A Parents Charter for NCEA

28 March 2005

Thank you for your concerns about NCEA. Over 100,000 students sat NCEA last year. Here is a parent’s point of view on NCEA talking about what can be fixed so that we can have confidence in the qualification.

When parents hear reports that teachers believe NCEA assessment is not fair and credible, they are right to be worried. When even the government admit there are enough problems to have an enquiry parents know something has to be fixed. But it all looks like the bureaucrats and ministers are more worried about the system than about our children who are its guinea pigs. In their Wellington world, a bad year for NCEA might be just another teething episode, but in the lives of our children it’s a long time. They get one shot at it. The students don’t get the chance for a review and fine tuning.

Parents haven’t been heard, so here is a parent’s charter. It's what we want from the ministers and bureaucrats who we are meant to trust to sort out NCEA.

Big differences in results form year to year make us suspicious. It looks like students can suffer because of the system, not because of their performance. It looks like you have to pick the right subjects in your year to do well.

The assessment has to be fair, consistent and credible. Parents know how hard their children work. We hear far too many stories about the wrong students getting the wrong results, papers hardly anyone passes and exams everyone passed. When internal assessments are good then the exam results are bad, the teachers must be confused about what to teach.

Give us comparative information, including that apparently embarrassing word “failure”. Parents want to know where their child fits in as well as what the child knows. Any result means more to a parent if they know how other students achieved. Parents want to compare schools so provide information that allows them to do it. There is nothing wrong with knowing whether a school’s record is improving or going backwards.

Make sure the results of NCEA do not depend on what school our children attend. Most children don’t go to famous schools. We want results that mean something to employers and tertiary institutions who have never heard of our school. Our students should be entitled to rely on NCEA results, not school reputations.

Bring back failure. Parents were told NCEA was mean’t to do away with failure, but lots of subjects have 50% fail rates if you know where to look. But now the school doesn’t have to tell anyone how many students failed internal assessment or exams. It’s hard to tell if your own child failed internal assessment and the grade average is a nonsense because it leaves out failed subjects. It’s good to know what children know, and it’s also good to know how much they failed to learn, for whatever reason.

Even out the effort. Our children have strong sense of fairness There are too many stories about cunning students working out how to get through by doing easy credits, while others slog it out all year. It’s good for students to have more choices, but we don’t want them given easier choices, because they will take them. Why do some students only do half as many questions in a three hour exam and how come students can just miss out exam questions if they think they don’t have the credits.

Do something to get back the workload and the endless assessment for teachers. NCEA seems to make everyone look busy without much more to show for it. In the real world if the system is too complicated, we simplify it. We’re trying to teach our students to work smarter, but NCEA makes our teachers just work hard, and parents are getting a bit tired of hearing about it.

We want assurance that you care more about standards and students than about theories. Own up to the problem. Face the fact – NCEA has problems. Everyone else knows it, but no-one official in education will say it. You all sound like making NCEA work matters less than having it. Because you won’t own up, parents are suspicious that you will keep trying to justify the problems rather than fix them.

How come everyone is so keen to sort out Scholarship but strange results in NCEA apparently aren’t important enough to be taken seriously? Bright students will do well in any system but most of our children aren’t in the ‘bright category’. The system can do them in. Results should be fair for all students, not just those at the top.

Stop comparing NCEA to the old system. Our children didn’t sit School Certificate or Bursary. They know nothing about it. We don’t want our children to be victims of people trying to prove some point about a system one uses. Drop the argument and show you understand the need to make THIS system work for TODAY’S students.


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