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NCEA shake-up: Mixed feelings over external assessments

Changes to exams aimed at reducing workload for teachers and over-assessment of students have received mixed reactions from school principals.

The government’s new structure for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) will increase the proportion of externally assessed learning units from 30 per cent to 50 per cent.

The government says the changes will reduce pressure on students and teachers.

The new system reduces the number of learning units available to around 20 credits in four “chunks” per subject, or a maximum of 100 or 120 credits for five or six subjects, at each level. It also “rebalances” the number of credits available for internally and externally-assessed achievement standards to a 50:50 split.

The proportion of internally-assessed credits had increased to 70 per cent over the past 17 years. The move will will increase external assessments such as exams, while lowering the need for internal assessment.

Mangere College principal Tom Webb told Morning Report the shift was welcome, as it reduced unnecessary overload.

“We think overall, they’re really positive changes. Reducing the over-assessment of students and workload for teachers is really important,” he said.

“I actually think we are losing the opportunity for more creative, integrated courses.” – principal of Albany Senior High School, Claire Amos duration 4:55 
from Morning Report


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However, Albany Senior High School principal Claire Amos said the potential for reducing over-assessment and workloads was being over-estimated and that the move reduced options for students.

“I actually think we are losing the opportunity for more creative, integrated courses, which meant that we were assessing students in more meaningful and contextualised ways,” she told Morning Report.

“As much as it sounds like a simple solution to push half of the assessments to external to deal with teacher workloads, I think we’ve got to be mindful of the fact that teachers do a whole lot of work to prepare those young people for external assessment… So I don’t think it’s as simple as it looks.”

Mr Webb said external assessment didn’t have to be through examinations and could take the form of student portfolios, as was already the case within the subject of art.

Ms Amos said there was also a danger teachers could end up marking external examination papers and portfolios when they had free time to do so. Regarding the underachievement of Maori and Pasifika students, she said the plans wouldn’t address the issue.

The plan also includes NCEA fees being scrapped, and a renewed emphasis on literacy and numeracy.

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5 years ago

I believe most have misread or misunderstood the NCEA document. No where does the document say that the numbers of external assessments needed to be sat by students will increase. In fact if anything the document highlights over assessment as much externally as internally as the problem. The phrasing of the document around making the available standards equal in terms of numbers of externals and internals is simply about reducing the ever growing number of available internal standards to students and increasing the breadth of content covered externally. This will not force students who are in carefully designed, internal based courses to suddenly have to pick up an external, unless there are not enough credits available internally. The only increase in externals will be related to numeracy and literacy. The weighting of credits in externals may well increase, but this will be just as obvious in internals (e.g. all internals in Level 3 Biology are worth 3 credits, this change will potentially bump them to 4 credits). This was as stated again by associate Education Minister Tracey Martin in a recent stuff article.

It did not help that the course examples provided in the back pages of the document showed an equal number of internals and externals. It also did not help that the media jumped on board with further misinformation. What we really need is the Minister of Education to clarify these points. Meanwhile schools will wait with baited breath and the rumour mill will continue to churn.

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