There seems to be the random idea that the problems that exist with NCEA lie at the feet of schools. I’ve read blogposts, facebook and twitter posts all saying that if schools were a little more creative, if they worked a little harder, then this utopia of learning and assessment would burst forth and we would be in paradise.

Nothing could be further from the truth and this naive idea dismisses the realities of NCEA. Schools are not in a vacuum. We have pressures, both inside and outside, the school gate.

We have pressure from the community to maintain a certain level of achievement. If we drop below the expected level for us then they will take their children elsewhere, to another school with “better” achievement.

We have pressure from the Board of Trustees and the Principal to constantly improve our results even though we are above both national and our decile grouping.

We have pressure from the Ministry to improve the results. Until recently, that was 85% at Level Two and to hell or high water we needed to get to the level.

We put pressure on ourselves as teachers to get the students across the line, to help them achieve their goals, to help them reach their personal level of excellence.

All of this pressure bearing down on you limits your ability to be innovative, to take risks, to push the boat out. You fall back on things you know work. I know if I teach this topic, this way I will get nearly all of my students across the line. I know if I drop this standard then that will improve my overall results, which is important, as I will have to justify my results to the Principal next year.

The question is how do we fix this system? For me it is about educating the parents and the public. It’s educating them so they are not getting their NCEA information from meaningless league tables. It’s educating them so they don’t think their child having 100 NCEA credits is a good thing. It’s educating them to know that “credits” are not the sole evidence of success. This is what will bring about chance to the system.

When teachers feel empowered by their school, by their community, by the Ministry then change can happen but until then I’m getting my plough and going credit farming.

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