SACs of Redundant Shit

We have heard of two insane and essentially identical SAC stories this week. A teacher fails their SAC audit, for idiotically nitpicky reasons, and, in the height of exam season, VCAA gives them a couple weeks to resubmit the SAC. Even though the SAC has already been completed by the students.

If anybody knows what this sadistic madness is about, and what teachers can do about it, please let us all know. And, just a reminder for anyone who’s been on Mars and doesn’t yet realise: SACs are shit.

UPDATE (09/10/23)

A reader has pointed out the audit process is detailed here.

Very importantly, the reader also noted that it may be possible for the teacher to withdraw from this “Stage 2” of the audit, arguing the stress (and insanity) of revising a SAC at this late date, and given that the students have already completed the SAC. To do this, it is suggested that a semi-bigshot of the school, the VCE coordinator or a Semi-Principal, email VCAA, arguing the above and requesting the audit be deferred, to a future and reasonable date.

Also, just a quick note: this story still matters. A teacher, no one, has to simply take VCAA’s word for whatever crap VCAA throws at them. You can argue. And, whatever the formal or ad hoc process, VCAA does not like arguments, particularly if many people are arguing with them.

UPDATE (09/10/23)

We have a VIT post in preparation, was discussing it with a lawyer friend, and we were describing VIT’s sociopathic indifference to the teachers they routinely screw around. He disagreed. He argued that the conduct of VIT’s staff was more self-interested than I was allowing, and he suggested the perfect Randy Newman song to accompany the (still to come) VIT post. It fits here just as well:


49 Replies to “SACs of Redundant Shit”

        1. Normally I’d pull you up on your language, but it’s hard to argue against it here.

          Note my update to the post.

          1. It would be useful to hear from anyone who gets support from their school’s semi-bigshots for using the method in your update – What was the outcome?

  1. Thanks Marty – I remember back in 2016 when the course was new (not really, but VCAA says it was) watching several teachers “fail” their audits. It was an awful time.

    This seems (I have heard only a couple of stories so far, but heard none last year, so I’m thinking that the new course is the common factor…) like a re-run with different actors.

    Yes, teachers can argue, but to do so within the rules set out by VCAA require the approval of the school VCE coordinator or principal.

    Given that I don’t hear of other subject teachers having these issues, I do wonder how many VCE coordinators or principals will frame it as the Mathematics teacher has done something wrong and therefore they must fix.

    1. Off topic but related to the above comment, I have heard of Geography audits causing problems for teachers.

        1. I don’t know what the reasons are for maths but one of the reasons in Geography was a dispute between teacher and VCAA on the meaning and interpretation of words that are not defined in the Study Design. For example, the meaning of the word “recent”. The teacher used an interpretation that VCAA said was wrong. A big part of the SAC hinged on the meaning of this word and the teacher failed their audit because of it.

          btw in your update when you say
          of revising an audit at this late date
          I think you might mean
          of revising a SAC at this late date

          1. Jesus. So a different manifestation of the same little hitler reasoning.

            Thanks, Ann and thanks for the error flag: fixed.

    1. JJ, you should think of VCAA as a Queensland cop picking on some kid: if they want to find an offence, they’ll find an offence. And, more often than not, they want to find an offence, because they’re drunk with power.

      I don’t know the details of these three (and counting) audits, but the “failures” tend to be procedural bullshit: not modellingly enough, too much direction for the kids, insufficient use of italics, or whatever. The whole SAC system is insane and, as I’ve written, a license for little hitlers to do their little hitlering.

      Amusingly, what does *not* tend to cause a SAC to fail an audit is the SAC being error-filled or mathematical garbage. No one gives a flying fuck about the mathematics, or lack of it. It is all a concern for form.

    2. I’m not entirely sure as my information is all second and third hand. Some phrases used were:

      “Tasks need to be open-ended”

      “Tasks need to be balanced”

      “Tasks need to allow students to demonstrate the highest levels of understanding”.

      I’m sure this makes sense to some people. I’m not one of them.

  2. We passed our audit, pats on the back and smiles all round. The SACs ticked all the boxes but were tedious, CAS heavy, torturous and uninteresting. We even had a PoSWW, (we flagged it during editing but …). We definitely had more than a few WitCHes. Passing feels pyrrhic.

    I don’t have to give the reasons for this state of our affairs as Marty has already presciently explained it in his linked article. (P.S. We’re not getting sucked in by the pleasantries).

    1. Thanks, Jay. Just to be clear, I don’t primarily blame the teachers for the PoSWWs and WitCHes in their SACs. Most teachers simply do not have a strong enough background, and none have the time, to write a good, error-free SAC. And then, they’re so worried about VCAA’s insane directives, of course they’re stressing about that rather than the mathematics.

      The entire system is completely nuts.

      1. We just didn’t have the time. In their online meeting with teachers last year, VCAA suggested to start writing 6 months before the start of the year. (No time fraction is given for this work though). Through factors beyond our control, we only really got the team together after the academic year had started. I know we can do good assessment, I’ve been involved in some great specialist ones.

        Definitely a system problem. The system is not supporting teachers well enough. I really hope the Grattan Institute suggestions for providing teachers with quality resources comes off. Any idea how that’s going?

          1. These are the guys that are saying that teachers should be given larger classes so that they have more free time. They not only want to paint deckchairs, they want to re-arrange the deckchairs. And they probably want some extra deck chairs as well.

  3. To add to the spurious list of reasons for failing an audit…

    “Students were provided mark allocations for each question. Suggested working time should be provided instead.”

    Editing to add, same school was also told not to provide lines in the open ended question for the student response, but just a blank page.

    1. “Students were provided mark allocations for each question. Suggested working time should be provided instead.”
      Riiiiight … So students can waste their time converting suggested working time into marks! All because of VCAA’s insane worry that the SAC will look like an exam. Ditto the blank page rather than writing lines. No sane person could argue against providing lines to write on!!

      My kingdom for an association that advocates on behalf of mathematics teachers against this sort of VCAA insanity.

  4. I haven’t banned anyone. I delete comments by someone who refuses to get the message to: (a) not use the name “Anonymous”; (b) not be a dick.

  5. We’ve obviously wound up with a crazy system. My question is why and what’s the history. Unfortunately for me as an exam lover and assignment hater, I did the first year of assessed coursework in the then HSC in Victoria in 1981. They were called ‘Options’ in those days. I know that subsequent to that there was a trend towards more and more assessment of coursework, culminating in as I understand ‘CATS’ in the 1990s, which were widely rorted. Since then it appears that the system has got more and more complex with a GATT test and more coursework and auditing.

    My questions are: have I got this correct and why has it become like this?

      1. Yes – there is clearly an ideology there, but there seems to be more than that.

        Is it applying assessment types from other subjects? (it’s unreasonable to examine Art only by exam).

        Is that we now have a wealthier society so we can do more complex assessment and it works better for other subjects than maths?

        Or something else?

    1. Hi JJ. Yes, your summary is broadly correct.

      I’ve attached a publicly available document that provides some finer details which might interest you. You can also find other interesting bits and pieces using your preferred engine. For example, the 1999 paper by Horwood:

      Click to access Influences-of-Secondary-Mathematics-Curriculum-in-Victoria.pdf

      You will find discussion of various historical elements of mathematics education in Victoria in comments at several of Marty’s blogs (I can’t cite them off-hand).

      Paper 2-Working Towards Change-VCE Mathematics

      1. Read the first one so far which concludes – “One outcome of this whole process was the strengthening of the role of the professional administrator in the control of curriculum. Thereafter, the role of mathematicians and mathematics educators would seem to be one of expert adviser to bureaucracy, within the framework of terms of reference decided by the bureaucracy. The decision as to who constitutes the expert, and whether advice is accepted, now appears to rest with the bureaucracy.”

        Rather sums it up – especially when as an ex-bureaucrat I know that experience in the relevant field is less and less important – there are fewer and fewer ex-teachers in the education department and very few at senior levels. (I haven’t checked this but based on my experience, it’s the way things are done these days)

  6. So… maybe the thought is that a square peg can be made to fit in a round hole if hammered hard enough for long enough…?

    Yep, clutching at straws here, but in the absence of any logical answer it is all I have.

    Clearly, there are people who believe that assignments rather than exams give a better picture of a student’s ability and that all the cheating that we all know happens is outweighed by the fact that we are no longer taking a snapshot of a student on a single day and….

    …yeah, I can’t even pretend this is a valid argument.

    1. It could be worse:

      What amazes me is that the CAT system ran for six years. The test that students sat at the end of the CAT was the golden bullet for detecting cheating. Until it wasn’t.

      Nowadays, VCAA thinks it’s perfectly fine for students to be mathematical explorers under examination conditions. Because students who don’t perform well with exams will find being a mathematical explorer under examination conditions gives them a much better chance to shine. And VCAA thinks it’s perfectly fine for teachers to spend 100 hours writing and then marking each of these assessments year after year after year.

  7. I failed my spec Unit 3 audit because the auditor read my comment of “I am NOT using the MAV SAC just their rubric” as that I am using the MAV SAC. When i asked for clarification as to why I had failed I was told sorry there was an mistake by whoever read your audit however you will still have to complete a unit 4 audit and the unit 3 decision cannot be reversed.

    1. Of course I don’t know the details, but that sounds insane. Who made the second “cannot be reversed” decision? The original decision-maker, or did you escalate?

      1. Yes I escalated right to the top and was told to just complete the Unit 4 audit.

        My principal was also emailed to notify them of failing the Unit 3 audit.
        When I told VCAA I was very disappointed that they would email my principal and notify them that their spec teacher had failed they brushed it off and said we never said you failed we gently said you were non-compliant.

        1. “top” meaning who? Are you really saying that the sole, or very close to sole, reason that your SAC was “non-compliant” was because you supposedly used the MAV SAC, but didn’t? And are you saying that the “top” person agrees that’s the sole reason, but won’t reverse the decision?

          Have you considered going above “top”?

        2. So let me get this straight:

          You failed the audit because VCAA made a mistake.
          VCAA refuses to reverse its decision.
          VCAA emailed your Principal and made the false claim that your SAC was non-compliant.
          The VCAA have demanded you submit to another audit as a consequence of its mistake.

          Did the VCAA give any other reasons for you failing the audit apart from saying that it made a mistake? Did the VCAA give a reason why the decision cannot be reversed?

          On the face of it, I think you and your school have very good case for strongly pushing back.

          VCAA might think that another audit is no big deal. It’s wrong:
          1) Audits consume time and effort.
          2) Audits create stress and anxiety.

          You’re being asked to bear the significant consequences of VCAA screwing up. That is not acceptable.

            1. It’s fortunate you are competent, confident and know how the game is played. (That’s the impression I get, anyway).

                1. I have no doubt of that. A classic case of one mans fortune being another mans misfortune. (Personally, I still think there’s more than enough nonsense to write about. And for every 1 Greenman there’s 50 Redmans, whatever the hell that means).

  8. I’m tutoring a student, but don’t teach Methods or Spesh. Given that SACs are here, what are the best strategies for students to tackle this open-ended nonsense please?

    1. Hi, JJ. I’m no help at all sorry, but hopefully others might chime in. (You might also post your question on the original SACs of Shit post, for those who get alerts).

      The one thing I’d suggest from my little experience is that there’s usually much less there than meets the eye. The SAC will be probably be dressed up as some grand exploration, and it will probably be horribly written, but, underlying it all, the maths and CAS-bashing expected will be much less grand. So, I’d first be think Occam, rather than New Theory of the Universe.

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