Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Standards Matter

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  • 3410,

    Ironically, I suspect Ms Black is the author of the current Listener editorial

    You're not the only one. A greater concentration of non sequiturs I've not seen in quite some time. (See also the last segment - re Climate Change - of the Black Page). Groan!

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    For some time now I have had an uncharitable urge to... poke her in the arm. Really hard.

    Would it help if a pixie kicked her in the bottom?

    the new curriculum covers the early years, yet is missing the detail of what happens over the NCEA years.

    Well, we do know what happens in discovery-based high schools. (Yes, I know, with the wittering about Unlimited again, but it's the school I know, kay?) Kids pick projects they want to do, and then their Learning Advisors work out how to get NCEA credits out of them, across multiple subjects.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    If the compilation of League Tables is genuinely not desirable, why doesn't the government keep the standards testing more or less confidential? ie: why should I know the results of anyone else but my own children?

    Because we have an Official Information Act. You don't need a compelling reason to release data, you need a compelling reason to keep it secret.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Would it help if a pixie kicked her in the bottom?

    Does the pixie have those long pointy curly shoes? Because if so: yes.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Robbie Siataga,

    Well, we do know what happens in discovery-based high schools. Kids pick projects they want to do, and then their Learning Advisors work out how to get NCEA credits out of them, across multiple subjects.

    Sounds grand if a bit dodgy. Would stand them in good stead if they ever wanted to become politicians though:)

    So does anybody know what happens in wharekura (total immersion maori high school) ?

    Nah, me neither and I put my kids though kura kaupapa but mainstreamed them for their final high school years because I lacked the confidence in the teachers, the system and the reporting back/ accounting for kids learning.

    My kids did develop awesome family values and a strong and vital sense of who they are and how they fit into New Zealand though, plus they're fluent in maori.

    There was a worry on mainstreaming them that they'd suffer in english grammar but they didn't. Maths was their weak point. More so because it's a language of numbers and at high school level even the teachers were struggling with transliterating higher concepts.

    Shame on Turia for exempting kura from national standards. If any schools need it it's kura.

    Since Feb 2010 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    Does the pixie have those long pointy curly shoes? Because if so: yes.

    Did somebody mention "The Pixies"? ;)

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    There was a worry on mainstreaming them that they'd suffer in english grammar but they didn't. Maths was their weak point.

    Interestingly (with usual caveats) it's the same with hearing-impaired kids. Their problem is not literacy but numeracy.

    Sounds grand if a bit dodgy. Would stand them in good stead if they ever wanted to become politicians though:)

    Maybe it'll sound less dodgy if I give you a concrete real-life example. Some kids put a band together and make a CD. They design sleeve art for it, make promotional posters, and sell it.

    They get credits in music, economics, ICT, art and english. Because they've demonstrated skills in all those areas.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Gordon Dryden,

    Alan P asks:

    If the compilation of League Tables is genuinely not desirable, why doesn't the government keep the standards testing more or less confidential? ie: why should I know the results of anyone else but my own children?

    Gordon comments:

    Most schools with good computer systems already provide digital online "platforms" where students record their "personal digital portfolios". Individual parents have fulltime access to their own children's portfolios of progress, and teachers have access to all their class portfolios.

    However (and this is one of the big pluses of the new New Zealand Curriculum Guidelines): in the 21st-century, multimedia world, most people now need to work in multimedia teams which brig together different skills, talents and passions. They do this not only in the obvious multimedia centres such as television and movie-making, but now in virtually all manufacturing. For example, while Steve Jobs may take the credit for Apple's iPod, iPod-touch, iPhone and iPad products, these are the result of highly-talented teams, including the 550,000 people who work for Foxconn in China manufacturing and assembling components for all these products, plus millions more from other countries. To get those to global markets (with software in various languages) entails putting together other talented design, software and logistic skills.

    Fortunately, because New Zealand is a world leader in teaching our primary school students to use interactive digital technology, most of those students quickly learn to combine their strengths with others. This is most obvious, and demonstrable, in the incredibly brilliant multimedia video-animation-and music presentations produced in New Zealand schools to show their "21st-century literacy skills".

    So, with the approval of students, most of the best "group portfolios" can also be shown on line.

    Let me give a couple of personal examples of the difference between this (brilliant) New Zealand approach and the US "standardised testing" system.

    I frequently visit one of America's leading colleges where students learn to qualify in digital technology (many of them as digital games designers). Nearly all students are products of the US school system, where (amazingly) the average elementary, middle and high school student spends only one hour a week in class on a computer. ("The Technology Fix" — subtitled "The promise and reality of computers in our schools", by William D Pflaum, published by the ASCD 2004; Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.)

    On my last visit to the US University, I was asked to sit in and "evaluate" first-year college students' presentation on a semester assignment in which each had to report on one famous person in history. (These included Socrates, Aristotle, Newton, Copernicus, Lincoln, Martin Luther King and other prominent Americans.) Without exception, each college student made an almost identical Powerpoint presentation (just as Pflaum found in his one-year in his one-year survey). But even worse: every presentation read as if had been "pasted" straight from a Wikipedia entry. In no case did any student even think of analysing what current lessons can we learn (negative or positive) from each of those great thinkers.

    Back in New Zealand, I often get called on to take teachers from other countries to some of our excellent schools. And what a difference: the last time I took Mexican school leaders to Gulf Harbour Primary School in Whangaparaoa, one of their "digital classrooms" was not long back from a school "adventure camp" in the Waitakere Regional Bush Reserve. And here they were: compiling an outstanding video of what they had found—of our country's history, geography, ecology, and future.

    In brief: here were 11-year-old New Zealand students competent and confident to use the world as their classroom (physically and online), and the latest 21st-century tools to record, compile and present their conclusions: not in similar "death by Powerpoint" presentations but in professional-quality movies.

    I wonder how many MPs can do that, apart from Maurice Williamson.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Robbie Siataga,

    Nice one Emma.

    My eldest daughter just graduated from Nelson girls last year but not before a crisis in confidence going into the last term about whether she'd done enough to amass the required credits and pass the exams.

    She was in the process of signing out from school when the grandparents intervened and with an old family friend, who was one of her teachers, explained just what she needed to do and where to get her credits from, to just concentrate on what she knew in the exams and write about them in greater detail to the exclusion of waffling on about what she didnt know.

    She still had to study damn hard and in the end passed with merit. I was so proud of her because I took her to be the best judge of her abilty to pass or fail and was supporting whatever decision she made (she had a part time retail job which was looking to take her on full time) when she opted to leave school without seeing out her final year.

    Shes pretty chuffed about gaining university entrance ( in old school terms) too and we both learned some valuable lessons about ourselves which I plan to put in practise with the rest of the kids.

    Since Feb 2010 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Webber,

    Apologies for coming to this late, and for indulging in a less important sideline to a more important issue… But comments like this trigger a pet rant of mine:

    We often recognise that students from underachieving schools do just as well at Stage I as their privileged peers. Indeed, in some cases (I'm now arguing from anecdotal evidence), the students from the 'better schools' often perform worse at Stage I than their rivals because they think that, having been to a better school, they can coast at uni.

    Here is my anecdotal evidence. I went to two schools in Auckland in the 80s. I started in a decile 3 school and ended at a posh (though not as posh as it is now) private decile 10 school. The educational differences were stark.

    At the decile 3 school, the 3rd form intake was c.120 and the 7th form class size was c.20. At the decile 10 school, the 3rd form intake was c.150 and the 7th form class cohort was c.110.

    Now assuming, I think reasonably, the intakes at both schools had largely the same average IQ and the children that dropped out first tended to be lower than average IQ or just be poorly suited to academic achievement, then you have the following 7th form outcomes:

    • at the decile 3 school, class sizes of 5 to 15 comprised of children with IQ in the top 20% of society or at least who learn well and perform well in tests;
    • at the decile 10 school, class sizes of 20 to 30 comprised of children with essentially average IQ and academic aptitude.

    Not surprisingly, bright children that had drifted to the top 20% of their cohort taught in small classes were very well prepared for university. I think almost all graduated. Many have done very well. But that’s still only 20% of the intake.

    Of my decile 10 7th form peers, many struggled in their first few years post school. But some were well below average IQ. Others just drifted along with the pack to university and hadn’t made a good decision about what they should be doing…

    In any case looking at the Stage 1 dropout stats by school is, I think, completely missing the point. League tables at their worst. What about the 80% of students from my former school that left school in their mid teens with a tiny education, making life changing decisions at a time of embryonic self awareness?

    If I had a dollar for every kid I knew who started off doing law with a 400+ bursary grade from a top ranked hothouse school and ended up taking five years to get a BA in Classics

    I agree with Mr Graham that this is not failure. It is probably a better result than drifting into a panel-beating apprenticeship at 17. Maybe not. But, I think, it likely is. The later in life children make decisions about careers (and many other things), the more information they’ll have to make that decision and the more mature their decision making.

    On balance, I think I’ll be sending my youngsters to one of the posh schools where they’ll probably get a mediocre education accompanied by some prize twits but at least they’ll be less likely to make a woefully uninformed decision about their career at 16 before they know anything about who they are. My hope is that they’ll make a marginally less uniformed decision at 21, when I run out of university/travel/play funding for them.

    Since Nov 2006 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Robbie: that's a great story. Go yous.

    I think I’ll be sending my youngsters to one of the posh schools where they’ll probably get a mediocre education accompanied by some prize twits but at least they’ll be less likely to make a woefully uninformed decision about their career at 16 before they know anything about who they are.

    At the risk of getting a pixie bottom-kick, I'd hope to be able to prevent this as a parent, regardless of where my children went to school.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Good lord, Gordon, you are extremely well-informed. Thank you for popping in to share the knowledge. What you observe about the tragic effects of NCLB is bang-on. Talk about your "soft bigotry of low expectations" -- Bush was right about that, all right, even if he thought he was performing the opposite.

    And Emma, the Unlimited School sounds the total opposite of dodgy. What I wouldn't give to have one of those over here. Actually, a whole bunch of them.

    I do think there are extremely significant differences between No Child Left Behind and what's being introduced here -- most notably, the absence of a central test.

    The tests here aren't central, in the sense of one test for every child in the US, though. Each state sets its own curriculum; and the tests test children's mastery of that material, except that mostly it's not so much material, per se, as a way of answering questions.

    Forgive me being a bit slow, but: the National Standards will still be measured via tests, no?

    From the National Party announcement:

    Your child will be regularly tested by their school to reliably measure how they are doing in reading, writing and maths. These assessments will be designed to show any problem areas and learning strengths, to inform teaching, and to track progress towards learning goals.

    There's a reference to the various different tests in schools, but it's not unreasonable to expect that schools might be sold on the idea of, if not a single standardised test, certainly a handful of tests to choose from? Purely in the interests of streamlining and convenience, of course, as in "here's one I prepared earlier, and here's some test prep material just in case you are a bit busy to make your own."

    In which case, the spectre of teaching to the test surely becomes a real live worry?

    Please correct me if I'm heading down the wrong track here - just trying to make sense of the NZ policy through my indignant NCLB-goggles, which is to say, through a glass VERY darkly.

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

  • Sacha,

    at high school level even the teachers were struggling with transliterating higher concepts.

    Shame on Turia for exempting kura from national standards. If any schools need it it's kura.

    Robbie, I think you may have answered your own question there. Practically, I doubt this rushed change has allowed any time to translate and verify the material and concepts.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Here is an extract I received from the Ministry of Education in January in response to several questions I asked ( I checked - it's OK to share it). At the meeting I attended I was assured that schools should not do formal exam type/testing on one particular day (for which the info is already on the website so it was a matter of just learning that). However, it appears from the National Party promotional leaflet that they are interpreting standards as testing.

    The Ministry of Education is committed to promoting and supporting effective teaching and learning for all students. This is embodied in The New Zealand Curriculum and it is important to emphasise that National Standards are primarily a teaching and learning tool. They are not an assessment tool although they do contribute to the assessment process. They illustrate where we might reasonably expect student performance to sit as students progress through years 1-8. Evidence from a range of assessment activity can then be considered in light of those signposts.

    National Standards provide teachers, students and their parents with a consistent view of what is reasonably expected so that teaching and learning strategies can be adjusted accordingly. The intention is that they be used to guide teaching and learning not to label students as having achieved or not.

    The standards need to be considered in context. It is recognised that not all students enter school at the same starting point in their learning. Neither do they necessarily progress in a steady and linear way or in the same way as each other. It isn’t about everyone reaching a minimum standard at each year level – it is about every student being assisted, supported and encouraged to progress as far as, and in the best way, possible. This is why National Standards policy stresses the importance of considering rate of progress as well as level of achievement reached. This is a forward looking approach that focuses on improving the rate of progress for students, regardless of their starting point and ensuring that all students are supported to reach their full potential – regardless of what that is.

    In order to assess progress, teachers will need to use a range of approaches that are suited to the teaching and learning context. When assessing achievement and progress in relation to National Standards, teachers should draw on the full range of assessment information already gathered for teaching and learning purposes. The range of assessment activity should be sufficient to form a robust and defensible overall teacher judgement in relation to a National Standard and it should be chosen to suit both the nature of the learning being assessed and the varied characteristics and experiences of the students.

    The Ministry does not intend to mandate the use of particular tools - this may serve, over time, to narrow the assessment focus and render specific tools as de facto National tests. It is a well accepted assessment principle that no one single source of information can provide an unequivocally accurate summary of a student’s achievement. National testing has the associated risk of inadvertently, promoting the management of the appearance of achievement and progress, rather than promoting authentic teaching approaches which rely on a strong learner focus and quality professional judgement.

    There is a professional development plan in relation to National Standards. This was outlined as a “pull out” in the centre of the 7 December 2009 Education Gazette. It can also be found at: http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/National-Standards/Professional-development as a downloadable PDF document under the heading ‘Professional development opportunities diagram’. Specific detail of what will be covered in the workshops is currently being decided.

    In addition, advice and guidance about assessment and suggested means of reporting to parents have been provided on the Assessment Community ‘Assessment Online’ on the Ministry website, Te Kete Ipurangi, (TKI). This includes examples and templates to illustrate ways that a school might incorporate students’ progress and achievement in relation to National Standards in written reports to parents. These are intended to support schools in deciding how they will give effect to the requirement to report. However, schools should meet the plain language reporting requirement in a way that is best suited to their own context

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3227 posts Report Reply

  • Robbie Siataga,

    Practically, I doubt this rushed change has allowed any time to translate and verify the material and concepts.

    I hope so Sacha and that its not tit for tat.

    ie...Key says 'exclude private schools' so Turia says 'well exclude kura then too'.

    Even so, standard tests would require them being in english, of which kura does teach as a second language.

    Since Feb 2010 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    High taxes, low educational attainment, red tape holding business back - all of these memes are the opposite of objective reality

    Mikaere, I guess this is what I was touching on above. We're kidding ourselves if we think a rational argument is the answer here.

    Those opposing this dangerous silliness must apply better political framing and mount a coordinated campaign that can't be blithely dismissed as unions stirring or teachers dodging accountability.

    Get some of the reasoning out there like the great future-oriented stuff above, but make sure it's packaged well and backed up by smart action - and does not naively assume that everyone shares the same values, but does prey on any ideological consistencies.

    For instance, if you believe there's already a level playing field, that success is a result only of individual effort and that rewarding it is the most important thing, then where do you suspect any extra investment should go after standards identify 'winners' and 'losers'? But will that actually result in a future where your children will prosper?

    Key's tone ahead of today's tax anouncements has been interesting with his talk of fairness. However, the pollies behind this abomination will all need a strong push before they act any differently, given how well and how long their current style has apparently worked for them:

    For instance, my brother and two of my neices are teachers, and damn good ones. They talk about their kids a lot and struggle to help the ones who are not doing so well. None of them like standards – it’s just an extra workload that has no discernnable educational outcome beyond providing an ignorant media a stick with which to beat the usual suspects (low decile schools) with – and they really, really dislike Anne Tolley.

    Now, it has to be said their opinions are a little tainted. They are teachers in Hawke’s Bay where local society is small enough for accurate, first hand assessments of Tolley’s abilitie (or lack of them) to have been formed long before she hit the national stage. You know, two of my older sisters went to school with Anne Tolley, and have moved in vaguely the same circles ever since, and her bellicose stupidity was celebrated as early as the third form. The scuttlebutt of stories about Tolley’s egotism are legion and some are quite amusing (discretion & libel laws makes the unrepeatable of course).

    She is regarded in Napier (outside the similarly stupid wannabe petty ancien regime that Hawke’s Bay specialised in creating and provides the base of the National Party there – no one exists in a vacuum) as a bit of a joke, albeit a pig headed and occassionally dangerous one.

    Given that everyone in the Bay knows what she is like, that she has made it to be education minister should cause serious pause for thought about our political process in all of us, and Key’s role in it all calls into very serious question his judgement as well.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Thanks for that, Hilary. Seems the Ministry is trying to make this work properly, though it's not them I'm worried about.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Interestingly (with usual caveats) it's the same with hearing-impaired kids. Their problem is not literacy but numeracy.

    Seriously Emma? It isn't just an n=1 problem? Cause if that's true it says something interestingly weird about either English or Sign in their ability to communicate numeracy.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Here is an extract I received from the Ministry of Education in January in response to several questions I asked ( I checked - it's OK to share it). At the meeting I attended I was assured that schools should not do formal exam type/testing on one particular day (for which the info is already on the website so it was a matter of just learning that). However, it appears from the National Party promotional leaflet that they are interpreting standards as testing.

    Wow, really?

    What you pasted in is in line with my understanding, and with the info on the MoE site. But the taxpayer-funded National Party leaflet says different? Uh ... WTF?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Is a copy of the National party leaflet available online?

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • stephen clover,

    in any serious calculation, how does this warrant a grand-standing "teachers are useless and failing us" argument?

    It doesn't. Prime Minister and Minister Tolley are engaging in the practice of propaganda, which also known as lying.

    Also -- arguably -- trying to deflect attention from their useless policy by misdirection, rather like a conjuror distracts you from noticing where that rabbit appeared from. Except this misdirection is to -- arguably -- designed to try to weaken the teacher's union (NZEI).

    wgtn • Since Sep 2007 • 355 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Is a copy of the National party leaflet available online?

    Yes.

    Info and link here: http://www.national.org.nz/education/

    And also a direct link to the .pdf of the brochure.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Is a copy of the National party leaflet available online?

    Yes -- here on National's website.

    And yes, the language is notably different from the non-political official information:

    While many schools use tests, there’s not been one standard which all children are measured against. National standards will ensure children’s achievement can be compared from one school to another, no matter what tests their school uses or what school they attend.

    And:

    Many parents tell us they’re not happy with the ‘politically correct’ and ‘sugar-coated’ school reports they receive.

    And:

    Your child will be regularly tested by their school to reliably measure how they are doing in reading, writing and maths. These assessments will be designed to show any problem areas and learning strengths, to inform teaching, and to track progress towards learning goals.

    And:

    Results from the tests your child has taken as part of their National Standards assessment.

    They seem to be going out of their way to emphasise "tests" over classroom assessment. I'd guess the ministry information was written by expert staff and the party leaflet was written by communications staff (who you may or may not wish to call spin doctors). But both were paid for with our taxes.

    The minister seems at cross-purposes with her own ministry. Pretty goddamn messy.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Gordon Dryden,

    Is a copy of the National party leaflet available online?

    Yes, at

    http://www.national.org.nz/education/

    Does the query imply that people have been commenting on the party policy without reading it? Tut tut.

    Incidentally, Tapu Misa's weekly Opinion piece in yesterday's New Zealand Herald is very balanced:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10624744

    Now I really must get back to compiling my new video-3D/animation- touchscreen digital-ibook, where New Zealand students will provide most of the multimedia applications. (The New Zealand system works brilliantly when we unleash the creative power of our students. It's actually quite simple.)

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    There was also a letter from Key with three children (two in private school uniforms and the other with an unfortunate AIG logo T-shirt) and a little message implying that other parents will soon be as lucky as parents like him in that their children will soon be tested regularly too. Can't find the link to that - maybe it was sent out with the leaflet?

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3227 posts Report Reply

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