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Teachers & Students – Is the AST past it?

By Joe Canberran 3 October 2007 33

James Patmore from NowUC has written this opinion piece questioning the fairness of the AST (ACT Scaling Test) as a means of assessing students finishing Year 12.

He makes several points including that we and Queensland are the only jurisdictions not to sit external exams and that “that a school’s General Achievement (GA) score in the AST is used to standardise students results, not the individual’s AST score, meaning students are relying on the performance of their peers to obtain successful results, which in an unfair form of assessment”.

The whole article is worth a read but I was wondering what, if anything, Canberra’s teaching and student community thinks of both the current system and of any possible improvements.

What’s Your opinion?

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33 Responses to
Teachers & Students – Is the AST past it?
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novice99 4:19 pm 09 Oct 07

It is good to have a variety of educational systems in place – Australia is a place of diversity. The last thing to be striving for is total bland uniformity across all states. Ugh. We should be proud that we have educational choices available. There are pros and cons to each system, but they all work in the end. Let’s not become narrow in our domain and accept difference.

nyssa76 3:33 pm 06 Oct 07

VicePope, I don’t know. I’ve never seen it.

I’m too busy programming for next term! (5 mins break from Australian Political History and Haunted Canberra.

el, hubby agrees with you. He left at the end of Yr 10, went into the navy, got a trade and is promoted when he comes up for one.

I finished Yr 12, went to Uni, went to Uni again, went for a third time (Masters) and I teach.

We’re both ‘academic’ (I dread to say intelligent as it is an abused word) and it made no difference whether we finished Yr 10/12 or not as we earn roughly the same amount of money – when he’s not at sea (obviously he gets more then).

el ......VNBerlinaV8 12:51 pm 06 Oct 07

I agree entirely with what Danman said – I’m in a fairly similar situ to him, but left school without even getting my Year 12.

VicePope 11:49 am 06 Oct 07

It’s as silly as it is possible to be that Oz, with a population of c21m, has eight year 12 systems (plus whatever they do on Norfolk, Christmas and Cocos and the odd anomaly like the International Baccalaureate).

My best guess would be to look at all of them and see who wins – eg rich over poor, girls over boys. An earlier post referred to research suggesting independent school students tended to be overmarked at school, meaning that they performed worse in tertiary education than someone with the same tertiary score from the general system. If that’s true (and if one accepts that the purpose of academic year 12 assessment is entry into tertiary education), perhaps it’s something that can be adjusted. Then try to work out how to get rid of the inherent unfairnesses in any of the existing systems.

A difficult issue is distinguishing between the effects of errors in system design (that a particular system can never produce a fair result) and distortions produced by human intervention. (Does anyone else suspect some schools are better at distorting AST results than they are at teaching? I am pretty confident distortion happened in the NSW HSC system – one school I know of in the late 1970’s, when the max score was 500, had pretty well no-one in the 300-400 range where the bell curve said there should be a majority. It was medicine or the pits. Stories of leaked exam questions and cooperative marking were around, although I have not seen proof).

Some people (let’s call them, typically, girls) do really well with continuous assessment. Other people (perhaps we could call them boys) do well at heavy exams in a short time. Give people a choice about what might maximise their scores, or make everyone do both and pick the best, rather than the average.

ps – Nyssa. Is Summer Heights High a doco?

Maelinar 12:48 pm 04 Oct 07

No, we want to turn that one back off. More jobs for the Chinese, and less greenhouse gasses.

Thumper 12:46 pm 04 Oct 07

Bring back the industrial revolution…

Absent Diane 12:44 pm 04 Oct 07

education and intelligence often seem to have little in common either.

Maelinar 12:40 pm 04 Oct 07

Bring back the cane, and CMT, and Gormsby.

Danman 11:58 am 04 Oct 07

scuse my grammar – quick typing @ work ($%$&*#&@!!!)

Danman 11:57 am 04 Oct 07

Snahon, yes, I agree – but when I was in school there was a culture of if you had a bad TER you will amount to nothing in society.

I guess the point of my post was to hilight that even though you may not do well in school (as many do not) you woll still thrive in teh real world.

There so so much to be learnt after school – and that fact is not pushed enough in colleges.

They made me feel that decisions that I made back then would have lifelong rasmifications when in reality there are heaps of options for tertiary education and life choice – the most important thing I have gained ex school was life experience – with thatand some enthusiasm and drive you can get anywhere – Schools (i feel) concentrate their efforts on stressing the decisions you make then and there which is a great deal of stress for a 17 year old to take on….

I guess what I am saying is that decisions and achievements made in college need not lay teh foundation for future achievemnts – for both ends of teh scale – for example – I knew a stoner in college who is now working for a legal firm and to the same degree I knew of a high academic achiever student in school who I last saw peddling his wares from beneath his child in a pram in Garema…

Snahons_scv6_berlina 11:35 am 04 Oct 07


Good for you 🙂 but bare in mind that your TER in no way reflects your potential for earning capacity. Your level of education and ability to earn money are in no way related.

Danman 11:12 am 04 Oct 07

When I was in College circa 1995 we had the TER (tertiary Entrance Rank).

My mother encouraged me to go for it (just in case I wanted to go to uni pfft) and my school discouraged it due to my straight C marks.

needless to say I only scored 22.45 out of 100 (The hallmark of my tertiary education!!) – Im now on plus 55k a year working for “The Man”…. make of that 22.45 what you will

Bugger me. Thanks for the advice. It kinda makes sense, though: how one earth would I have time to take an interest in my children when I have to whinge and bitch and moan all day (about living in the Australian city with the best roads, nicest green areas and highest average income)…

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