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Senior school assessment

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 22 January 2015

An edited version of the letter below was published in The Courier-Mail of Thursday 22 January 2015. It was submitted in response to an opinion piece by Professor Geoff Masters and Dr Gabrielle Matters that had appeared in the paper the previous day. Underlined words were deleted and bracketed ones inserted. They also adjusted my paragraphing. The paragraph breaks below are those of the printed version and differ a little from what I submitted. The paper's heading for this and another letter was "Inconsistencies will test reforms".

Year 12 assessment system

ACER (Australian Council for Education Research) researchers Geoff Masters and Gabrielle Matters respond to some criticisms of the recommendations arising from their review of the state's OP system ("Assessing the value of changes to Year 12 examination system", 21 Jan).

A problem with reviews like this is that the recommendations are usually designed as a comprehensive package. Unless most of the proposals for change are adopted together the intended integrity and balance will not be achieved in the new system.

Unfortunately, governments often cherry pick the recommendations, implementing some that are considered relatively easy and politically attractive while ignoring others that are more difficult and expensive.

In their report, Masters and Matters propose that, instead of the 25 steps of the current OP scale, student achievement in Year 12 should be reported on a "more fine-grained" 60 point scale. In itself, this seems to make good sense.

Curiously, however, performance on each of the proposed 3 (three) school-based assessments is to be graded on a 10-point scale. In some subjects like English, this is less fine-grained than current practice. In many schools individual assessment tasks in English are, in effect, marked on a 15-point scale with each of the 5 (five) levels of achievement sub-divided into 3 (three) bands (mid, upper and lower).

In other schools, teachers grade individual pieces of work on a 50-point scale with 10 internal steps within each of the levels (level) of achievement. This seems to suggest (suggests) an internal inconsistency in the reviewers' thinking.

Garry Collins
Immediate Past President, English Teachers Association of Queensland

Author: Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President
About: Garry Collins was ETAQ President from mid July 2005 to 15 March 2014. He taught English in state high schools for around 35 years and now tutors in English curriculum courses in the School of Education at the University of Queensland.
Tags: Assessment

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