Experts respond to last week’s decision that Year 12 assessments will go ahead in spite of COVID-19, with some highlighting the need for a different approach.
Education ministers from around Australia held a phone meeting last week on how to manage Year 12 results and university entry in light of COVID-19, with experts calling for exceptional circumstances and novel assessment models to be taken into account.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan announced after the meeting that states and the Commonwealth have agreed that students will graduate with ATAR scores, and the cohort will not have to repeat the year.
MCERA issued expert responses to this decision.
Professor Deb Corrigan, Monash University said that “Year 12 students and their families need certainty and a plan to ensure an equitable process and consideration of the entire cohort.”
Professor Deb Corrigan’s areas of research include curriculum, assessment, and science and STEM education. She welcomes the decision to ensure students graduate with official acknowledgement of their studies, though says it is essential that this cohort’s exceptional circumstances are taken into account.
“The Year 12 cohort is a national cohort, not a state-based one,” said Professor Corrigan.
She said that it is important that this national cohort is considered in ways that reduce inequities for the whole cohort and is mindful of their education achievements.
“Previous calls to ban ATAR or exams would put this national cohort at a disadvantage to cohorts from other years. ATAR is a rank for selection purpose and not an achievement. Current environments provide for inequities within some groups within this cohort, but with due time for consideration and greater collaboration many of these issues may be addressed.”
“Year 12 students and their families need certainty and a plan to ensure an equitable process and consideration of the entire cohort.”
Associate Professor David Curtis, Flinders University, said that how an ATAR is calculated will have to change this year.
Associate Professor David Curtis’s areas of research include youth transitions, equity, assessment and the measurement of achievement. He said that, in the circumstances, authorities will need to take a different approach to calculating ATAR scores.
“State and territory senior secondary assessment authorities will have a pivotal role in the new arrangements. They will coordinate with each other and with schools and school systems, with universities, vocational providers, and employers. They will then generate a nationally accepted ATAR based on their local scores, as they have done in recent years,” he said.
“These authorities will need to base their scores on a broader range of information. They will base scores on fewer assessment tasks undertaken during Year 12, but will be able to augment that information with other data that schools hold about student achievement.”
He said that for some performance based subjects, other existing assessment tasks will have to be used.
“Students applying for admission to very competitive courses should not be disadvantaged as offers are already based on other selection criteria such as special entrance tests and interviews.”
Dr Kim Wilson, Macquarie University said that this is the time to acknowledge and validate teacher professional judgement.
Dr Wilson is an expert on secondary history education at Macquarie University with over 20 years experience in secondary school education. She says that the New South Wales Education Standards Authority may need to take a different approach to deliver the HSC in 2020.
“One means would be to release the CORE section of each HSC examination and have students complete this section in their home environment,” said Dr Wilson.
“Take-home assessment tasks are usual practice in any HSC internal assessment program. Students would then submit the completed CORE sections to their school to be forwarded on. CORE sections can be externally marked by the existing pool of HSC markers.”
“In this context of great uncertainty, the strongest message about HSC assessment of student achievement in 2020 is to trust the highly educated professionals who are experts in the field. Across the state, Secondary School HSC teachers have the existing skills, expertise and commitment to ensure that student’s work is assessed against the standards with rigour and validity.”