The General examfghtrefcwetiofe …
Let’s try again:
Sparked by the report in the Herald-Sun, the matrix error (and the who cares “of-of” error) on the General Mathematics Exam 2 has obviously received a lot of attention. This has included apologies from VCAA, from the CEO of VCAA, and from the Minister of Education. It has also led to VCAA announcing that all students would receive the mark for the question.
We haven’t looked at the exam question (or the exam), and so know nothing of the question beyond what commenters have suggested. Even without knowing the details, however, there seem some obvious things to note, or at least they will be obvious for the regulars at this blog and for the similarly disenchanted.
First of all, for VCE mathematics teachers who have put up with untold years of obfuscation and outright denial, VCAA’s apologies were truly astonishing. This is clear evidence that something is happening behind the scenes. We have no idea if it relates to this critique and the surrounding events, but it is reasonable to contemplate.
Secondly, for Methods and Specialist teachers the incredible fuss over the General matrix error is absolutely hilarious, in a black humour sort of way. We’ll assume that the error is significant enough that something had to be done, but there’s no way that the General error is worse than many past screw-ups that were simply ignored. Forever. How, for instance, could the General matrix screw-up be worse than a 2022 Specialist multiple choice question with no correct answer and with the exam report simply pretending otherwise? Again, the dramatic change in VCAA attitude with the General matrix error indicates something is happening behind the scenes.
Finally, a quick note about VCAA’s reassurance to students. In their statement announcing that all students would be awarded the matrix mark, VCAA went on to say,
“This was the most effective and appropriate way to ensure no student will be disadvantaged and that the assessment process is fair, valid and reliable.”
Similarly, on ABC radio, VCAA’s CEO was at pains to reassure students that all would be put right:
“We’ll make sure that no students are disadvantaged through that error.”
To which the only response is: bullshit.
As the Age report makes admirably clear, it is simply impossible for VCAA to ensure that the grading of the matrix question will be “fair” or “valid”, that no one will be disadvantaged. That is the nature of garbled exam questions: it is almost always impossible to properly repair the damage by manipulating the grading.
So, sure, VCAA can give everybody the mark. But that will include the kids who sweated over the garbled question and lost unknown time and composure, as well as the kids who ploughed through without blinking an eye, as well as the kids who simply ignored the question entirely. To treat all these kids the same is not remotely fair or valid. And of course, in an ATAR ranking competition, to less-deservedly award a mark to some kids is to disadvantage the kids who more deserved the mark.
None of this is to suggest that VCAA made the wrong decision, that they could have made a better choice. But VCAA should stop pretending they’ve accomplished more than they have.
There are some signs that VCAA might have gotten significantly better at telling the truth. But, they have a ways to go.