Tuesday, June 28, 2011

National Curriculum and reporting

The lack of curriculum standards in WA worsens with the implementation phase of National Curriculum continuing to be a lukewarm affair.  Schools continue to drag their feet with implementation for fear of 'disadvantaging' students that have received an Outcomes based education over the past generation.  It is very clear now when comparing to national curriculum standards that WA education in mathematics has fallen behind other states. 

Report time has illustrated that next tier of issue in WA during National curriculum implementation.  The ongoing issue of students being given A grades that clearly have not met the C grade descriptors continues as schools grapple with how to assess their students.  A student that has not passed a test all year is given a C, students that have not reached 75-80% are given A's.  We no longer can say someone reaching a certain 'level' is an A (OBE levels have been abolished), nor can we say students are meeting C grade descriptors (these relate to national curriculum and students are clearly not reaching these - and schools are generally resistant to make the required changes to curriculum, homework and discipline policy to reach these new standards).  The Curriculum Framework gives little guidance to grading years and assessment.  The scope and sequence is a document rarely referred to.  The exemplars are sparse and difficult to apply over a range of years where schools vary greatly in materials taught from term to term.

Some areas (including large amounts of algebra and geometry) are missing from student capabilities as they have not been taught to any standard from years 7-9.  This is not good enough.  I would suggest it is not that students cannot learn this material - teachers lack guidance on what should be taught.

If your student has been taught and is not fluent in linear algebra in year 9 they are not a C student.  Ask them to draw y = 2x +1 for you or for the same equation find y if x = 4 or state the coordinate where it intersects with y=-x.  Similar tests can be made in quadratics in year 10.  Try some basic geometry with traversals and parallel lines.  If you really want to see the issues in WA mathematics test order of operations (2 - 4 ÷ 8 * 2 + 3 = ) across year 8 students and staff at a school.  I know I did and was horrified.

It is no wonder that students are not getting the intrinsic reward for effort to gain an A (it takes little effort and little demonstrated competence for a student with some ability in middle school classes) and these students cannot clearly relate to their grades - there is simply little direct reward for effort and little real consistency from year to year.  I may be a national curriculum skeptic, but we need to escape this no mans land we live in at the moment.  Implement it or not - but make a choice and let's get on with it.

Oh - and the answer to the order of operations problem above is 4.

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