Monday, 14 September 2015

DA questions decision to postpone ANA tests

2015-09-13 18:47
Annette Lovemore
Annette Lovemore
Johannesburg - The opposition Democratic Alliance has questioned the decision to postpone the writing of the annual national assessments [ANA] tests at government schools.
"Who is currently in charge of our country’s education system?" said DA MP Annette Lovemore in a statement.
In a last-minute move, the Department of Basic of Education (DBE) on Friday announced that the 2015 ANAs,which test numeracy and literacy, which was scheduled to start on Tuesday and be written by 8.6 million pupils, has been postponed until February next year.  The decision came after the department engaged with unions, including the SA Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu), who had spoken out against the assessments.
"It is completely unacceptable that Sadtu is allowed to get away with compromising the education of our children and therefore their future opportunities for a better life," said Lovemore, labelling the education department's move to postpone the tests as having "caved" to the unions.
"The importance of the ANAs must be recognised. Our education system is mired in crisis, with only half of our children able to read properly by the end of Grade 3, and only 3% of our children being appropriately numerate by the end of Grade 9.
"It is essential that we test literacy and numeracy every single year and that interventions are aggressively implemented, informed by the results of the tests."
Earlier this week, DBE national spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the postponement was "in the best interest of schooling stability and will also assist in improving the quality and the thrust of the national assessment programme."

Why ANAs were shelved

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IOL exams INDEPENDENT MEDIA The annual national assessments (ANAs), which assess the literacy and numeracy levels of pupils from grades 1 to 6 and in Grade 9, were due to start on Tuesday but have been postponed till February. File picture: Timothy Bernard
Johannesburg - The education of more than 8 million children has been thrown into disarray after the Department of Basic Education bowed to pressure from teacher unions and postponed the Annual National Assessments (ANAs).
The postponement seemed cast in stone as early as Tuesday when the South African Teachers Union (Sadtu), which is the majority union, threatened to boycott the tests. It called on its members to refuse to administer and mark the assessments.
Two other teacher unions – the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) and the South African Teachers Union – also demanded that the assessments be done in three-year cycles in order to create time for remedial action.
The tests, which assess the literacy and numeracy levels of pupils from grades 1 to 6 and in Grade 9, were due to start on Tuesday but have been postponed till February.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga made the decision in spite of her concerted efforts last week to rescue the tests when she held meetings with the unions.
A statement signed by the leadership of the three unions said it had been a joint decision to postpone the tests.
The unions said a three-year cycle for the ANAs would create time for remedial action.
The tussle between Motshekga and the unions has raised the alarm on the government’s ability to enforce policy and on questions about the power that unions affiliated to the ANC-led tripartite alliance hold, according to education researchers and political analysts.
Following the announcement of the postponement on Friday, the department has admitted that it would have to go back to the drawing board to consider alternative means to improve pupils’ literary and numeracy competency.
It said the postponement was in the best interest of schooling stability and would assist in improving the quality and thrust of the national assessment programme.
A task team comprising teacher unions and department officials has since been established to address the unions’ grievances and assist the department to remodel the assessments.
As the department mulls over the problem, the unions are also celebrating the fall of the “Gazette regime”, which refers to what they argued was the department’s tendency to publicly issue policy in Government Gazettes and through circulars without consulting them.
The unions also got the department to commit to improving its relationship with them, and channel more resources into teacher development. They said Basic Education Director-General Matanzima Mweli had committed to urgently addressing matters affecting the working conditions of teachers.
Explaining its call for a boycott, Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke and deputy general secretary Nkosana Dolopi accused the department of waging a “well-orchestrated low-level war” against unions and of continuously failing to improve teachers’ working conditions.
At an education research conference at Stellenbosch University last month, Motshekga pledged that more guidance would be provided to schools on how to use the assessments to improve classroom practice, and she acknowledged that her department needed to work on refining the tests.
Education researchers have frequently pointed to the flaws in the assessments. The chief arguments were that the results weren’t comparable over years, and that schools had taken to cheating.
Naptosa president Basil Manuel said schools and education districts often felt so pressured to perform in the assessments that they neglected the curriculum.
“Teachers would prepare pupils for what is to come in the diagnostic tests, which is not supposed to happen,” Manuel said.
The Star

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Sadtu to boycott ANAs

Sadtu to boycott ANAs

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Copy of Copy of St sec ANA INDEPENDENT MEDIA The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has resolved to instruct its 250 000 teacher members to boycott invigilating the ANAs until the department of basic education stops imposing policies that compromise& labour peace . Photo: Timothy Bernard
Pretoria - With just over a week before the start of the annual national assessments (ANAs), the biggest teacher union in the country has announced they are boycotting the tests.
The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has resolved to instruct its 250 000 teacher members to boycott invigilating the ANAs until the department of basic education stops imposing policies that “compromise… labour peace”.
Sadtu decided to issue this order at its national executive committee meeting last week.
The ANAs, which are a diagnostic tool to assess literacy and numeracy, are expected to be written between September 15 and 18. About 8.6 million pupils in grades 1 to 9 will write the tests.
The tests were first introduced in 2010. Last year’s ANAs indicated only 3 percent of Grade 9 pupils were numerate at a grade-appropriate level.
The target is 60 percent. The average score for the Grade 9 maths assessment was 10.8 percent.
The union claims the department had failed to consult with them on the ANAs.
“However, it has been reduced to an onslaught on teachers, with no intention to improve the system by ensuring fit for purpose intervention in the form of ongoing professional development for all in the system that was supposed to be part of the diagnosis,” the union spokeswoman Nomusa Cembi said in a statement.
She said the move to boycott the assessments was in defiance of the Department of Basic Education.
She said the department had “committed publicly to consult with unions on the principal standards (and) regulations” but this didn’t happen.
Instead, she said, it had embarked on “a gazette-driven tangent” (matter) which is meant to sideline the unions on issues affecting conditions of employment.
Despite the boycott, departmental spokeswoman Troy Martens said plans were on track for the exams to continue smoothly.
“We have requested a meeting with the union next week to hear what their problems are. But according to us, the exams are going ahead as planned,” she said.
The South African Teachers’ Union (SAOU) chief executive Chris Klopper said they had also asked the department for an urgent meeting over the issue.
“The SAOU has always maintained the ANA, in its current form, does not achieve what the Department of Basic Education says it does,” he said.
“More specifically, it is neither diagnostic nor formative and contributes little, if anything, to an accurate assessment of either the curriculum or the learner’s achievement.
“By extension, therefore, it is also of limited value when assessing classroom practice,” Klopper added.
Meanwhile, the DA has reacted with outrage to Sadtu’s threats to boycott the ANAs. The DA spokeswoman on Basic Education, Annette Lovemore, said it would compromise the ability to assess the pupils’ level of literacy and numeracy.
“It is a shameful decision which needs to be reconsidered urgently,” she said, adding she would write to the union and request they retract the planned boycott.
Pretoria News
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NAPTOSA Position on the 2015 Annual National Assessments (ANA)

The ANA was conceptualised following poor learner performance in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science (TIMMS), as well as the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) studies. NAPTOSA, at the time, embraced the intention of a “home-grown” diagnostic testing system for selected grades. However, the ANA is no longer a diagnostic systemic evaluation tool, but has evolved into a content-based test with results being used to “label and punish” schools and districts in relation to performance. This labelling has changed the way in which schools and teachers perceive the ANA.
 In 2014 we saw schools “teaching to the ANA” to the detriment of the curriculum. Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) instructed that days/weeks be dedicated to the preparation for the ANA, as well as schools having “pre- ANA tests” in some provinces. This abhorrent practice continues as a result of the pressure to perform at any cost. NAPTOSA denounces such practices and also rejects the proliferation and extension of the ANA to all grades as opposed to the initial focus grades, namely, grades 3, 6 and 9.
NAPTOSA is concerned that sufficient time is not allocated for schools to consolidate and implement the learning needs as identified.
NAPTOSA has consistently drawn its concerns about the ANA to the attention of both the Minister and the Department of Basic Education, but to no avail. These concerns include issues of changed focus from diagnostic to summative evaluation; lack of consolidation; the undesirability of a high stakes testing regime; and the absence of meaningful engagement. Other pertinent issues taken up with the Minister include the disruption of the academic year, additional educator workload, unfair demands on special schools, and change in focus and purpose. The timing of the ANA is also cause for concern.
NAPTOSA regrets the fact that all our proposals regarding the above have, to date, been ignored.
Accordingly, NAPTOSA sees no purpose in the ANA as it is currently implemented and strongly believes that there is a need for it to be overhauled rather than continuing blindly with a flawed policy that costs millions annually and amounts to nought.
Consequently, NAPTOSA is of the firm opinion that the values and purpose of the ANA have been compromised. NAPTOSA is engaging in consultations with other educator unions, as well as the Minister and the Director General of the Department of Basic Education. Once these have been concluded, NAPTOSA will evaluate its continued participation in the ANAs.