Cautious rollout for school tracking system

Application developed for the Ministry of Education to record student progress will be available to all schools in 2014

An application being developed for the Ministry of Education to record student progress will be rolled out cautiously and with thorough testing, a ministry spokesperson says.

“The PaCT (Progress and Consistency Tool) will be available for all schools in 2014,” says Pauline Barnes, group manager, curriculum, teaching and learning. “The implementation plan is not yet finalised and will undergo a number of trials with teachers and school administrators in all areas before it does,” she says. “It takes time to get this right, and we want to be sure that each part of the tool works well before we release it.”

New Zealand company Catalyst IT is developing PaCT for the ministry. Despite the Kiwi partner and the careful rollout, the project has attracted sceptical comment raising the inevitable comparisons with Novopay, developed by Australia-based Talent2.

Pat Newman, principal of Hora Hora School in Whangarei, told the Northern Advocate newspaper he had no confidence in the ministry’s ability to oversee the development of new software, especially after the problems caused by Novopay.

“The Ministry of Education, who currently can’t even pay teachers, is now proposing to take every child’s data using another new computer program,” he told the Adovcate

At a meeting he attended in Wellington in late March with around 100 other principals, Newman asked questions about the security of the system, which he says ministry officials could not answer.

PaCT is “designed to help teachers make consistent judgments against the National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics,” says Barnes at the ministry. “The tool will support teachers to make overall judgments about a student’s achievement and track progress over time.” The national standards are themselves controversial and have been rejected by major teachers’ organisations.

“Teachers work through aspects of reading, writing and mathematics, making a series of professional judgments about which set of illustrations best fit a student’s achievement profile,” Barnes says. “The tool combines the teacher’s responses over the different aspects and reports a probable achievement range linked to the National Standards. Teachers’ judgments are key to judging a student’s progress and achievement and in PaCT the final decision is made by the teacher.

“A teacher’s advisory group has been set up to provide input into its design,” she says. “The Ministry has met hundreds of teachers and school leaders to ensure it develops and tests a tool that meets their needs. The feedback received has helped its design and development.”

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