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ATARs – you may as well use postcodes for university admissions

For the next couple of months, young people across Australia will be sitting their final Year 12 examinations. For them, it’s the end of more than a decade of schooling looming large. Their soon to be…

The way we pick which students are let in to university is not a fair system. School image from www.shutterstock.com

For the next couple of months, young people across Australia will be sitting their final Year 12 examinations. For them, it’s the end of more than a decade of schooling looming large. Their soon to be determined Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking (ATAR) can mean everything – a badge to wear proudly or not, as the case may be.

For some universities the results become merely a way of sifting and sorting; who will get in, and who won’t.

But the system is breaking: increasingly schools are shaping their teaching towards maximising students’ score. And governments and universities alike have become overly focused on the ATAR as a measure of student quality - even though it’s more likely to measure the relative wealth of schools, more than a student’s abilities.

In fact, using a students' postcode might work just as well.

The ATAR is limited as a sifter and sorter. We need to focus on the potential and calibre of students that universities graduate, not predetermine potential based on skewed “evidence” that denies some the right to enrol.

Curriculum shape shifters

According to the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA), there is a growing problem in the way some schools are teaching to the ATAR. This means students end up being short-changed on the range and depth of studies in year 12.

A Victorian departmental discussion paper this year even said that:

In some instances, decisions about a program of study at the senior secondary level are being compromised by an unhealthy and increasingly unnecessary focus on maximising the ATAR…the consequence of this is that individual students then attempt to maximise their ATAR, sometimes at the expense of either enrolling in a wider range of different learning opportunities or pursuing a specialist area of interest and/or excellence.

This not only makes the ATAR a problematic measure of a students' potential, but it also undermines a school’s ability to prepare students to be successful at university.

Limited wealth and a blunt instrument

There has been a vigorous debate earlier this year about whether ATARs should be capped, creating a minimum entry for certain universities and courses.

The argument for claims that letting too many students with low ATARs in to Australian universities will “dumb down” the quality of education.

But often in these debates, we forget what the ATAR actually measures. It is not a score, it is a ranking. It is not an absolute, nor is it a measure of the potential capability and quality a student can achieve with effective teaching and support during their university studies.

It’s an imperfect control measure and certainly not a measure of someone’s potential.

Compounding this is the fact that ATAR is tightly correlated to social class and a school system that creates uneven outcomes directly related to wealth.

Students who live in low socio-economic status (SES) areas are pretty much destined to attend schools where subject choice and available resources are often significantly lower than those at higher SES schools. There are few role models to raise students’ aspirations. If students do complete year 12, it is likely to be with significantly lower ATARs that restrict the courses and institutions into which they can enrol.

A study from the Centre for the Study of Higher Education explains that:

…high SES students who were achieving similar grades to low SES students in Year 9 went on to achieve ENTERs [ATARs] around 10 points higher three years later.

What’s happening is that the schools used by children from poorer backgrounds are becoming more segregated in the sense that the mix of children that they attend school with involve multiple disadvantage. Whereas the schools used by wealthier, more educated parents are becoming more socially selective and more powerful in terms of the resources that they can give to the schooling process.

As a recent OECD report puts it:

…the reality is hard to face: in most OECD countries, students’ attainment is typically lower in schools where most of the students come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The reasons for this phenomenon are multiple but the primary ones are: students’ socio-economic background has a strong impact on their performance; and many disadvantaged schools are unable to counteract its negative impact, and may indeed accentuate it.

To apply a “one-size fits all” ATAR is to adopt a deficit thinking for university admissions. We effectively disenfranchise students for not achieving an ATAR above the cut-off, despite the fact that their socio-economic circumstances mean they cannot compete fairly.

Unfair competition

That makes the earlier moves to require minimum ATARs all the more disconnected with this reality.

Is the University of New South Wales, for example, saying they can only take students with an ATAR above 80, because they don’t have the capacity to bring a diverse cross-section of students to a reasonable graduate standard after three or four years of study?

Or are they really saying students with ATARs at this level are incapable of ever achieving graduate standard, or are not worth the effort?

Comments by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (professional services) at Murdoch University indicated that his university too would apply a blanket minimum ATAR of 70 in order to “reposition the university in the quality end of the market.”

This kind of “input model” of student selection effectively exempts these universities from having to address their own quality issues, effective teaching or student support.

But there are alternatives. Some universities are now looking to more creative and sophisticated ways of assessing the potential of people to succeed. Some courses require additional information such as an interview and/or portfolio, to ensure fairer, more accurate student selection.

Fortunately, many tertiary providers are considering more creative and sophisticated ways of assessing students' potential. Courses like Medicine, Teaching and Fine Arts recognise this and require information additional to ATARs; including interviews and portfolios to ensure fairer, more appropriate student selection.

Other programs are helping high school students become “university ready”, including AVID along with Early University High School and dual credit programs. These partnerships with schools help share the responsibility for preparing lifelong learners and attract a broader cross-section of students to university.

Full potential

The thing to remember here is that equity and quality are not mutually exclusive. As the OECD noted:

The highest performing education systems are those that combine equity with quality. They give all children opportunities for a good quality education.

The sector must embrace the potential of students whose relatively low ATAR may actually reflect the accident of their social background or where they went to school, rather than their capabilities and potential.

We have made significant progress to becoming a more inclusive, socially just and knowledge-rich economy. But we need to continue and allow every child the choice of going to university, rather than that choice being determined because of their postcode.

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101 Comments sorted by

  1. Nial Wheate

    Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at University of Sydney

    It's hard to imagine a university selection system that won't disadvantage those from a low SES background. Even if you combine ATARs with portfolios and interviews it will be the wealthier schools who will be able to better prepare their students against those criteria as well. I can see them developing sophisticated interview practice programs and portfolios whilst the low SES schools won't have the funds to do that.

    We also need to acknowledge that good students can still do well at low SES schools (as I did) and bad students can also do poorly at high SES schools.

    For me, identifying talent early from low SES schools and helping them in their high school studies is more important than refining our university selection procedures.

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    1. nik dow

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Nial Wheate

      If the aim of ranking university applicants is to predict their undergraduate success, it should be simple to add their school of origin as a predictive factor and get better outcomes from the selection process.

      This would be strongly resisted by the wealthy schools since it would negate some, perhaps most, of their expensively purchased advantage, in regards to university entrance.

      If a wealthy school does a good job of preparing students for tertiary study, i.e. their graduates go on to achieve well at university, including the school-of-origin factor in the ATAR calculation would enhance the school's marketability.

      I suspect at the moment it's the reverse, i.e. consider 2 students with identical ATAR's but coming from a poor and a wealthy school respecitively, the student from the poor school may well do better at university since their ATAR wasn't "boosted" by purchasing "better" secondary education.

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    2. Claire Brown

      Associate Director, The Victoria Institute at Victoria University

      In reply to Nial Wheate

      Thanks, Niall. Your points are well made. The good news is that the university readiness programs like AVID and Early Uni High School (known as Early College High School in the US) are doing exactly what you suggest with one important distinction. These initiatives start with the premise that all students have a variety of talents and potential to learn so there is no premature talent identification as such. Rather, schools and universities in these systems are working more closely together from primary school to partner in providing rigorous learning programs, teaching and leadership support, as well as more explicit support academically, socially and emotionally for students, their families and the school communities more broadly.

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    3. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Claire Brown

      "Providing rigorous learning programs, teaching and leadership support, as well as more explicit support academically, socially and emotionally for students, their families and the school communities more broadly."
      Why don't you come down on the AEU like a tonne of bricks, and make the government school teachers do their jobs properly!?

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    4. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Claire Brown

      "Rather, schools and universities in these systems are working more closely together from primary school to partner in providing rigorous learning programs."
      Why are universities involved at all? It is the business of school teachers to teach primary school students. If they are so bad, you have to step in, why aren't you getting them fired?

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    5. Brad Parkinson

      University Tutor at School of Psychology, University of Wollongong

      In reply to Claire Brown

      If the system was based on a growth measure and a performance measure the two grades along with a PD or expectation contract for students would surely improve the ability to select "quality" students and for those students to understand what is expected of them. Social education about what the ATAR is and the fact that it is not IQ or a measure of potential or a measure of how prepared a student is for higher education might at least allow the students that get low ATARs to not feel as incapable…

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  2. Conor King

    Executive Director, IRU at La Trobe University

    The article is somewhat last decade in the issue being pursued. With universities funded for all students they wish to enrol there is much less use of random cut off points set by the number of places allocated not the capability of the applicant.

    The ATAR is a remnant of the previous funding system. The relevant information about school leavers is the level of learning they achieved from school. The school systems to varying degrees have this information, NSW most clearly. Universities should now focus on it.

    Some universities will retain a focus exclusively on the most capable school leavers. However here examples like Melbourne streaming undergraduate entry to a few courses means the relevant ATAR ranks are around 90 not 99, again reducing the pressure on minor gains in ranking.

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    1. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Conor King

      I agree with Conor King. I add that pupils have been supported by secondary schools to maximise their entry qualifications since Australian universities introduced competitive entry in the 1960s, and they have sought to maximise entry scores since they were introduced in the 1970s. I haven't noticed score maximisation being more significant now than it has been over the last 40 years. As Conor observes, if anything the demand driven system lessens the stakes in achieving a particular cut off score.

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    2. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Conor King

      Conor, there is nothing that comes even close to ATAR as an accurate measure of academic preparation, achievement, and aptitude. It is even used by employers of university graduates!

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    3. Conor King

      Executive Director, IRU at La Trobe University

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Michael, each State provides information about each students' achievement for each subject they study. All the ATAR does is cobble those together and rank the students.

      There are various claims that the school system does not teach as well as it used to, or from some that it does so better. Yet each year there are the same proportion of students with an ATAR of 99, 90, 75, 51. So how does it actually tell you what a student can do or knows as against how they stand compared with another?

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    4. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Conor King

      Conor, universities have been admitting students on the basis of ATAR for nearly FIFTY years now.

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    5. Conor King

      Executive Director, IRU at La Trobe University

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Michael the ATAR strictly was created around ten years ago. There were similar things before that. The differences over time are that initially they were done a little differently by State whereas now all but Qld use the same approach and initially they only ranked students who met basic tertiary entrance requirements whereas now they are based on everyone in the age cohort. They were created when the simple entrance requirement of a Higher School Certificate meant too many suitable applicants…

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    6. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Conor King

      No, it doesn't. It just combines them all. The ATAR is based on the HSC mark out of 500 that is decades old. The purpose is rationing university places. A proper university education can only ever be appropriate for a minority of the population, because universities are machines for pushing humanity's supreme cognitive achievements. This is what is completely different from school, which is about socialising all kids in the basic skills required to function effectively

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    7. Conor King

      Executive Director, IRU at La Trobe University

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      So assuming there are 1000 potential HSC students:
      if the top 500 of them score in the HSC from 400 to 500 they will be stretched on the ATAR from 50.05 to 99.95;
      if the top 500 of them score in the HSC from 300 to 400 they will still be stretched on the ATAR from 50.05 to 99.95;
      Both are possible - because the HSC does not insist of giving the top scores if no one achieves to that level; and will give many students the top scores if they do achieve. The ATAR is neutral to all that.

      On your…

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    8. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Conor King

      Conor, the old HSC is identical to the ATAR, except those scaled subject marks that make up the aggregate of 500 are not shown to the students, or anybody, apart from ACTAC. With one major difference. In the old HSC, the first step was placing each student in each subject on a bell curve with mean/median of 50. The next step was calculating each individual subjects mean and s.d. Then each of those scaled marks was added to give an aggregate out of 500. Percentiles (like ATAR) were given according…

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    9. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Conor King

      And it is a mathematical impossibility for 50% of the HSC students to get a scaled aggregate over 400. And the HSC scores are scaled around three metrics - the mean, standard deviation, and maximum score. Practically every subject will give the top student 100, even if their raw mark was much lower. The exception here is all the easy courses, like Standard English.

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    10. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Conor King

      "The only need for rationing uni places now is potential to do the course."
      How on earth do you get that? There are all sorts of reasons for placing this or that quota on this or that course. One reason is the limits of the facilities. But a much more important reason is the quality of the undergraduate experience. Harvard admits only 1,600 freshman each year. And if ability to do the course were the criterion, the minimum ATAR should be 90.0. This of course would mean booting off campus all those courses/degrees, which shouldn't be in the university in the first place.

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    11. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Michael Sheehan

      You really are a heartless person Michael. How would all those poor VCs justify the $500,000 they struggle so hard to live on if universities were to remove 75% of the student population - that is all those doing worthless degrees, as you suggest. You never cease to amaze me!!

      John Nicol.

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    12. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to John Nicol

      They can go and VC at a more appropriate institution

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    13. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      I agree. Like a CAE or TAFE at which most of the 75% of students would be better off.

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    14. Brad Parkinson

      University Tutor at School of Psychology, University of Wollongong

      In reply to Conor King

      I am concerned that you have seemed to use high ATAR and most capable synonymously. This indicates a trust in the ranking of the ATAR well above what it deserves. It seems that this last decade problem has some strong carry-over into this decade, if only in the implicit opinions of those that have their own justification of their success heavily tied up in their TER or UAI or equivalent ranking or admission mark. It is dangerous to let the use of ATAR and quality to be used interchangeably because it can not only make lower ATAR students fell undervalued but also it can embed a bias into governance and academic decisions and strategy. After all, it is certainly fair and just to have a strategy that focuses on recruiting the high quality students and questioning the acceptance of the low quality ones.

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    15. Brad Parkinson

      University Tutor at School of Psychology, University of Wollongong

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Michael - i think you need to have a look at this fact check and at Norton's findings.

      https://theconversation.com/factcheck-does-your-entrance-score-strongly-correlate-with-your-success-at-university-16224

      if you check this graph you will see that ATARs of 30 - 50 seem to do quite well considering they are the extreme low in academic preparation, achievement, and aptitude. For an accurate measure it seems to be missing something - maybe predictive value. Unless our society is only interested on the students in the over 80 rankings

      https://c479107.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/files/26697/width668/y8ykk352-1372741798.jpg

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  3. Phillip Dawson

    Lecturer in Learning and Teaching at Monash University

    You are very right to reiterate the problems with an 'input model' of university quality. It's absurd to base judgements about the quality of what happens at a university on the rank students had in school/exams; we have measures of 'output' (ie what students can do on graduation) and should use those instead when making judgements about university quality. The ATAR is also a flawed instrument for this purpose because it is based on competition rather than competence: 80% of each cohort of students will be deemed unfit for UNSW regardless of what they can do when they leave school. If we were to implement amazing reforms to school education such that the bottom students next year learn more than the top students of this year, in both cohorts 80% will not be allowed a place at UNSW.

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    1. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Phillip Dawson

      Phillip Dawson

      I am wondering how one uses a measure of "output" based on a students performance "on graduation", before that student graduates, to decide what chance there is of success....... This seems like some psychic phenomenon of which I had not heard before!

      I believe through the experience of my Grand children - nine of them who have completed the ATAR - that they were required to sit for an examination and demonstrate that they knew the answers to a series of questions. Is that…

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    2. Phillip Dawson

      Lecturer in Learning and Teaching at Monash University

      In reply to John Nicol

      My first point was about measuring the quality of universities, not measuring the quality of students. Measuring the quality of universities primarily on the class rank of the students that apply to study there ignores what happens during the degree. I'm advocating for measuring university quality based on what students can do when they graduate university.

      The experiences of your grand children who have completed the ATAR but did not experience it as competitive are lovely, and I'm genuinely…

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    3. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Phillip Dawson

      "We have measures of 'output' (ie what students can do on graduation)"
      No we don't.

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    4. Phillip Dawson

      Lecturer in Learning and Teaching at Monash University

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Here are three:
      1: Tests or portfolios administered by professional bodies for accreditation
      2: Tests of competence in a particular domain administered by universities or learned societies for assessing course quality
      3: Benchmarking of assessments between institutions

      All three exist out there in the real world right now; we can have meaningful conversations about the quality of accounting or medical graduates, for instance, based on the above indicators. This tells us a lot more about course quality than the ATAR cutoffs of those courses.

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    5. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Phillip Dawson

      No, you do not have this data at all. *I* have this kind of data, as do many employers, as for the past decade we have been testing all potential graduate recruits, precisely because the universities cannot provide us with the relevant data, because they don't have it, because they don't test it.

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    6. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Phillip Dawson

      Philip, so let me get this straight. You think it is a bad thing that competition leads students to perform at higher levels than otherwise? You think it's better they don't push themselves, don't master their subjects, and perform mediocre?

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    7. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Phillip Dawson

      Phillip Dawson,

      Sorry, I misunderstood your intention for measuring the quality of "output", and I do agree that this should be the main or only measure of the teaching quality of a university - the quality of the students who have completed their degree progammes at all levels. However, one would also need to include a factor which represented the initial quality of each incoming student versus the final graduate.

      I still have difficulty accepting that putting the students from any examination…

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    8. Brad Parkinson

      University Tutor at School of Psychology, University of Wollongong

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Michael - you should try not to argue by presenting a false dichotomy. Their isn't only the model where we push the students to perform to the highest level (possibly stating that the measure we are using is a perfect measure) and the students not trying and performing mediocre. Their are measures of growth and performance that could be developed. Although this might shatter the elitists dreams of their own grandeur and social worth but combine this with a more valid measure of performance (not a cheap and nasty exam in the hope that we capture some of the construct we are hoping to measure) that would allow for true learning. Pushing and cramming is not a valuable and long lasting way to learn. Many students are so stress and time poor that they learn for the exam and dump it before the next exam. I am sure with your knowledge of measurement you would see a problem in the (especially temporal) validity of any measure knowledge obtained in this type of environment

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  4. Rex Gibbs

    Engineer/Director

    I am the father of a child who is part way through an undergraduate program and another about to enter the race for an ATAR both from a state high school (albeit a highly performing one). It is clear that Adelaide, Flinders and UNI SA do not rank students just on ATAR. They clearly make a seriously considered attempt to adjust rankings for subjects, source school, relevance of subjects intended course of study. My eldest daughter's raw score was adjusteded by 15% before it was used to allow entry to a course with limited places by one university and 12% by another. I think this article is based on the false premise that Universities have no idea of the predictors of success. Clearly Universities will not start Med Students with fails in humanity subjects and no science scores and an ATAR of 55. Clearly Engineers will still be required to have an English score. On the other hand messages need to be sent to manage expectations. Unlike Lake Wobegon, all children are not above average.

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    1. Sean Manning

      Physicist

      In reply to Rex Gibbs

      I agree. The Universities are doing their best to manage with a broken system.
      The real problem is at the secondary level where teachers are managing the ATAR scores by advising students to stay away from challenging subjects. As a tutor for over 10 years I have seen this many times. In particular from the 'better schools' who seem to be more concerned with their own metrics rather than what's best for the students.

      The subject suffering the most is probably specialist mathematics. Very few…

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    2. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Sean Manning

      "The real problem is at the secondary level where teachers are managing the ATAR scores by advising students to stay away from challenging subjects."
      If your kid attends such a school, take him/her out immediately/ The ATAR scales marks, so that less able students are not rewarded for taking easy subjects. Once the ATAR scaling is done, the marks on easy subjects become stunningly low.

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    3. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Sean Manning

      "The subject suffering the most is probably specialist mathematics."
      In fact, after ATAR scaling Specialist Mathematics (or Extension 2/4 Unit) has the highest mean/median and top-heavy distribution of all subjects, with the exception perhaps of Ancient Greek.

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    4. Sean Manning

      Physicist

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      That wasn't what I was saying. I'm saying that it is the practice of avoiding subjects perceived as challenging that is causing students to not pick specialist maths.

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    5. Sean Manning

      Physicist

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Believe me, if they were my children I would. The examples I've encountered have been primarily through the students I tutor and one example was related to be by a teacher.

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  5. Dennis Alexander

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Ian Young, while VC at Swinbourne, wrote a paper on ATARs as indicators of preparedness of students for university study: preparedness is fundamentally pre-processing. Now, let us be perfectly clear, the more prepared the student, the less work the university has to put in to get them to graduation at a given level. The flip side of this is, to be absolutely clear, the more prepared the student, the less value is added by the university to the point of graduation at a given level. Front loading the system by insisting on "quality" inputs (students) as measured by ATARs (that correlate with post-codes as proxies for socio-economic status) does backshift preparation to the schools sector, who, taking a leaf out of the universities and rankings playbook, will 'game' the system to get their kids into university via the ATAR measure. Now if anyone wants to call this recursive 'gaming' efficient or effective, I think we have some definitional problems.

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    1. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Dennis Alexander

      "Now, let us be perfectly clear, the more prepared the student, the less work the university has to put in to get them to graduation at a given level."
      Complete garbage. The better prepared the students, the more advanced the teaching. Compare the quality of a BA graduate from Oxford with one of our Dawkins Universities, and you'll understand the incredibly positive effect of a well prepared 1st year intake.

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  6. John Nicol

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    Claire Brown,

    The suggestion in this article that the ATAR provides "not a measure but a ranking" shows a complete misunderstanding of the basis for such ranking.

    An attempt, at least, is made by the ATAR process to "measure" student abilities. A "list" of the students is then written in the order of their measured scores. This list is sometimes referred to as a 'ranking", but in fact it simply reflects what should be, a valid measure of student's performance and potential for further…

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    1. Conor King

      Executive Director, IRU at La Trobe University

      In reply to John Nicol

      John there is no ATAR test, assessment or other measure of a school students' capability. Each State and Territory has a year 11-12 system that does assess the students through a mix of school based work and tests and state wide exams and tests. I think you live in Qld where the system is wholly school based with moderation.

      The ATAR is constructed on top of the school results. It takes those and ranks the school students and also includes those who left school before the end of year 12. Someone…

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    2. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Conor King

      Conor King

      Thank you for your comment Connor. I may have been mistaken in assuming that the ATAR test was connected to another external type examination which the kids have undertaken. And yes, I do live in Queensland where the OP list is the main indicator for tertiary entrance.

      However, I am not sure that your remarks convince me of the correctness of many of the suggestions made in the article which I had criticised and which seem to be advocating that everyone must have the "opportunity…

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    3. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Conor King

      "Does the larger proportion completing school mean that they should not or is it a sign that given the chance many people can learn to advanced levels."
      No. It is a sign of redistributing training for the non-academically able/inclined away from TAFE to high schools.

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    4. Conor King

      Executive Director, IRU at La Trobe University

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Arguments that most people are not capable of learning go a long way back. Do you think we should teach everyone reading, writing and basic arithmetic? It is only in the last 130 years that it is accepted by most that we should. After all at 5 many children are not that academically able or inclined.

      And I do enjoy the hubris of those who presume that their cohorts at university, back in the 1960s, 70s, 80s were so capable. There was a wide spread of capability at the local university I went to. The common factor was an interest in learning more.

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    5. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Conor King

      "Do you think we should teach everyone reading, writing and basic arithmetic?"
      Yes, I do. In primary school. I did my undergrad after your halcyon decades. As an undergraduate some of the subjects I studied included Several Variable Calculus, Early Modern Theories of Perception, Econometrics, Marxist Geography, Neurophysiology, Ancient Science, Biblical Archaeology, The Galileo Affair, Gender & Greek Tragedy, Latin, Linear Algebra, Partial Differential Equations. These are proper university subjects.

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  7. Tim Pitman

    Senior Lecturer at Curtin University

    Hi Claire and thanks for your thought-provoking article. The ATAR is certainly an imperfect instrument but the problem I think is not so much with that, but the finite places in higher education. As we saw when the previous Government lifted the cap on undergraduate enrolments, we saw an immediate and not insignificant rise in the number of low-SES enrolments. As long as there are sufficient places, disadvantaged students can and will succeed. But already the new government is foreshadowing a return…

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    1. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Tim Pitman

      A "disadvantaged" student is one who does not have the cognitive ability or the academic background/achievement to cope with university. If they really want to go to university, they need to repeat the HSC, or go to TAFE first, until they reach a level of preparedness appropriate for university.

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    2. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Tim Pitman

      Tim Pitman

      I agree that students from lower socio economic backgrounds and with other disadvantages should receive optimum and special support.

      However, I do not believe such support is provided by giving them entry to university courses which in their given level of achievement at the end of grade twelve, they are demonstrably incapable of benefitting from.

      Far better to either, bring them up to a level which represents the maximum of their capability, remembering, with respect, that…

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  8. Michael Anderson

    Engineer

    I think the language of victimisation is disempowering for young people. It's important to remember that young people are intelligent enough to know if they are making good or bad decisions about their life. Our job as educators, parents, friends and mentors is to challenge them with good questions about what they want from life, to talk about what a good job is and what a good job is not.

    Empowering them through recognising their self-responsibility not only mitigates the fatalism of socio-economic standing, race and other measures of disadvantage, it turns them into milestones of personal achievement. School, like life, is what you make of it.

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    1. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Michael Anderson

      Couldn't agree more. The universities need to shut up "low SES students". It is not their job. They need to start talking about Physics, Political Economy, Critical Thinking, and making two semesters of Quantitative Literacy compulsory for all undergraduates. The first step is to immediately reduce non-academic staff by 50%.

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    2. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Michael Sheehan

      Dead right. The bloated nonacademic staff sector is the main problem facing universities, although they, the universities themselves will not recognise it. Time was when most student enrolment and interviewing, as well as organising exams was properly undertaken by academics who were also the lecturers and researchers. More and more bureaucracy was introduced, encouraged partly by the govermnemnt's requirements for reporting, writing mission statements and genarally interfering…

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    3. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to John Nicol

      John, we have all our potential graduate and senior executive employees take some tests we designed with the help of some psychometric recruitment consultant expert dudes. The data we have on the relative performance of all sorts of disciplines (from Engineering, Law, Biochemistry, Education, Media Studies, Economics, and more), and at all levels from a pass undergrad, Honours, Masters, PhD, academics. The number of PhD graduates, and even academics, who perform significantly below undergraduates is very telling. And disturbing.

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    4. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Michael Sheehan

      Michael, I hear loud and clearly what you are saying. The key to all this is 1. Intelligernce 2. Attitude 3. Intelligence 4. Appropriate teaching 5. Ability. 5 Aptitude 6. Intelligence 7. Attitude, or some other ordering of the same characteristics. Many higher degrees,, even research PhDs, come out of a "process", not an "experience".

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    5. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to John Nicol

      We give them a version of the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Test; the Rust Advanced Numerical Reasoning Appraisal; and Ravens Progressive Matrices. The consistency of appalling scores on the Watson Critical Reasoning is mind-boggling.

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  9. Jenna Cowie

    Dietitian

    If I can comment from a recent graduates perspective, my first thought is that courses are breeding elite professions which don't neccesarily meet what is needed on the ground. For example, in dietetics (TER when I went through was ~95), our priority areas are often CALD, Indigenous, or low SES populations where we (mostly middle class white females under 30yo) are expected to 'teach' people about budgeting and feeding large families healthy meals. Other than living the student life (including a significant part of the budget devoted to booze and kebabs), I dare say most of us have never had to budget for meals in our lives, and our clients know it. Yes, it is science-based and it's a challenge without a certain level of prior knowledge, but surely if we are not catering to our priority populations, there is something more that needs to be considered.

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  10. Michael Sheehan

    Geographer at Analyst

    "But the system is breaking: increasingly schools are shaping their teaching towards maximising students’ score"
    This is not evidence of "breaking". It is what we pay schools to do. It's their job!

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  11. Lydia Isokangas

    Australian

    Firstly I must admit that I'm only familiar with the system in Queensland. I'm about to move back to Australia and as a parent I feel that there is a distinct lack of information out there about the 'best' school for my children.

    Everywhere you look schools are advertising their school leavers' university entry scores and post secondary school choices, but nowhere do you find university graduation rates for students from particular schools. I know that schools game the system by advising pupils…

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    1. Lydia Isokangas

      Australian

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Thanks for your reply Gavin!

      Unfortunately the MySchool website still doesn't give me the information I'm after. What I'm really interested in is this:

      Does the private high school give you any advantages in completing your undergraduate degree?

      On another note, has any consideration been given to simply let anyone who has completed their high school certificate (or not) to enter university if they want to? It would be possible if the first year/semester courses were MOOC style courses. Those that pass can continue and those that fail can be encouraged to try again or do something different. Then the system could be somewhat self-selective.

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    2. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Lydia Isokangas

      Lydia that can't really happen, as there is no such thing as "failing" the HSC. As long as sit the papers, you will get the HSC certificate. You might only get an ATAR of 30.0, but you'll still get it. Given that the ATAR is normed against the entire Australian population of 17/18 year olds, we can think of the ATAR as like an IQ. So an ATAR of 50.0 would be an IQ of 100. An ATAR of 30.0 would be an IQ of 92.

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    3. Lydia Isokangas

      Australian

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Michael, since I'm from Queensland I'm not really familiar with the HSC or the ATAR. As long as things haven't changed while I've been absent, Qld has its high school leaving certificate with the subject grades and its OP score, which I believe is another distortion of your school grades e.g. how can you achieve perfect or close to perfect grades at your state school and still not get an OP of 1 while somebody else at a private school (usually) gets lower grades than you in the same subjects but…

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    4. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Lydia Isokangas

      Hi Lydia, I should quickly say, the HSC ATAR are NOT IQ tests. All I was trying to do was provide an analogy of how "anybody and everybody" passes. As for the QLD system, it is unique in Australia. I once spent some time trying to understand it. While I think I understand all the statistical properties, the norming, etc., ultimately it just seems to me that at some time there was a huge political push against state-wide final 3 hour exams at the end of high school. But the rigmarole they replaced it with - that norming test, etc. struck me as very amateurish and stupidly ideological.
      BUT, I don't know if you've heard, but from next year (2014), final state-wide 3 hour exams are returning to QLD to bring it into line with the rest of the country.

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    5. Lydia Isokangas

      Australian

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Thanks for you reply Michael.

      I hope these tests at the end of secondary school that you speak of are well designed tests. While I support standardised testing over the current mess in QLD I hope that politics stays out, otherwise I fear it'll be even worse than what we have now.

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    6. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Lydia Isokangas

      But on your point about IQ tests. Through a few personal experiences, and subsequent study, I think they can be very powerful. Except I would never use them as an "intelligence" test (as trying to pin "intelligence" down is too messy). I use them to assess different "cognitive" skills. I have seen IQ scores save kids at school. One of my closest mates in high school was a couple of hours away from being expelled at the beginning of Year 11. Disruptive behaviour, swearing at teachers, failing every…

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    7. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Lydia Isokangas

      Lydia, no, these HSC eams they are very, very, exclusively syllabus derived. There;s no tricky IQ pattern tests. It's all "Why did the Cold War start", and so on.

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    8. Conor King

      Executive Director, IRU at La Trobe University

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      The really startling thing about the comments from Michael Sheehan is the confidence with which he asserts things he does not know or understand. the Qld system of school based assessment is not unique. It is common to ACT and Tasmania. Each has a mechanism to standardise outcomes across schools. The systems in NSW and Victoria are also different from each other, but use central exams. I do not know about SA and NT - hence I make no claims.

      An ATAR is not like an IQ (assuming for the moment any validity to that measure). It is not a normal curve. It is a simple rank order. Ten percent of the population are in each of the deciles. If the learning of school students increases by 50% there are no more or fewer ATARs at a given rank.

      Not everyone who stays to the end of year 12 receives a Yr 12 certificate, not all Yr 12 certificates provide the base for tertiary entry - so yes you can 'fail'.

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    9. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Conor King

      Conor, well, even I said the ATAR/HSC was NOT an IQ test. I also said you will get the HSC certificate "as long as sit the papers". The point of raising these two facts was merely to emphasise to Lydia that the HSC is not a pass/fail assessment system. And I will stand by my assessment of QLD as "unique", because of the OP metric, Lydia mentioned, as opposed to the ATAR, which every state and territory in Australia use, including Tasmania and ACT.

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  12. Stuart Billingham

    Emeritus Professor of Lifelong Learning

    We know from recent research in the UK that many University Admissions Tutors are increasingly ignoring, or at least giving much less weight to, the Personal Statements of applicants because everyone knows they are largely constructed and written following close support and guidance by school tutors, especially in the independent sector. This, inevitably given the significantly class-based distribution of compulsory educational opportunities in England, means that one of the key ways a student from…

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    1. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Stuart Billingham

      The ATAR is the most thorough and comprehensive metric of any high school system in the world.

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    2. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Stuart Billingham

      Stuart Billingham: I agree. However, I wonder whether it is worth the effort of having a separate system to assess higher education potential rather than relying on proxies such as the results from secondary school completion certificates.

      While potential to perform well at university clearly should be an important criterion for admission, should it be the sole criterion? Might not potential to benefit also be a criterion? Might other criteria be considered? Our colleagues in the US place…

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    3. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Stuart Billingham

      Stuart, the top universities in the UK have now returned to setting their own entrance exams, which test both general Thinking Skills, and specific subject aptitude, as well as interviews.

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    4. Stuart Billingham

      Emeritus Professor of Lifelong Learning

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment behind your argument Gavin but as I am sure we both know, that strategy is a very, very long term one and whilst liberal market ideologies and structures prevail not one with much chance of real success. I guess what I am looking for, in brief, are innovative ways to ensure we do not waste talent merely because of deeply embedded and structural inequalities. I am unconvinced that relying on metrics solves the problem and I am also not convinced that seeking precision in the mechanisms used is a sensible way forward either. I think that taking into account all aspects of the situation (context) of applicants and weighting achievements in relation to context is the best chance we have of mitigating the negative effects of low SES in this process.

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    5. Stuart Billingham

      Emeritus Professor of Lifelong Learning

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      It may well be Michael but I am arguing for a system which does not rely solely on metrics.

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    6. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Stuart Billingham

      This is ironic, since competitive examinations were introduced into the British civil service to replace patronage with a meritocracy, and so in a sense was an equity measure in the 19th century. Perhaps that made some progress but we are now seeking further improvement.

      From the little I know of it, I quite like Texas' top 10% plan, which offers places in public universities, including the most selective, to the top 10% of the graduating class of each high school. Since Texas schools are heavily…

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    7. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      The Texas situation is not relevant to Australia. The Texans are trying to get more African-Americans. Australia does not have that race dynamic problem. And our schools do have a racial segregation problem. But unless you're prepared to advocate restricting the number of Asian students allowed to attend government selective high schools, there is little that can be done.

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    8. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Stuart Billingham

      "I am unconvinced that relying on metrics solves the problem."
      And I am unconvinced there is any "problem" to solve. The only people who DO think there is a problem are Dawkins university bureaucrats, looking for ways to improve their university's revenues, which is largely their job.

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  13. MItchell Lennard

    Researcher - Distributed Energy Systems

    There is a very simple solution,

    Just don't issue an ATAR ranking. Its an obsolete concept that just supports a lazy out of date university administrative construct.

    My daughter is about to sit her IB exams, no complex normalisation, no marking on an assumed distribution. If everyone in her cohort performs to the well defined standard for a 7 out of 7 mark then they will all get 7 out of 7. If everyone receives 7 out of 7 then its a credit to them as individuals and to their teachers.

    After…

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    1. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to MItchell Lennard

      Mitchell, actually HSC marking is very similar to the IB. For the IB, each of the student's six subjects is awarded a mark from 1 to 7. As you state, that mark is not norm-referenced: it is criterion/standards referenced. So yes, technically, everybody in a particular year could get a 7, or a 1. But this exact same criterion/standards marking happens in the HSC, except from 1 to 6. The big difference is that the IB student's criterion/standards marks are summed (without any cross-subject scaling) to give a maximum of 42. An extra three points is up for the grabs on the basis of an extended essay, Theory of Knowledge course, and community service.
      But guess what? The Australasian Conference of Tertiary Admissions Centres (ACTAC) has a nifty formula that converts the IB score to an ATAR. And so, the IB student then is on the same footing as HSC students for the purposes of university entrance.

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    2. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to MItchell Lennard

      Mitchell, another curriculum, which I think was at least as good as the IB, but probably a bit more challenging is the Cambridge Pre-U, which all the better UK schools are picking up, dropping A-levels, which have become too dumbed-down, too much continuous assessment based on modules. A lot of the Asian schools have been using Cambridge curricular from primary school right through to senior secondary for years now. If there is one area where Australia needs massive improvement it is the curriculum. It's great they are allowing schools to choose the IB. It would be even better if they allowed the Cambridge Pre-U as well.
      http://www.cie.org.uk/programmes-and-qualifications/cambridge-advanced/cambridge-pre-u/subjects/

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    3. MItchell Lennard

      Researcher - Distributed Energy Systems

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Hi Michael,

      I think the points I am trying to make in a very clumsy manner are:

      In the HSC style systems, by design, not everyone can get an A, there is a scaling curve. This scaling was historically done to assist ranking, ATAR is an extension of the ranking concept. It only exists to assist universities.

      In the IB style courses everyone has the opportunity to get an A. - which I think is preferable as its a true reflection of what you have achieved and it would drive teaching standards…

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    4. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to MItchell Lennard

      Ah, OK. No, you are not being clumsy, just maybe not quite up on the modern HSC. It now awards a non-scaled band for every student from 1 to 6, very, very similar to the way the IB does - by very clearly expressed criterion and standards. Like you say about the IB, in one year every student in Economics could get the top band - 6 -and the next year, they all get 2, because they were not up to scratch. Where the IB and HSC then part ways is that the universities do not trust these 1-6 scores, so they take all the raw marks, and convert them to the scales scores of yesteryear, producing an aggregate out of 500 of the top ten units of scaled scores. All students are ranked on the basis of that aggregate, and an ATAR calculated. They also have a way of converting the IB score out of 45 into a ATAR, but they d it without destroying the integrity of the IB's individual subject scores out of 7. Ultimately, the HSC scores, based on the bands from 1 to 6 amount to nothing.

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    5. MItchell Lennard

      Researcher - Distributed Energy Systems

      In reply to Michael Sheehan

      Ah I see,

      We are at cross purposes since I am comparing the Victorian VCE system, which does produce a rank grade, with IB which produces an absolute grade.

      Seems like we don't even have a consistent approach state to state.

      Still don't like global ranking , don't think anyone should have access to the data to allow it. Universities can rank applicants as they see fit, but global statewide ranking should be abolished.

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    6. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to MItchell Lennard

      Actually, it is the universities who compile ATARs now.

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  14. Massimo Bini

    Tertiary Education Consultant at Vision Australia

    Thank you Claire for raising the important issue of quality higher education on the basis of equity.

    Australia has gone down a path of increased funding to private education providers such that it is now much harder for a student from a public school to receive a higher education. Currently around 36% of our school aged students are receiving a private education (this is much higher than the US or UK). Also our VET system is being privatised and fees rising across the country. This amounts to…

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    1. Michael Sheehan

      Geographer at Analyst

      In reply to Massimo Bini

      "Australia has gone down a path of increased funding to private education providers such that it is now much harder for a student from a public school to receive a higher education"
      Massimo, could you please explain this logic?

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  15. Linda ethell

    Teacher

    The writer seems to assume that with serious effort all students can emulate Lake Wobegon, where every student is above average: a logically and practically incoherent ideal. Assuming the will to put in the hours of hard and often tedious work on the student's part, high-level language skills are the function of years of wide reading to build up vocabulary, fluency and general knowledge. This is not something an unmotivated student will be willing to undertake; it is why reading to and with children…

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    1. Brian Kevin Duckworth

      part-time uni student & retired teacher

      In reply to Linda ethell

      It seems to me that as well as confusing norm-referenced rankings and criterion-referenced marks, we are also conflating three different purposes for the end-of-year 12 'mark'.
      One use for it is the simple statement that a given student has completed a particular course of study at a particular set of levels.

      The second use is that of the gate-keeper for entry to university and admission or rejection by certain faculties.

      The third use is that of predicting successful completion of a given…

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    2. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Brian Kevin Duckworth

      Pupils from schools which prepare pupils well for year 12 assessment achieve the same first year university grades as pupils with entry scores 5 points lower from schools which do not prepare pupils well for year 12 assessment (Dobson and Skuja, (2005). That is to say, schools that prepare pupils well for year 12 assessment boost their pupils' entry scores by 5%.

      It is true that year 12 has multiple purposes which are not completely congruent which thereby compromises each purpose. However…

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    3. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Gavin Moodie

      Gavin, I am 78 years old and attended university (UQ) to take a physics degree three years after completing year twelve (immaterial comment of course) but even at that time adults were granted special entry to most if not all courses. I believe this would have been universal in Australia at least and probably in most major countries. One knows of mature adults, for instance, attending Oxford University in the late nineteenth century - even women were allowed to attend but did not…

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    4. MItchell Lennard

      Researcher - Distributed Energy Systems

      In reply to Brian Kevin Duckworth

      Hi Brian,

      Since the initial series of discussions on this tread I have gone away to try and understand all of this further and agree fully with your comment that we ( well me at least) are probably confusing multiple uses.

      The first thing I have found is the the 'Australian' aspect of the ATAR is nonsense since the year

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    5. MItchell Lennard

      Researcher - Distributed Energy Systems

      In reply to Brian Kevin Duckworth

      Hi Brian,

      Since the initial series of discussions on this tread I have gone away to try and understand all of this further and agree fully with your comment that we ( well me at least) are probably confusing multiple uses.

      The first thing I have found is the the 'Australian' aspect of the ATAR is nonsense since the year 12 study scores are developed using different techniques in each state. Here in Victoria our VCE study scores are a normalised score - which I cannot find any reasonable justification…

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    6. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to MItchell Lennard

      Atars are limited, but for only a small minority of applicants is the inconsistencies between states material. The big majority of applicants apply within their own state and the big majority of selection decisions are made in bands of 3 or 4 points.

      Even were score differences material for a significant number of applicants, how could the system be realistically improved? An obvious option is national assessment, but that would be opposed by all the big states and possibly also by the ACT. Another option would be to require universities to select students by methods other than a score. That would introduce the judgement of selection officers, which is likely to be more inconsistent than Atars. It would also increase selection costs greatly.

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    7. MItchell Lennard

      Researcher - Distributed Energy Systems

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      I am not sure that just because students presently don't move between states that we should not set up a system that allows that to happen more. It would be great to see students seeking out the best teachers and best researchers in their subject and moving to those places.

      The fact that most place offers come down to a few points , when those points are mathematical dubious construct not equivalent across states is exactly the problem.

      Undergraduate places are a $30K to $40 K grant from the…

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    8. Tim Pitman

      Senior Lecturer at Curtin University

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      This is why an uncapped system is so important. ATARs are not about ability; they are about putting everyone in a queue to allow for 'meritorious' selection. The issues raised are all valid: there is inconsistency and bias and game-playing in the construction of ATARs - but nonetheless ATARs are still fairer than any other reasonable alternative so far proposed.

      But with uncapped places there will be far more scope for universities to select purely on ability. There will still be competition, but far less.

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    9. MItchell Lennard

      Researcher - Distributed Energy Systems

      In reply to Tim Pitman

      Hi all,

      Gavin I am unsure about how you think you can apply a 'measurement error' to any of this, measurement errors apply to absolute data ( temperature of the day) not subjective measures, which all students assessment ultimately is…( regardless of how effective a marking rubric you establish). That said I am really struggling with the odd application of mathematics by educationalists so I may yet understand…. how they end up with this thought process

      Tim I agree that uncapped is the way…

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    10. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to MItchell Lennard

      In educational assessment measurement error refers to inconsistencies in assessing students' educational attainment. At least in principle levels of attainment can be stated precisely. The first risk of error is that the assessment instrument may not measure accurately the levels of attainment specified. The second risk of error is that students' performance on an assessment task may be affected by different assessment conditions. A third risk of error is that assessors may assess the same performance differently.

      Various studies have shown that an assessor awards different marks to the same assessment task when they assess it 2 or 3 months apart. And of course different assessors award different marks when assessing the same assessment task at the same time. This is what I was referring to when I stated that measurement error of raw assessment scores is about + or - 3%.

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    11. MItchell Lennard

      Researcher - Distributed Energy Systems

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Thanks Gavin,

      That helps a lot. The pedant engineer in me would not view this spread as an error but the main thing is that I can see what your suggesting and how educators could described these effects this way.

      I am aware of the theoretical structure you summarise and its these base effects, coupled with the odd study score generation in Victoria, which is then further muddled by the ATAR development which is why I think the system is not fit for purpose.

      It seemed conceptually unfair when I did HSC 30 years ago, but I didn't understand the maths enough to know why. 30 years on its still wrong…. but I suspect the 30 years is part of the problem.

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    12. Claire Brown

      Associate Director, The Victoria Institute at Victoria University

      In reply to MItchell Lennard

      Thanks for your insightful comments, Mitchell. Your points have been well made. It is the contradictory and mixed purposes for which the ATAR is now used that is problematic, not so much the statistical validity and reliability of the metric itself. Add to that, the initial problem I raised is that not all schools are offering the same educational opportunities for all students. Schools are not level playing fields. There is substantial evidence to show that students in disadvantaged schools with similar academic capability can rank as many as 10 points lower on the ATAR than a similar student in a more affluent school. See the link to the research above. The interesting point not included in my original article is that there is also evidence to suggest that for those who get in and make it through first year of a university course, the ATAR and school effect become less of a factor of future student success.

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    13. MItchell Lennard

      Researcher - Distributed Energy Systems

      In reply to Claire Brown

      Hi Claire

      When I get some time I will look in more detail and perhaps write something on all the places where the education systems get the maths wrong … we could start with the mis-use of Normal distributions…

      The more important issue is that the effect you have discussed is not new. There has been significant disadvantage as a result of school variability for many years. As a student 30 years ago I was enraged by this and I remain frustrated that over 30 years there has been only minor improvement…

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