The report focuses on the voices of secondary and area school teachers, hence its title ‘Teachers talk about NCEA’. It portrays a profession which is engaged on a hugely important project which is challenging the intellectual, emotional and physical resources of teachers to the maximum.
In late 1997, the New Zealand government announced a policy called ‘Achievement 2001’. This policy involved a complete overhaul of the secondary school qualifications system, to shift it from a mishmash of norm-referenced qualifications, to a completely standards-based system. Under the new system students would be assessed at three, or possibly four, levels of the same qualification, to be called the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) and registered on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.
Teachers talked in the focus groups about some really fundamental issues about teaching and learning, and the assessment of learning. They were wrestling with huge dilemmas brought upon them by the design of the system, but they were also excited about the opportunities for creative approaches to teaching and to curriculum organisation that the system presents.
Many of them expressed a belief that they had been let down by the central agencies, who had failed to support the change to the new system adequately in a wide variety of ways. It is quite clear that without their professional commitment to putting their students first and to delivering for them whatever the shortcomings of the support provided, the implementation could never have been successful.
This research provides an invaluable window into the thinking of secondary school teachers about one of the most major reform projects with which they have had to engage for many years.
The summary version does not contain the voices of the teachers who participated in the focus groups, nor does it contain all the detail of their discussions.