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All things in Because their source is actual classroom activity (not

special data generated by one-off tests), these assessment

moderation: methods are well grounded and any decisions made
about a child's learning are based on real evidence.
A whole school approach
to authentic assessment The school has developed its own Reading Profile,
used to map a child's development from Prep to
Grade 6. The indicators on this profile are objective,
How can teachers ensure that the
observable behaviours such as 'Recognises own name'
decisions they make about a child's
or 'Indicates 1:1 correspondence between printed and
learning path are both valid and spoken word'. They represent collective teacher
reliable? The designers of beliefs about reading and are based mainly on tacit
standardised tests claim that these are teacher knowledge, as well as published curriculum
critical educational considerations. documents. For example, both the WA First Steps
[ohn Davidson tells how one school Reading Continuum and the National Profile have
tries to avoid the testing trap while been referred to, both for their sequencing and as
enhancing professional standards. checks that all essential behaviours are covered. The
Tasmanian Pathways document was used as a
At Moonee Ponds West Primary School, a lot of template for the patchwork-type layout.
teacher effort goes into constructing valid
assessment methods. The main assessment tool, This Reading Profile began in 1991 as a linear
developed over many years, is a form of Cumulative checklist of beginning and emergent reading
File, consisting of annotated work samples drawn behaviours. Over the years many teachers have
from everyday classroom work. Additional data on helped refine and develop it into a set of interlocking
a child's progress is compiled from extensive descriptors, organised in broad, developmentally
conference notes, often distilled or summarised as appropriate bands (not graded levels) covering the
Profiles - one for reading, another for mathematics. whole of primary school (and early secondary).


Recognises own name, Predicts story Invents story to accompany pictures Able to re-read some of own written
friends' names from cover language
Joins in familiar Uses story-like/core phrases from text Recognises some familiar sight words

Makes links to own Knows print contains the message Recites text from memory
experience when listening (eg directionality, conventions, story with fluency and/or
or reading books makes sense etc) expression

Re-reads fluently after Uses semantics, memory, pictures and sight words to approximate a known text
listen ing post, repeated or
shared reading

Indicates when reading Uses ill ustrations to decode text

doesn't make sense
Uses grapho-phonics (sound-letter information) to decode
Attempts self- correction to Uses semantics (sense of story) to decode
make sense

Reads silently for Recites text with a~cura~y, while

longer periods focused on print

A section of the P-6 Reading Profile,us~,4 across the whole school

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The linear layout gave way to more of a 'jigsaw-like' Before each reporting period (mid-year and end of
pattern, because teachers know that children don't year), teachers get together in their tearns to
develop in simplistic straight lines. Reading compare a selection of their Assessment Files and
development typically shows leaps, pauses, Profiles. Each classroom teacher selects a child
consolidation, even regression at times, and an considered to be progressing 'normally' and one
authentic record of development has to allow for a considered to be 'at risk'. Other classroom teachers,
child's idiosyncratic path. who usually work with similar class structures,
examine the work samples, profiles and conference
The Profile summarises the raw data collected by notes to see if they would have drawn conclusions
teachers at reading conferences - every entry on a similar to those of the assessing teacher.
child's Profile can be backed up by conference notes,
anecdotals or work samples. It is used as both an Lots of talk ensues, with many suggestions and
assessment instrument and as a reporting tool for questions about the annotations and judgments to be
parents. made, for example:
• Has this child's proofreading improved over
Like the Reading Profile, the I'chool's system of
Cumulative Assessment Files has been developed
over many years, with input from all teachers at • Does this or that class write across a range of
curriculum and team meetings, and at whole-day genre?
PD sessions. This system (called simply 'Files' at • Are adequate science and technology samples
Moonee West) originated in Victoria in the early included in the file?
1970s, well before the 'portfolio movement' got
under way in the US in the late 1980s. • Do teachers use similar terminology in their
conference notes?
Our files began life as a simple collection of work
samples. Over the years, more teacher comment Some teachers give written feedback to their
. was added, along with contextual information, colleagues, or use 'post-it' sticky labels on the actual
analysis and most importantly, the child's own samples or profiles. The assessing teacher can then
reflections and self-evaluations. They are not consider the range of comments later.
collections of 'best work'.
Many ideas are shared and innovations suggested.
Some problems of holistic, authentic evaluation Teachers treat each other as professional equals
remain to be solved. For example, how can a 'file' during these meetings, but Willingly risk their
portray changes in playground behaviour? How do credibility by laying bare their views on learning,
you show emerging social maturity or self- their written notes on children, and, by implication,
confidence? To some extent these questions are their own teaching practice.
tackled through the child's own self evaluations, or
with specific projects like writer's profiles. (See In the end, the unanimous view is that it's well
Jenny Hodges' and Merredith Hillebrand's article in worth the risk - words like 'empowermenr.'trust',
this edition, 'Children's views of themselves as 'valid judgment' flow around the room, and the
authors") meetings run late into the evening. Personal and :>-
professional enhancement is a valuable by-product r-
Standardised, summative or multiple choice tests are of this moderation process. -<
not used at all at Moonee Ponds West. While
moving away from standardisation, these teachers Since everyone is submitting files for moderation,
have developed their own form of moderation in consensus can be reached about what 'normal
order to ensure the authenticity of their assessments. progress' is, and what indicates a child is 'atrisk'.


The criteria for these judgments are discussed by the
teachers concerned, they're not imposed by test AUTHENTIC
scores or lists of 'outcomes' handed down from on ASSESSMENT
As well, the school gains confidence that the
teachers have agreed on what is a reasonable
expectation for each stage of learning, and that all
teachers are using similar assessment tools. This
means that the assessment documents themselves
How do teachers maintain their
are dependable or trustworthy - they are reliable as professional integrity while also
well as valid. meeting the system's requirements?
We visited Anne Nelson's Prep-One-
Two class at Spensley St Primary
School, in Melbourne's inner
suburban Clifton Hill.

System accountability has assumedprime

importance in the last ten years, right across
Australia, Most states use some sort of 'basic skills'
testing as well as curriculum outcome statements
against which student progress is measured.

In Victoria, schools are expected to structure their

teaching around the Curriculum and Standards
Framework (CSF),which was derived from the eight
National Profiles.

CSF Levels are tied to particular age-grade

expectations: Level 1 is the end of Prep, Level 2 the
end of Grade 2, and so on. Each child's progress
must be reported as 'Beginning', 'Consolidating' or
'Established' within the relevant Level.

As there are four primary levels, each Victorian child

might progress through 12 reporting levels in seven
years - from 'Beginning Level l' to 'Established
Level 4'. These reports are made in Mathematics,
English and Science.

Victorian schools are required to list the CSF level

and sub-level of all children in their Annual Reports.
In the midst of all this grading and levelling it
would be easy to surrender authentic practices and
just tick the boxes on a report form.