Demands of Assessment

We are not meant to teach to the assessment but do the demands of NCEA force our hand? 

A common question senior students is ‘Is this worth credits?’ as teachers we tire of this, but at the same time we as teachers are under pressure from management to ensure we ‘get the kids over the line’ 80 credits etc.

Is there realistically time in the senior school to take time out from assessment so that we provide valid learning experiences so that akonga have the skills to learn be problem solve in a ‘real life’ situations.

We at times I fear we are flying a bit close to the sun when trying to get students to pass assessments. As a music teacher I see students who are intrinsically motivated to learn more in a subject they are passionate about and have an emotional connection to. I am convinced this happens in all subject areas but not for every student. I experienced a bit of ” teaching to the test” with social sciences and students who were credit counting and successfully gaining Level 3 NCEA but with no real understanding of what they  had learnt or why.

In the early 2000’s the ‘No Child Left Behind’ (NCLB) Act in the States outlined how every child would  succeed through specific school funding and standardised tests. Schools were increasingly accountable for students progress, as we are with NCEA and some schools were even considering performance based pay if test scores were good. The NZ system is not quite there yet but with the published league tables there is certainly pressure to perform (league tables are not published as regularly but comparisons are still made). 

Through the NCLB act there were positive outcomes for students and all evidence from research suggested this was a good move. However there are criticisms of the standardised testing system, the lack of support in some subject areas and an expected cooking of the books in some schools.

So consider again the opening point of this blog does NCEA force our hand and make us teach to the assessment in some ways yes in the current model of schools where each  subject sits alone as an island and we compete for kids to take our subject. Design the learning in such a way that students get to learn in a real life situation then assessment comes after the learning.

Recently my kura presented a performing arts wearable arts show. Th show sold out over two nights and over 100 students were involved and will remember this experience over period 2 class x on a Monday morning where they learnt that amazing formula. Students could have been assessed from the  domains of art, design, performing arts technology, music, media and English. I asked a student if they wanted to be assessed as they had met the criteria. Their response “Na Miss, if you assess it, it will ruin the point and I won’t enjoy it as much”. This is a comment from a year 12 high achieving student who is aiming for an excellence endorsement and will probably get there.

I found this way of assessing more valid and ‘real life’ and tried to explain this is how NCEA could be but alas no.

What does this tell us about what we are telling kids about NCEA and what achievement really is?

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