> This really sounds dreadful!! Why not just hire competent teachers who can > make their own judgments without the aid of a panel?
Because the ratings that are assigned are used to determine who is accepted for a limited number of university places. We need comparability between students doing Maths C in Mt Isa High School in the far west and in Brisbane Grammar School, not just between Mr Smith in Room A4 and Mr Brown in Room A5. Whatever system you propose to replace our 'dreadful' system has to meet this objective, and do it in a way that is deemed to be fair to all.
The only alternative that I know of is an external exam in Maths C taken by every Maths C student in the state on exactly the same day. This will ensure comparability, but, in my opinion, at a cost to good education. Queensland is trying to find an alternative.
The system in Queensland shows that experienced competent teachers don't automatically develop a common understanding of standards. And in many small isolated schools in Queensland, the teachers may not be that experienced, and have no one in their school to turn to for assistance.
> As for a panel changing grades, this is a rape of the academic system. For > shame!
Again, any alternative must ensure comparability. In the interests of brevity in my original posting, I didn't explain the system fully. I will expand on it now.
Our senior courses run for two years. A 'submission' of assessment items, marking schemes and sample student work is sent to a panel of teachers in the district at the end of year 11. The submission is reviewed by the panel and commented upon. If the submission has problems (eg standards too high or too low) an expert teacher is available to visit the school (at their request) to assist.
The chair of the panel, also a practicing teacher, is available by phone or fax at all times. If a school isn't sure about their assessment, they can fax an exam to the panel chair for comment before giving it to the students. About 2 months before the end of year 12, the school makes another submission to the panel. This submission includes all assessment and marking schemes, as well as the work of specific students, including the best student, the lowest A, the lowest B, the lowest C, and so on.
The panel decides if the standard of the assessment package is comparable to that of other Maths C classes in the state. The panel may decide that the bottom B student for example has not met the standards for a B, and will recommend a change to a high C. The school can accept the panel's recommendation, or negotiate with the panel chair, if they disagree with the panel's suggestion. There are still six weeks of the course remaining at this stage, so that student who was awarded a high C by the panel still has an opportunity to improve their result. The student's final exam could be faxed to the panel chair for a decision.
On top of all of this is a state panel, also consisting of practising teachers, which monitors what happens in the districts. They also act as a 'court of appeal' if a school and a panel aren't able to reach agreement.
The reason I have written at such length is to dispel the notion that a panel is some sort of 'star chamber' that passes judgement with ringing finality. There is a consultation process going on continually over the duration of the two year course.