Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

Read Post

Busytown: Testing, 1 2 3

130 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 Newer→ Last

  • Hilary Stace,

    This is why my teacher friend is doing a counselling course this year as she anticipates parental reaction to the standards graph. She's a mother too. Anyone who has been subjected to the Plunket graph judgement knows it is an emotional minefield.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3214 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Or, it seems, any idea that the things being measured are people.

    And children, at that too.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    5 and 6 year olds, which seems to have been lost on some of the brave champions of the rightosphere

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19707 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan,

    Brilliant piece. I'm in Aus. Our 8 year old has been given homework since he was 5! There is (was!) no testing pressure around here. They have something called NAPLAN, but until recently the results were not publicised.

    We also questioned the value of the homework. He didn't want to do it and we didn't think he should have to. When we told the teachers we were given the eye-roll and told the Principal insists on homework. We said "this is dumb, it just teaches him it is ok not to do the work he is set", as we rarely made him complete it.

    *sigh*

    We sort of negotiated that he could do the science experiments he was always doing off his own bat, and document them. Sort of worked, kept him happy and the teacher off the hook. She still kept sending the worksheets home though.

    How dumb are those worksheets! They do them in class as well. One day my son came home from school quite distressed because one of the worksheets had the question "How many hours are there in a day?". His response "Do they mean day, as in when it is light, or the day plus the night?". I told him I didn't know and that I thought it was a poorly worded question.

    Our main criteria for a primary school was that it was local, and walkable. The kids really seem to appreciate that they know their local space and how the school is connected to their home. Plus their school friends and families are local too, which means they will be able to play and explore their limits without needing a parent to drive them to play-dates.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report Reply

  • Tess Rooney,

    In Greymouth there's a variety of school and each sort of has it's own niche. There's one that's very academic, one sporty etc. Parents can choose the school that fits best with their child's needs.

    We chose to send our kids to the Catholic school which is known for being small and quite a kind school. It's focus is very much on Christian values - kindness, forgiveness, loving your neighbour, charity towards the poor. The parents who sent their kids to St Patrick's wanted a school environment that focused on that, but how can you measure that in a national standard?

    I'm not saying that the school fails the kids in academic or sporting ways, it doesn't, but I'd hate to see the focus of the school shift because of national standard pressure.

    Since May 2009 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • slarty,

    The thing about those Plunkett charts are that they are in a little book that you keep... not on a database that will (whatever they suggest) be published on the interweb.

    Like I say, why not go the whole hog and publish results that reflect the aspect of a childs life that is far more influential than school: their parents...?

    Since Nov 2006 • 290 posts Report Reply

  • Richard K Tankersley,

    Kia ora Jolisa, that was an exquisite read, in so many ways. Thanks!

    Christchurch, NZ • Since Feb 2010 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Tony Parker,

    Like I say, why not go the whole hog and publish results that reflect the aspect of a childs life that is far more influential than school: their parents...?

    Some days I despair of the parents of some of the children I teach. Today I heard of a parent who was not concerned about their child's lack of progress because he "got through school without learning to read or write and didn't see what the problem was." Parental expectation plays a huge part in children's learning. Standards will not change that.

    Napier • Since Nov 2008 • 232 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    got through school without learning to read or write and didn't see what the problem was

    Depressing but all too frequent. There has always been an anti-intellectual/anti-education strain in New Zealand life. Recall, for example, the mana bestowed on Norm Kirk for his lack of education.

    What would a good idea would be to get parents to sit the same tests as their children, and see how many of them fail.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2557 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Ooo Geoff! That could be a can o'worms!

    And you are so right: I could never get my head round (still cant) why a very large proportion of ANZers despise intellectual/scholarly learning - is it the sports-worship thangy? But why should a deep interest in any kind of sport cause someone to loathe others who really enjoy another kind / kinds of learning right up until they die? Envy? Cant be - we are not a land occupied by a majority of people who have yer less-than-average brainpower. A perverse holdover from the European settler days/Jack's-as-good-as-his-master & bugger you if you use big words?

    Sighs. My awareness of this whole matter happened when I was 7 years old, when I was popped into Standard 1 without doing Primer 4 - because I'd got glasses. Because I could now see the blackboard. Because I could legitimately now be called "Perfesser' and -not least - because I was a hefty young hoon who now started applying some techniques of wrestling I'd learned (thank you Authur Mee's "Books of Knowledge"!) to wit, the half-nelson. I suddenly realised that not everyone-in-my-world really loved bookish people the way my parents and grandparents did-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    As long as we leave the nurturing to the parents/guardians (are we defining the family here as well?) and the teaching to the teachers, that's fine. If we are going to argue that a student's ability to read or not depends solely on the home environment, then what are schools for again?

    I'm not a big fan of the 'this child is unteachable' defence, or that their parents are too thick to enable proper learning, or wholly responsible for their failure. Obviously these things contribute to any child's performance, but they should not be used as an excuse, ever.

    Excuse the rant, but I am the son of a teacher, and have worked in adult education (English teaching) in the past, and there are always challenges to overcome in the learning exchange, but that, IMhO, is the teacher's job.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    recordari - so *much* of family nurturing is also teaching however, from babyhood up
    (and if the parents/parent hasnt learnt from their upbringing...)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    recordari - so *much* of family nurturing is also teaching however, from babyhood up

    I agree with that. But perhaps my naive utopian idealism holds that every child is capable of learning things, as long as they find the inspiration and enjoyment of learning. It is why I favour inquiry based learning, and a degree of self-paced learning, as a preference to a more rigid framework, and structured curriculum that is not easily adapted. Many schools seem to do well in this already. I sincerely hope that this is not significantly curtailed by these damn national standards.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Cecelia,

    Is there anything in the standards which will prevent inquiry based learning? The wording of the standards from what I've seen suggests that thinking skills and the ability to interpret texts will be as important as ever. No multi-choice tests looming a la the USA.

    It's just that a child will be judged according to the standard and placed on a percentile chart from a very young age. And league tables.

    And God stiffen the crows, I've just read the Listener editorial on this subject. What a shallow unresearched knee jerk reaction. Sounds awfully like the back page. How sad.

    Hibiscus Coast • Since Apr 2008 • 559 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Thanks for the kind and insightful comments. Russell's right, this one has been a while brewing, although it was written all in a single sitting and basically posted unedited.

    Then I got depressed about it for a day or two, hence the silence.

    I did wonder about posting, as it's not clear that this sort of thing follows naturally from National Standards.

    On the other hand, I doubt the architects of No Child Left Behind had this outcome in mind. So consider me a canary in someone else's coalmine.

    [threadmerge with this alarming thought]

    It beats me why schools don't rise up en masse and refuse to comply with the tests any further, as in the UK. As far as I can make out, it's a zero-sum game: the well-scoring schools continue to score well, the failing schools are either shored up or reorganized or ignored according to a shifting (and rather shifty) set of "procedures," and the ones in the middle, like our original crunchy little school, live in a constant state of "I'm a teapot, I'm a teapot."

    Above all, what the last three years have taught me is that most parents and teachers care enough about children and their education to lose sleep over it. (But not necessarily enough to lose a job over it). And all feel equally powerless to remedy the situation.

    It's really, really sobering to realise how far I've moved from my original starry-eyed hopes about what school could do or be. There was some talk last year about starting up a charter school, with a bunch of similarly unhappy parents - something along the lines of the Unlimited School. But the practical hurdles are huge...

    ...and the clock is ticking. I'm stunned to note that 1/3 of my older boy's compulsory education is already done. Which still leaves 2/3 to get creative with, but whoah. Childhood, eh? Blink and you miss it. And this is the third that can, save for interventions such as recordari describes, define the rest of one's life.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Is there anything in the standards which will prevent inquiry based learning?

    Not wanting to channel Marvin the paranoid android or anything, but there is nothing in NCLB that actually prevents inquiry based learning either.

    If you read the description on paper of our old school, you'd think it the most enlightened institution on the planet, and as recently as 5 years ago it was known around town as Montessori/Reggio-Emilia at public school prices, much sought-after by the professoriate. It was small, and had a very child-centered mission, and was run by a collective of parents and teachers.

    The city, pleased with the school's success in a trial period with a small number of students, expanded enrolment and appointed a principal.

    At which point the test scores went down, and the school got itself into the situation it finds today: struggling to hang onto the high-scoring children, and despite superficial continuities, a very long way from its original mission. As the original teachers retire or resign and new ones are appointed, it is becoming indistinguishable from any other struggling public school.

    I think this is the clear and present danger for NZ schools: private schools are exempt from the data-gathering, high-decile schools can afford not to worry about it, and everyone else will live and breathe the numbers. Maybe not in the first year, or the second year, but soon, and for the rest of their life.

    Of course, the occasional low-scoring school will bootstrap itself up by 10 or 20% and be feted and lauded and researched for its efforts. That happens here every year when they announce the test scores: some school has cranked up its percentage of students meeting the standard from 20 percent to 30 or more, and a great fuss is made in order to distract from the fact that everyone else's numbers have barely shifted.

    I really don't mean to be a pessimist on this. The city I live in is in the middle of a massive school reform initiative, which is coming at the problem from a wildly disparate range of angles. Possibly too wildly, but on the other hand, the problem has become too big to ignore, so they really have to be seen to be doing something.

    Others advocate alternative approaches, like charter schools. One in particular is a successful experiment in addressing the achievement gap via long school days and intensive drilling, which seems to pay off. Sometimes the answer is in fact more school! (And not just uniforms and 9-5 drilling, but sports and music... check out the guy in the Music Makes You Smarter T-shirt!).

    But the overall picture remains pretty dispiriting. It would break my heart if New Zealand were to accidentally steer itself onto a similar track. Plus, my eight year old would go ballistic!

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Just realised my teapot reference may be too obscure for younger or differently cultured readers... Think "headless chicken." But teapots are funnier.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    Just realised my teapot reference may be too obscure for younger or differently cultured readers... Think "headless chicken." But teapots are funnier.

    Not sure whether this is unique to our 'community', but there seems to be a version of the little teapot which starts off as usual, and then nobody can move their arms, so it ends;

    'Oh no, I'm a sugar bowl!'

    Oh, and I knew about the goodies, just trying to lighten things up a bit. This is turning into heavy stuff. Isn't learning supposed to be fun? At least until High School, surely?

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    'Oh no, I'm a sugar bowl!'

    LOL!

    Isn't learning supposed to be fun? At least until High School, surely?

    Steady on man, that's dangerous talk. We go down that path, children might stop getting depressed and anxious and all that.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    I've just read the Listener editorial on this subject. What a shallow unresearched knee jerk reaction.

    That'll learn ya to read teh Listnarer.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    Steady on man, that's dangerous talk. We go down that path, children might stop getting depressed and anxious and all that.

    Damn that's sobering reading. During the holidays we spent a week without TV, Nintendos, Wii, Internet access, with a table tennis table and boogie boards. There is one moment that will stay in my mind forever as all three caught the same wave all the way to the beach with grins to their ears, and squealing, unbridled happiness.

    Intrinsic versus extrinsic. I hadn't thought if it like that. It always comes back to existentialism. Always! We do seem to be heading down the road of fatalism. Time to fight back I say!

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    But if they're not depressed and anxious and focussed on material goods and money, how will they become good consumers and workers?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I'd imagine that, for any school doing things in a non-mainstream way, the worry is that their students may have a non-mainstream trajectory through their learning (eg may start a skill later but learn is quicker) which doesn't plot neatly onto the graph so there may be pressure to do teach the same way as everyone else so as to get the same results as everyone else..

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    But if they're not depressed and anxious and focussed on material goods and money, how will they become good consumers and workers?

    Boy, Mark Fisher is really doing a number on you, isn't he? :-)

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    /me bangs nail with shiny new hammer

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.