Moderation, not check marking
At last, after two months, NCEA gets its next limelight in the political arena. Bill English claims he has evidence that the moderation process is not working. Steve Maharey admits there is room for improvement.
This is vastly different from how Trevor Mallard would have reacted. I can just imagine if he was still in office, how he would have reacted—no, the moderation system is perfectly and flawlessly fine—no, English, shut your mouth, you know-nothing shadow spokesman. A month later: okay, fine, there might be a couple of things that need polishing, but honestly, everything’s A-okay!
Anyway, while there is certainly room for improvement, in this case it does not necessarily mean on overhaul, and certainly not a change in philosophy as some would suggest. The purpose of moderation is not, as some would have it, to change marks. It is not for students to rely on to overrule their teachers. It is a system for teachers (that is, markers) to check themselves.
Moderation should not oblige markers to the moderated results. This can seem self-contradictory at first, but consider that moderation is of standards that are internally assessed. Internal assessment is marked internally. To take a few students whose work was moderated and oblige the marker to the moderator’s opinion is, in effect, external marking—which can advantage or disadvantage these students. Going a step further and making the "out-of-line" teacher send all of his work in for re-marking would degrade that teacher and could lead to the collapse of internal assessment altogether.
Well, that’s what I think. I must admit, I’ve seen widely varying attitudes to moderation within my school alone. The technology department, for instance, sends in cases they were certain of, to make sure their interpretation of the criteria is correct, preferring to leave borderline decisions to themselves. The chemistry department, I hear, has once allowed a student to retain her grade after being marked down on a trivial technicality by a moderator. The languages department sends in borderline cases, to seek higher advice, taking certain cases for granted.
It is this last type of department, those that send in borderline cases, that contributes to the 29 per cent of incorrectly marked work sent in for moderation, according to Karen Poutasi. That’s fair enough. I can’t really say whether or not that’s how it should be. I guess it just depends on the philosophy of the department in question.
Nevertheless, when a review of the moderation process is carried out, the reviewers must be sure to keep it a moderation process—not one by which internal assessment becomes external assessment, and moderation becomes check marking.