We’ve sat on this one for a while, and had not intended to write on it. With recent pronouncements by VCAA, however, we feel we have no choice but to revisit and to update the QCAA story.
Last year there was a blatant error in the grading of the Queensland Mathematical Methods Exam 2. The exam contained a multiple choice question for which the intended answer was incorrect; we posted on the question here. QCAA only learned of the error in April this year, long after the grading and ATARing and course offering was done and dusted.
What was QCAA to do? At that stage, in April, did it matter? The answer is yes, yes and yes. This post is about the third “yes”.
To begin, basic integrity required QCAA to amend the exam report, to indicate that the report had previously been in error and that the exam had been incorrectly graded. QCAA eventually did this, even if their statement was not as clear as it could have been.
Secondly, so that current and future students would not be misled, it was critical for the exam report to be amended to indicate the correct answer. QCAA did this very quickly, thus avoiding the inevitable consequences of failing to do so.
But, thirdly, what about the faulty grading? At that late date was it worth QCAA worrying about fixing the grading of a one-mark question on one exam for one subject? QCAA decided that it was, and they were correct.
After writing about the QCAA error and the amendments to the exam report we were left somewhat puzzled. The amended report indicated that the faulty question had been regraded, but to what end? What did QCAA do with the amended scores for the exam? It wasn’t clear, so, eventually, we asked. We emailed QCAA a while back, noting that we had written about the exam error and asking for clarification on the regrading. A QCAA representative quickly replied, responded politely and made it all clear.
To begin, the rep noted QCAA’s response to fixing the marking guide:
… once QCAA verified the error, the marking guide and subject report were updated as soon as possible to indicate this.
Then it was on to the regrading:
We also amended the affected students’ results and notified them accordingly.
So, the grades were amended and the affected students were notified. But, there’s more.
The Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre advised that the one mark change had minimal impact on these students’ ATARs, …
Sure, as one would expect. That sentence is not complete, however. It continues,
… with only one student missing out on a higher tertiary entrance preference.
So, just one student missed out on a course offering. Or, to put it in another way, a student missed out on a course offering. But then,
The student was able to change to their preferred course in the following semester with all credit from their completed studies transferred.
There you have it. One student’s life was changed, to the course that they had intended and to which they were entitled, and this only happened because QCAA had the integrity to admit their error and to do their best to mitigate the error. This is how an educational bureaucracy should function.
This not how VCAA functions. This is why we felt compelled to write this post. Whereas QCAA manned the battle stations as soon as they were alerted to the error, VCAA has continued to deny the existence of errors on the 2022 VCE exams that are just as blatant, that are at least as bad and arguably worse. Have any Victorian students missed out on course offerings or scholarships as a consequence? Of course we cannot know. But the intrinsic odds of this having occurred appear to be significantly greater in Victoria than in Queensland.
Of course QCAA is not innocent. The exam error was bad and it was obvious. The error should not have occurred and it definitely should have been caught during the grading, at the very latest. But QCAA is clearly aware that such an error is unacceptable. The email ends,
Please also note that QCAA has already implemented a range of corrective measures to reduce the likelihood of this type of error occurring again. This includes extra reviews of exams and marking guides and increasing the size of scrutiny panels.
We’ll see. The number of reviews and the size of the panels matters much less than the expertise and the attentiveness of the reviewers and the panellists. But at least QCAA seems to be taking the matter seriously and sincerely trying. If VCAA is similarly trying we have seen no evidence of it. VCAA’s unwillingness, ever, to admit their screw-ups openly and honestly is strong evidence otherwise.