Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: From soundbite to policy

411 Responses

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  • Sacha,

    It's the quiet ones you have to watch out for..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I just have visions of one of those yelly people on Cuba Mall.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • A S,

    Ian:

    Suggest you read my initial posts. In case you can't be bothered, I'll summarise. The Bill as it was passed doesn't do most of the wild things claimed by posters. I also in my initial post that we have a literacy problem.

    I haven't seen anything posted that convinces me that we don't have a long way to go to improve literacy outcomes for kids leaving schools. After several attempts to be clear that basic literacy/numeracy isn't actually a very high expectation to have for kids leaving high school, I re-emphasised the key points I had made.

    I'll even say it again, I cannot see how trying to establish whether kids have literacy issues through testing is the awful thing an awful lot of posts make out.

    The changes to the Act in terms of testing might be bad, but they might also be a valuable tool for channelling support to kids who could really benefit from it. I'm inclined to think that on balance literacy testing would be a damn good thing, because if there are national reports about a problem published, things might actually happen in terms of a coherent response to fixing it. So in relation to your "not offering a solution" criticism, I don't think that I need to.

    Also, I don't think there should be "lots of testing" as you suggest, nor did I ever say that. That is precisely the misguided, and incorrect attribution that leads to a desire to use capital letters. I'm somewhat reluctant to try and justify things I've never said, so I'm at a disadvantage here.

    I've read a lot of speculation, a lot of selective interpretation of what the legislation actually says, and a number of what sound remarkably like conspiracy theories. While there are some well thought out points amongst it, most posts seem to be talking about legislative changes that only happened in peoples imagination.

    Sacha:
    Occasionally the quiet ones get sick of being quiet. Sometimes, shouting even works to clarify a point. Just a thought.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2007 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • A S,

    Rich:

    You really don't have to try to convince me you're an asshat. Honest.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2007 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    AS That was a great response. I am doing something else at the moment but at a quick read we agree on a couple of things:
    There are too many kids who could do better. This problem must be addressed. Diagnostic testing would be a start but this is always being done in Primary Schools now. Guarantee that! The shortage of time, skilled personal, over crowded classrooms, etc etc means that known problems are not necessarily dealt with and seldom is it for the want of trying.
    So you could help by persuading the system to properly fund and resource the needs. At the moment you would hate it if your bright kids have their resources denied in order to supplement the Needy.Spread too thinly? Disaster for both top kids and bottom kids. Wasting money on another layer of testing which is already being done in a focussed way, is criminal. Cheers. Must go for now.

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Occasionally the quiet ones get sick of being quiet.

    AS, I'm all for a bit of shoe-tossing every now and then. When there's a suitably oafish target. :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    AS, I'm all for a bit of shoe-tossing every now and then. When there's a suitably oafish target. :)

    Must remember to keep a pair of slingbacks to hand for the next time I see this theocratic mouthpiece in the street.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    Consequences –

    Speaking as one of those elitist, over-paid, curmudgeonly killers of creativity (academics) - I am going to offer the Turkey voting for Christmas line: There is no point in expanding or putting further funds into higher education as long as a culture of teach to the test/exam continues as it is or grows. Universities are beginning to fill up with students who feel they have purchased the right to be told the answers. TEC have made it pretty clear that in the long term they would like to see no more than 20% of students fail. This puts Universities in a very tough position; the easy answer given the numbers involved is to continue the “teach to the test culture” and cream off the most able for a proper (postgraduate) education. At which point this looks like and is educational inflation. The students would be better off elsewhere in society. Please be clear I am not advocating more selective HE, everyone should have the right to attend funded HE programmes at a time when it suits them. What I am saying is HE has little purpose or benefit for large numbers of students if schools are not allowed to educate students properly, which is most likely to be the case in a culture of compulsory testing tied to arbitrary standards.

    Educational philosophy –

    It is sad for me to see the extent to which “education” has given way to “training”. I tend to conceive of the difference in terms of goals for education in schools.

    i) One could argue the goal of education is literacy, numeracy and related skills.
    ii) One could argue that the goal is capability/efficacy with literacy and numeracy as a consequence.

    Each case has advantages and disadvantages but I am sad to see the second case lose so much ground in the modern age. Like Steven and a couple of others who posted in this thread I have a non-standard educational background. I left a privileged secondary education with what would now be regarded as poor literacy and numeracy skills. I now have substantial qualifications that speak to the fact that all I needed to do was find a reason to acquire literacy and numeracy skills. I would not exist in my current role if only case i) were enforced. What perplexes me above all is that I’m not really sure what will constitute literacy or numeracy in 50 years time and it may be a risky strategy delivering teaching on the presumption that I do.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    What perplexes me above all is that I’m not really sure what will constitute literacy or numeracy in 50 years time and it may be a risky strategy delivering teaching on the presumption that I do.

    When I realized the bleeding obvious, that literacy and numeracy wasn't dissimilar to carpet weaving, I went out and brought a computer.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4327 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    I'm a bit concerned that Anne Tolley delayed the review of NCEA for a year apparently after meeting with Auckland secondary principals on Friday. This raises all sorts of questions - apart from how did she manage to have a meeting at all when her bill was going through urgency all day?

    Why wasn't she listening to all the other educational groups who have been meeting with her since she became education spokesperson after Katherine Rich stood down - many of whom advised her against the testing regime that was passed last week in less than 40 hours under urgency?

    Why is NCEA allowed a whole year for review while education testing wasn't even allowed a select committee hearing?

    What power does the Akld secondary principal lobby have? This is a very powerful group but they tend to come from the conservative end of education, high decile schools, those very concerned with zoning and compeitition between schools (mainly Auckland issues).
    They are certainly not representative of NZ wide schools.

    Is this going to be her main advisory group?

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3203 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    81st column: Your part 2 hits on the learner believing in the need for literacy numeracy.
    More than that though is learning to love reading and enjoying the art of number patterns. (That after all is what maths is:patterns.)
    I know of a Principal who set out to lift the reading age levels in the Infant School. Easy enough. Focus on Word recognition and phonics. Result excellent. Average age lifted by 1.8 in a year which is a big jump for beginners.
    The Principal was horrified however to find that kids had become reluctant to pick up a book let alone read it. The pressure cooking had destryed the potential to love to read. Pace. Pace. Pace.

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    The pressure cooking had destryed the potential to love to read. Pace. Pace. Pace.

    Sounds symptomatic of the kind of system that Japan is slowly moving away from, without the saving graces.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5420 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    What perplexes me above all is that I’m not really sure what will constitute literacy or numeracy in 50 years time and it may be a risky strategy delivering teaching on the presumption that I do.

    Yeah, but what else can you do? We don't have crystal balls so we teach kids literacy and numeracy because those were useful skills in our day. I'd be surprised if they don't continue to be. The form may change, handwriting may become a much less valuable skill (hopefully), the language will evolve, and there will always be dispute about what kind of maths kids need to know. But it seems likely to me that language and maths (whatever they become) will continue to be crucial skills for success.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Max Call,

    A S

    do you have children in primary level education?

    I am only asking as it seems that you are unaware that children in primary school are already assessed on literacy and numeracy very regularly and that this information is also passed on to their parents/caregivers.

    I think what most people are arguing is that another test will not provide any more information than what we already have. However, it will tie up many resources (time, money, skill) finding out what we already know. These resources could be more effectively used to address the students further development in literacy and numeracy (than what they already receive). Eg - employ more teachers/teacher aides so that struggling students receive more one-on-one tutoring (I am sure that there are also many other strategies).

    Fruit Bowl of New Zealand… • Since Jun 2007 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • Max Call,

    81st Column

    I agree with your comments regarding students expecting to be 'spoon-fed' - it drives me nuts.

    Fruit Bowl of New Zealand… • Since Jun 2007 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    On higher education. It seems that with the shift to a more commercialised environment the emphasis have changed. People pay fees in order to enrol, and they now see it more as a purchase transaction, that they are buying a product, rather than receiving an education. I'm not saying abolishing fees is the answer, but we need to move away from this commodified version of higher education.
    I wonder if in a perverse way, despite not paying at high school, the breaking knowledge into discrete acquirable chunks has also lead to commodification.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    I think what most people are arguing is that another test will not provide any more information than what we already have. However, it will tie up many resources (time, money, skill) finding out what we already know. These resources could be more effectively used to address the students further development in literacy and numeracy

    Nail, meet head.

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

  • 81stcolumn,

    @Ben

    You are quite right, there are no crystal balls that allow us to predict what literacy and numeracy will amount to in the future. But my point in an abstract way was to ask, does it make sense to formalise and standardise the concept of literacy and numeracy through early testing in schools. I have this fear that the dynamic relationship between literacy and everyday experience will be lost in excessive formalism. At 8years old it is easy to say write this way, at 18 kids already use language in a different way as a consequence of mobile communication. Punishing them for not using old fashioned language runs the risk of them rejecting it altogether. As a result they may lose access to a wealth of useful knowledge. I already have this problem in that I struggle to encourage students to read academic books let alone research papers. The killer line last year was “I don’t do books bro”. Capability to literacy allows for motivation and flexibility in this regard straight teach to the test doesn’t.

    As for commodification, commercialisation and spoon feeding, the biggest challenge is not to blame the students, but in some way to encourage them to take a little responsibility for their own learning. Somehow this hasn’t quite emerged as intended from NCEA.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Max Call,

    I wonder if in a perverse way, despite not paying at high school, the breaking knowledge into discrete acquirable chunks has also lead to commodification.

    Interesting point.
    Many students now do not aim to pass "English' or 'History' (for example) they look at each AS, weigh up how many credits they need in literacy or numeracy,the number of credits they need to pass the Level and then decide if they are going to attempt the standard based on this.
    What is the point of working your butt off if you have already enough literacy credits and you are earning heaps of credits towards your level certificate by doing 30+ US in Info Management?
    (Note - this does not apply to all students but it does to an alarming amount and growing number of students).

    Fruit Bowl of New Zealand… • Since Jun 2007 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • Max Call,

    yes - student directed learning is much easier to set(for the teacher) in junior classes than NCEA level classes.

    Fruit Bowl of New Zealand… • Since Jun 2007 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • A S,

    Max:

    I am only asking as it seems that you are unaware that children in primary school are already assessed on literacy and numeracy very regularly and that this information is also passed on to their parents/caregivers.

    I think what most people are arguing is that another test will not provide any more information than what we already have. However, it will tie up many resources (time, money, skill) finding out what we already know.

    So what is to stop the information currently collected from being used at a national level to inform better provision of assistance to kids who need it?

    If it is a nationally consistent tool what is the problem with the proposed change? If it isn't a consistently used tool, wouldn't it be useful to ensure the Ministry of Ed can get the info needed to sort its priorities out and ensure they have their resources pointing in the right direction early on? Wouldn't that also provide a useful tool for schools to extract the needed resources from the Ministry?

    Also, who says there has to be additional testing that takes up resources? If the existing mechanisms are suitably robust they can surely be used/tweaked, or if needed, replaced to achieve both the current and new purposes? There will be no duplication or waste of resources, so where is the problem? Is it simply an issue of who is proposing the change?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2007 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Max Call,

    "So what is to stop the information currently collected from being used at a national level to inform better provision of assistance to kids who need it? "

    nothing... except the provision of resources required (time, money and skills). Which was part of my point.

    Fruit Bowl of New Zealand… • Since Jun 2007 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • Max Call,

    "Wouldn't that also provide a useful tool for schools to extract the needed resources from the Ministry?"

    schools do 'extract the needed resources' already - the main limit is size of resource pool.

    Fruit Bowl of New Zealand… • Since Jun 2007 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    The sad thing about testing is in the way that it teaches the kids to measure their success against the test, as Max was saying. It becomes the reason for being there. Sad.
    I came a cross a lecturer in Massey who said ignore the idea of testing, though he had to put a result in for admin purposes. He then spent his energies in developing the student question setting, research skills, cross-student sharing of content achieved, and thus each learned to assess greater or lesser quality. Freed from accenting assessment, the students became totally involved and continued long after the paper was "finished." His name was John Kirkland

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    AS: You have quoted before, there are the 20% who are under-achieving. (The other 80% are among the best in the world.) How do we know that? Because of a whole range of testing being done now. We already know who and where! Every year each school tells the the Ministry the number of children below at and above average.
    What is missing is the money to pay for people and resources to fix it. Please don't let them waste precious resources on more testing.

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

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