Saturday, July 2, 2011

National's standardisation agenda..

This morning I listened to a National Radio programme on the National Standards.

One one side Mary Chamberlain ( who I thought has left her curriculum role at the Ministry?),  Gary Hawke from Nationals Advisory Committee,  Mrs Tolley and a couple of supportive principals.

On the other side of the argument was Perry Rush ( who deserves a medal for his courage and clarity),  from Island Bay School, representing 350 plus schools ; a parent who  wisely said we ought to be focusing on the purpose of education in the 21stC and not just the Three Rs;  Peter Simpson from the Principal's Federation who introduced the 'gorilla'  missing in the argument - the issue if poverty and child abuse.( It is important to know that NZ rates very low in OECD counties for reducing child abuse and has the lowest investment in the first five years of life . And of course we all know where the children who need help are and the obvious answer! )

Mary C talked about 'signposts' on a journey.Evidently all children are on the same journey? and that it will take three years to get 80% success rate introduction of the standards. She also mentioned that other high performing countries were on a similar standards journey which is patently untrue as Finland has taken a totally different approach as has Singapore. She admitted the approach in the UK had been less than successful. Evidently standards are supposed to 'stretch' students. Mrs Tolley, for once , didn't mention the 'one student in five failing' but that the standards were to ensure new literacy and numeracy skills were required for the future. It was the extra help that would make the difference.

Perry Rush was concerned with the flawed thinking underpinning the standards and the inevitable lack of consistency between schools resulting from differences in teacher judgements and interpretations relating to  the vagueness of  standards.

Peter Simpson introduced the concept of league tables and said that comparing schools would result in consequences already seen in other countries. Such problems, Mrs Tolley said, would not eventuate due to the support such schools will get.

And as for those schools that are not convinced  ERO will identify them and 'help' will be sent!

What was missing from the programme were the views of a number of highly respected New Zealand educators and assessment experts who find little of value in the standardized approach .This was a shame.

Nor was it mentioned that teachers' attention will be diverted from the implementation of the 2007 National Curriculum which is regarded positively by schools. The emphasis on complying to standards will create a 'no risk' environment at the very time we need to develop the creativity of all our students. What is required for future success  is a move towards personalisation of education so as to realize the gifts and talents of all students; not assessing students against 'fuzzy' standards.

The programme interviewer summed up saying New Zealand had a highly successful education system -  in the top ten in the world for reading, maths and  at 15.

It is a shame that the government cares little for the trust and respect of teachers who do there best to ensure students succeed -often in difficult situations.

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