An Offer: Checking For SACking Offences

Pauline Baynes

This is an open offer to review Methods and Specialist SACs. Here are the conditions:

0) The review is free. (You can consider donating to Tenderfeet.)

1) You may email me any Methods or Specialist SAC, by anyone.

2) You should indicate whether or not you are the writer of the SAC.

3) If you are the writer of the SAC, I will be diplomatic.*

4) It’s on your head, in particular for future SACs, if you’re breaking confidentiality rules or conventions. This is not my concern.

5) I will keep all SACs confidential, except to the extent there is explicit agreement otherwise. (See 12-14, below.)

6) Future SACs should, at minimum, be close to a final draft.

7) All SACs should include solutions and a grading scheme.

8) I may decline to review a SAC for being too old, or for other reasons.

9) I will review only for mathematical sense and mathematical correctness.

10) In particular, I will not check for, and do not give a stuff about, VCAA compliance.

11) I will not check all arithmetic and a review should not be taken as a guarantee that the SAC is error-free.

12) Each time I review a SAC I will record so below, with brief and, modulo points 13 and 14, anonymity-preserving comments.

13) I will identify commercial SACs as such, possibly indicating the commercial entity.

14) If you are the author of the SAC and you agree, I will consider making a separate post, to review the SAC in detail and to allow for comment.


I will be interested to see who is brave enough to enter (and who is tossed into) the lion’s den.


*) Yes, I am capable of diplomacy. I just prefer to do without.

UPDATE (26/7)

We have our first taker: a brave soul has entered the den. I’ll look at the proffered SAC asap. I was also asked what I am after, in making this offer, which is a fair question. The answer is two-fold:

a) (Jekyll) I’m making a genuine offer to provide a critique of a SAC from a mathematical perspective, for any writer who wants it. I’m hoping that by providing such a critique, the writer will become more attuned to any mathematical shortcomings in their (and all) SACs, and in VCE generally. Hopefully then, to the limited extent that VCAA’s idiot curriculum permits it, this will help the writer produce more mathematically coherent and rich SACs in the future.

b) (Hyde) I’m looking to see as much as I can of the nonsense the SAC system is producing. This will allow me to confirm for any teacher or student who has been served swill that they have indeed been served swill. It will also allow me to write upon such SACs, even if in very oblique terms.

UPDATE (27/7)

OK, this post is being steered away from what I intended, but I’m happy to let others steer.

First, a clarification. By “SAC”, I mean any school-based Year 12 assessment that counts towards the final VCE grade. I don’t care if the assessment takes five minutes or five days.

Now, the question is what to do with SACs offered to me by authors? I have two currently. I can either

a) Make the SACs into posts on this blog. The SACs would then be a basis for discussion, and a model for future SACs, but the SACs themselves would presumably not be usable. (Again, I don’t give a stuff about protocol, but obviously teachers must.)


b) Keep the SACs off the site, except for brief comments below, and set up a Free SACs to Good Home post. Teachers can then contact me to obtain copies.

Readers can suggest to me what they prefer. They can also suggest how (b) might work in practice.

36 Replies to “An Offer: Checking For SACking Offences”

    1. I’m up for sharing past SACs. I don’t consider them “good”. Just the best I could come up with in the time available.

      A small number of Methods SAC 1 tasks and a few Specialist SACs 1 to 3.

      I doubt any of them would pass a VCAA audit based on what others have said about the audit process.

      1. Thanks, N8. Given the curriculum, it is very, very difficult to make a good SAC.

        You can email me as well, but how do you envisage sharing the SACs? Are you OK with me posting the SACs in some manner? Or am I to be a Barbra Streisandish matchmaker, with people contacting me?

        I had thought of this post and this offer to educate people about SACs, but obviously the sharing of SACs is well worthwhile. I’m happy to consider whatever people think might help.

        1. Maybe once you’ve critiqued, the author may be prepared to respond to questions from others?

          When it comes to SAC writing, I find getting the “idea” to be the hardest part.

          Unless there are multiple teachers who need to OK it. In that case, getting others to agree to a marking scheme is the hard part.

          1. N8, if you, or any author, is happy to have their SAC open to public critique (and thus sharing), I’d leave it for commenters to critique first. That would presumably be more general, including the practical issue of VCAA compliance, about which I do not give a stuff.

            I’m still not sure what you are picturing here, but maybe email me and we can discuss.

    2. SRK, I’m not quite sure what you have in mind, but obviously the more that good SACs are viewable and available, the better for everyone. Of course any SAC posted on this blog would be public, and so could at most be used as a starting point for a future SAC. But that could still be useful, and I’m happy to have this blog assist in any such SAC sharing.

      1. Thanks Marty, I did not have anything specific in mind, was just an expression of hopefulness (hope?) from a relatively inexperienced and resource poor Specialist teacher.

        1. No worries, SRK. It’s a very good idea. Hopefully we can figure something out. I’m discussing things with a guinea pig as we speak.

    3. For what it’s worth, I’ve sent Marty a copy of one of my favourite SACs (based on a commercial SAC but modified). It was an Application Task and so will need shortening. Part 3 could be dumped. I’d probably keep Part 1 and use the generalisation in Part 2. The solutions are detailed and so any changes to equations or values can be easily tracked. I would definitely change the title, all names and the narrative. Alternative narratives should be simple to create.

      Copies can be requested from Marty. I’m pretty sure all of the mathematical content is OK. But it comes with some warnings:

      1) It’s pdf format – so any modified Analysis Task would need to be typed using it as a source (although there are all sorts of clever software that might faithfully convert it to word format and then it’s a simple copy, paste, change …) I’d provide the word files but then you would all see that my real name is John Enemyofvcaafuckwits.

      2) I’d make the SAC directly available here but then it becomes public, VCAA stooges see it, and it becomes unusable for teachers this year.

      3) As long as the generalisation is kept, I’m pretty sure any modifications would be VCAA Audit-compliant. But it has not had the pleasure of being VCAA audited so I’m only guessing.

      4) It’s a tough SAC, written for tough customers – additional scaffolding, or simply the gifting of results in the preamble to a question, might be necessary.

      5) It’s a modified version of an old but commercially available SAC.

      So it might be unusable, but then again it might be a useful source to start from if writing your own SAC.

      Anyway, best regards to all teachers. We’re doing a tough job in tough times and we’re smashing it. Teach on, dudes!

  1. JF – Methods or Specialist?

    I’ve sent through a Specialist Unit 3 SAC for public critique that I used last year. Being the only teacher I don’t care if it can’t be used in the future since I’ll be writing a new one anyway.

    Again, prefer names and name of school kept out of it.

    Marty, in response to your question (putting this publicly for others to convince me otherwise if they wish) – I’d prefer it if at first you only posted certain parts of certain questions that were particularly in need of critique/debate but I’m fine if after a few weeks you supply the whole document to others with a few disclaimers (SAC has not been audited, not from a commercial organisation, written by one teacher with not as much experience as a lot of the commenters on this blog etc)

    1. Thanks, N8. Why would you prefer that at first I post just parts of your SAC? I’m happy to consider it, but it feels more natural to me to just post it all, including routine parts.

          1. OK. Be nice, everyone… I’m not as experienced as many of you. I spent a lot of my teaching career in the IB world and had to learn about SACs only a few years ago…

            …it was an eye-opening world of difference to the IB Internal Assessments.

            1. N8, I’m sorry you had to plummet so spectacularly from such great heights. Yep, the contrast is an absolute gobsmacker. If the IB didn’t cost, I have no doubt it would have the majority market share of students. Maybe then we’d see a humbler VCAA, desperately trying to maintain relevance.

              On a related note: The old IB portfolio tasks from both SL and HL contain some great ideas for SACs in both Methods and Specialist.

              1. Yeah… it was a great time… being an IB DP coordinator, before the school closed and the directors ran off overseas and failed to front their own court date to answer to the parents where all the school fees went…

                I’ve actually used the old HL options as inspiration for SM SACs (especially in the statistics topic) and some of the old portfolio tasks make really good Year 11 Specialist assignments. I find the SL data analysis tasks a little bit too predictable; they were great for their purpose, but VCE doesn’t really do data analysis except maybe in FM SACs which I haven’t taught since 2004!

                NSW HSC extension 2 papers have also been one of my go-to sources for ideas. The papers are freely available online although the focus is much more aligned with the IB way of doing Mathematics (the pure and proper way) than VCE, so some heavy modification is required.

                1. Indeed. I archive all the NSW HSC Maths exams – they always have some great questions. I’m always pleased to see them published very soon after the students sit them, and the marking schemes get published not long after that.

                  NESA can do this, but VCAA can’t (or won’t). I’d love a straight answer from VCAA for why that is. The closest I’ve gotten to an answer – which I think is complete bullshit – is that the maths papers have to pass through the VCAA legal team for copyright checks. I think the simple truth is that the DuLL maths people at VCAA are self-serving pricks that don’t give a shit about teachers.

                  1. One would hope that copyright checks were done BEFORE students sat for the exams…

                    What happens if an issue is found afterwards? They don’t publish the paper despite it already being seen by a large number of witnesses and teachers no doubt having a spare copy 30 minutes into the exam?

                    Logic seems absent here.

                    1. Hi, RF. As JF says, whatever the legitimate copyright concerns, it is of course a feeble excuse for months of delay.

                      Amusingly, the early NAPLAN tests violated copyright: apparently their subcontractor grabbed clip art from places they shouldn’t have. So, the papers available now through FOI have substituted pictures.

                  2. I agree J(n)F. The NSW exams do have mathematical rigour in them, particularly the Extension 2 exams.
                    How does NSW get a superior mathematics subject that VIC doesn’t?
                    I’ve also been very perplexed as to the reason why the exams come out so late, and the assessor’s reports even later. And even then, there’s amendments that get made.

                    You’d think that with all the nitpicking of exam answers in terms of things such as notation, brackets, etc etc, they’d take a dose of their own medicine and treat teachers with some level of dignity and respect.

                    I could go on and on and on…

                    1. Hi, Steve. Yes, VCAA’s hypocritical combination of pedantic demand and slovenliness is inexcusable.

                      As for NSW, at least since the 70s their curriculum seemed more pure, more driven by proof. The Victorian curriculum in the 70s was excellent but more applied. Perhaps that applied aspect meant the Victorian curriculum was more open to corruption by calculators and pseudo-modeling, and to the fifth rate nitwits who pushed, and push, this stuff.

                    2. Indeed – there’s a Status Quo song busting to break out … (Down down standards are down ….)

                      VCAA would choke on its own medicine. It’s VCAA’s incompetence, sanctimonious hypocrisy and lack of respect for teachers that makes them so easy to loathe.

    2. It’s an oldish Specialist Maths Application Task. I think the first two parts – modified – would be a good basis for an Analysis task .

  2. OK, I have three SACS now, with a third from a non-author. I have a bunch of blog and non-blog things to sort in the next day or two, but I’ll discuss further with the senders and post something in the next day or two.

  3. Marty,

    I get the gist of the term “SAC”, but for those new to your site and located in far distant lands (yes, she has acres of land!) would you define the term and what it is used for (i.e. sorting students…)? Sorry if I’ve missed this answer posted before.

    1. Thanks, Steve, and I’m sorry for not having explained the term. I’m never sure whether or how much to explain about the specific Victorian/Australian setting of such posts. Others here can better explain the weirdities, but here it is in brief.

      In Victoria (and, in various forms, in other states), the final year of school has both external and internal assessment: the internal assessment is called “School Assessed Coursework”, or SAC. I believe the weighting is about 2/3 – 1/3 for external – internal, but the system is very complicated, with the external results used in a weird manner to adjust the internal results. SACs can be in multiple related parts, over a number of days, with the idea of testing on a deeper “model” or “investigation”.

      The SAC system is evil and insane. I focus on the insanity, but the evilness is the greater concern. What the system means is that senior students have significant assessment pretty much all the time they are learning, and so the whole year they are stressed out of their brains. They have almost no time to focus properly on the learning, rather than the assessment of the stuff they haven’t yet properly learned.

      The insanity of maths SACs, which is my focus, has to do with the practical impossibility and teachers’ incapability to write and assess the kind of “investigation” that the authorities demand. This stems from teachers’ poor training, from the thinness of the subjects, and from the demands that the SACs be thoroughly polluted with CAS, topped off with a Little Hitler auditing system than Terry Gilliam would be proud of.

      1. In Methods and Specialist (since that is the SACs most likely to be critiqued here) internal assessment is worth 34% of the final grade, paper 1 (1 hour, no calculators) 22% and paper 2 (2 hours, calculators allowed) 44%.

        SACs are marked against three “outcomes” but the scores all get added together to produce a number. VCAA then adjusts this number based on how students at the school perform on the exam. Exactly how they do this is a secret, despite the numerous statistical bulletins which claim otherwise. You can roughly calculate how far up or down your internal grades were adjusted, but then VCE study scores all get scaled by VTAC before the ATAR is calculated anyway…

        But in short, School Assessed Coursework is written by teachers, assessed by teachers and moderated by VCAA.

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