Quarter of NCEA answers fail on re-mark

Quarter of NCEA answers fail on re-mark

Education minister Anne Tolley is demanding answers after new figures reveal almost a quarter of the marks given for internally assessed NCEA standards last year were incorrect.

Each year about 250,000 internally assessed standards – 10 percent of the total – are re-assessed by moderators hired by the Qualifications Authority (NZQA), who judge whether teachers are being too soft – or too hard – on their pupils.

This year, 24 percent of the re-marked standards had problems, meaning there was only a 76 percent “agreement rate” between teachers and moderators. The 60,000 dubious grades will not be changed and students affected will not be told.

The failure rate is only marginally better than for 2008, when a full 27.5 percent of re-marked work was found to be wrongly graded, a number that Tolley said then she was “extremely concerned” about.

Last week Tolley said she was disappointed there hadn’t been greater improvement in the 2009 agreement rates. “This is an issue which I’m focused on, and I’ve asked NZQA to explain why these results aren’t as good as they should be,” she said.

But NZQA said the apparent amount of mis-marked coursework was an overestimation, as many of the standards reassessed had been brought to the moderator’s attention by teachers who specifically wanted guidance on a close call between a pass or fail.

It is the latest controversy to dog the internally assessed National Certificate of Educational Achievement rolled out in 2004. The system breaks subjects down into a large number of “unit standards” and “achievement standards”, which are each worth a certain number of credits.

Students must collect a certain number of credits to pass each of the three NCEA levels – 80 credits are required for Level 1 – and their performance by the end of Level 3 determines which courses they can take if they go on to university.

A number of schools that believe NCEA is flawed now offer their students external assessment such as the Cambridge international exams, or the International Baccalaureate exams.

Over the years there have been concerns over inconsistent marking, and of NCEA standards that are considered too “easy”, potentially allowing students to achieve worthless qualifications.

NZQA deputy chief executive Bali Haque told the Sunday Star-Times that recent changes to the re-assessment process meant the 24 percent dubious marks was probably an overestimate, and next year’s figures were expected to be lower.

NZQA had also put in further professional support to help teachers with their internal assessments, especially when a student’s work was just on the boundary between a pass and a fail, or between a “merit” ranking and an “excellence”.

While details of the incorrect 2009 grades were not available, problems exposed during moderating of 2008 grades included teachers accepting “vague generalisations” and wrong answers “being ticked correct”.

Teachers were also found to be handing out test papers that were so detailed students “could essential copy answers”.

The details of mis-marked NCEA standards were released at the same time as the NCEA pass rates for every high school in the country. Pass rates for Year 11, 12 and 13 students sitting NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3 have been posted on the NZQA website, and can be broken down by such criteria as the school, students’ ethnicity or the school decile rating.

By MICHELLE SUTTON – Sunday Star TimesThe full list of NCEA results

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