Year 12 students will receive an ATAR university entrance rank in 2020 but assessment authorities will have to change how scores are calculated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Associate Professor David Curtis from Flinders Uni says students cannot be disadvantaged as a consequence of strategies to counter the pandemic.
“State and Territory senior secondary assessment authorities will need to determine student scores on a broader range of information. Scores will be based on on fewer assessment tasks undertaken during Year 12, but that information can be augmented with other data that schools currently hold about student achievement,” he says.
“It is possible that different conditions will be imposed in different states and territories so students will be affected differently.We don’t know how long or how intensive the interruption will be on study programs so there are likely to be differences in ‘normal’ practices between states which result in different problems being faced and different solutions, depending on where you live.”
“Some assessments in performance subjects such as dance, music and placements in vocational courses will not be feasible so assessments will have to be based on the other components of students’ learning.
“However, students applying for admission to very competitive courses are less likely to be disadvantaged as offers are already based on other selection criteria such as special entrance tests and interviews.”
The Federal government is working with university, vocational and education sectors to determine the best way forward on end of year examinations, assessment criteria and university applications before Education Ministers meet again in May.
Ministers need to consider several scenarios, from minimal impact on students with no widespread school closures and effective use of online learning in most subjects for the vast majority of students, to worst case situations in which most schools are closed for two or more terms.
Professor Curtis says secondary schools have substantial amounts of information about student achievement from previous years which can be aggregated to help build a valid ATAR.
“In general, the more information that is used to assign a grade, the more reliable is that grade. Schools’ records of student achievement are based on teachers’ judgments of student performance. We should not be concerned about this; we must take the view that the aggregate judgments of experienced and competent professionals are legitimate assessments of student capability.”
“The current ATAR is a relative assessment – student scores are converted to a rank. Ranks are used for sorting and selection. They are not absolute measures of student capability against objectively defined standards. An imputed ATAR based on broader sources of information should be no different from one calculated on previous assessment practices.”
Image by Rich Bowen under flicr cc attribution license