A prominent educationalist has raised doubts about whether marking criteria is uniform across private and public schools.
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Comments by president of the Primary Maths Association of South Australia Lisa-Jane Connor suggest private students are gaining higher marks than their public school counterparts for work of similar quality.

This could mean that a B grading is awarded in a private school for work that attracts a D grading in a public school.

Ms Connor said there was “no uniformity in grades across States and Territories and across jurisdictions or in a system in a State or Territory”.

She was commenting on the A to E grading that applies in Years 1 to 10.

Port Pirie has five public schools and two private campuses.

The SA education department defended the marking system, but admitted that it was a “work in progress”.

Fairfax Media interviewed the department’s Ken Lountain who is program manager for standards, assessments and reporting. Mr Lountain was associated with the introduction of the Australian Curriculum several years ago.

“For many years until we got a national curriculum, there has been diversity across the country, systems and jurisdictions,” he said.

“We are all starting to be teaching the same thing.”

Asked whether consistency had so far been achieved, he replied that it was a “work in progress”.

He was also asked whether discrepancies existed in marking, to which he replied: “I would say every school does its best to make sure if has a quality assurance process in place.”

He doubted a B grading would be awarded for work otherwise deemed to have a C grading.

“You would be amazed at the level of consistency,” he said.

“You have a little bit of argy-bargy … you are always going to have that – that is what professional judgement is about.

“You want to be able to sit in front of parents at parent-interview night … and give a reason or explanation of where a kid is at and where you are going to help them.

“I think most teachers are pretty careful and check out their marking with colleagues.

“I am not saying it is an exact science. “ The intention is to be singing the same song.”

The Director of Catholic Education SA, Dr Paul Sharkey, said the three education sectors worked together to develop common understandings of the levels associated with the A-E reporting for students’ achievements, to promote consistency across all schools.

“Catholic schools are committed to ensuring that reports are provided to parents that are written in plain English and accurate, and give clear understanding of their child’s progress,” he said.

HIGH GRADES MORE DIFFICULT TO ACHIEVE

It is becoming more challenging for students to achieve A and B gradings for their classroom work.

This is because the marking criteria has changed so that an A or B reflects work beyond the standard expected at a particular year level.

Previously, such marks were awarded based on high percentage results being achieved for work submitted to the teacher.

This backs up claims by Primary Maths Association of South Australia president Lisa Jane Connor that there is a lack of uniformity in gradings awarded by public and private schools.

When asked about the controversy, John Pirie Secondary School principal Roger Nottage said there was probably some potential for inconsistencies in marking.

“Maybe not all schools have transitioned to the new assessment system,” he said.

“It may be that some private schools are still grading based on percentages.

“It is probably more challenging to get a B or A now.

“It is not simply a matter of being at 80 or 90 percent at the work expected at your level.

“You have to be working above your year expectations to get an A and B.

“The B grading recognizes that a student is up to six months ahead of where he or she might be expected to be in the Australian Curriculum. “Unless you are working beyond year level expectations, you cannot get an A.”

Meanwhile, students and teachers “just need to be patient” regarding the eventual arrival of a national curriculum and marking, according to Neil Rowcroft.

Mr Rowcroft is principal of the Mid North Christian College in Port Pirie, one of two private schools in the city.

The Recorder asked whether he was aware of any inconsistencies in marking across public and private schools.

He replied that he did not know what happened in other schools and was unable to comment.

“We just need to be patient. In a couple of years we will all be using a common system,” he said.

“I would suggest that no school does it perfectly.

“We are on a journey in this … I would have thought in a couple of years’ time that schools around Australia would be all in line with the Australian Curriculum and a B in one school would be the same as a B in another school.”

When asked about the alleged lack of uniformity in marking, St Mark’s College principal Greg Hay was surprised at the suggestions and said he would have to see the data used in the claims by Ms Connor.

“Both the public and private systems are highly committed to professional learning in the area of assessments,” he said.

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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