualifications Development Group in mid-2001 was in our view a serious error. While a small group of staff has continued in the Ministry’s policy section to have responsibilities for NCEA, the benefits from 1999 to 2001 of having a larger Ministry group dedicated to the NCEA were lost just when they were most needed.
2.2.3 There were a number of requests made at Secondary Sector Forum meetings which were never met. Their cost implications appeared to rule them out. Examples included:
- Requests for secure assessment tasks either in passworded sections of the NCEA website or in hard copy.
- Well-designed standard software to manage the entry and results interface between schools and NZQA.
- Requests for full-time moderators in at least the major subjects. The expectation that full-time teachers would find time to do moderation on top of their jobs was unreasonable, and there have been difficulties finding enough people.
- Full-time employed subject experts to support teachers during implementation.
2.2.4 A further resourcing issue which has become clearer as the year has developed is the increased costs to schools, and schools have received no extra funding for these.
2.2.5 One Principal has estimated that in his school the photocopying bill has increased by $16,000, all attributable to NCEA. Assessment tasks are much more detailed, and there is a considerable increase in administrative paperwork. Resource materials which have been used in the past are often obsolete and new materials have to be produced. As each level is introduced, we can expect further considerable increases in this area.
2.2.6 No extra staffing or funding was provided to schools to manage the huge increase in workload caused by the new entry and results submission processes described above at 8. A paltry $400 was provided to schools in late 2001 to pay for professional development. This would pay for about two two-hour sessions, at the rates charged by the companies. The employment of technical assistance, extra data entry people and the like were required. Some schools’ computer systems were simply not up to the task, and we have even heard from a rural Deputy principal who has to run the software on his home computer.
2.2.7 There is a desperate need for an immediate boost to secondary and area schools’ Operations Grants to fund these extra costs, because they are currently being funded at the expense of other essential aspects of schools operations.
2.2.8 It has also become clear that the NCEA has considerable negative impacts on the workloads of middle managers such as Heads of Departments and on senior managers, especially those who have curriculum and qualifications and data management responsibilities. There has been no increase in secondary school staffing to directly address this extra workload. An assumption has been made by the Ministry that there will be a “hump’ in workload over the initial implementation years and that this will fade as the new system “beds in’. Our members dispute this, and say that a system like this is simply very demanding of teacher time because of its complexity and the kind of detail issues discussed in the next section. Furthermore, it is PPTA’s contention that this increase in workload has been imposed on top of a secondary teacher workload which has increased dramatically in recent years, and for some teachers it is proving to be the straw which broke the camel’s back. Increased teacher stress levels have been reported by Guidance Counsellors, Principals and our Field Officers. We are concerned at the impact of this on a profession which is already struggling to recruit and retain sufficient teachers to meet demands.
2.3 Poor Communication
2.3.1 Until very recently, the Ministry and NZQA have had separate publications to update teachers about NCEA developments. These have been infrequent until recently, for example no NCEA Update (NZQA) was provided to schools from November 2001 until June 2002 (but dated May). Since then, two more have been published, the last of which was a joint MOE/NZQA publication. There are no subject-specific publications, and teachers have asked for electronic forums to be set up for each subject so that they can subscribe to online professional discussion about the problems they are encountering and solutions tried. This request was made at a number of the HOD meetings, but no action has eventuated.
3 Detail Issues about Implementation
3.1 Teachers’ attitudes to the NCEA as the 2002 academic year began ranged from highly optimistic to highly pessimistic. Some schools and departments felt well prepared; others were scrambling to be ready. Then reality hit. Even many teachers who supported the NCEA in principle have admitted that the workload impacts were higher than anticipated, and that problems had developed which they had not expected.
3.2 The following list of implementation issues was largely identified by NZPPTA in a conference paper written in early June 2002. The series of six meetings with Heads of Departments held by the Ministry and NZQA throughout the country during August and September produced further detail on the same issues, some of which has been added here, as has further information received from our members. (A full summary of the issues and suggested solutions presented in the first two of those HOD meetings is attached as Appendix A.)
3.3 It is NZPPTA’s contention that the government agencies were aware of these problems but failed to address them, probably because of having insufficient staffing and budget allocations to do so.
3.3.1 Problems about availability of assessment tasks. While the promise to have four sample tasks on the Net for each internally assessed standard was fulfilled in most subjects, these cannot always be just downloaded and used by teachers because students can access them. Maths teachers, for example, have to rewrite them because of the right/wrong nature of their assessments. There have been repeated appeals for secure assessments, either in a secure part of the website or in hard copy. This need has still not been met.
3.3.2 Problems about quality of assessment tasks. The tasks available on the Net vary from excellent to poor, and teachers’ professionalism has required them in many cases to produce their own, better, tasks or to revise the ones provided. (A Science Adviser informed NZPPTA in July that “Currently all level one internal science achievement standards available on the web have problems that mean they shouldn’t pass moderation. Even the recently updated ones. I have been ¡K finding that a lot of schools don’t have much idea what is wrong with the exemplars because nobody has communicated with them.”)
Furthermore, some teachers who have used tasks straight off the Net have had them rejected by NZQA moderators as being sub-standard, a situation which has really riled teachers. This has happened to our knowledge in Accounting, Geography, Music, Science, and Technology. NCEA Update 11, which did not arrive in schools till June 2002, pointed out that “some of the materials published on website are based on draft versions of the achievement standards, which may have been modified at registration”. Registration of all standards did not occur until December 21 2001, long past the time when most teachers would have prepared the bulk of their assessment activities for the following year. The fact that the Ministry did not consider it important to revise the assessment activities in the light of these changes to standards, and to notify schools of the changes, is a further source of annoyance to teachers. (We have been told that some changes were made in May 2002, where the Ministry “had been made aware of the problem”!)
There have also been changes to some sample external assessments, e.g. English 1.6, and again there has been no official notification to schools of these changes. Update 11 also told teachers that in some cases schools might need to adapt both the activities and schedules to their own specific contexts, a warning which was not included on the activities themselves.
From August, the Ministry began calling for teachers to submit assessment tasks they had prepared themselves, which would be audited and if found to be of a high standard would be made available to schools. This call has produced very little response, probably because teachers who have produced their own tasks lack confidence in their quality, or because they have simply not had time to submit the tasks. There were also problems with the operation of the websites, but these are being addressed now.
3.3.3 Lack of training of teachers to produce their own NCEA assessment tasks. The four training days provided focussed on training teachers to make judgments against the internally assessed standards using samples of student work. The new skills involved in developing NCEA-style tasks were apparently assumed to be assimilated at the same time, or perhaps it was assumed that teachers who lacked confidence about that would just download the ones from the Net. However, what was not considered was that at the very least teachers would have to produce practice exams, probably twice in the year, modelled on the one sample exam per external standard available on the Net. For some standards this involves little change from School Certificate questions. For other standards it involves dramatic changes, and teachers have struggled to see the rationale behind the types of questions asked in the samples and the assessment schedules. To make matters worse, some of these samples have been revised during this year and teachers are struggling to keep up with the changes.
(Note: This need is now being addressed with a day of assessment design training early in Term 1 2003.)
3.3.4 Experience with internal moderation systems which reveals huge disparities in different teachers’ judgments of the same piece of work. As an example of this, the English Online Forum has been carrying on a debate about some samples of student work in which different teachers’ judgments of the same piece of work have ranged from Excellent to Achieved. This mirrors the experience within departments, and makes teachers worried that the same disparities will be reflected between schools, throwing the credibility of the levels into doubt.
3.3.5 Assessment practices which overly emphasise surface features. It is not clear whether it is a fault of the standards themselves, or the sample assessment activities and schedules provided, or teacher practice, but there are worries developing that assessment is becoming “picky’ and good students are performing poorly because of careless or minor errors which under previous systems would not have had a serious impact on their results. While advisers are recommending that teachers’ judgments need to be “global’ and that they should look at the student’s overall standard of performance and use all the evidence they have available to find the appropriate level, this is not as easy as it sounds. It also worries teachers who have been told their judgments will be audited both internally and externally, and can have significant extra workload implications.
3.3.6 Issues about reassessment (renamed by NZQA as “further opportunities for assessment’). The lengthy and tortuous debates at the Secondary Sector Forum on this issue resulted in a letter from the Minister in May 2001 which simply confused the issue further for many people. NZQA’s Rules and Procedures contain no rules about reassessment, but leave it to schools to develop their own policies. Most schools probably adopted the guideline from the Minister’s letter that there be one reassessment opportunity given but only when the Achieved level has not been reached the first time and only when it is manageable. However in practice this is feeling quite unfair to some teachers where, for example, a good student makes an unexpectedly poor job of the task the first time and reaches only the Achieved level, but is unable to have another chance, while a poor student who fails to achieve the standard the first time does have another chance and may even gain Merit or Excellence this second time. There is also inconsistency about how the guidelines are being applied, for instance in English the training suggested that it would be normal English practice for everyone to have more than one opportunity for assessment of some of the standards, so some English departments are making a second opportunity available to all students for some of the standards.
The situation was muddied further in June 2002 when NCEA Update 11 appeared containing a large section headed “Managing Assessment’ which appeared to teachers to change the rules midstream. The advice was intended to provide a range of ways that teachers could collect further evidence of whether a student met the standard in situations where they had failed on one attempt or had been absent for all or part of an assessment activity. However its floating of such methods as conferencing with students, seeking further written work or using formative assessment led to howls of outrage from teachers about further workload imposition and about the rules changing midstream.
3.3.7 The amount of time involved in ensuring that all students are able to be assessed for each standard. In the lead-up to implementation there was a lot of discussion about re-assessment, but relatively little about the fact that unlike Sixth Form Certificate where it is possible to estimate a student’s mark for a particular piece of work for which they are legitimately absent, this is not possible for the NCEA because it is a performance-based system. If an assessment activity takes place and one or more students are away for good reasons (ill, sports trip, field trip, etc), then another time has to be found for them to complete the assessment. As a consequence, “catch-up’ assess-ment sessions are occupying lunchtimes and after school times, or holding up teaching programmes while some students do catch-ups and others mark time. Again, Update 11 provides some suggestions on ways through this, but its timing and the fact that it floats some new ideas midstream have made its messages unwelcome with many teachers.
3.3.8 Problems with the software required to enter students and send results to NZQA. NZQA used to provide a programme, SADE, which was used to enter students electronically, but not to send results, which were done manually. It did not interface with schools’ administration systems particularly well and had many bugs, so its departure this year is not mourned. However the refusal of the Ministry to invest in standard administrative software for all schools has caused problems. NZQA’s communication with the companies who provide the various software programmes to schools appears to have been inadequate and after the event. The largest software provider, Musac, did not seem aware until well into Term One that their new programme would have to function to enter students for Sixth Form Certificate and Bursary as well as NCEA Level One. The part of the programme for billing students was not completed until some time in Term Two. At one stage there were almost daily updates of the software as the bugs were ironed out. Schools whose ICT networks were substandard, or who lacked good technical skills, were desperate for help from Musac’s advisers, who have been run off their feet all year.
Training was never adequate. Some teachers responsible for the system suggest that they needed a week to learn to use the system plus ongoing support with problems. Training offered was more of the order of half a day, grossly inadequate. PPTA does not blame the software providers for this. The huge injection of extra effort and money into this matter by NZQA, which the Secondary Sector Forum asked for on many occasions, did not happen. The requirements on the providers appear to have changed constantly, as NZQA has recognised new issues that need addressing. NZQA appears to lack anyone with a detailed knowledge of the various software systems and is therefore unable to work with them effectively.
Problems with the software have continued throughout 2002, to the extent that many schools are fearful that their students will not receive the correct exam papers in November. The electronic interface between schools and NZQA appears to not be working correctly, leading to a circular going out to schools on 9 October asking them to send all changes on paper from now on, as “We have found the electronic changes can result in unintended updates to the file and through this, candidates’ records to be deleted or subjects withdrawn.” This is a large extra workload imposition on schools and also raises the question of what has happened to some schools’ entry files in the course of discovering this problem. Schools have been experiencing considerable difficulties obtaining accurate advice notes for students showing the subjects they have entered and the fees due. In some cases these have been printed by NZQA from outdated entry files and have had to be done again.
One “Principal’s Nominee’ (what used to be called NZQA Co-ordinator) has calculated that their school is now dealing with 21,000 pieces of data instead of about 5,000, and this is with only Level 1 implemented. The software reveals new bugs all the time, such as that sometimes running a process will change data that was previously accurate. To deal with this, NZQA continually sends printouts to check for accuracy. These can be 500 sheets long, and it is simply not practicable to manually check them.
3.3.9 Destabilising u-turns on external assessment. Many Information Management teachers were outraged when they received in May a circular seeking their views on a possible change to the exam arrangements for this year which would have involved them supervising the external standards in three separate hours during Term 4, rather than outside supervisors being provided for the one exam in November. NZQA backed off after a flurry of angry responses, but the impression of an agency struggling to cope with the demands of the new system remains.
Furthermore, while earlier information had indicated that in most subjects external exams would be less than three hours, the exam timetable published in May 2002 indicated they would all be three hours except for Information Management.
Another issue which has caused considerable uproar is the circular SecQual S2002/038, dated 12 July, which informed teachers that all external assessments where the exemplars had shown questions labelled as Achieved, Merit or Excellence level questions would now not follow that format but would instead encourage students to answer all questions and be marked “holistically’. NZQA claims this decision is based on pre-testing with students, but teachers are entitled to be outraged that such pre-testing was not done last year so that reliable exemplars could be posted on the website for teachers to use as models for their school practice exams. Students who have been taught to manage one kind of exam in the first set of practice exams will now have to be taught to manage a different kind of exam. There have also been criticisms that this change destroys the transparency which is fundamental to standards-based assessment, and comment that even under norm-referenced exams such as School Certificate, mark allocations for questions are provided to indicate the depth and breadth of answer required.
3.3.10 Changes in terminology. While it was probably a sensible decision, the fact that the terminology of “Credit level’ was changed to “Achieved level’ late in 2001 confused people, especially as most of the sample assessment activities continued to use the word “Credit’. The change was not sufficiently highlighted, gradually appearing in NCEA Updates 9 and 10 in September and November 2001, so that many teachers were not even aware of it, and it was necessary for NZQA in Update 11 in June 2002 to reiterate that “Achieved’, “Achieved with Merit’ and “Achieved with Excellence’ was the terminology which would be used in results notices. Even then, this significant change was not sufficiently highlighted to ensure all teachers knew about it.
4 Preparedness for Level 2 Implementation in 2003
4.1 NZQA has promised that the Level 2 standards and qualification will be registered by the end of October, two months earlier than level 1 was registered. This means that teachers will be able to see the final versions of the standards in their Level 2 training, which commences after 18 November this year. However, the professional development materials were prepared some months ago on the basis of the draft standards, and additional materials have had to be prepared to show teachers where these changes exist. This is an improvement, but it begs the question as to why the Level 2 standards could not have been registered even earlier, since the panels which wrote them finished their work in 2000.
4.2 The Ministry and NZQA do appear to be working through the recommendations of the HOD meetings as best they can given their limitations of budget and staff numbers. The lessons learned at Level 1 need to be used to avoid similar problems at Level 2. However we are concerned about whether this work is adequately funded or resourced. It also needs to be kept in mind that the addition of a further Level complicates the issues considerably. The amount of extra photocopying required will double, the demand on school’s administrative computer systems will at least double, the need for extra ancillary staffing will double, the workload demands from assessment, reassessment and moderation processes will double. In smaller schools in particular, where one teacher will be delivering both levels of the NCEA, and possibly in more than one subject, the workload demands will be huge.
4.3 It appears that schools, in making decisions to proceed with Level 2 NCEA, vary enormously in their ability to fund the extra demands it will place on them. One large school has informed us that their Board has allocated approximately $250,000 to Level 2 implementation, to pay for two non-teaching days per teacher during 2003 to plan and implement, and to ensure that the staff lose no non-contact time for internal cover so that they can use all the time at their disposal to do the work required. We would be very surprised if there were many schools in the country which could provide this level of support for implementation, but it is the kind of support which we believe is necessary to enable teachers to do a quality job which is not at the expense of their other responsibilities.
4.4 For a variety of reasons, the training and preparation days are going to be happening at what is a very busy time of the year for middle managers in particular. While it might be thought that the absence of senior students will relieve teachers’ workloads so that they can focus on planning for next year, this is not in fact teachers’ experience. Increased accountability requirements in schools mean that the final few weeks are usually occupied with completing performance appraisal cycles, compiling assessment information for Board of Trustees reports, and other such tasks. There are usually also junior exams to mark, junior reports to write, student options for the following year to check, timetabling decisions to be made, junior prizegivings to prepare for, and so on. It is not a quiet time of the year, especially for middle managers on whom the coordination of planning for Level 2 implementation will rest. The Select Committee should not feel confident that smooth implementation of Level 2 NCEA will happen next year in those schools which opt for it, given this timeline.
4.5 A significant number of schools appear to have elected to implement Level 2 NCEA next year, either as whole schools or on a mixed basis. We believe that the Ministry and NZQA need to be made accountable for identifying and addressing problems promptly, but they also need to be adequately resourced to do so.
5 Level 3 Implementation
5.1 It is PPTA’s position that full implementation of Level 3 NCEA should not take place until 2006. This would allow schools who deferred implementation of Level 2 until 2004 to have a further “bedding-in’ year for Level 2 in 2005 during which they could also prepare for Level 3, with final implementation of Level 3 in 2006. Other schools may wish to proceed straight to Level 3 in 2004, after implementing Level 2 in 2003, and some schools may even wish to implement Level 3 before they implement Level 2.
5.2 The Minister has argued that it is not feasible to have dual assessment at Level 3, and his chief argument appears to be that NZQA cannot find enough suitable teachers to be Chief Examiners for both Bursary and Level 3 NCEA in the same year. We find this explanation to be very flimsy, almost laughable. We can accept that there would be extra costs in having duplicate Chief Examiners, something which is not an issue at Level 2 because SFC is entirely internally assessed, but this seems likely to be quite a small amount of money. The assertion that there are not two teachers in New Zealand per subject capable of being Chief Examiners is laughable.
5.3 We believe that NZQA should be required to offer dual assessment at Year 13 in 2004 and 2005 should it prove necessary, and to identify what resourcing would be required to do so.
6 Co-ordination of Implementation
6.1 The Ministry of Education and NZQA share responsibility for the project. The Ministry is responsible for initial preparation of standards, preparing materials for the internally assessed standards and for professional development, while NZQA is responsible for final registration of standards and the qualification itself, for moderation and auditing of school processes, for management of entries and results processing, and for running the external assessments and provision of sample external assessment material.
6.2 This division of responsibility does not always work well, and teachers complain of being bounced from one agency to the other when they seek information. It may well be a reason why problems which developed were not addressed as promptly as they needed to be.
6.3 In future, we believe that there needs to be a clearer co-ordinating mechanism, ideally a single staff member or small group of staff who are accountable to both the Ministry of Education and NZQA. They would ensure that issues did not “fall between the cracks’ as they have this year.
7 Independent Research
7.1 The NCEA is a major government initiative, and it is of serious concern to us that no independent research has been commissioned to monitor its implementation and to ensure that it meets the objectives set for it. There is research happening. NZCER are doing two longitudinal studies whose first phase has been reported recently: a study of alternative programmes in the senior secondary school, and a study of the impact of the NCEA on Year 11 courses. NZQA has a number of research projects in place. However these are no substitute for a major independent study by assessment experts, for example from a New Zealand university, commissioned by the Ministry of Education. Such a study was commissioned for the introductory years of Special Education 2000. The NCEA is at least as major and as controversial a reform.
1. That the Ministry of Education be required to commission independent research to evaluate whether the NCEA is meeting the objectives set for it.
2. That NZQA be required to offer University Bursaries as well as Level 3 NCEA in 2004 and 2005.
3. That the Ministry of Education be required to address the staffing needs created by the NCEA, especially at middle and senior management level.
4. That the Ministry of Education be required to adequately address resourcing issues caused by the NCEA, both at the level of the agencies and at school level.
5. That the Ministry of Education be required to closely monitor implementation of Level 2 and Level 3 and address issues as they arise.
6. That there be a clear mechanism for the overall co-ordination of NCEA implementation.
Issues and Solutions from HOD Meetings in Wellington and Auckland, August 2002
What Teachers Told the Agencies
What follows is a summary, organised under some headings, of the issues people have raised in the two HOD meetings held so far.
Workload for Teachers
- Sole charge teachers have to moderate with teachers from other schools, and there is no time allowed for this
- You need to find lots of time to work with other teachers in your own schools, and there is no time allowed for this
- Time is needed for assessments, reassessments, catchups for absentees - where does this come from? We try to find blocks of time e.g. during exams, lunchtimes, after school, class time
- Lack of guidance in writing new policy documents, student information - what has been supplied was not timely, and was piecemeal in nature
- The marking is much more detailed - it takes time
- Giving feedback to staff post-moderation takes time
- Staff are worried about being absent for any reason (PD, illness) because they will miss teaching time
- It’s all very well to say we should drop the number of assessments; we still have to cover the curriculum
- We are having problems getting through the work (Science) because of the changed emphasis; it takes longer to coach students in how to answer the questions, e.g. in terms of style and depth
- HOD workloads are being exacerbated by the number of beginning teachers who don’t have any “professional judgment’ to use yet and need heaps of extra support
- HOD workloads go through the roof when there is staffing instability, as in many schools currently. Having to do the assessment for relievers or for teachers with no experience of SBA is an extra burden
- Hugely increased workload for HODs - having to go back at the weekend and work till 8pm, 9pm - leads to burnout, high turnover. Huge paperwork e.g. assembling work for moderation, collection of evidence, finding exemplars for teacher marking, getting students to sign for the use of their work as exemplars, all added to other increased compliance burdens
- Teachers in small subjects are struggling, feeling isolated, no-one with whom to share the load, may be doing a number of subjects in small schools
- Need for cluster meetings especially for small subjects, in school time and funding to schools to provide this time
- Class size can be a problem for assessment, e.g. Languages speaking assessments have to be done one to one, and so they need to get in a reliever unless their class is very small and able to be left
- The workload associated with making consequent changes to Year 9 and 10 programmes has gone unrecognised
- Jumbo Days were provided, but no time was given for work at the school level
- Year 11 has totally absorbed department meeting time - everything else has suffered this year
- There are a lot more enquiries from parents to deal with
- Students need a lot more help, e.g. in deciding on what to enter, discussing their results, dealing with appeals
- Making decisions re prerequisites for Level 2 is complex
- Lots of other changes are impacting on HODs at the same time, e.g. changes in Planning and Reporting. (One teacher objected to the assumption in the Minister’s instruction to MOE and NZQA that the workload should go back to what it was pre-NCEA, and said the workload was unreasonable even before that!)
- Middle management time allocations are totally inadequate
Impact on Students
- Less able students are not coping with the workload, and either giving up or leaving
- Students are feeling stressed from constant assessment
- Creativity is being lost - Year 11 work was almost totally absent from Science Fair this year, good parts of programmes are being lost because of the standards
- Students are suffering because of overworked teachers
- The rules keep changing, e.g. Update 11 about evidence collection
- Changing the rules midstream introduces inequities and could lead to appeals, e.g. over reassessment
- Variability between schools’ and subjects’ interpretations, e.g. about reassessment. This has potential impact on the competition between schools. We need more leadership about this
- Changes are still being made during the year, e.g. the elimination of Achieved/Merit/Excellence labels on questions across a range of subjects in externals - the goalposts keep shifting at NZQA, and where does that leave our credibility as teachers?
- Insecurity caused by odd rulings, e.g. a ruling about the English response to text externals where it seems that students don’t have to answer the question selected, as long as they demonstrate knowledge about the text - this is totally inconsistent with what English teachers understand this type of task to be about
- “Sort things out before we start. Don’t do this to us at Level 2!”
- Lack of interface between NZQA and MOE - e.g. changes in standards when the responsibility shifted to NZQA
- Impact of schools going into the Cambridge exams - it’s having a ripple effect, and seems likely to undermine the NCEA
- Students and parents are trying to predict which standards they will complete so they don’t enter if they won’t achieve because it affects their grade point average
- “We have noticed a decline in the number of students paying for entries”
- Problems with Musac - the billing programme arrived late, there are constant upgrades (we’ve had three upgrades already in Term 3), there’s no manual, they keep changing the coding of subjects
- Students have accessed sample assessments including exemplars and marking schedules off the Net so they can’t be used - need for secure (teacher-only) exemplars
- Quality of assessments is dubious - teachers have modelled their own assessments on ones which have later been withdrawn, some are not quality assured
- Exemplars aren’t being taken off the website when ruled out because of changes
- Lack of consistency in difficulty level between activities for the same standard
- Lack of consistency about standards as demonstrated through exemplars used with different tasks on the Net
- Lack of consistency between subjects about how skills are taught and assessed, e.g. the various research standards
- No external exemplars for Level 2 available yet
- Not enough external exemplars, one per standard is not enough, feel cross that the Minister said school exams were unnecessary
- Commercially produced and subject association exemplars are not that good and not up to date with changes - any material being marketed should have to go through a moderation process
- General lack of guidance on interpreting standards
- Should have been supplied with templates to choose from for recording results and for reporting to parents
- Should have been given sample documentation for internal moderation processes - everyone is reinventing the wheel
- Websites complex and slow
- A lot of the material on the Net is in PDF format and can’t be edited, and has been formatted so that it uses piles of paper when printed
- No subject-specific experts for interpreting the standards
- Moderators’ reports really negative, even to experienced teachers
- Need to see the external moderators’ guidelines so we know what they are checking for
- Not told about trivia in advance such as that we have to give the registered number of the standard - so we ended up having a negative moderation report
- Inconsistencies in moderation reports - do they have a checklist? Do they all follow it?
- Students don’t have faith in the moderation process, their perception is that similar work from different schools is getting a wide range of grades
- Don’t believe there is necessarily a national interpretation of the standards anywhere. You have to make teachers confident, comfortable about what the standard is.
- School and department budgets not increased to cover increased costs. Needed to be Ops Grant increases. Photocopying costs “obscene’ - can’t reuse anything from previous years, NCEA eating into everything else in department budget
- Not just photocopying costs. Language teachers have to buy a cassette tape for each student for recording their assessment, or else buy digital equipment which they can index so they can find each student’s work for marking and moderation purposes
- NCEA causes additional workload for support staff - this was not funded
- Computer hardware is not all capable of handling Musac - not enough machines available for staff to input results on Classroom Manager
Management by NZQA and MOE
- Timelines inadequate, e.g. Level 1 standards not registered till December 21 2001
- Trying to make big changes within a fiscally neutral framework is not good change management - everything is being done on the cheap
- There is no Social Sciences adviser in Wellington, so we’re not getting the support we need
- Messages of concern from Jumbo Days were not heard - will messages from these meetings be heard?
- Communication has been woefully inadequate - we need to be kept up to date, told immediately when things change
- Need to be really clear. Update 11 was destabilising because it was waffly. Treat teachers like we would treat students at the start - begin clear and firm, and after a time (2 - 3 years) loosen up.
- Need to develop systems for the bottom line, i.e. those who have never done assessment for qualifications
School Management Issues
- Other subjects are demanding more time for their assessments, and because we do no direct assessment of fieldwork its place in our programme is being challenged, so assessment is driving the curriculum (Geographer)
- Managing internal assessment school-wide is hard - finding ways to schedule assessment across subjects to balance student workload, this will become hugely harder when we’re doing Level 2 and 3 as well
- Trying to determine entry to the next level involves new challenges, and is affecting our timetabling processes - historical experience is not proving a good indicator
- Assessment-driven education is changing the nature of secondary schools, having a huge impact on things like sporting exchanges, etc
- NCEA gives flexibility in developing new courses, but this also imposes a big extra workload in setting these up
- Are we teaching our subjects or are we coaching students to answer questions in particular ways?
- There was disagreement about how motivating the NCEA is - one high decile school said not really, a low decile school said it was very motivating
Despite the fact that identifying solutions was the main purpose of these meetings, I’m afraid that this section is rather shorter. Ministry and NZQA officials repeatedly said things like, “The solutions are here in this room. You are experienced HODs who have been chosen because you are managing well, you must have found answers in your schools which we can share with other schools.” At one meeting, in fact, one Ministry official expressed shock at what he described as a “them and us” attitude being displayed by the HODs. But their reply was always, “Most of the solutions need implementing by MOE and NZQA, not by us.” Anyway, some ideas that came out were:
- Resource developers, paid and full-time, probably by secondment, to increase the number of sample assessments available, and also other support material like schemes and teaching resources. Even if some materials are bought from schools, they will still need fine-tuning. These people could also provide advice e.g. on a Helpline. Responses to the MOE request (August 5 Gazette) for teachers to submit resources they have prepared varied from “I did mine in such a hurry, I wouldn’t dare to show anyone” through “Why should I give you stuff that I’ve sweated blood over and you will pay my school, not me?” to “Give us training and time to write our own tasks that we can use ourselves and share with others. Such training would have big spin-offs at Year 9 and 10 because it would increase the assessment ability of teachers.” (N.B. The MOE claimed that the Level 2 training would include sections on how to adapt or develop your own resources, but someone who had done the training disputed that, and the claim was corrected to “for some subjects”.)
- Contract subject associations to produce material, including tasks, supporting material, resources, including material for junior classes to prepare them for NCEA
- Have plenty of valid moderated resources on the Net
- Take the copyright off old School Certificate exam material so it can be used with impunity where useful.
- Provide secure hard copies/CD/a passworded site for teachers with moderated exemplars
- Use more student-friendly language in the exemplars
- Develop some resources to tease out the fine distinctions in language, e.g. the difference between “discuss’ and “describe’
- Train teachers to produce their own resources, design questions
- Train PD facilitators better - the quality was very uneven
- Give HODs and teachers more time - an extra 2 hours per week per teacher is needed, encourage schools to do late start or early closure model to find the time, fund schools with some relief time that can be rotated around HODs in need of time for NCEA work
- Provide more training for HODs, new teachers - have a catchup day for Level 1, covering both the internal and external standards, in addition to any Level 2 days, dealing with issues like preparing students for the externals, providing final and factual information from both NZQA and MOE
- An in-school way to help with marking and internal moderation is to reduce the number of teachers marking a task to, say, two, and have a different two for the next task
- Facilitate clustering of HODs, including providing relief funding so it can happen in school time, make this formalised and ongoing with experts available to assist
- Share with HODs and teachers the guidelines moderators use
- Increase networking between moderators and advisory services and facilitators
- Provide for teachers to dialogue with moderators - get moderators to explain their decisions and how to fix the problems - need some full-time moderators who are properly paid and available, perhaps writing resources as well, but don’t take them out of schools for more than a year - second them
- Increase the Ops Grant with money targeted to NCEA, for copying, ancillary staffing, relief to do administrative tasks
- Give consistent advice e.g. between NZQA and MOE - they must work together, and they must make final decisions and stick to them, it is the government’s responsibility to build confidence
- Level 1 Standards must stay as they are to the end of 2003, with no changes, but there must be a robust review of them during 2003 because changes are needed
- Level 2 tasks must be ready well before the end of the year, and the standards must be registered earlier than the Level 1 standards were
- Have a national policy on reassessment, and/or share schools’ reassessment policies and practices
- Have national guidelines on how to run practical assessments - one person said teachers should refuse to teach classes above 20 in practical subjects
- Provide good advice on how to fit in reassessments and catchups - one school said it was reassessing on Saturday mornings, and someone said, “I hope it’s the same school that has just said it is opening late, otherwise they should be shot!” - it wasn’t!
- Need to be able to attest to what has been done without producing a physical object for moderation, in some cases, to allow for more creative assessments - clear guidelines needed on this
- Put out information to schools about how integrated assessment could work, e.g. cross-curricular research
- Put out suggestions to schools about management of assessment, e.g. “No Trips’ weeks during which assessment is done, possible reduction in the number of credits offered (but people suggested this was problematic - you have to cover the curriculum and if it’s not assessed it won’t be valued, and if you leave out standards which some students are better at than the ones you do, you disadvantage them), timetable two classes in subject at same time, and halfway through the year regroup with one group going for the full number of credits and the other group consolidating work on a reduced number of credits
- Clarify how aegrotats will be calculated, what information/evidence needs assembling to do these
- Signal changes well - hard copy to Principal’s Nominee and HOD, Gazette notices, email networks, Updates - don’t rely on one vehicle to carry any piece of information
- Set up subject- or learning area-specific email networks that HODs can subscribe to and use them to advise of changes, new resources, etc
- Have a single website with everything available in Word as well as PDF
- Need to include teacher training providers in the NZQA and MOE loops, so that new teachers come through properly equipped for NCEA
- Provide more information to the public