Otago top of class


Otago primary schools have outclassed the rest of the country’s schools by recording the highest levels of achievement in reading, writing and mathematics, Ministry of Education data shows.

Public achievement information released yesterday showed 124 primary schools in Otago posted the highest percentage of pupils who were at or above National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics.

In reading, 83.6% of pupils were at or above National Standards, 78.9% were at or above the standards in mathematics, and 76.4% were at or above the standards in writing.

Otago Primary Principals’ Association chairwoman Stephanie Madden said most principals had reservations about National Standards, but they were delighted with the data.

”These results are confirmation that the quality of teaching and learning in Otago primary schools is of a very high standard.

”We’re very proud of the hard work that teachers, principals and boards of trustees put in to ensure our children receive the best possible education.” . . .

And isn’t it good that there’s a way to measure the results of all that hard work?

Secondary principals think so:

. . . Secondary Principals’ Association president Tom Parsons said parents had been asking for detailed information about their child’s learning for a long time.

“Primary schools will get there with national standards but they’re doing it begrudgingly.

“There’s a political agenda here and it’s doing the youth of New Zealand a disservice. They need to get real.” . . .

There is a political agenda and it’s putting unions’ interests ahead of the needs of children and their parents.

Education Minister Hekia Parata says the latest achievement information shows children throughout the country are doing better across the education system:

Ms Parata says the Public Achievement Information released today is evidence that moves by the Government, reflected in the work of those in the education system, is making a real difference in educational achievement.

“From early childhood education through to NCEA achievement we’re seeing meaningful progress. It all adds up to kids who will be coming out of our education system with better qualifications and much brighter prospects.

“Providing this information at district and regional levels is leading to a wider engagement by communities in our education challenges.

“Fifteen of our 16 regional council areas had increases from 2011 to 2013 in achievement against National Standards, including gains for Māori students in 14 of those 16 areas.

”More than 400,000 primary kids had their progress assessed in reading, writing and maths last year, and around three quarters were at or above National Standards.

“The continuing focus on achievement and use of good information is paying off because it helps identify the kids who are not doing as well as we want.

“Parents and schools never used to have this sort of very specific information, and now they’re using it to make sure that the kids get what they need when they need it. . .

That’s the point – information on how children are progressing enables schools and parents to help them.

The system isn’t perfect but it’s better than no system and it will get better.


National standards. Making a difference.

Knowing what’s what


National Standards has been contentious.

Most of the contention has been from teacher unions.

Mike Hosking gives a parent’s perspective:

. . . National standards have been a non-event for me, well as a parent anyway. National standards though as a broadcaster have been a hotly debated, contentious concept that according to a report out from the Ministry of Education this week is wrong quite a bit of the time.

The teachers’ unions hate them, the claims over national standards from the unions have been many fold and none of it good. The detail is vague, it can be misinterpreted, teachers don’t like them, some schools held out against them, it leads to parents making comparisons with other schools which means that makes the education system competitive.

If all I knew about national standards was what I had heard on the radio and I had no kids and no teachers to talk to, I’d have come to the conclusion they were a risky, problematic concept riddled with issues that were leading the nation’s kids and schools down a slippery old slope. It is perhaps a good lesson as to why there is often more than one side to most stories.

National standards in my personal experience has been an exceedingly simple exercise which has involved the teachers of my kids either in an interview situation or through a number of school reports pointing out what’s been achieved in any given subject, where my kid sits within that achievement and where that achievement sits within the national standards criteria. I know where they are currently and where they are supposed to be by the end of the year. It has come in the form of shaded charts or graphs and it’s come in the form of numbers. . .

Here’s the simple truth. Parents want and like to know where there kid is at. They like knowing something more specific than ‘they’re doing fine’ or ‘they’re settling in nicely’. National standards places them. It places them ahead, on or behind others around the country. And when you know that, you start to work out how much of that performance or lack of it is the child’s, is the teacher’s, or is the school’s. In other words, you know what’s what.

To be worried about that as those who have spent so much time scaring the bejesus out of us clearly are requires a mindset and view of the world I have trouble getting my head around.

Knowledge is power, neither is a bad thing.

Wouldn't you want to know how your kids were doing?

Accountability requires good information


Education Minister Hekia Parata announced that achievement education for schools will be publicly available on a Ministry of Education website, Education Counts,.

It will allow parents to see how their child’s school is performing and will allow the Government to see how well the system is doing as a whole in order to raise achievement for all learners.

Public Achievement Information will include National Standards data, Education Review Office (ERO) reports, schools’ annual reports and NCEA data. Over time other relevant national and international reports will be added.

National Standards data, reported for the first time this year, will be published on the website in September in the format that schools’ submitted it.

“I accept that the data is variable. It is the first year, and no consistent format was required so that was to be expected. It can only get better and better both in quality and its use over time and we want to work with schools to do this,” says Ms Parata.

Using a variety of data is a good idea because it will give a much fuller picture of a school’s performance than just one source, especially if that was reports on National Standards which the Minister admits is inconsistent.

Business New Zealand has welcomed the announcement:

BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly says more accessible information is
essential to improve school performance.

“Accountability for performance requires good information. . . “

Unions and the left are painting this as an assault on schools and teaching. It’s not, it’s merely a tool to improve transparency and accountability.

National Standards are working


https://platform.twitter.com/widgets/hub.1326407570.htmlWairarapa principal Kevin Jephson says National Standards are failing because most of his school’s pupils failed its benchmark last year.

Only 11 per cent of Dalefield’s students met the reading standard, 2 per cent the writing standard and 7 per cent the mathematics standard, he said.  

That’s not the standards failing, the results show they’re working.

The school, its staff and parents now know pupils aren’t learning as they should be and they should be focussed on getting them the help they need.

But Gail Marshall, principal of Solway Primary School in Masterton, said she had utmost faith in National Standards as a workable system.

The standards were trialled at Solway ahead of being rolled out nationwide.

The 2011 assessment at Solway found 91 per cent of Years 4 to 6 pupils met the reading standard, 87 per cent the writing standard and 82 per cent the mathematics standard.

 “What I like about the standards is that it shows very clearly what the kids need, and we can target that. This year we’ll be concentrating on writing and maths and we can target toward that end.”

Kiwiblog points out there is not a big difference in the decile rating of the schools:

Dalefield is decile 5 and Solway decile 6. Not a huge difference. Certainly not enough to explain why Solway is a magnitude higher in terms of the national standard.

Even if the decile rating was vastly different that wouldn’t mean the standards were wrong.

The assessment shows that Dalefield needs more help to ensure its pupils are learning as they should be which doesn’t mean the standards have failed.

The only failure identified so far is in Jephson who doesn’t understand that the true test of the standards won’t be in any problems they identify but in what happens next and the difference that makes.

Hat tip: Whaleoil

Expecting standards from teachers is bullying?


The Ministry of Education has been accused of bullying for expecting schools to meet their legal requirements to adopt National Standards.

Now Invercargill MP Eric Roy has been accused of bullying for expecting teachers to meet a very reasonable standard of behaviour.

Fernworth School teacher Terry Guyton asked candidates what they would do to “repair the damage caused by national standards”.

Mr Guyton said the standards were forcing teachers to label five-year-olds as failures.

Mr Roy took exception to Mr Guyton’s comment.

“If you are a teacher telling five-year-olds they are a failure you should not be teaching,” he said. “You should not even be testing them.”

What’s wrong with that?

Any teacher who tells a five year old he/she is failing is failing him/herself. But that’s not how Labour sees it:

Labour candidate Lesley Soper took the platform after Mr Roy and promptly accused him of bullying.

“You have just seen an example of the bullying … the Ministry of Education has used on teachers in this country.”

When did expecting anyone to do what’s legally required become bullying?

There could be many reasons for a child not reaching a standard but you have to know where they are before you can work out why and then help them.

The standards aren’t about passing or failure, they’re a tool to identify progress, or lack of it, which then enables the school and family to help children – and it’s working.

Just yesterday a father gave a story which shows this. His son’s first report was all about what a lovely child he was. The second, after the introduction of National Standards showed he had a reading problem. The school and parents gave him extra help and the third report showed he had caught up.

That is exactly how the standards should work, and will if teachers put the children’s education ahead of their own politics.

UPDATE: Mr Guyton’s father has a different view.

Principals’ principles political not educational


The vote of no-confidence in national standards by the Principals’ Federation says more about their principles than the standards.

Principals Federation president Peter Simpson called on his colleagues to reject them.

He told their conference in Wellington on Saturday morning that the standards are purely political and principals should not waste any more time on them.

Almost everything a government does is political, that’s the nature of the beast. Unfortunately the public faces of education, rather than being a professional body – as for example they are in health, is also political.

The federation would like us to believe their stance represents the unanimous view of teachers and schools. It doesn’t. Many schools are working with the standards and doing their upmost to make them work for the sake of the children they teach and their parents who want to know how they progressing.

In her speech to the federation conference Education Minister Anne Tolley read an email from a school board chair:

“Our principal has led the implementation seamlessly and I would say we have found it to be a worthwhile experience. I have been impressed with his professionalism and integrity. The staff have all responded well to the challenge.”

If the principals who voted no-confidence concentrated more on education than politics they too might find they can implement the standards seamlessly and is such a way that the school finds them worthwhile.

The introduction of national standards was part of National’s election policy, it became the government and as public service employees the principals and their staff are bound to implement them to the best of their ability.

Regardless of their political views the principals ought to agree with the Minister’s reasoning:

The evidence tells us that when our underachieving students fall behind they tend to stay behind, and in many cases begin disengaging. Early intervention can address this issue, giving every single young New Zealander the opportunity to reach their potential.

Standards by themselves won’t help the children learn but the extra help those identified as not learning as well as they ought to be will.

Here to help which cause?


The principal and all but a couple of teachers at a primary school were happy with the introduction of National Standards.

Then the people turned up to train them and mixed with the training they had a lot of criticism of the introduction of the standards.

How unprofessional is that?

As former States Services Commissioner  Mark Prebble told Kathryn Ryan:

“Public servants have to implement the policies of the government of the day

Many people come to government to try to support a good cause. They don’t realise the one who has to determine which good cause is to be supported is the democratically minister of the day.  . . .

 A key part of the role of senior public servants is to explain to them well it is the minister who has to take the heat in public about that and the public servant really isn’t just employed to follow their own interests and if they want to follow their interests they can go and work in the private sector like anyone else. . .

. . . No public servant should be zealous about the particular cause they’re interested in. They should be zealous about democracy and respecting the law. . .”

The  public service must be apolitical. . .

The people who visited the school were paid from the public purse to help implement government policy but instead were doing their best to sabotage it.

If it happened at one school, how many others also found the people sent to help were advancing their own cause rather than giving the professional development the teachers sought and how often does this happen with other policies?

We’ve spent this week with a group of farmers. Each time tenure review was raised the glacial pace at which it proceeds was criticised.

You could be excused for wondering if this is a deliberate policy on the part of some of the public servants involved in the hope that they can delay the process until the government changes.

What’s really motivating opposition to National Standards?


What’s really motivating opposition to National Standards?

Credo Quia Absurdum Est has the answer in an email from a teacher:

“…we teachers have been told the entire campaign by the principals and the NZEI would be dropped in a second if the Government agreed to take school assessment data and make it top secret – i.e. not public, not even if someone made an Official Information Act request. . .

That’s nothing to do with education it’s all to do with a fear that the public will be able to compare schools.

Other quotes in that post show opposition is also motivated by politics. That’s confirmed by this post:

The Dominion came up with the strange response of children needing to come before philosophy – pathetic. Philosophy is a search for the truth: how can a rejection of the truth be good for children.

Never mind that needed a question mark, now I know why my life is so wrong.  I’ve been putting my children ahead of philosophy.  Bugger.

In a related post CQAE asks How far is too far?

 Kiwiblog also comments on Principal Compares Minister to Hitler too and has another post on the politics of those who oppose the standards .

Whaleoil has several posts on the politics of the opposition too including:

Tweetchers tweeting about National Standards.

 More Labour meddling in education.

Politically neutral protest.

and Auckland Primary  Principal’s Association hijacked by Wellington school.

The standards are simply a tool to show how well children are learning.

No-one’s claiming they’re a perfect tool but they are necessary. One in five young people leave school with inadequate literacy and numeracy skills and the first step to changing that is early identification of the ones who are struggling.

Rather than fighting the tool the teachers should put their energy into ensuring the pupils who need help get it because that is what really matters.

This is how grown ups act?


Teachers at the NZEI conference yesterday responded to Education Minister Anne Tolley’s speech by holding up placards in silence.

Is this how grown ups act? Is this what they teach their pupils about good manners?

This wasn’t about education, it was about politics.

The reaction was pre-arranged. The teachers weren’t there to listen and learn, to ask questions or discuss, they were there with closed minds to protest.

It looked like it was unanimous too, but then given the bullying someone who dared question the union line got, it’s probable everyone who is working with National Standards as they’re supposed to be would have stayed away.

Teachers vs government


. . . 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. . .

That was part of  a comment on last week’s post on National Standards.

It shows one of the major problems with National Standards. The people who are supposed to be implementing them don’t realise they are public servants. They don’t make the policy and they do have to work with it.

As Mark Prebble told Kathryn Ryan:  “Public servants have to implement the policies of the government of the day.. .  . . . No public servant should be zealous about the particular cause they’re interested in. They should be zealous about democracy and respecting the law. . .”

National’s policy of introducing National Standards was part of the last election campaign. They won the election, they introduced the policy and like it or not, teachers do not have a choice over whether or not they abide by it.

Too many of our children leave school unable to read, write and do basic maths. National Standards aren’t a miracle cure for that.

They won’t magically teach English to the children who arrive at school unable to speak it; they won’t make up for the learning some children have missed out on before they get to school; they won’t compensate for the poor home life and lack of encouragement some children get; they won’t feed the children who arrive at school too hungry to learn; they won’t fix behavioural problems; they won’t address any of the other factors which interfere with optimal learning.

 All standards are is a tool which will help identify children who aren’t learning as well as they could be.  No-one is claiming they’re a perfect tool. But they’re the one the government has introduced. Schools have to work with them and  teachers, who are public servants,  have no choice about accepting them.

They should stop fighting the policy and the Minister,  put their energy into doing their best to make the standards work well and work constructively to make improvements where they’re needed.

If they did, they might see that the standards provide them with the case they need for more and improved help for children who are struggling. That is far more important than the standards themselves.

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?

Which part of not optional don’t they understand?


Criticism of national standards continues but like them or not, most schools are getting on with the work required to implement them.

Southbridge School isn’t.

Kathryn Ryan interviewed the principal and a parent to find out why.

The answer, from the principal, seems to be he wants the system trialled first and the school is too busy implementing the curriculum to handle national standards as well.

That’s a good example to set pupils – you only have to do what you have to do when you have the time and inclination to do it.

It could set an interesting precedent too.

A trucking firm could decide it wants a trial of the road rule change which will give right of way to vehicles turning left at intersections and instruct its drivers to take right of way when they’re turning right.

An employer could decide s/he’s too busy implementing the four-week holiday requirement to deal with changes in tax rates.

Anyone could decide to adopt only those new policies which have been trialled, came from a government of which they approved and to which they weren’t philosophically opposed or too busy to deal with.

But of course they wouldn’t because the law’s the law and some policies are optional, some are not.

If a board and principal don’t understand that, do they understand enough to run their school?

Getting personal


In politics if you aren’t making headway in attacking policy it’s a common ploy to start attacking the person trying to deliver it.

That seems to be the strategy being used now by those opposed to the introduction of National Standards in education.

It’s difficult to argue against consistent, effective assessment and up-front reporting. So they’ve been trying to undermine Education Minister Anne Tolley.

This stepped up last week when John Key relieved her of the Tertiary Education portfolio and some were quick to say that was because she wasn’t up to the job.

That isn’t the case. Rather it was a reflection on the importance the Prime Minister is placing on implementing what was a National Party policy, clearly spelt out before the election.

It isn’t acceptable that one in five, that’s nearly 150,000, school leavers finish formal education without the skills they need to get a reasonable jo and function effectively in society.

The government is committed to turning that around and the introduction of National Standards in education is an important part of that.

It’s no use getting personal about the minister. She’s doing a hard job, well and she has the caucus and wider party with her.

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