Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Nduta Kang’ethe: How moderation, standardization in national exams work

Standardization and moderation of results in national examinations is a subject that not too many people are able to comprehend. This is especially when results don’t seem to reflect the expected performance.

Here, though, educationist Nduta Kang’ethe has explained what standardization and moderation in national exams are all about and how they apply:

“If your child was in class 8, you will by now have the meanscore of your child’s school.

You will have compared it with performance in previous years and there will be that niggling voice in your head that the results of your school were tampered with because of the two animals known as standardization and moderation.

You will have been told about remarking of exams and appeal processes. My advice to you is to move on. Remarking changes nothing 99% of the time.

If you are a parent with a class 8 candidate in 2023, you will have read the articles comparing the performance of private and public schools. You will be wondering whether that rumour about suppressing the performance of students in private schools is true.

You may even be tempted to play those exam centre games that the sector has become so adept at; have your child educated in one school and register them for the exam at another school. Don’t believe the rumours. The standardization formula applies uniformly to children in public and private schools.

If your child did KPSEA, you will be wondering whether that particular exam matters considering Junior Secondary is also domiciled in existing primary schools and the fact that there was no fanfare when the results of that assessment were released.

They were uploaded and that was that. You will have many questions about what this means for future candidates.

In a broad sense, there are two types of exams: norm referenced and criterion referenced.KCPE is norm referenced while KPSEA and KCSE are criterion referenced.

Criterion referenced exams are exams or assessments in which grade boundaries are determined before the candidate sits for the exam, and remain unchanged even after the exam is done.

For example, where KCSE is concerned, if the A Grade is capped at 80 it remains unchanged whether one person gets it or 10000 candidates get it. If no candidate achieves the A, the A mark will not be lowered to 70, KNEC will simply give the grades as they are.

Another example of a criterion referenced test is the driving test. If 1000 people show up to take it and all of them are unable to climb the hill then they all fail. The standard is not changed

Where Norm reference exams are concerned, grade boundaries are set after the exam is done. These boundaries are set through a process known as standardization.

KCPE is the only national exam that is norm referenced because we use it for placement into secondary schools, which we categorize into 4: National, Extra County, County and Sub-County.

While all exams whether norm or criterion referenced undergo moderation, only norm referenced exams undergo standardization.

Standardization where examinations are concerned is the process of obtaining a normal curve in a population. Examiners ask themselves questions such as what was the mean of the whole population? How clustered was that mean? What was the standard deviation?

These questions can only answered if standardization is done. When the purpose of an exam is placement in categorized highschools with limited slots, then standardization must be done in order to determine who goes to the national schools and who goes to the sub county school. This categorization of schools is what makes KCPE such a high stakes, high pressure exam.

Combine this with the fact that we have resourced our national and extra county schools at the expense of the rest. It is why the selling point for private schools is how many 400s you can produce. The higher your production line for 400s the fuller your school is.

The standardization formula in Kenya has not changed since 1989.

Moderation happens once exams are marked. This process is carried out for every subject.

Moderators ask themselves questions such as whether the exam was the same level of difficulty across board..did the child in Samburu understand the question in the same way as the one from Nyeri? Were the questions ambiguous? Were there answers? If there are no issues, results are left as they are. However, if there are issues, then moderation is done.

Moving forward, the future of national exams is criterion based as evidenced by KPSEA.This is good. For the first time in a long time, exam results will tell us something about the children.

Teachers will be able to use exams and assessments to facilitate learning, to see the areas children need help in; learning will be a continuum.

Hopefully, the KPSEA model of reporting can be adopted for the last cohort of KCPE and implemented in KCSE as much as possible.

Top 24 students in 2023 KCPE, their marks and schools

It is time to change your mindset, to embrace change..and for once this change is good. Exams need not be life.and death. They are supposed to aid learning and at last, we as a country are moving in that direction. It is lovely to see exams released without ranking of children or schools.”

















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