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NCEA discussion forums – AMA HOD day

Here is a summary of the points raised in the NCEA discussion forums at AMA HOD day last Friday.


Middle leaders were really feeling under pressure and over-worked.  It was felt that the pace of change was too fast and at times overwhelming.  Morale is low, even among those who are excited by the changes.  Delaying some of the assessment changes was proposed to allow things to be fully embedded.

Specific concerns

1. Tasks – we have been told we can write tasks BUT

*   This is a huge workload for Mathematics and Statistics teachers
*   Teachers and schools want lots more examples not just two.  They will happily adapt to their own context but just want lots of tried and tested assessments.
*   Some teachers and schools would like these extra tasks to be provided on a secure website for use in schools
*   What can a task look like?  We have particular models on tki but what else is possible?
*   Can we write a ‘traditional’ test?
*   Can we use portfolio’s?  How do we do this?
*   Can we use assignments?  How do we do this?
*   Can we ask a few skills based questions and then ask a open question?
*   Support is needed for professional development, teacher networks, and deeper research on assessment innovation.
*   There is a requirement for a greater risk-tolerance and ability to accept some level of failure with tasks as teachers learn more about what works and doesn’t work.  This means that one school’s judgement or task design may not be identical to the school down the road all the time
*   For many the above position is completely intolerable and they will migrate to alternative assessment programmes like IGCSE

2. Scaffolding language

*   The language demands of the tasks on tki are considered too big for Year 11 students.
*   Have MoE/ NZQA literacy people looked at the tasks and what do they say?
*   More support needed for literacy in the Mathematics and Statistics classroom
*   Schools want to make them accessible to students but are unsure what support is possible or acceptable.
*   For example can ESOL students use dictionaries in internal assessments?
*   What is appropriate scaffolding and what is not?

3. Scaffolding tasks

*   Why can’t our internal assessments in Mathematics and Statistics look like the external assessment exemplars on the web?
*   What is appropriate scaffolding and what is not?
*   More support needed on assessment writing
*   Schools have expectations for greater equity of student outcomes. All schools are expecting to help students to meet high standards. They don’t want assessment practice to undermine this
*   There is a perception from some that the external standards have greater rigor and that the internals are very much less so
*   For others there is a desire to create a better balance between high-stakes assessment and teacher/school empowerment.  Teachers know what achievement looks like – let them get on with it.
*   There is a requirement for a greater risk-tolerance and ability to accept some level of failure as teachers learn more about what works and doesn’t work.  This means that what one school’s assessment practice may not be identical to the school down the road all the time
*   Many teachers believe they know what achievement looks like
*   For many the above position is completely intolerable and that a standard is a standard

4. Moderation

*   There are concerns about differing assessment practices in different schools.  HOD’s worry that this undermines the qualification
*   Teachers want to give students and families certainty that what they are doing is right.  They feel that despite the support and materials available they are doing much of this in the dark.
*   Moderation reports are being used to evaluate middle leaders making taking any risks with assessment difficult.  Even when teachers know there is a better way they are sticking with tests because they can be managed and easily moderated.
*   Previous history has made teachers nervous about what moderators will say about new standards.  It is worth emphasizing that the moderation accountability, while imperfect, has had several positive impacts. Teachers have more clearly defined understanding of standards. They want moderators to come out know and say what they are thinking.
*   On the other hand teachers are confident that they know what the standard is and don’t like just being told they are wrong in moderation reports. They want fuller conversation with moderators so a common understanding of standards and tasks is reached quicker

5. Pathways

*   There is real concern about the lack of pathways for students who are currently underachieving in mathematics
*   There is a concern that there are not obvious pathways through NCEA level 2
*   There is a concern that students are being asked to specialise too early – it appears that students are being asked to do mathematics or statistics at Year 12
*   There was a concern from some that there is too great an emphasis on statistics in the new standards

6. Communication

*   Teachers really hate it when things change during the year.  The changes to assessment specifications and conditions of assessment, albeit minor, do not instill confidence.
*   Teachers don’t have time to be constantly checking websites
*   Teachers don’t like websites that change
*   Schools would like both NZQA and MoE to acknowledge their planning cycles – for course design, PD, assessment,
*   There was the perception that this flexibility was given to the tertiary sector with the delaying of timelines for expiring US but that school concerns are not as important.

7. Course endorsement

*   While there was agreement that the endorsement will be a good motivator to increase student achievement it was felt that students in Year 12 and 13 who were often our most talented were being disadvantaged.
*   Year 12 and 13 courses have been set and designed in the year previous.  Many had courses that were entirely internally or externally assessed.  They did not meet requirements for endorsement.
*   teachers want to know what the review process is so another look could be taken at especially level 3, where a course may have 16+ credits in only external standards.  These might be our most able students.  Why can’t they get course endorsement?

8. Scholarship and U.E

*   Schools would like to know what is happening as early as possible.  For many schools the scholarship preparation programme starts in Year 12
*   Ditto for U.E requirements

Other than that I think we are a pretty happy lot.  It was great to see so many of you there.  I hope that my key message was made explicitly enough to the groups I spoke to –  We are the experts in mathematics.  We know what good teaching looks like, we know when students are doing well and when they need further help.  We know what authentic/fair/ethical assessment looks like.  We need to take control of as much as the process as possible.

As one HOD told me
“Interesting though how positive and reinvigorating the Lovitt material was and how dispiriting the NZQA admin stuff was. Kind of highlighted the difference between where the teachers passions lie and what we now must spend the majority of the time doing. In a nutshell we are all loving being curriculum leaders/developers/embeders but finding ourselves hamstrung as a result of the black hole that is administrivia.”


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