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"Board of Studies lashed over HSC" and other stories (1 Viewer)

Lazarus

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Board of Studies lashed by Ombudsman over HSC

ANNA PATTY EDUCATION EDITOR
September 24, 2009

THE NSW Board of Studies has been forced to release raw HSC results it spent thousands of dollars trying to keep secret, after the Ombudsman criticised its lack of transparency over how exam results are scaled.

The move has vindicated a former HSC student, Hugh Parsonage, who in 2005 applied for his raw exam marks and those of 50 other students, using freedom of information laws.

The Ombudsman, Bruce Barbour, found the Office of the Board of Studies was wrong in rejecting the application, saying its handling of the case ''from beginning to end, is of serious concern''.

He said the board expected the public to accept its marking process on trust, saying ''no student currently has enough information available to them to fully understand how the final results are produced''.

The board should establish a system for students to access cut-off marks for any subject on request and publish marking guidelines, he said.

In a damning report, he said the board had made no attempt to resolve the matter, instead spending $15,000 on legal representation to prevent the unscaled marks being released.

The Ombudsman found the board had misled him during his investigation and told Mr Parsonage ''documents he requested either did not exist or could not be produced, when in fact they did exist and could be produced''.

''For an agency which depends vitally on public confidence, it appears to me … that the [board] also displayed a lack of candour and adopted tactics that had the effect of misleading both the complainant and the Ombudsman.''

The Minister for Education, Verity Firth, and the newly appointed Board of Studies president, Tom Alegounarias, said the board accepted the findings.

Mr Parsonage, a student at the Australian National University, said he was ''pleased to be vindicated''. ''It was more a matter of principle exposing how the board had dealt with my application,'' he said. ''I think students should be able to get their raw marks.''

The board has released data showing Mr Parsonage scored 73 per cent in a maths exam and a final scaled mark of 93 per cent. In chemistry he scored 87 per cent with a final mark of 93 per cent.

A spokeswoman for the board said it welcomed the recommendations. ''The Ombudsman is not questioning the accuracy of the final results sent to HSC students, or the quality of the HSC credential. He has recommended greater transparency when individuals are seeking further information about their results.''

  • The Ombudsman's 120 page report is available here.

HSC rechecks blasted by report

ANNA PATTY EDUCATION EDITOR
September 25, 2009

THE NSW Ombudsman has exposed the fallibility of the Higher School Certificate marking system in a scathing report on the workings of the NSW Board of Studies.

Bruce Barbour found that an average of 1860 students a year since 2001 have had their results rechecked in a process he criticised for not being transparent.

Between five to 28 changes were made each year as a result of the rechecks.

The Deputy Ombudsman, Chris Wheeler, who signed off on the inquiry, said that while most of the rechecks had not found mistakes, this could be an indication the system was near perfect.

''Alternatively, and more likely, in my view, it could be an indication that the current recheck system is not effective in identifying instances of genuine error,'' he said.

Mr Wheeler also criticised the Board of Studies for spending an estimated $51,000 in legal costs which could have been avoided if the board had properly handled a freedom of information request from a former HSC student.

The board spent the money in the Administrative Decisions Tribunal to prevent the former student, Hugh Parsonage, from obtaining his raw HSC marks and subject cut-off scores.

The Ombudsman found that the board was wrong in rejecting Mr Parsonage's request using freedom of information laws.

It had misled him by telling him documents he sought did not exist when they did exist, and misled the Ombudsman in his inquiry.

In his report, Mr Wheeler said ''all the information associated with the marking process should be made publicly available''.

''This is not the result the [board] would have wanted,'' he said. ''It is not appropriate to treat any member of the public as an enemy engaged in a campaign that somehow threatens the [board] and the system it administers, much less a stakeholder seeking information to explain how decisions are made that significantly affect the interests of numerous individuals.''

HSC marks out of the dark

EDITORIAL
September 25, 2009

THE Ombudsman's finding that the Board of Studies should release raw HSC marks and subject cut-off marks to students is the right one: there is no reason other than bureaucratic convenience to keep HSC candidates in the dark about the raw marks they attained in the examination. They should be told in detail, too, how those marks were scaled into their final scores.

The fact that raw marks are scaled is well known, as is the fact that the formulas and the processes which produce the final mark are complicated. But don't expect a clear explanation. A senior Board of Studies bureaucrat told the Ombudsman in evidence that ''there is an argument that we should explain better how we transform the raw marks … It would be quite a challenge for us to do it in a way that was in plain English.''

Scaling is needed to make final marks comparable from one year to another, and from one subject to another. To eliminate what it sees as needless worry, the board has turned it into what the Ombudsman describes as a black box: raw marks go in at one end, and final marks come out at the other, but as for what goes on in between, no one outside the board is allowed to know. To those who ask, ''But what if a mistake is made?'', the board answers only, ''Trust us.''

The board has said it will not release raw marks because they would only be misleading. Certainly, if people do not understand the process, the experience of having a raw mark scaled down to a lower final mark will seem baffling, possibly unfair and certainly suspicious - despite all the professionalism of markers and board personnel intended to ensure the opposite.

Will, as the board appears to fear, releasing candidates' raw marks give them the opportunity and motivation to contest the final mark - to kick up a stink and waste board resources in pointless challenges? Quite possibly. It comes down to a question, though, of how best to uphold the board's integrity. We believe transparency is more likely to boost public confidence than the present policy of keeping candidates in the dark.

The HSC is a public examination, and all results should be available to candidates. It is worrying that the Ombudsman found the board went to considerable, and highly questionable, lengths to keep the marks secret. The culture of secrecy runs deep in NSW. Constant vigilance is needed to ensure this oppressive instinct is kept in check.

Board sets a poor example

How HSC students won the right to know

People, not laws, block freedom of information
 

Member232135

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

wow, quite the scaled jump. i think i shall flick through this report.

Btw this has created quite an interesting precedent for anyone else wanting their exam information.
 

x.Exhaust.x

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

Interesting article. There are two sides to releasing raw marks IMHO:

Pros:

1. Predicting future results based on previous years.
2. Lolling that the HSC system is overrated (if a 73 mark in maths equates to a 93).
3. Actually knowing about the system more rather than being clueless.

Cons:

1. Being shattered that you received a mark of 93 BUT you only scored 73 in the exam.
2. Parents (if they give a shit).

I prefer pros =). Ombudsman ftw.
 

Member232135

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

The complainant sat his HSC exams in 2004 and 2005. During that time, he was a regular
contributor to the discussion forum on the boredofstudies.org.au website — a website used by
HSC students to share information, discuss issues that affect them, and generally support each
other through challenging times.
Mention number one of us :)
 

David Spade

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

To 73 to 93 jump may have been ext 1 or 2 which is expected.
 

Member232135

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

holy shit you have a whole section in this dedicated to this site.
 

x.Exhaust.x

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

To 73 to 93 jump may have been ext 1 or 2 which is expected.
True, but if you look at previous results for 2003:

<TABLE cellPadding=2 width="66%"><TBODY><TR><TD>2003 Board Developed Courses <TD align=middle width="20%" colSpan=2>Total Weighted
Mark
<TD align=middle width="20%" colSpan=2>Aligned Exam
Mark


<TR><TD>Chemistry <TD align=right>61/100 <TD width="6%"><TD align=right>79/100 <TD width="6%">

<TR><TD>English (Advanced) <TD align=right>73/100 <TD><TD align=right>82/100 <TD>

<TR><TD>Mathematics <TD align=right>73/120 <TD><TD align=right>82/100 <TD>

<TR><TD>Mathematics Extension 1 <TD align=right>11/84 <TD><TD align=right>17/50 <TD>

<TR><TD>Physics <TD align=right>56/100 <TD><TD align=right>78/100 <TD>

<TR><TD>Software Design and Development <TD align=right>59/100 <TD><TD align=right>79/100</TD></TR></TBODY>
</TABLE>

Notice the huge jump in most of those subjects? (especially Physics). That's definitely not expected by the ordinary student.
 

Member232135

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

There are lots of references to this website and to individual members, including Captain Pi, Ragerunner, acmilan, greeninsanity and others. :)


It was Extension 2.

Sure are, Mr James King.
 

Member232135

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

Really admiring the patience of this whole process. Page 54 so far, good read.
 

me121

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

Its good too see the matter finally resolved, even though it took much longer than it should.
 

saberbladexx

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

Does this mean anyone can lodge an application to inquire into what their raw marks were?

And if so do you have to pay a fee?
 

Captain pi

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

Does this mean anyone can lodge an application to inquire into what their raw marks were?

And if so do you have to pay a fee?
The Board has accepted the recommendation of the Ombudsman for students to obtain their raw marks. The Ombudsman recommended that a system separate to FOI be established to handle these requests. You should be able to find out marks for individual questions.

I made the request and received my raw marks. I won't release every part (too long!) but here are the question-by-question break down for Music 2:

<TABLE cellPadding=0 width="50%"><TBODY><TR><TD>2005 Music 2

<TR><TD>Performance <TD align=right>13/15

<TR><TD>Sight-singing <TD align=right>1/5 (LOL) <TD>

<TR><TD>Composition <TD align=right>13/15 <TD>

<TR><TD>Exam <TD align=right> <TD>

<TR><TD>Q1(a) <TD align=right>0/1 <TD>

<TR><TD>Q1(b) <TD align=right>2/2 <TD>

<TR><TD>Q1(c) <TD align=right>2/3 <TD>

<TR><TD>Q1(d) <TD align=right>0/2 <TD>

<TR><TD>Q2(a) <TD align=right>3/5 <TD>

<TR><TD>Q2(a) <TD align=right>3/5 <TD>

<TR><TD>Q2(b) <TD align=right>2/2 <TD>

<TR><TD>Q3(a) <TD align=right>2/3 <TD>

<TR><TD>Q3(b) <TD align=right>3/4 <TD>

<TR><TD>Q3(c) <TD align=right>2/3 <TD>

<TR><TD>Q4 <TD align=right>7/10 <TD>

<TR><TD>Musicology Essay (Option) <TD align=right>30/30 <TD>

<TR><TD>TOTAL WEIGHTED MARK <TD align=right>80/100 <TD>

<TR><TD>RANK <TD align=right>110th <TD>

<TR><TD>Examination mark <TD align=right>91/100 <TD>
</TD></TR></TBODY>
</TABLE>
 

Member232135

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

Hm since all the legwork has been done now, how long would the process of getting ones marks actually be now?
 

robm

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

how can you find out the raw marks? do you have to email or mail the boardofstudies?
 

Lazarus

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

Hm since all the legwork has been done now, how long would the process of getting ones marks actually be now?
how can you find out the raw marks? do you have to email or mail the boardofstudies?
In the past, students have been required to make an application under the Freedom of Information Act 1989 (NSW) at a cost of $30.

There is more information about that process on the Board's website.

For now, this remains the only available avenue, but the Ombudsman's findings could mean that relatively straightforward applications by a student for his or her own marks will be processed without incident.

We do not yet know whether the Board will establish an informal or other procedure for requesting marks.

More information (and the Board's official position) should become available in the near future.
 

Garygaz

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

I'm with the BOS on this one, even though it feels wrong that you can't get your marks and know the actual exact scaling used, I believe this is good. It could just lead to a greater number of students picking subjects because of scaling and more people complaining about the system. Transparency for the lose.
 

John McCain

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

It could just lead to a greater number of students picking subjects because of scaling and more people complaining about the system.
Why would you consider either of those things bad?
 

samthebear

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

lol - finally at last. but with the board now required to give students their raw marks (upon request) does it mean that NSW may stand to lose their "Smartest State" title? would that be the case? or would the marks across the state be compared to other states in terms of raw rather than scaled marks?
 

Garygaz

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re: "Board of Studies lashed over HSC", "HSC marks out of the dark"

Why would you consider either of those things bad?
Students being swayed to pick subjects they may not enjoy/be good at because of the fact that something else 'scales' better. It happens already but if scaling numbers became official it would be worse 10 fold.
 

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