Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mid Semester Exams

Yesterday I was asked why run exams in year 8 & 9.

I could think of 8 reasons:

1. To reduce fear of exams (students use the idea of exams as a bugbear for not attempting level 2 subjects.)
2. It gives an anchor to the idea of study/revision.
3. It is good practice for upper school and identifies students bound for more difficult courses.
4. It provides feedback on what has been achieved by individual students during the semester.
5. It supports grades allocated by teachers put into reports.
6. It provides a benchmark of performance from year to year.
7. It is the backbone of academic rigour in a school, short of doing a personal project (which is impractical in most public schools).
8. Students gain confidence in doing exams by.. well.. doing exams.

Then I heard the excuses and heard what was really going on:

1. Such and such is just rewriting the NAPLAN test (fine if that is all you have taught in Sem 1!).
2. It's a lot of work (it's our job!) for little return (see 1-7 above).
3. I have to mark it (well.. yes.. but we teach math, compare that to issues in English & S&E, we have it easy!).
4. The kids can't do exams (some can, and they are severely disadvantaged compared to the rest of the state if the first time they see an exam is term 2 year 10(think league tables, think school numbers people! No results.. no school)).
5. I can't write an exam (huh?? ..nor can anyone else, we don't know what you have taught, nor do we know the level of your students! If you need help with formatting we have loads of support staff and teachers willing to help).

There is some argument that there is a level of over testing in year 9 due to NAPLAN but exams and NAPLAN have very different focus. NAPLAN looks at the student compared to the student cohort of the state. The exam should show a snapshot of the learning and retention of the most recent semester.

I can also understand the argument that some students should not sit an exam. If a student has a learning difficulty or is miles below the level of the exam (and a special exam has not been prepared for them) then it makes sense to exclude them.. these are our 1B kids.

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