It’s been a long, long time. Alas, we’ve been kept way too busy by the Evil Mathologer, as well as some edu-idiots, who shall remain nameless but not unknown. Anyway, with luck normal transmission has now resumed. There’s a big, big backlog of mathematical crap to get through.
To begin, there’s a shocking news story that has just appeared, about schools posting “wrong Year 12 test scores” and being ordered to remove them by the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre. Naughty, naughty schools!
The report tells of how two Victorian private schools had conflated Victoria’s VCE subject scores and International Baccalaureate subject scores. The schools had equated the locally lesser known IB scores of 6 or 7 to the more familiar VCE ATAR of 40+, to then arrive at a combined percentage of such scores. Reportedly, this raised the percentage of “40+” student scores at the one school from around 10% for VCE alone to around 25% for combined VCE-IB, with a comparable raise for the other school. More generally, it was reported that about a third of IB students score a 6 or 7, whereas only about one in eleven VCE scores are 40+.
On the face of it, it seems likely that the local IB organisation that had suggested Victorian schools use the 6+ = 40+ equation got it wrong. That organisation is supposedly reviewing the comparison and the two schools have removed the combined percentages from their websites.
There are, however, a few pertinent observations to be made:
- VCE students and IB students are not the same. Among those Victorian students with the choice, it is a pretty safe bet that the stronger students would more often be taking IB.
- Why? In mathematics at least, and it’s a fair guess in other subjects as well, VCE is crap and IB is not.
- VTAC administers as an official matter of course all manner of dubious ATAR computations, including at least one or two that are unarguably silly.
- For at least five years, VTAC seriously bollocksed the ATAR scaling of Specialist Mathematics, stuffing up the tertiary plans of God knows how many students. VTAC never publicly apologised.
None of the sense or substance of the above is hinted at in the schools-bad/VTAC-good news report.
Of course the underlying issue is tricky. Though the IBO tries very hard to compare IB scores, it is obviously very difficult to compare IB apples to VCE oranges. We have no idea whether or how one could create a fair and useful comparison. We do know, however, that accepting VTAC’s cocky sanctimony as the last word on this subject, or any subject, would be foolish.