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ACER recommends abolition of school grades

Posted on 28 February 2018
ACER recommends abolition of school grades

ACER SUBMISSION TO THE GONSKI REVIEW

Students would be taught according to their ability rather than their age and conventional performance tools such as A to E grades and school reports would be scrapped under a proposal to redefine what it means to be successful in the classroom.

The Australian Council for Educational Research is calling for an overhaul of the schooling system, whereby students are typically taught, assessed and graded based on performance expectations for their age group.

The proposal, in the council's submission to the latest David Gonski-led review, has already come up against opposition.

Students would be taught according to their ability rather than their age and conventional performance tools such as A-to-E grades and school reports would be scrapped under a proposal to redefine what it means to be successful in the classroom.

The Australian Council for Educational Research is calling for  an overhaul of the schooling system, whereby students are typically taught, assessed and graded based on performance expectations for their particular age group.

The proposal, which is laid out in the council's submission to the latest David Gonski-led review into boosting education outcomes across the country, has come up against opposition already.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham welcomed ACER's input to the review but appeared lukewarm to the idea of scrapping student grades.

"Student success is built on schools and families having the most effective diagnostic tools and useful information about how students are progressing," Senator Birmingham said.

"Progression should be considered against both the starting abilities of a student and relative to their year level expectations of competency.

"That means ensuring families are given updates on how their children are progressing that they can understand and relate to." Education Standards Institute director Kevin Donnelly, who cochaired the latest review of the national curriculum, questioned the proposed benefits of such a plan, describing it as "onerous, time-consuming and impossible to implement".

"It fails to appreciate that basing assessment on individual progress ignores the reality that students must be ranked against other students in terms of ability and performance and that Year 12 external exams will be a rude awakening if they cannot achieve what is required," Dr Donnelly said.

According to ACER, students at both ends of the achievement spectrum are failing to achieve their potential because a one-sizefits-all approach means that neither high-achievers nor underperformers were being challenged appropriately.

"The most advanced Year 3 students already read at about the same level as the average Year 9 student and the least advanced Year 9 students still read at about the same level as the average Year 3 student," ACER says in its submission.

"We can no longer pretend that students of the same age are more or less equally ready for the same learning experiences." With the review panel set to deliver its highly anticipated report to the federal government next month, the not-for-profit research organisation wants the Australian curriculum to be presented as a "continuum of learning" to ensure that each student, regardless of age or year level, is provided with opportunities targeted to their current level of attainment and need.

It also recommends reviewing the five-point system for grading student performance against yearlevel expectations, which is set out under the Australian Education Regulation 2013 but determined by the states and territories, and replacing it with a measure that communicates progress over time.

Such an approach, according to ACER, could also see the traditional school report replaced with "more informative, ongoing forms of communication".

"The problem with A to E grades and similar methods of reporting is that they do not show where students are in their longterm learning or indicate progress over time," says the submission.

"Students need to be helped to see and understand where they are in their learning so they can work with teachers to set targets for further learning and take responsibility for their own further progress," it says.

"One of the best ways to build students' confidence in their ability to learn is to help them see the progress they make over time including over the years of school." 'We can no longer pretend that students of the same age are more or less equally ready for the same learning experiences' 

From: The Australian, Australia  by Rebecca Urban
22 Feb 2018

Tags: curriculum ACER

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