Is it standards or teachers at fault?

A teacher told me that the staff at her school were concerned about National Standards until the information on them arrived, then they realised they were already doing all that was required.

Another said they didn’t make the rules but they were going to play the game to the best of their aiblity for the sake of the pupils.

Maybe the principals from those schools aren’t members of the New Zealand Principals Federation which voted overwhelmingly to oppose national standards.

Some principals are saying their schools will boycott training.

That is simply stupid. If they’ve got problems with the standards they’re likely to be the ones who most need training.

WHile they’re acting unpforessionally, many schools and their staff are quietly getting on with implementing the policy of the government, as all public servants are required to do.

If they can do it why can’t the others?

Could it be that the major problem with National Standards isn’t the policy but some teachers and their attitude towards them?

15 Responses to Is it standards or teachers at fault?

  1. Hollyfield says:

    I work as a PA to a primary school principal. You wouldn’t believe the vitriol from management about National Standards. Including defacing photos of the Minister (bet they don’t let the students do that!) Yet when I’ve asked my bosses to explain to me, as a parent, why National Standards are so bad, they haven’t been able to tell me. The only things they say are the “union lines” – teachers already know which kids are behind the rest, teachers already report this to parents. Both “reasons” are untrue in the case of my daughter (she attends a different school, by the way!) Either her teachers didn’t know for the first four years that she was having difficulties, or they lied to me when I raised concerns about her lack of progress. There was nothing on her reports to indicate that she was behind her peers. I eventually decided there was no point continuing to take my concerns to her teachers, so I went to an (expensive) educational psychologist and was then referred to an audiologist. I now know that she has dyslexia and an auditory problem. I believe if National Standards had been implemented earlier her teachers would have been forced to report accurately about her progress compared to expected levels. It makes my blood boil to think that my daughter could have had hearing aids earlier, if only the school had been honest with me about her difficulties in the classroom. She’s a good kid, copes really well and doesn’t draw attention to herself, which I think has allowed her teachers to ignore her. (in the past, she’s getting great support now that I’ve given the school evidence that she is not doing fine). Getting back to the school I work at – when I’ve told them about the situation at my daughter’s school and my beliefs about National Standards, my school’s management haven’t been able to offer any arguments at all to support their belief that National Standards are bad. So I’m inclined to think negativity towards National Standards is all for political and not educational reasons.

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  2. pdm says:

    Isn’t it Union driven aided and abetted by fools like Kelvin Davies as per his post on Red Alaert.

    Sorry I don’t know how to link to it but then again I wouldn’t want to contaminate your blog either HP.

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  3. Ianmac says:

    I cannot believe that Hollyfield is a genuine person with genuine problems but just in case:
    1. What sort of mother would not notice a hearing loss?
    2. What sort of mother would not notice dyslexia?
    3. What sort of mother would not seek help from the reacher or Principal?

    And a biggie:
    4. In what way would National Standards help her daughter?
    5. What sort of school is she PA for, if she has not the ability to ask the right questions of the Senior Teachers about what they see as the problems of Nat Stds?
    6. Where has Hollyfield been that she does not know what the problems are with National Standards?
    7. Have you read John Mintos column above “Goverment fails….”
    The answers to my questions would I think expose Hollyfield as a fake.

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  4. homepaddock says:

    Ian I don’t know Hollyfield but I do know parents who have had similar problems when they raised concerns – including one who is a teacher herself.

    1,2 & 3:If the teachers she raised concerns with didn’t know the child had hearing problems and dyslexia how could she?

    4. By showing she wasn’t where she should be and once that’s identified she could get extra help.

    5. Not getting reasonable answers is the fault of the questioner?

    6. She’s at a school which has problems but hasn’t got an explanation for that.

    7. Yes and I disagree with many of his points.

    Standards won’t solve learning problems they’re just a tool to help identify them. It’s what happens next to help the child who needs it that really matters.

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  5. Hollyfield says:

    Thank you for sticking up for me, hp.
    I also know several people with children at other schools, including one mother who is a teacher herself, who have all experienced similar problems with the schools not acknowledging learning difficulties.
    In response to Ianmac, I am not a fake. What is a parent supposed to do when you say to the teacher “I am concerned that she is not making progress in reading and writing” and the teacher says “oh no, there’s nothing to worry about, she’s doing fine.” When you say to the teacher “should I have her tested for anything” and the teacher says “oh no, no need for that, she’s doing fine”. when you ask for reading recovery and the teacher says “no, she doesn’t need that, she’s doing fine”, And when you ask 4 teachers in 4 consecutive years and they all say the same thing. And when you send several written letters to the school raising concerns and have no response. And when they are supposedly the experts, and you have only a gut feeling that something isn’t right?
    My daughter “passed” the hearing tests in preschool and at school, and she “passed” a hearing test with a private audiologist which I organised when she was 7. It was an audiologist at a hospital when she was 9 who picked up the problem. I also took her to an optometrist several times between the ages of 6 and 9 in case eyesight was the problem. And as I said above I paid a very expensive educational psychologist to get the dyslexia diagnosis. I was trying to find out what was wrong, spending lots of money that I really can’t afford, and getting no support from the school. It was only when I presented the school with reports from the educational psychologist and audiologist that they took my concerns seriously. How many children drift through school with their difficulties unaddressed?
    I would normally be unfailingly polite to a fellow commenter, but having been personally attacked I will respond.
    1, 2 and 3. The point is I did notice there was a problem, and I tried repeatedly to get help for her. As I said above I asked 4 teachers in 4 consecutive years, wrote letters to the school and I also had a meeting with the principal.
    4. National Standards would mean that her school reports would have told me that she was below expected levels, and then I could have taken action on facts, instead of having just a gut feeling. At the end of year 1 her reading level was 4. What her report did not say, and I did not know at the time is the expected reading level at end of year 1 is 12-14. So I didn’t know that she was up to 10 levels behind. And I kept asking, and was told she was “doing fine”.
    5. As hp said, it is management who cannot answer my questions! Hardly my fault.
    6. In my view the biggest problem with National Standards is the negativity from its opponents – if a school decides to dislike it, refuse to implement it, or implement it in a way that causes problems, it is no surprise that difficulties arise. Attitude can make anything in the world a failure.
    7. John Minto is someone whose opinions on a variety of subjects I usually disagree with.
    Ianmac, you are entitled to your opinions, but I am very unimpressed that you would personally attack a fellow commenter without even knowing anything about them.

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  6. Richard says:

    Hollyfield, I have much sympathy with your position.
    I wonder if this is same Ianmac who was commenting on the Standard blog? If so I wonder who the flake– sorry fake is.

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  7. Linda says:

    Hi Hollyfield,

    Sorry to hear about the situation with your daughter, & glad things are getting sorted now.
    I can understand how Ianmac thought something was odd about your post as it seems to me that most mothers at my child’s school are very interested in where their child stands compared to others and to average. They compare reading levels etc and would be very concerned to find their child several levels below average even in New Entrants. I appreciate that working mums may not be able to be as ‘plugged in’ with the gossip of those who hang around for 3pm.
    I can’t find anything within NS that actually helps the likes of your daughter, no specific funding/programme or intervention. If the teachers couldn’t work out that she was behind before NS they won’t have much chance after either. NS leaves a lot to OTJ (overall teacher judgement). Sounds like that school or teacher needs specific help but doesn’t make the case for the expensive overhaul of all school reporting systems (esp as some are fine already)

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  8. LBoogie says:

    @HP & Hollyfield (And Ian, if you’re still lurking.. Haha)

    You raise a valid point in answer to Ian’s question. This is what (hopefully) the Standards are there to identify; either children that are falling behind academically and/or teachers that are under performing.

    However most teachers, and I do mean most, are already aware of which children do need extra support and are doing what they can within their means to ensure the child gets this support (I’ll touch more on this below).

    For teachers that are under performing, the Standards may indeed give them a much needed kick in the backside (Hollyfield’s teacher sounds like a perfect example of this) however there are two inherent issues with this.

    One is, and it will sound like Labour/Union talk to most Nats, that where you child stands Nationally is up to the better judgement of their teacher. The Standards are not a test. There is no test. So it’s possible that SOME teachers could still tell you nothing is wrong. It’s just now done on a National Party approved report.

    The second is that parents will still be in the same boat, especially in cases like Hollyfield. Unless they do something about it themselves, the child may continue through school with an undiagnosed learning impairment. You can’t always just trust that someone else will do it for you.

    I’m not bagging on you, Hollyfield, for not doing something sooner. I understand that you feel you tried your best with the teachers/principal of the school and got nowhere. That is a failure of the school in which your daughter attends. That is not to say that it is a failure in which all NZ schools suffer from.

    I just feel that you are using this example as a reason to support pushing these National Standards out to the whole of New Zealand without realising that it may not have helped fix your problem any earlier than what you already have.

    What will make or break this policy is building more effective communication that is valued on both sides. Parents need to be able to understand and trust the information given to them by their children’s teachers and teachers need to be able to honestly advise parents about how their children are doing without fear of reprisal from parents who disagree.

    A massive communication breakdown has been that of the Minister of Education and media coverage for both sides. It appears the media have created an image of this issue being Teachers/Principals vs The Minister and, in turn, the articles quoting the Minister have made it out to be that she sees the issue being more one of Parents vs Teachers/Principals.

    But it should not be anyone vs anyone. It should be everyone FOR the children. It seems that neither side is able to see that the other side has the best of intentions at heart for the children and, as a result, are unwilling to budge more than a small concession on their own position.

    The final thing I want to touch relates to one of my first points on the question of how the National Standards policy, after identifying children AND teachers in need of extra assistance and support, will fund this extra support? The Minister has been granted $36mil to put towards “supporting” the implementation of the National Standards, but is unable at this stage to tell us what exactly that money will be used for as the decision has not yet been made.

    I can only assume that the decision has not yet been made as the results from this “bedding-in” year have not yet been collated and researched, which is fair enough. But where has this figure of $36mil come from to support the Standards? Was it worked out as an estimate of how much their expect they would need to spend on extra support etc for children and teachers over the next three years? Or is it the result of the Budget in which it’s an offer from what they could find to give to the Minister with the instruction “Do what you can with this”?

    In any case, I’m dubious as to how exactly the National Standards are going to help improve literacy and numeracy levels other than further identifying who needs help especially seeing as they can’t tell us how this money will be spent.

    As an alternative, I agree with Kelvin Davis on this (Go on, you can hate me if you want):

    “All Anne Tolley needed to do if she wasn’t happy with report formats is:
    1. produce an exemplar report template for schools
    2. ask ERO to review schools’ reports and processes compared against the exemplar
    3. provide targeted support to just those schools who need help.”

    Surely this approach could have been cheaper, easier and more adaptable for schools/teachers/principals around New Zealand? Because that’s the main focus of these National Standards:

    1. Clearer reporting to parents
    2. Identifying children and teachers in need of support

    of which Kelvin Davis’ ideas would equally meet and it would fit much better with New Zealand’s already world class monitoring and testing systems without the need for creating and forcing a roll out of an entirely new system.

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  9. LBoogie says:

    Sorry, the above post didn’t include the answer quoted. It should read at the top:

    Quote @Homepaddock: 4. By showing she wasn’t where she should be and once that’s identified she could get extra help.

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  10. homepaddock says:

    LBoogie, whether or not you’re right about the best system. National Standards are the one we’ve got and most schools are working with them.

    I agree what’s best for the children should be the focus and that means having the people and other resources, including money, to ensure those who aren’t achieving as they ought to be get all the help they need.

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  11. LBoogie says:

    I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t understand how “This is what we’re doing, deal with it” is enough of an argument to go ahead with the National Standards. I don’t disagree that it is going ahead no matter what, but how can we just turn around to a group of professionals within the sector who have raised valid concerns and tell them to put up and shut up? Especially when several leading academics have expressed concerns over the implementation of the Standards and its lack of testing or time.

    John Hattie and three other University lecturers that had originally requested a meeting with Ms. Tolley to discuss what their years of knowledge and research had to offer in regards to ensuring that there would be as little problems as possible when they were put through. The request was ignored. Even Alfie Kohn, a leading American education academic, had received and replied to a number of concerns from NZ teachers, principals and parents with regards to what they can do against an unconcerned Minister and Govt.

    The testing of the Standards through a select group of schools was what was initially the concern. There would only have been benefits to doing it this way. The other problems have stemmed from the lack of answers the Minister has due to the lack of testing that was performed for the Standards.

    Surely you’d agree that testing something this important, something that (if wrong) could have disastrous affects on the children who were unfortunate enough to be the age they are at the moment would have been a no-brainer?

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  12. Richard says:

    LB&HP, There was an article “The Press” yesterday by former lecturer in education John Fletcher:
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/perspective/3883937/Big-leap-backward-halts-progress-made

    Clearly he is not a fan of National Standards. He ends:
    “The ideas behind the policy – that all children can and should progress through school at the same rate – is quite patently wrong. All children are different. They learn in different ways, and at different speeds, as any parent knows.

    A parallel with medicine is illuminating. Over recent years, as the details of the human genome have been uncovered, there has been a growing recognition that all human constitutions are different.

    Nowadays, treatments are increasingly being adapted and medications calibrated to suit individual patients. The notion that one treatment fits all, or that standard doses of a single drug are appropriate for any particular illness, is fast disappearing.

    What schools and teachers have been working towards for many years is a situation where the interests, abilities and needs of individual children are discovered, and each child’s learning programme planned accordingly. Much progress has been made, though much of course still remains to be done.”

    What schools and teachers seem to have been working towards seems sensible to me. So where do National Standards fit in? Is the aim of progressing the interests of individual children and National Standards mutually exclusive? It is all rather confusing. What I wanted and got when my children were at school was:
    a. How are they doing?
    b. If not why not?
    c. What are you doing about?

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  13. homepaddock says:

    LB – whether or not a test would have been better is now irrelevant. If the teachers who are opposed stopped fighting that battle and talked with teachers who are making the standards work they might make progress.

    Thanks for the link, Richard.

    “Is the aim of progressing the interests of individual children and National Standards mutually exclusive? ”

    They shouldn’t be and every parent should be able to get the answers to your question and – if it’s necessary children get the help needed if they’re not learning as well as they ought to be.

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  14. LBoogie says:

    I don’t feel its irrelevant from a teachers point of view. Especially in regards to taking a stand against a Govt. when it believes they have got it wrong. While it’s not in the interests of the children in the short term, perhaps if they fight hard enough to ensure that future Govt’s think twice about ramming something down their throats when they know the teachers will disagree. And, if the teachers happen to be correct, then perhaps it will save children. In the long run.

    Perhaps the point I’m trying to make is that the public should support the teachers. Why? Because it helps the teachers with voicing their concerns with the Minister. It also gives teachers the peace of mind that parents trust their judgement.

    In return, teachers need to continue to put their best efforts toward meeting parents concerns also and ensuring that parents feel like they’re being listened to also.

    It’s beneficial for both parties and ensures that a Minister cannot push through a faulty system.

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  15. homepaddock says:

    ‘Especially in regards to taking a stand against a Govt. when it believes they have got it wrong. While it’s not in the interests of the children in the short term, perhaps if they fight hard enough to ensure that future Govt’s think twice about ramming something down their throats when they know the teachers will disagree.”

    LB – the response to this deserves a post of its own. I haven’t time to write it now, it will appear later today.

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