Proposed HSC changes

I cannot stress enough the importance of responding to the NSW Board of Studies proposed changes to HSC examinations and school assessment.

When you look at what they are proposing, it’s hard to see how they can possibly be genuine about their aim of “reducing unnecessary stress and workload for students and teachers”.

The 8-page Background Paper is an easy read, and explains the general changes that are proposed for all HSC courses:

  1. A mandated number of FOUR in-school assessment tasks for each 2 unit course
    • How the BOS thinks that running LESS assessment (making each task worth MORE) is beyond me.  Schools will get around this by making tasks bigger and more involved, perhaps by running ‘one’ task with multiple ‘parts’.
    • If you plan to have one assessment for AOS, and another three for the three Modules…where does the Trial fit?
  2. A removal of the limits of how much in-school assessment can come from test and exam tasks (!!)
    • This is OUTRAGEOUS.  It will certainly lead to schools assigning a greater weighting of marks to exam-type tasks.  At the Forums I have been to on the proposed changes, BOS reps argue (with a straight face) that they don’t think schools would want to do more exams…how naive.
  3. Each 2 unit course to have a single 3 hour exam including 10 mins reading/planning time
    • Obviously this is a big change for English.  What is going to be cut out of our exam to make it fit?  The logical answer is that creative writing (at least) will disappear entirely.
    • Why not just make the 10 mins reading time extra?  This policy is blatantly linked to a cost-cutting agenda, not to reducing student stress!
  4. Advice will be provided on expected length (number of pages etc.) of written exam responses
    • This looks oppressive, but BOS have argued this is only intended to stop those 30 page exam responses…which is OK by me as long as students aren’t heavily penalised for going a little over any prscribed length.
  5. A review of specifications to reduce the amount of time spent on major projects and performances
    • Wow!  Lucky students!  I think this is great, only…does this mean that the BOS will also be LOWERING THE STANDARDS?  Students currently work hard on major projects because the acheivement descriptors require it for students to get a Band 5 or 6.
    • What would make more sense is lowering the number of units that students had to study from 10 to 8, and giving them free periods at school for project work.
  6. School assessment to be based on clusters of outcomes, NOT on topics (e.g. Area of Study, Modules)
    • This is ridiculous.  This is clearly how they think they can get away with reducing the number of assessment tasks to FOUR.  To assess how well a student has understood an elective, you need to assess that elective.  Unless the BOS want to change the syllabus…hmm, seems they are subversively trying to do just that.
  7. Written exams to contain a mix of ‘objective response’, ‘short response’ and ‘extended response’ items
    • Multiple choice questions in Stage 6 English?  In an exam that’s worth 50% of their mark?  Of the mark they are using to try and get into Uni??  Don’t make me slap you.

The BOS has provided a feedback form for people and organisations to respond to these proposals.  The consultation period has been extended to the 28th October, and I encourage English teachers to send in their feedback!

The implications of these changes for English are huge. For those of you wondering how on earth we would fit our current two paper/four hour exam into a single three hour exam, here are the Board’s specific proposals for Advanced English (specific proposals for all of the courses can be found here).

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