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How grades are monitored

Submitted grades are monitored before they are finalised in order to strengthen the comparability and consistent application of standards.

What we look for

The overall picture of each school's comparative data is considered along with grade history and any known circumstances when looking at grade patterns. The grade pattern for a course may be considered anomalous if it differs markedly from what could be expected based on grade patterns in the past, patterns in other courses in the school or grade patterns in comparable schools.

An on-balance judgement is made about each school's grading patterns by a team of NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) officers before schools are contacted and grades finalised.

Analysing data

We look at data from the school’s performance for their most recent HSC examination results. This information is used to compare the pattern of grades awarded by this school for each course with grades awarded in similar schools (as measured by HSC performance). For example, school A is similar to school B if they have approximately equal 'mean' HSC marks across a range of courses.

We would then look more closely at a school’s results in courses that deviated from this pattern if it appears that a school has awarded a noticeably higher or lower percentage of grades A, A+B (and E) in such courses than other schools with similar results. We then consider aspects of the school’s grading pattern such as its grade history and the grades awarded in other courses, plus any known local circumstances affecting the school’s performance in this course.

Reviewing grade patterns

We review each school’s grade patterns over the past several years. In cases where the grades awarded in the current year in a course are markedly different to grades awarded in the same and similar courses in the past, a school’s grading pattern may be flagged as anomalous.

Graph showing grading history Maths 200 hours

In the course illustrated above, the proportion of grade Es has risen sharply from an average of 10.12 percent to almost 27 percent in 2016. As the size of the cohort is reasonably large and stable, this difference would be considered sufficient for us to give the pattern of grades further consideration. This type of abrupt jump or fall in grades awarded may be flagged by NESA officers using the analysing data method.

Each school’s pattern of grades is reviewed for the current year across all courses with large candidatures (compared to the school cohort). In the example above, we would be particularly interested to see whether the proportions of grade Es rose abruptly in courses other than Mathematics, which may indicate a change in the quality of the cohort overall.

Comparing results

We compare results in 100 and 200-hour courses (Stage 5 only). The various 100 and 200-hour Stage 5 courses use the same course performance descriptors.

It would be reasonable to expect that students who have studied a course for 200 hours are able to demonstrate higher levels of knowledge, skills and understanding than students who have only had 100 hours of lessons.

A check is made that the school has not awarded a much higher proportion of grade As or combined grades A and B to the students studying the 100-hour course than those studying the 200-hour course.

What happens if grade patterns look unusual?

Principals are contacted when the pattern of grades awarded in one or more courses appears to be irregular or inconsistent. They are asked to review the grades awarded.

Schools then review the grades they have awarded in the nominated courses and make changes or confirm the grades awarded as appropriate. The principal will then advise of any actions taken.

Further analysis of grading patterns is then undertaken to identify schools that may benefit from additional support in awarding grades. Schools may be contacted and asked to provide student work samples and associated tasks to assist with this process. Schools may also be contacted by NESA for permission to publish the work samples and assessment activities to help illustrate statewide standards.

Can schools monitor their own grades?

As schools have access, through  Schools Online and the  Results Analysis Package, to the graphs and data used by NESA officers, similar self-monitoring can be done at an individual school level before grades are submitted.

How do we use work samples?

A panel of subject specialists is engaged to review the work samples submitted by schools. These specialists are experienced teachers with a good understanding of achievement at each of the A to E grades for the course they are reviewing.

The panel members make a determination about the grade each work sample best represents. Feedback is then provided to the schools that submitted work samples to enable them to adjust their understanding of the standards for a course where necessary.

This process also enables the identification of anomalies and refining the processes used to monitor the grades submitted by schools.