QTU President’s comment – 24 September 2014

State government to consider OP review recommendations

The Masters-Matters Review recommendations have been released and are available here.

The 23 recommendations amount to a major reimagining of senior secondary assessment and the tertiary "interface" in Queensland secondary schools.

At this stage only the recommendations have been released, with no response provided by the Government. The report from the Australian Council for Educational Research has not been publicly released so it is not possible to fully understand the recommendations without being provided with the rationale behind them.  (Update: The full report has now been released and can be accessed online here: Volume 1 - main reportVolume 2 - supplement.)

The recommendations and the implications are complex and significant. The issues that immediately stand out from the recommendations include:

  • the OP system (including SAIs, OAIs, OPs and FPs) and the Queensland Core Skills Test to be abandoned
  • schools, in concert with the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA), to become responsible for determining student achievement, while universities and the Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre are to determine how student achievement will decide admission to university courses
  • individual student achievement to be reported on a 60 point scale, by adding marks from school and external assessment; individual student achievement to be directly comparable across teachers and schools
  • teacher judgment to be retained as a significant factor in student assessment, with three of four assessment pieces in each subject to be set and marked by teachers at a school level - overall value of this form of assessment is 0-10 marks x 3 for a total of 30 marks, or 50 per cent of the overall mark
  • an external assessment piece to be developed for the "vast majority of subjects" to account for 50 per cent of a student’s mark in senior "authority" subjects, to be written and marked by the QCAA - overall value of this assessment piece is 0-30 marks - such assessment to be sat at the same time in all schools
  • the external assessment item is not to be used to "scale" the school-based assessment
  • a three stage process for moderating school-based assessment: "Endorsement" - checking and endorsement of school-generated assessment items and marking schemes (suggests prior to use); "Confirmation" - achieved through "moderation" process involving blind reassessments of student work coupled with spot audits by means of QCAA reassessment of samples of student work to check "consistent application of marking schema". Any problem would lead to the re-marking of all student work in that subject at that school; "Ratification" - prior to certification by the QCAA, each school's results will be checked for anomalies and all four subject assessment pieces verified; an appeals process will be developed for students to pursue once they receive their senior statements
  • universities to determine a transparent process for selecting students for courses based on the reported student achievement; a single score such as the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) may be generated but should use subject results as reported on the 60-point scale
  • legislation to be amended to completely excise tertiary entrance calculations from the role of the QCAA.

The review makes no recommendations about an implementation plan apart from saying that the government must develop a plan. The recommendations envisage an issue with the cost of this exercise and a number of recommendations contain statements about prioritising certain subjects if cost is a prohibiting factor in the generation of the external assessment items.

The QTU welcomes the celebration of school-based assessment, which has served Queensland students so well for more than 30 years. However, given the now widely recognised “unintended” consequences of high-stakes tests, such as NAPLAN, it is critical that any new assessment regime implemented by government does not make these same mistakes. Student welfare must always be of the utmost concern.

Other requirements that are immediately apparent include:

  • the need for involvement of practising teachers and curriculum leaders in further decision making about the recommendations
  • high quality professional development and training for teachers, school curriculum leaders and principals on assessment and the new system as determined by the government
  • the potentially very high cost of a new system of assessment and tertiary entrance must be funded by additional investment in education by the government not robbed from current resource allocations
  • any new system must be rolled out over an extended time period to allow sufficient time for the professional development program to be completed and for education of students and parents of future year 12 cohorts prior to subject selection for year 11, which occurs around the middle of each school year
  • significant workload pressures in schools, particularly those that are not yet evident such as the roll-out of the new National Curriculum in senior secondary, must be at the forefront of considerations for implementation plans for any change to the secondary assessment and reporting system.

Further developments will be reported to members as they become available.

Kevin Bates
QTU President