'NCEA is a failed experiment', teacher says

Last updated 13:34 06/07/2015

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'NZQA has taught students nothing except to devalue their own sense of self worth' NCEA should be recognised for 'transparency and credibility' A student's perspective of NCEA 'NCEA is a failed experiment', teacher says

I am a recently retired teacher with 40 years' experience. Since my retirement in 2013, I have done some long-term relief work in various schools with various decile ratings throughout the country, because my subject area, mathematics, has a massive shortage in qualified, experienced teachers.

I was on the National Executive of the Mathematics Association for eight years. I have attended and presented at numerous conferences. I was on the panel that first looked at the new curriculum, one of only three practising teachers on that panel. I have set, marked and moderated national examinations, up to scholarship level.

I mention all this at the start to show that I have more than a little experience and knowledge of this topic.

NCEA is a failed experiment. It is meant to be a standards-based assessment, but the standards are norm-referenced so that if the teachers do a better job, the pass rates do not change.

I know of one standard in mathematics where a skill that was excellence in the first year, is now an achieved skill.

The standards themselves are poorly written. There is not enough detail in the standards for a teacher to know exactly what skills are required for each level of achievement, and so there can be up to five other documents that have to be read, in conjunction with standard, to provide the necessary clarity.

Changes to these additional documents are often subtle, and not well-publicised, so teachers are continually having to check on the web to see if the standard is the same at the end of the year as it was at the start when planning was done.

While the external assessments are consistent throughout the country, the internal assessments have almost no National Standard at all.

There is a massive disparity in the standard of work required by different schools, particularly in, but not confined to, some of the new statistics standards.

NCEA does not allow an assessment that uses skills from multiple areas of a subject to make a practical assessment that allows a student to show genuine problem-solving skills.

This artificial breaking of my subject into chunks that stand independently is an absolute travesty of what mathematics is meant to be about. It means that in new subjects, like agribusiness, standards must be 90 per cent different from any existing agriculture or economics standard, even though the subject is a combination of the two.

FULL COVERAGE: What are the results at your school? See NCEA data for every school in New Zealand

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READ MORE: NCEA results 'manipulation' an abuse of the system 

Why is the system continuing unchecked and unchanged? Because staff at NZQA have greater vested interest in maintaining their personal beliefs, over the vested interest of the teachers who want to give their students the best possible skills and qualifications to succeed in the world outside of school.

I am not aware of any other country where the curriculum arm of education (the Ministry of Education) and the assessment arm (NZQA) are two separate entities, each with their own bureaucracy and highly-paid executives, competing for money and passing problems between them without either taking responsibility.

I will miss my colleagues. I will most of the students I gave taught. I will not miss the academic drivel that is passed off as rigorous assessment, that is NCEA.

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