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Standards and Benchmarking

Standards and Benchmarking

What does your state/territory understand by the terms standards and benchmarking?
How are standards and benchmarks currently applied in your state/territory? (current practice)
Briefly outline the work being done in the area of standards and benchmarking in your state/territory.

What does your state/territory understand by the terms standards and benchmarking?

In NSW the term standards has two aspects, performance standards and content standards.

The ‘standards’ refer to the levels of performance expected of students at particular stages of schooling. They describe levels of achievement in terms of the content, skills and understanding expected of students following a course of study. Performance standards are clarified by performance descriptions, examinations, marking guidelines and work samples. Content standards are defined by the outcomes statements and content contained in the various syllabuses developed by the NSW Board of Studies. These statements describe what a student should know and be able to do in a given subject. The defined standards are expected to remain constant through time.

A ‘benchmark’ is taken to refer to one particular level of performance on a scale. That level of performance may define a ‘benchmark’ that represents an exemplary standard, or it may define, as in the National Benchmarking, a minimal competency level a student may be expected to achieve that is necessary for later stages of learning.

How are standards and benchmarks currently applied in your state/territory? (current practice)

The NSW Board of Studies has a K-12 standards framework that is progressively being developed and implemented.

NSW syllabuses contain a standards framework of outcomes at stages of schooling. The stages relate to years of schooling as follows:

  • Early stage 1 Kindergarten
  • Stage 1 Years 1 and 2
  • Stage 2 Years 3 and 4
  • Stage 3 Years 5 and 6
  • Stage 4 Years 7 and 8
  • Stage 5 Years 9 and 10
  • Stage 6 Years 11 and 12

All K-6 syllabuses and all New HSC syllabuses now include clear statements of outcomes and content that students are expected to learn. Currently, the Office of the Board is engaged in the development of a K-10 curriculum framework that will include evaluation and revision of the Years 7-10 syllabuses.

In the Board’s statewide examinations for the New HSC from 2001 and in the School Certificate Tests in English, Mathematics and Science student performance will be assessed and reported in terms of standards achieved. From 2002 the School Certificate Test in Australian History, Geography, Civics and Citizenship will be added to this group of tests.

For government schools, Departmental policy requires that schools report in terms of the standards expected by the syllabuses produced by the NSW Board of Studies. Student achievement and progress are judged against the K-12 standards framework. Judgements of student achievement are based on a wide range of evidence gathered throughout the teaching and learning process. Schools are encouraged to report to parents in terms of attainment of syllabus outcomes for any reporting period.

Statewide tests conducted by the Department of Education and Training (DET), report in terms of a performance scale linked between years that allows comparison of levels or standards of performance over time. The tests are reported in terms of specific syllabus content included in each particular year’s test. These tests include the Basic Skills Tests in literacy and numeracy in Years 3 and 5, the English Literacy and Language Assessment (ELLA) in Years 7 and 8, the Writing Assessment Program (WrAP) in Years 3 and 5, and the Secondary Numeracy Assessment Program (SNAP) in Year 7.

The National Benchmarks in Year 3 reading have been assessed through the Basic Skills Test. The other National Benchmarks in literacy and numeracy in Years 3, 5 and 7 will be progressively assessed through the Department’s statewide testing programs. These statewide tests assess much more than the benchmark standard.

As syllabuses in NSW set the standards, teachers in government schools do not refer to the National Benchmarks standard when designing their teaching and learning programs. The outcomes in stages define a much higher level and students in NSW will certainly achieve the benchmark standard when they achieve the outcomes of the syllabuses.

Briefly outline the work being done in the area of standards and benchmarking in your state/territory.

In NSW the review of the Years 7-10 curriculum has commenced. This will complete the K-12 standards framework in this state. The review will involve a program of evaluation and revision of Years 7-10 syllabuses against a K-10 curriculum framework commencing with the English and mathematics syllabuses and building on the recent revision of the science, history and geography syllabuses.

Following the 2001 HSC examinations, the standards for the HSC will be in place. Some refinement and modification will continue for a year or two after that, but by early 2002 the standards will largely be established and documented.

The process of determining where the National Benchmark levels of performance for literacy and numeracy lie on each of the DET test scales is an ongoing process. The ‘cut-score’ for the reading benchmark in Year 3 has been determined but work continues on finalising the cut-score for reading for Year 5, and the spelling and writing benchmark performances on the NSW reporting scales. While this project is run by the National Taskforce established by MCEETYA, analysis is being conducted on NSW data by officers of the Department to support and confirm the determinations of the taskforce and its working party.

The DET has moved to support assessment and reporting in terms of syllabus outcomes in its schools in a number of ways. There has been ongoing production of support documents and provision of training and development throughout the districts.

NSW government schools are being provided progressively with a software program, KIDMAP, which is designed to support teachers and schools manage the implementation of an outcomes approach to teaching and learning. In 2000, the software is available for use in primary schools and is being piloted in secondary schools.

KIDMAP includes functions to support schools and teachers plan, program, record, analyse and report using outcomes in stages in NSW syllabus documents. The software contains NSW Board of Studies syllabus information such as outcomes and indicators, as well as support provided by the Board and the Department.

Under the Commonwealth’s Quality Teacher Program (QTP), the DET has established a project titled, Consistency of Outcomes in Stages Assessment project. This project will involve schools in investigating aspects of consistency of teacher judgement in relation to the assessment and reporting of student achievement of outcomes. It is envisaged that schools involved will inform the development of a statewide package that will model processes and structures at a school level to support consistency of teacher judgement.

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