Friday, July 10, 2009

Another British exam-marking fiasco

Would you believe that some of the markers knew less than the grade-school kids they were assessing? In Britain, SATs are set during and at the end of grade school, usually at ages 11 and 14

Teachers expressed disgust over 'shocking' marking inconsistencies as SATs results arrived in schools yesterday. They claimed one in five grades could be inaccurate because of glitches in the system. They highlighted problems in vetting examiners and pressure to meet strict marking deadlines. Some pupils were marked down for correctly spelling 'distinctive', it emerged. The marker had written in the margin it should be 'destinctive'.

While 99.9 per cent of results were delivered on time, teachers besieged internet forums with complaints of 'unbelievable' marking errors. The revelation raised the prospect of thousands of scripts once again being sent back for remarking. Almost 40,000 results had to be changed last year, in the wake of an administrative fiasco that led to delayed marks for 1.2million pupils. The year before, fewer than 10,000 grades were changed.

Rachel Ross, head of Woolton Hill Junior School, in Newbury, Berkshire, said: 'There are lots of errors. We feel somebody has rushed.'

Teachers' concerns mainly centre around results in the writing test. One told the Times Educational Supplement online forum they had 'watertight evidence of incompetent marking' after comparing pupils' scripts with the marks awarded. Another said a pupil who is brilliant at creative writing was given the same marks as a classmate who cannot write in sentences. A third said a piece of writing that had impressed an A-level examiner was awarded level three - lower than the expected level for 11-year-olds.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said marking inaccuracies was another reason 'to see an end to high-stakes testing and league tables, which distort the education our children receive'.

But the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said it was confident standards were robust this year. A spokesman said: 'The 2009 mark schemes were carefully designed and test markers received comprehensive training on how to apply them.

Kathleen Tattersall, of exams watchdog Ofqual, said: 'As regulator, Ofqual is continuing to monitor the quality control of the marking of this year's papers.'

Last year SATs descended into chaos as computer problems and administrative failures delayed test marking by several weeks. More than a million 11 to 14-year-olds broke up for summer holidays without knowing results that should have been published on July 8. When the grades did arrive, schools complained that they were wrong or missing, and thousands of pupils were incorrectly marked as 'absent' for tests they actually sat. It emerged that one in three pupils were given the wrong grade.

The Government later banned ETS Europe, the U.S. firm that marked the tests, from checking results. In March 2006 it emerged that some 2005 papers were marked incorrectly because they got wet.


Australia: Violence rife in Qld. government schools

And nobody knows what to do about it because any real discipline would be labelled as "child abuse"

SHOCKING levels of student suspensions from Queensland's state schools have been revealed, with the Government admitting not enough has been done to combat violent behaviour. The Opposition has labelled the escalating violence "another crisis" the Government had been ignoring.

Education Minister Geoff Wilson yesterday took the unprecedented step of releasing school-by-school discipline data, acknowledging more needs to be done to quell increasing behavioural problems. The Government is now considering longer suspensions and the ability for principals to exclude their own students without departmental input, while asking schools to revise their behavioural plans.

It follows revelations in The Courier-Mail earlier this year of a 20 per cent hike in suspensions from state schools between 2006 and 2008, with more than 55,000 handed out last year.

State government figures released yesterday show total disciplinary actions rose from 47,847 in 2006 to 58,167 in 2008 in Queensland state schools. Nearly one-third of all suspensions in 2008 were for "physical misconduct". Others were for verbal and property misconduct, disruptive behaviour, absences and substance abuse. Dozens of schools had more than one suspension handed out for every three students while one – Normanton State School – issued more suspensions than they had pupils. Meanwhile, 10 state high schools excluded or cancelled the enrolments of 20 or more of their students last year alone.

But Mr Wilson said higher disciplinary action numbers were just as likely to indicate a strict school acting for the benefit of all students. He described the rising levels of violence as "totally unacceptable" and said cyber bullying was the "new frontier of violent behaviour". Mr Wilson will now consult the Statewide Behaviour Committee to consider greater disciplinary powers for principals.

Queensland Association of State School Principals president Norm Hart said he would welcome stronger powers, especially the right to exclude students. Under the current system, principals can suspend students for up to five days, but the department must review any harsher penalties.

Opposition education spokesman Dr Bruce Flegg said the government response had came years too late and only after recent Opposition pressure. "It is emerging as another crisis for the Government that they have ignored over the years," he said.

Both Mr Wilson and Mr Hart urged the public to treat the suspension data cautiously, as one student could be suspended a number of times.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many of the markers were teachers or ex-teachers.