23 Jan 2018

NCEA assessment 'not good practice'

From Nine To Noon, 9:08 am on 23 January 2018

Too much NCEA assessment is harming secondary school students, an Auckland school principal says. 

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Maurie Abraham from Hobsonville Point Secondary School told Nine to Noon students at some schools were attempting far more NCEA credits than they needed in order to get the qualification.

"I don't think it's good practice. There's so much anecdotal evidence from principals around about the high levels of stress and anxiety that our young people are suffering," he said.

Mr Abraham said a 2014 Education Review Office report cited assessment as a big contributor to student anxiety.

He said students at his school were not required to get level one of the NCEA and most spent two years working toward NCEA level two.

He said 61 percent of the students who got NCEA level two last year did so with merit or excellence endorsements, compared with about 53 percent at other schools with a similar student cohort.

"That's what we're after. We're after a quality qualification rather than just students picking up the qualification by chasing credits," Mr Abraham said. 

He said many students at schools that focused on NCEA were only interested in learning things that contributed to NCEA credits.

"They think the point of school, the point of learning, is to gain credits," Mr Abraham said.

The president of the Post Primary Teachers Association, Jack Boyle, told Nine to Noon New Zealand was the only country where secondary students were subjected to three consecutive years of high-stakes assessment.

Mr Boyle said some students enrolled for twice as many NCEA credits as they needed, creating a large assessment burden for them and their teachers. 

The Education Ministry was scheduled to lead a review of the NCEA this year.

Mr Boyle said the review was unlikely to abolish level one of the NCEA because the qualification was useful for some students. However, it might prompt changes that would encourage fewer students to attempt that qualification so they could focus instead on levels two and three.