NCEA review provides big opportunities

Issue: Volume 97, Number 9

Posted: 28 May 2018
Reference #: 1H9iwH

The NCEA review is looking at big opportunities for change. One school has already been working towards similar outcomes.

Year 12 student Ella Ford and Year 11 student Baxter Kelly make recycled notebooks to raise funds for the Kaipatiki Project as part of the school’s Sustainability Project.

The review of NCEA announced in December last year is now underway, with the public consultation phase starting on 28 May.

The aim of the review is to explore how best to use the solid foundation of NCEA to build an improved national assessment system, one which reflects the changing times and supports the needs of students leaving school to enter the modern workforce.

To achieve this goal, the Minister of Education released a discussion document that outlines six ‘Big Opportunities’ for improving NCEA which have been developed by the Ministerial Advisory Group looking at NCEA.

As well as an advisory group appointed in January, 13 principals and 19 kaiārahi from across the country have been approached to lead engagement in their regions. They will promote the conversation on NCEA and engage with their local networks and iwi to encourage others to do the same.

One of these leads is Hobsonville Point Secondary School principal Maurie Abraham. Like some other schools, Hobsonville Point has already proactively implemented strategies which support the objectives named by the NCEA review.

Big Opportunity 1: Creating space at NCEA Level 1 for powerful learning

The school is only in its fifth year and has an unusual approach to NCEA Level 1.

“We settled on bypassing Level 1 and concentrating on a two-year journey through Year 11 and 12 to get a quality Level 2, so that’s certainly created space at Level 1 for powerful learning,” Maurie explains.

“We had a number of motivations for going down this line. One of them is around what the first big opportunity is about; we believe too much assessment is taking away from deep learning, which is contributing to surface learning and credit-chasing. We didn’t want to be a school that portrayed learning like that.

“The second and one of the most important principles that drove our decision-making was around student wellbeing. There is a lot of evidence through ERO’s work and also anecdotally about the negative impact that an assessment-driven curriculum can have on kids. With that principle of student wellbeing, plus a commitment to deeper learning, and coupled with the fact that we accepted that NCEA Level 1 was a qualification of very little currency – it’s not necessary for Level 2, it doesn’t get you tertiary placement and it certainly doesn’t get anybody any meaningful employment – we thought let’s accept that and have a gentler journey across two years to a quality Level 2.”

Big Opportunity 2: Strengthening literacy and numeracy

Hobsonville Point’s deeper learning focus also extends to the literacy and numeracy areas of the curriculum.

“We also don’t concentrate on our students getting the literacy and numeracy requirements in Year 11. We say to our students that the first major qualification they’re aiming for is Level 2 and across that two-year period, that’s when you have to achieve the current literacy and numeracy requirements. The big opportunities are talking about literacy and numeracy looking quite a bit different possibly, so we’ll have to take all that into account as it comes out,” Maurie says.

“Our view would be that literacy and numeracy requirements need to be finalised by the time the student gets their final qualification; it shouldn’t have to be done in one calendar year.”

Big Opportunity 3: Ensuring NCEA Levels 2 and 3 support good connections beyond schooling

To ensure Year 12 and 13 students have clear pathways beyond school, Hobsonville Point Year 12 and 13 students complete individualised impact projects.

“Many of these pathways projects also incorporate internships or what used to be called work experience. The vast majority of our senior students are working on a project that’s supporting their pathway and it’s often in conjunction with a community partner,” says Maurie.

“They investigate that project across the year, first of all checking whether that pathway is appropriate for them. Pairing up with their community partner helps the student understand the pathway better, but also helps the community member to solve a problem that they might have.”

He believes it is important for students to see that their learning is authentic.

“They’ve got to understand and really connect with the reasons for learning. The learning has to be relevant and the best way to do that is to connect it with the real world so it becomes less of an abstract activity. When they’re coming across new knowledge or they’re developing new skills or developing particular attitudes, they understand the why of it because it’s linked to the real world. At the same time, it’s valuable because when you connect with outside partners you’re developing your understanding of diversity and growing empathy for the needs of other people, which is a really important disposition that young people need to make their way in quite a vast and quickly changing world.”

Big Opportunity 4: Making it easier for teachers, schools and kura to refocus on learning

Maurie believes that by refocusing on learning rather than assessment, learning can be more engaging and relevant for students.

In practice, this means Hobsonville Point students focus less on amassing credits and more on developing a thorough understanding of the content they are learning.

“If our students are on a two-year journey to Level 2, over two years they only need to get 80 credits. As long as 60 of them are at Level 2, they can achieve that Level 2 qualification. Our students at Year 11, their target is only 20 credits, so their whole year isn’t spent chasing credits and being assessed almost every week to try and get NCEA Level 1. There’s less concentration on assessment for qualification and the focus is able to stay on deeper learning.”

Big Opportunity 5: Ensuring the Record of Achievement tells us about learners’ capabilities

While the final two big opportunities are more structural in nature than the previous ones, they could still affect the way teachers teach and students learn.

The fifth big opportunity hopes to ensure a learner’s Record of Achievement conveys clear information about the student’s capabilities.

A smaller scale example of this can be found at Hobsonville Point, where NCEA Level 1 achievement rates at Year 11 are zero. Maurie explains why he isn’t too perturbed by this statistic.

“If you reject that league table concept and just focus on what the end qualification for every one of your learners is, then you don’t get caught up in that argument or worry too much about it.

“The level of Level 2 certificate endorsements at merit and excellence is very high, so that proves our theory that by doing less of the formal assessment and concentrating on the learning, you’re going to get a higher quality certificate.

“We’re also really keen to get away from the calendar year milestones. It doesn’t matter at the end of the year what percentage of kids got Level 2, the key statistic that matters is the level of qualification that all of your school leavers have. NCEA doesn’t have to be a calendar-year thing.”

Big Opportunity 6: Dismantling barriers to NCEA

Maurie wholeheartedly believes that barriers to NCEA need to be removed so that all students have access to an equitable national assessment system. He believes one of the main barriers for students and families is often cost.

“We fully support the idea that a kid’s secondary school qualification should be free, and also fully support the idea that the special assessment condition process needs a major overhaul. It needs to be made more efficient and it needs to really address the inequitable nature of it,” he says.

Have your say on the future of NCEA. Visit link)
for more information and other ways to get involved today.

Public consultation on NCEA is open until 16 September 2018.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 28 May 2018

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