Tag Archive for MIT Tertiary High School

NCEA is not at fault – but how we measure success is

In its editorial (20 May 2016), the NZ Herald was concerned about NCEA because “nearly half” of teachers surveyed were concerned.

The editorial provides a neat summary of what NCEA set out to do and notes that the moderation of the assessments has “worked well.” Then it notes that schools and parents get concerned when the “league tables” are published. Well, who publishes those tables?

NCEA is the most liberating innovation in New Zealand education for decades, and certainly since World War II. At long last, students are able to get credit for what they know and can do, rather than be punished for what they cannot do.

A parent that cares can see progress and, if the time is taken, can understand the skills that their young person has. The student knows what they have done successfully and what they need to do to build on that success. An employer has the potential to get more information about school success than ever before.

But most employers aren’t looking for whether a student can pass a test. They are looking beyond NCEA, for further qualifications that indicate the skills required to be work-ready and to understand the basics of the profession. And this is where NCEA has proved a winner.

Historically, our education system has been weak in helping students transition from secondary to post-secondary education and training, beyond the traditional high school to university track.

With NCEA being a portable qualification – where students are able to generate credit for knowledge and skills demonstrated in different places – education takes on a whole new meaning. It means these students, who never saw the purpose in what they were doing especially, now see the point of education and how it can be practically applied to their lives.

Since 2010, the Youth Guarantee scheme has seen the development of a variety of new approaches.

The Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) Tertiary High School catches students judged by their schools at Year 10 to be in danger of disengaging (or as the US calls it, “dropping out”). Four years later, we see a very different story. Our students are gaining high levels of NCEA and simultaneously completing vocational and technical qualifications that are industry recognised.  For those that like the league tables: NCEA results as reported by NZQA are for 2014: Level 1, 100%; Level 2, 91.4%; and Level 3, 83.3%. In 2015 the pattern was repeated: Level 1, 80%; Level 2, 87%; Level 3, 100%.

The innovation of Trades Academies into schools is more conservative but equally as successful. Students go to a tertiary provider (a small number of schools do provide their own Trades Academies supported by tertiary providers) – for example, MIT provides Year 12 students training opportunities across 10 vocational and technical areas. Each student on average gains 18 NCEA credits that they are able to add to the credits they have gained at school.

But the gains go beyond this credit transfer, they develop a purpose for learning and they improve across all of their schooling as a result. They develop a line of sight to the world of work. And they also develop an understanding that education and training matters. A significant number of students involved in Trades Academies return to school to complete Year 13.

None of this would have been possible without NCEA. It allows for flexibility, it allows for closer connection between students and the purposes for pursuing an education. It is in essence an educational currency that accumulates to a point where they have the entry price to a great future. It allows for students to develop an understanding of how their learning can be applied to the real world.

It’s not NCEA that is at fault in creating too much work for teachers. It is the simple fact that our education system for the past 70 years has greatly over-assessed students. Even the old examination system was characterised by too much assessment. It’s what teachers do! We need to change how we measure success – do we value test results, or do we value real-world learning that leads to life-long skills in the workforce?


 

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Te Ara Whakamana is New Zealand’s largest forum dedicated to education and employment pathways and transitions.  Now in its sixth year, this event brings together educators from both secondary and tertiary sectors, industry representatives, policymakers, and researchers to share good ideas and practices, and to be challenged by different perspectives.

Wellington, 28-29 June 2016

Go to:   https://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/tearawhakamana2016 

Trades Academies, research and reflection

A recent report on Trades Academies is pretty luke warm in its assessment of their success in terms of retention and progression.  A key methodological feature is the comparison between the group of participants and a comparison group of students which are matched to them.

I have a hesitation about one aspect of the matching and that is the use of “disengaged” with its particular definition. In my view, you cannot be a “little bit disengaged” – not any more than a US student can “drop out of school a little bit”.

In New Zealand the word “disengaged” has become our way of describing what the educators in the USA call “drop-outs”, the Pacific calls “early school leavers”, the French call “abandonnant l’école, the Finnish “avhopp från skolanand the Chinese “. Everyone knows what it means and agrees that it is a bad thing!

To have matched those in the research on the basis of “disengagement” is, I think, a risk. That risk might be acceptable but the meaning attributed to the term is not. It is quite clear that this means:

“School engagement: whether had one or more instances of disengagement from school or not (stand-down, suspension, serious truancy)”

If we accept that “disengagement” has come to mean what “drop-out” means in the USA, to start using it to include such episodes as stand-downs and suspensions and truancy is to water it down and this is a great pity because “disengagement” in the sense of having disconnected from a school is a very serious and damaging thing.

I have developed and use a taxonomy of disengagement that notes three kinds of disengagement.

Physical Disengagement:
The student is no longer at school

Virtual Disengagement:
The student is at school but nothing to speak of is happening in terms of learning – poor or no positive outcomes are likely.

Unintended Disengagement:
In this category, disengagement is delayed and occurs when a learner achieves to some degree but has a basket of credits that are not robust enough (or perhaps even the right credits) to sustain further study.

But none of these categories admit those who are stood down / suspended in themselves or even serious truants on the grounds that many well-behaved and, indeed, capable and successful students are likely to be and are included in each of these categories. Selective truancy is  a deliberate tactic used by many students especially in the senior years and might best be described as tactical attendance. One hopes that the other matching criteria dulled the impact of engagement as a matching tool.

The other issue I have with the report is not the fault of the researcher. To include the MIT Tertiary High School into the group generically described as “trades academies” is misleading and inaccurate – it just doesn’t fit there. Yes, it is a secondary / tertiary programme but there are key differences that mark it as unlike any of the trades academies. Its target student group is distinctive. The merged nature of secondary and tertiary curricula is totally different in that secondary and tertiary programme components are not consigned to different days nor to different locations both of which are features of the traditional trades academy model. The location of the programme is completely and wholly in a tertiary setting – the students are expected to act as tertiary students, all day every day. Finally, The MIT Tertiary School is a four-year programme and not the 38 day programme that Trades Academies are able to offer within the time allocation given to trades academies.

And there is another difference – this targeted group of students achieve both high levels of NCEA and technical qualifications within the programme that can take them into many higher level qualifications including degree level study. NZQA reports the 2014 NCEA results as Level 1 – 100%, Level 2 – 91.8%, Level 3 – 83.3%. What a pity that such stunning success is not reflected in a study of trades academies.

Hon Steven Joyce got it right when, in response to the report, he noted that it was early days and that it was difficult to get good data.

Make no mistake about it, trades academies are already demonstrating an ability to excite students about learning and to open up for many, pathways to success that the conventional school programme is unable to do. Time will show that early access to technical and vocational programmes is a key to success for a significant proportion of students. This research report does show an emerging trend towards increased retention despite its rather coy conclusions and there can be confidence that an impact on successful outcomes will follow.