Schools Taking a stand on assessment

  • By Justin Mullaly
  • This article was published more than 3 years ago.
  • 9 Dec 2020

At a time when politicians should be butting out, assessment is becoming more politicised than ever. At the national level, our union has developed a set of key positions on student assessment in response to government agendas that would undermine the professional autonomy of teachers, have a negative impact on students and almost certainly lead to increased workload for our members – something the AEU will not stand for.

The valuing of teacher professional judgement sits at the heart of the AEU’s policy. Given too many politicians and senior education bureaucrats continue to think it is OK for the assessment of student progress to not be directly connected to classroom-based teaching programs, the AEU has outlined key principles to ensuring that assessment practices are inclusive, authentic and integrated.

The union’s national assessment policy builds on existing federal AEU policy and Victorian branch positions on curriculum and opposition to whole-of-cohort standardised testing. The policy states that, at its heart, assessment must “inform the teaching and learning cycle; provide teachers, students and parents with information about the progress and achievements of students; [and] form an integral component of the ongoing planning and modification of educational programs and practices, and the targeting of specific resources”.

Critically, assessment must be aligned to the curriculum as taught, along with school-based reporting practice. It needs to be transparent in terms of what is being assessed, how it is being assessed and the evidence used to make professional judgements. The policy outlines that “assessment must incorporate a range of professional practices, including structured and impromptu observations; formal and informal discussions/interviews; collections of students’ work; use of extended projects, performances and exhibitions; tests and practical exams.”

This refutes the useless recommendations of the recent NAPLAN review, headed by former ACARA czar Barry McGaw. Our national policy reinforces the professions’ opposition to whole-of-cohort standardised testing, especially the illegitimate dominance of NAPLAN as a measure of student performance, and instead demands that any assessment program must have at its core the professional judgement of teachers; enable the use of a bank of formative tests delivered at the time of need, as determined by the teacher; be complemented by school-based moderation processes; and test a scientifically determined sample of students to determine program effectiveness and student academic achievement. The policy also reiterates the union’s opposition to shift NAPLAN to an online test, which only further entrenches inequality. 

The AEU has already outlined concerns about the promotion of National Learning Progressions and the Online Formative Assessment initiative arising from the national school funding agreement, on which there’s been no genuine consultation with the profession via the AEU.

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