Leading principal gives new reports system an E grade

Sydney Morning herald
August 21, 2006
Anna Patty Education Editor

SIXTY students at a Sydney high school can expect to be labelled failures 76 times over the next four years under the compulsory A to E grading system, the school's principal says.

Judy King, the principal at Riverside Girls High School, near Gladesville, said 60 of her 1050 students were struggling to learn and cope with the demands of the curriculum in years 7 to 10.

The students do not qualify as special education students, who are exempt from A to E grading.

Ms King is a highly respected educator who was previously the deputy president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council, which represents the heads of NSW high schools.

"Let us not be fooled by the pious claptrap from educational bureaucrats and political spin doctors about the grades labelling only the work produced by the students and not the students themselves," she said. "Who are they kidding?

"Whether we like it or not, the students who struggle to learn will be labelled as failures and can look forward to 76 grade Es over their four years of junior high school if we go ahead and implement the educationally indefensible grading regime."

Ms King said a below-average 13-year-old student who had a reading age of about nine could expect to receive 20 grade Es in her first year of high school.

Such a student could expect another 20 E grades in year 8, 18 in year 9 and 18 in year 10.

"If the Federal Government has indicated that grades A to E or their equivalent are acceptable, then why has the NSW Government mandated A to E for years 1 to 10?" Ms King asked.

The Federal Government has made it compulsory for schools to mark students against five bands, "which must be labelled as A, B, C, D, E (or an equivalent), and these must be defined against specific learning standards".

The State Government has insisted on using the A to E system for the sake of consistency across all schools, but recently reversed the decision for years 1 and 2 for subjects other than maths and English.

"If the State Government is mandating a literal A to E, that is up to them," said a spokesman for the federal Education Minister, Julie Bishop.

Ms Bishop said parents wanted to know, in plain English, how their children were performing in each subject and how they compared with their peers.

A spokeswoman for the NSW Department of Education said the purpose of the A to E grading system was to ensure parents, teachers and students had clear information about a student's progress so that any learning gaps could be identified early and addressed.

The Secondary Principals' Council will meet next week to review its position on the A to E reports, after the NSW Teachers Federation decided to step up its opposition to the grading system.

The NSW Opposition's policy on grading exempts students from kindergarten to year 3 and says reporting for students in years 4 to 6 should be at the discretion of each school.

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