Herding ducks in a barrel (Part 1)

The NCEA standards review, in English, has begun. And about time, too. As challenging as lining up ducks or herding cats? As easy as shooting those fish? Whichever way it goes, it’s got to be done.
According to the NZQA website:

The review will be carried out according to six principles developed by the expert group:
1. The standard must be derived from a curriculum or established body of knowledge.
2. A standard must have a clear purpose.
3. A Standard must allow valid and reliable assessment
4. Where more than one credit-bearing grade is available, grade distinctions must be based on qualitative differences in achievement.
5. Credit Parity (between standards)
6. Standards should not duplicate one another. The review will also consider such issues as the conditions under which assessment is carried out.

For English teachers, our expert group is the NZATE, a fact for which we should be grateful. A colleague recently cast doubt on the idea of contracting subject associations to complete this work as, in their experience, subject associations tended to be unreliable and unrepresentative.

How far NZ English teachers are represented by their national association is an issue beyond the scope of this blog, but representation is but a subscription away. We have the advantage of being a large subject area (whoops, said the ‘s’ word..) working across diverse deciles and areas of the country.

As Bali Haque points out, this is an opportunity to align curriculum with assessment (always useful). Perhaps it is an opportunity, too, for us to review what has happened to our programmes since the inception of NCEA: fragmented programmes, piecemeal planning, junior programmes with junior ‘credits’ (even the JCEA, in one school).

Somewhere in the middle of this drive for credits must lie the kinds of teaching and learning that transcend unit and achievement standards. How creative we all really want to be is a matter for debate later in the year when the proposals of the expert group go out for consultation. Until then, some points to ponder…

What should be internal? or external?

Do we still want Shakespeare to have his own special corner?

What about Level 1 formal writing – in school, or end of year?

Can we do something to bring those poor, sad but oh-so-useful unit standards into the happy fold?

And where are those neglected children, oral and visual, at the highest levels?

How can we ‘future-proof’ the standards to include new technologies?

What about the Key Competencies that we shouldn’t be assessing but which we might have to usher in by the assessment back door? English does, after all, have its own Processes AO which is the KCs in all but name.
And aren’t we all heartily sick of essays? Surely there are other ways to respond to the (short, extended, visual, oral and other arbitrary split) texts?

I say – let’s go mad and take a risk. If the end result looks like what we have now, we will have missed the opportunity for change that it presents. And not even National will revise the curriculum so we can do it all again this soon.

Thank you for your comment. Much appreciated:-)

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