A Request: Auditory Lapses

It’s SAC time and, as indicated below, I have a request for people to contact me.

A couple days ago I was talking to a Head of Maths, who suggested/requested/pleaded that I take a whack at the auditing of SACs. In principle, I’d love nothing more. (Well, I’d love a bottle of Laphroaig more, but you get the point.) Maths SACs are a soul-drowning swampland and consequently, and independently, the auditing of SACs is a Kafkaesque nightmare. That is currently amplified to 11, with the VCAA making its astonishingly stupid and ineptly delayed decision to maintain SACs during a plague year.

The difficulty with me writing on SAC audits is that, although I am generally aware of the brain-drilling arbitrariness in SAC auditing, I seldom see the specific idiocies. And, this is a case where the idiot devil is most clearly evident in the idiot details. Hence my request:

If anyone has a SAC audit horror story, please DO NOT provide the details as a comment below, but please feel free to email me.

Then, if you wish, we can chat about your horror story. Of course, I will maintain all confidences, and I will not use any information, even in an anonymised manner, without clear and specific agreement.

Even with information in hand, natural concerns for confidentially make this a very difficult topic upon which to write. I have no idea what I might be able to do. But, the first step is to see what there is to see.

Again, please don’t include specifics in the comments below, although general bitching is appropriate, welcome and to be expected.

49 Replies to “A Request: Auditory Lapses”

  1. I was informed last week that I’m being audited for Specialist 3/4. I have just over two weeks to complete the survey. I don’t have an issue with auditing, but I am surprised that the VCAA think teachers have the capacity to do audits during a pandemic.

    1. Thanks, Tizzler. Do you know or do you suspect why you were audited? How much work you think it’ll be to complete the audit? Can you postpone the audit?

    2. Hi Tizzler.

      Tell VCAA to go fuck itself. Seriously. Here is the 2020 audit advice straight from the mealey-mouths of those turds (Notice 54 2020 and dated May 6):

      https://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/administration/schooladministration/notices/2020/Pages/54.aspx

      I quote (the second point is relevant to your circumstances):

      Schools that have not yet submitted enough evidence to show that VCAA assessment standards and requirements are being met may either:

      1) elect to be contacted by the VCAA Curriculum Manager to discuss the planned assessment for the remainder of Unit 3 and submit any further evidence as requested by the Curriculum Manager

      2) withdraw their audit submission for the relevant VCE study and defer the audit to a future date, to be advised by the VCAA. Schools that indicate they wish to defer the audit will not be recorded as non-compliant in relation to the 2020 Unit 3 audit process.

      The Audit Report will include a link to an online form, where schools must state their intention either to continue with the 2020 Unit 3 audit process, including submitting any further evidence as discussed with the Curriculum Manager; or to withdraw their 2020 Unit 3 audit submission and defer the audit to a future date.

      So if you’re so inclined, tell them to go fuck themselves.

      1. Hi, JF. Just to be clear, if someone like Tizzler is audited (which I take to mean being asked to justify the compliance of a previous SAC), then, as a plague-concession, VCAA permits them to delay-transfer that justification to a future and unspecified date SAC?

        1. Yes Marty, that’s my understanding (and the understanding of my colleagues) of what the Notice says. I don’t see any other possible way it could be understood, but it wouldn’t surprise me if VCAA pulled some sort of cheap back-flip stunt.

          But I have an uneasy sudden feeling that Tizzler is being audited for Unit 4 ….

          And re-reading this notice, I can see VCAA’s loop-hole: The Notice only explicitly mentions Unit 3 ….

          I think that it could be convincingly argued in a court of law that given the current circumstances, there is an implication that the Notice does/should also apply to Unit 4 (note that Unit 4 is not explicitly excluded from this notice). But given that VCAA are such pricks ….

          Anyway, I think any school would have reasonable grounds on the basis of this Notice to tell VCAA to go fuck itself for any Unit 4 SAC audit. Seriously, what can VCAA do? If it tried to punish the school, I think the public would quite rightly crucify VCAA once it got out (and believe me, it would get out). And if every school told VCAA to go fuck itself …. (A collective ‘conscientious’ objection ….)

          So my advice stands (and I would love to take these creeps on in court).

  2. I am being audited in Further 3&4 – it’s my 4th (!!!) audit in seven years…Talk about randomness….I am having to write an audit-compliant Unit 4 SAC. Like I don’t have enough stress teaching VCE classes face-to-face and junior Maths online! But those fuckers just don’t care. That’s my gripe for today.

    1. Thanks, Had … Feel free to email me.

      Is “having to write an audit compliant SAC” different from being audited? Do you know why or do you suspect why you have been audited so frequently?

      1. Marty, if you’re being audited and want to pass the audit, you must, unfortunately, write (or at least try to write) an ‘audit-compliant’ SAC (probably). However, this is only the case if VCAA don’t like your on-line submission (Stage 1) and decides to escalate to Stage 2.

        So my alternate advice to Tizzler and Had is:

        Fill the on-line submission (Stage 1) with all the bullshit that VCAA loves to hear. Bullshit like:

        Situations requiring investigative techniques and approaches where students are asked to analyse and discuss these applications of mathematics are included. Open-ended questions and an element of student choice are included to allow students to demonstrate the key knowledge and skills at the highest level.

        etc. etc. etc. Make sure you state that you exactly follow the VCAA marking rubrics and explain how (this could be how you would do it in theory if not in practice ….) Once you’re on a (toilet) roll it shouldn’t take long to do. Whether or not the SAC lives up to all this hype is up to the teacher ….

        With a bit of luck, that will be the end of it and VCAA will never want to see the actual SAC. (But I’m not sure VCAA wouldn’t escalate to Stage 2 regardless of what’s said in Stage 1 – simply so that the auditor-muppet can garner relevance).

        There is useful advice to be found here: https://mathematicalcrap.com/2020/05/03/sacs-of-shit/

          1. First, I’d ‘request’ a delay on the audit due to Restrictions 2.0.

            If that doesn’t work (we’d all like to know if it doesn’t) I’d focus on the wording of the Stage 1 On-line Questionnaire – pile on the bullshit. Remember that the SAC you write versus the SAC you said you wrote can sometimes be two different things …

            With a bit of good luck the ‘evidence’ you provide with your answers will end the audit.

            However, if it escalates to having to provide a copy of the SAC and its solutions, give them what you write and damn the torpedoes. If it passes, it passes. If it fails, it fails. And if your principal gets narky, simply remark that unfair dismissal is a very bad look for a school, particularly these days …

            Best wishes. Take comfort from the fact that most schools fail audits (this is not common knowledge and VCAA would love to keep it that way – because there’s strength in numbers). Most cars are unroadworthy, you just have to look hard enough and be petty enough. Remind your principal that SACs are like cars, and that some VCAA asshole is the petty person looking hard.

      2. They wanted to audit me last semester in Unit 3 but I opted to defer it to Unit 4 – this way i have to write only ONE SAC instead of two this year…it’s a pain in the arse anyway. See my comments below for detail.

        1. What were the deferment options? Or was there only one option: Defer to Unit 4?

          Just tell VCAA that you acted in good faith at the time (May – 2 months ago) but circumstances have changed for the worse and it’s even more unreasonable to submit to a Unit 4 audit under the current circumstances.

          (If they persist, I’d be telling them that I’ll get a court injunction – fabulous publicity for VCAA)

    2. Hi Hadeanuffovit.

      An understandable and very reasonable reaction to VCAA’s bullshit.

      Here’s my advice.

      1) Don’t stress.

      2) Write the SAC that you think is appropriate and fair on yourself and on your students.

      3) Tell VCAA to go fuck itself. (See the advice given to Tizzler)

      Best wishes. If it’s any comfort, many teachers are in the same boat. To all of them I offer the same advice (and that includes a colleague of mine).

      The good that might come out of all this (it’s an ill wind that blows no good) is that teachers, heads of department, principals and schools might all become a bit more united and join together in telling VCAA to go fuck itself. If enough schools can get united, the DuLL VCAA turds can be pressured to climb down from the Magic Faraway and enter the land of teaching reality.

      1. JF, my understanding is that a few years back a group of prominent Heads of Maths complained to VCAA about audits, with no effect. I can guess how the Heads may have screwed up, but I don’t know the details.

        1. Well, most of these Heads will probably be unwilling to put their ahem neck on the block if push comes to shove. All heads have mouths but not too many have legs – They generally talk the walk, but seldom walk the talk.

          If enough schools unite (particularly ‘influential’ schools) and refuse VCAA’s more egregious demands, what are VCAA going to do – ban those schools from the VCE? I don’t think so. VCAA is like any other bully. Stand up to it, give it a blood nose and it will back off. But it requires a critical mass of united and determined schools. If the AEU had a back-bone, things would get sorted out very quickly and some of these VCAA DuLLards would be put back in their place. (But the AEU became an invertebrate many years ago).

          It could start as simply as every school refusing to comply with a VCAA audit for the indefinite future … (Of course, this would also require Principals putting their necks on the block, and most haven’t reached where they are by exposing their necks and joining a revolt … This is particularly true in general for Principals in Govt schools, who are always conscious of their political masters).

  3. It may be of random interest, but I asked VCAA once (and got a reply!) what would happen if my school happened to fail a Unit 3 audit.

    They said my principal would be informed and I would automatically be audited for Unit 4.

    Make of that what you will.

    1. The $64 question is what would happen if you failed the Unit 4 audit. An automatic audit of Unit 3 the following year? And then you fail that one too? Three strikes and you’re out …? Or do they just keep automatically auditing and you can just keep failing …?

      So you could deliberately keep failing – like a series of deliberate rushed behinds (https://www.sen.com.au/news/2016/07/31/terry-wallace-on-bowden-point-saga/) (Apologies to Number 8 for bluntly making “of that what you will” …)

      1. Well, seriously, what is the worst VCAA can do? Not allow the school to enroll students in the subject the following year? Now that would be a big punishment, but since it would hurt the students more than the teacher, I really doubt they would do it.

        Part of me feels that the fear of VCAA is largely unfounded and VCAA auditors are being a pain because they can get away with it (maybe they are all disgruntled ex teachers?)

        Still not keen to find out though (which is why they get away with it)

        1. Number 8 – Our school is small and that’s why (IMHO) we get audited virtually every year – IT, FM, Spesh, Methods, Chemistry, Physics…Our principal once informed us in writing – ” if you keep failing the audit I cannot protect you if the school board decides to sack you” – howzzat for cute??? Talk about support from the management…does that answer your question?

          1. Yes.

            But it raises a few more questions – why does the board have the right to sack a teacher? That should be the sole discretion of the principal. The board can sack the principal and no-one else, surely?

          2. Hadeanuffovit, I’m sorry to hear that. It sounds like your principal is as weak as piss (many are, they’re only interested in making sure they look).

            The words ‘Unfair dismissal’ and the damaging publicity that comes with this might change your principal’s tune. And with a bit of support from colleagues, who knows … A small school, particularly in this current climate, can’t afford the collateral damage – who’d want to work for a weak-as-piss principal and a school board that sacks teachers because of petty VCAA behaviour? Teachers are getting harder and harder to replace, particularly these days.

            1. thank you John. This principal left a few weeks ago, and the new one who just took over appears to be overwhelmed with the whole COVID situation (not surprising!)
              Anyway, I almost finished the Unit 4 SAC (70% done) – it’s gonna be totally audit-compliant but I would NEVER give it to my students! My deadline is 10 August – questionnaire and all…we will see what happens. I will keep everyone here informed re the outcome. Take care and stay safe!

              1. Does VCAA want a copy of the SAC by August 10 or are you simply required to submit the on-line questionnaire by August 10?

                My understanding is that Stage 1 simply requires submission of the questionnaire. If VCAA is not happy with this submission it escalates to Stage 2.

                If some pissant VCAA auditor also wants the SAC by August 10, tell him/her to go fuck him/her self. Remind this VCAA stooge of your legal rights:

                Students do not have to sit the SAC until at least the start of Term 4. So the SAC does not have to be ready until then. VCAA has no legal right to demand a copy of the SAC before then.

                VCAA are well known for trying to squeeze teachers into providing SACs before the SAC needs to be ready. They have tried that stunt on me. VCAA is a bully – it gets away with things like this because too many teachers are too intimidated to assert themselves. But I think many teachers are growing sick and tired of VCAA’s bully-boy tactics and are starting to push back.

                Do not allow some pompous VCAA asshole to put you under illegal pressure.

                Good luck with your audit, keep us informed. By the way, any material you give VCAA is your school’s intellectual property, NOT VCAA’s – make sure you assert this.

                Re: School Principal. Good riddance to your old one. A helluva time for a new principal (particularly if they’re freshly minted) – try to give him/her whatever support you can. If every teacher focuses on teaching to the best of his/her ability in these challenging times, the process will take of itself. I’d love to be a young teacher at the moment (but with the stupid fucking VIT Portfolio out of the way) – what stories I’d be able to tell in 20-30 years time …

        2. Some (maybe most) are current teachers (VCAA put’s a call out every so often). Some have delusions of grandeur, others have delusions of adequacy. In both cases s/he is completely caught up in their own self-importance and constant need to prove his/her relevance. A rare few are competent, humble and have nothing to prove. Having said this, all are trapped in the DuLL net of VCAA audit-compliance criteria.

          The ideal scenario would be that nobody offers to be a VCAA auditor (or assessor etc.) – unfortunately life is full of petty pissant sycophants who love the sanctioned petty power that such positions offer.

  4. I just found out that we’re being audited for specialist maths…just what I needed. We probably got chosen since it was not offered last year due to lack of numbers and we have always had small classes.

    None of the past exam style SACs I was given would pass. Any idea where to begin when writing an audit compliant SAC? I’m the only one in the school with Specialist 34 experience and this is my first year teaching the course. I was thinking of buying a commercial one and making modifications. Are there any commercial SACs which are audit compliant or I should start from scratch/begin with a VCAA sample one?

    Really can’t afford fail this audit. It would give the principal the ammunition to cancel the course next year (technically, we would offer it online through another school). Would be a shame since our year 11s are the strongest students we’ve had in years.

    Just a bit lost here and like everyone else, short on time.

    1. Thanks, studyroom, and good luck. There are smart guys who comment on this blog. I am sure they will offer some good advice.

    2. studyroom, whenever I have to write a bullshit audit-compliant SAC – I start with looking at their sample SACs – VCAA website – and try my best to stick to it.Worked like a charm with my MM 3&4 audit in 2018! Extremely time-consuming though…Good luck and keep us posted!

    3. Hi studyroom.

      Here are some suggestions:

      1) I would try to defer the audit on the grounds that Restrictions 2.0 have placed schools and teachers under similar pressures to Restrictions 1.0. To impose an audit is typical VCAA and manifestly unfair. Many schools are taking this approach. There are DuLL people in VCAA trying to garner relevance for themselves.

      2) If that fails, try again. Perhaps suggest to the pissant you’re dealing with that the media might be interested in knowing how VCAA are bullying teachers in these challenging and stressful times. Escalate your complaint. I hear from reliable sources that Suzy Chandler (Executive Director, Curriculum Division, VCAA) is a very reasonable person.

      3) If that fails, then take it to the media if you are so inclined (I would, but that’s just me). But in the meantime the key is to fill the on-line submission (Stage 1) with all the bullshit that VCAA loves to hear. Bullshit like:

      Situations requiring investigative techniques and approaches where students are asked to analyse and discuss these applications of mathematics are included. Open-ended questions and an element of student choice are included to allow students to demonstrate the key knowledge and skills at the highest level.

      Make sure you state that you exactly follow the VCAA marking rubrics and explain how you will do this (this could be how you would do it in theory if not in practice ….) Once you’re on a (toilet) roll it shouldn’t take long to do. Whether or not the SAC lives up to all this hype is up to you ….

      With a bit of luck, that will be the end of it and VCAA won’t want to see your actual SAC.

      4) If it escalates to VCAA wanting a copy of your SAC, have an audit compliant SAC ready. An audit compliant SAC will contain all of the above bullshit. Say that it’s a draft because you’re still working on it because it’s not scheduled to run until whenever (as you are entitled to do – VCAA do NOT have a right to ask for a finished product until the deadline for students to sit a finished product). Say that solutions are not yet available, but be very clear about how it will be marked. Again, what you say versus what you actually do will depend on the final draft ….

      In my experience, an early draft is usually different the final draft …. (read into that what you will).

      Note: If a commercial SAC bought from a commercial organisation is NOT audit compliant, then your school has legitimate legal grounds to take that organisation to the ACCC and to seek appropriate compensation. The key to using a commercial SAC is to make sure that you make appropriate changes. For example, I acquired a commercial SAC with the name (and theme that comes with it) “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Mathematical Adventure”. The first thing I did was change the name to “Dude, Where’s My CAS?” It was simple to make other superficial changes so that it looked nothing like the one I acquired. These days, a good commercial SAC will even suggest where changes can be made …. I would ask the commercial organisation you’re potentially thinking of buying from to provide a written statement that the SAC you bought was VCAA-audit-compliant.

      As for your principal, with the STEM fetish in full swing s/he would find it hard to justify dropping Specialist Maths if you have sufficient numbers to run a stand-alone class (particularly if you have strong students). The prospect of parent pressure and some negative media publicity should such thoughts be entertained might dampen a small-minded principal’s ammunition.

      Best wishes. Keep us informed and feel free to ask for further advice. You are one of hundreds of teachers VCAA is trying to screw with audits at the moment. Teachers need audits right now like Custer needed more indians.

      It’s a shame your principal is not a person of principles, otherwise as a school you could tell VCAA to go fuck itself. What’s VCAA going to do? Say that you’re very naughty and audit you next year? I think if enough schools take this approach VCAA might issue a statement similar to the one from a few months ago.

  5. The two following quotes are taken directly from a published VCAA document Audit information advice to schools

    “The audit is a necessary component of the VCAA’s management of quality; its purpose is not punitive or personal.”

    “The selection of studies for audit is random, except in instances where:
    • a school did not meet requirements in the previous year and has been carried into the next year
    • a school is offering a study either for the first time or where there has been a gap of three or more years since the last time it was offered.
    The audit process supports schools to identify instances for improvement and to set up professional conversations about teaching and learning. ”

    Fact-checkers, get to it!

    1. Thanks, N8. Had, I’m happy for you to straight out hate the VCAA. But facts matter, too. If the audits were not random in the manner they should be, that is important.

    2. Those quotes do not change the fact that VCAA audits on SACs at this time is egregious, unreasonably onerous on teachers and, one could argue, punitive (unintentional or not) as a consequence.

      Incidently: Who audits the auditor? And where are the “necessary components of VCAA’s management of quality” when it comes to VCAA exams and examination reports??

      1. JF, Your last question is what really bothers me about this. Have VCAA ever published any information on how their SAC auditing process is resulting in better educational outcomes for students? The whole process just seems entirely driven by a paper-thin ideology.

  6. Should have said above, I’m interested if anyone has evidence of VCAA or their school (meaning the Principal, but could be any of the managers) writing or doing something which goes against what VCAA has written in the document from which I’m quoting?

  7. Now might be a good time to tell VCAA to go fuck itself.

    And after giving VCAA this well-deserved advice, you might also find out from VCAA if there’s any truth to the rumour that it’s planning to cancel 2020 exams.

        1. two options
          1. submit before 24 Aug (not 10th as before)
          2. Not submit and wait for further instructions.

          I am taking the 1st option

            1. I love the “wait for further instructions”. The classic line used by every kidnapper. Indeed, VCAA are attempting to hold teachers to ransom.

              How hard to simply give option 1 or option 2 from last semester?

    1. The announcement yesterday is another decision with massive workload impacts for schools. I’ve heard that VTAC weren’t pre-warned of More-Lippo’s statement and now have to assess whether they need to adjust anything. Let’s hope for some clarity and details next week (I doubt they’ll come from More-Lippo – he’ll be returning to MIA status).

      Yet again he shoots his mouth off without the full details or facts (
      https://7news.com.au/news/vic/manor-lakes-college-principal-reinstated-after-dragging-a-pupil-through-school-c-65880

      https://www.3aw.com.au/apologise-mr-merlino-principal-reinstated-parents-turn-on-education-minister/ )

      Here are just a few unanswered questions (there are many more):

      What effect does this have on Y11 students doing a 3-4 subject this year? Do they all get special consideration and an adjusted study score that will be used to calculate their ATAR in 2021?

      Can Yr 12 students doing a University subject ask for special consideration from the university? Can a 65% student who made no effort but claims disadvantage become an 85% student and get a better ‘increment’ than an 80% student who put in a lot of effort? How can such a disadvantage even be assessed?

      Will it devalue the work of students who put in a lot of effort versus students who didn’t? Can hard-working students be ‘leap-frogged’ in the rankings by other students?

      How is the process protected from rorting by students (and schools – Don’t think for one minute that there won’t be schools desperately trying every trick in the book to inflate the results of their students in an attempt to get a marketing advantage in 2021)?

      I understand and totally support that genuine disadvantage must be considered. There are many students who have suffered genuine disadvantage. And there are already mechanisms in place for considering this. More-Lippo’s statement is rhetorical bullshit that has opened a Pandora’s box. And he’s not the one that has to deal with the blow-back.

      1. Agreed JF. I teach at a school where, broadly speaking, students are from below average SES households. I’m baffled why a significant number of my colleagues think that exams should be cancelled and students should receive some sort of derived score based on internal scores or whatnot… That sort of system definitely seems like it favours better resourced schools or students from higher SES households. Putting aside various other legitimate complaints one might have about standardised tests, they are more objective than any sort of derived score or “learner profile”, and at least give a clear pathway for all Year 12 students – regardless of which school they attend – to gain entrance to their chosen university course.

        And trying to rank students by how they would have gone had Covid-19 not happened… For most students this will not affect their ranking.

        1. Nicely put, SRK. But More-Lippo is hardly going to say that rankings won’t change for most students. He has to shoot his mouth off with meaningless rhetoric. (My personal opinion is that he’s eyeing off leadership of the ALP, I haven’t seen him stand side-by-side with Dan all that often).

          Re: Cancelling exams. Yes! I too have many colleagues who feel the same way and I’ve found their attitude equally baffling. Cancelling exams is guaranteed to create all sorts of new and even greater stress. I don’t know why exam dates can’t simply be pushed back a bit and ATARs released early January. The argument that this would create too much stress for students over Christmas is completely spurious in my opinion.

          1. This is getting off track, but I have noticed that a lot of teachers / educators seem to think making students feel good is the same as making students better off.

    2. Thanks, JF. It smells the same to me. I don’t see that any reassuring words will alter the VCAA performing some manner of voodoo.

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