Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Standards Matter

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  • bennz,

    Finally some reasoned and evidence based journalism. Thanks Russell.

    Since Feb 2010 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Nothing to say about this, then, Craig?

    3410: Had plenty to say about it at the time -- nothing flattering -- and if you want to call me a partisan hypocrite don't be a passive-aggressive smart alec about it. I avoid passing comment on things I don't read -- which would include 99% of The Herald most days.

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

  • Rich of Observationz,

    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.

    Also they lose the intensive support and supervision they had from the school, which might have helped them to overachieve at NCEA.

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

  • Just thinking,

    It's pretty clear this is an obtuse attack on teachers, and an ideological battle about unions and conditions.

    We have the recognised best teaching system in the world. There isn't any argument that standards would change the mean, only an unproven hope by Hattie he could lift the bottom.
    Hattie is saying pretty loudly now, that Tolley isn't going to do that.

    As for ERO saying 30% of teachers are bad, that's a normal distribution curve. Something the low rate of pay and witch hunts won't improve.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1158 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    if you want to call me a partisan hypocrite don't be a passive-aggressive smart alec about it.

    Hey, just reminding you that it goes both ways.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    As a parent (though obviously not one of the ones Ms Tolley talks to) the information I want about my kid is not the sort of stuff that you can get from standardised testing. I want to know if he is confident in his view of himself as a learner, I want to know if he is working to his potential, I want to know if his errors are from not understanding the work or from being careless or disengaged. Above all I want information from someone who sees the whole child and not just a score on a sheet of paper.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    Not so much the coasting, I think. Just adjusting to having the freedom to screw up after having been coached by their league-table conscious school. Also greater access to excessive drugs and alcohol but that's a whole other story.

    Coasting does play a huge role, though; I knew a bunch of very bright people who completely failed to adjust to the need to work and to the need to self-monitor, despite wanting to achieve well.

    Depends. In America they do; admissions officers at US schools will look at an A from a Chicago inner city school a lot more favorably than an A from New Trier. That's because American schools are funky, of course, but if NZ schools go down that path the same sort of thing could happen.

    And yet for graduate school, grades mean almost nothing because so many people have straight-A averages due to grade inflation.

    That's the other league table issue; without really strict monitoring, in an environment of competition for students, everyone just nudges up their grades to make themselves look better. Which entirely fails to solve the problem national standards were meant to address.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Why are the rankings Above, At, Below and Well Below? Why isn't there a Well Above, when there's also a current requirement for schools to identify their gifted and talented children and put in place plans to cater for their needs in the same way as they would cater for someone's needs who was Well Below?

    What Dave said. So the "bright future" we're allegedly heading towards has a ceiling, and not even a glass one? That's encouraging.

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

  • Just thinking,

    Tolleys actions remind me of the Prussian Officer selection matrix. Very energetic but doomed to fail.

    ENERGETIC LAZY
    COMPETENT 1 2
    INCOMPETENT 3 4

    [edit, laid out well prior to posting]

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1158 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    the Prussian Officer selection matrix

    You seem to be implying that energetic + competent is the optimum - in the version I know, energetic + competent is good for administrators, but for officers in command you need lazy + competent.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    There are stupid but lazy officers who should be found jobs out the way; there are clever and energetic officers, who should be given important jobs; there are stupid and energetic officers, who should be got rid of as fast as possible. But the officer who is clever and lazy! Ah, for him it is the highest Staff appointment.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Emeritus Professor Ivan Snook has critiqued that ERO report about its claims about teaching and assessment and found that has been misinterpreted too,

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3196 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Jones,

    Excellent post Russell. This all threatens to play outlike a chapter in Freakonmonics - the 'bad' teachers changing children's test results so they look better.

    Coasting does play a huge role, though; I knew a bunch of very bright people who completely failed to adjust to the need to work and to the need to self-monitor, despite wanting to achieve well.

    Reminds me of my first year at uni. Living away from home and expected to self govern my time and learning was a complete shock. I failed the two main papers in my degree and had to redo the year. While independent learning was encouraged in 7th form at my high school, I did not feel prepared for what I had to step up into.

    Over the Bridge, Auckland… • Since Jun 2009 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Graham,

    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,

    Was that a failure? Were they happier individuals after their change in direction?

    'cos that's the problem with standards of achievement in a nutshell.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    If anything, this debate (if you can call what's happening a debate when one side apparently doesn't really understand what's being discussed) has highlighted yet again that a majority of parents feel like they don't have a clear idea how to judge how their children are doing at school, and whether their school is actually meeting the needs of their children.

    So how do we fix this? Is it just about educating parents, or are there concrete changes to reporting that could help parents feel that they do have a clearer understanding of what their children are experiencing at school? Or is the whole project doomed to failure given the Heisenbergian nature of the analysis of educational performance?

    As a non-parent, I really don't have a horse in this race, and I haven't been as caught up in the minutae of the arguments as I probably should be to comment, but surely the fact that there's a debate here at all indicates that something could be done better?

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    'cos that's the problem with standards of achievement in a nutshell.

    The whole thing reminds me somewhat of the system the Japanese are beginning to shun. What will Tolley have next, cram schools?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5416 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    My apologies for a long response to Gio. I obviously did not say what I meant. This isn't meant to derail but I kind of think it's important - well to me anyway.

    The fact that you can study education doesn't make education a science.

    Um yes but that doesn’t make it not a science either.

    The results of those observations aren't easily repeatable and there is nothing like a laboratory setting, for starters.

    That isn’t true as is demonstrated by any of the social sciences and any of the sciences that study humans directly.
    Not wishing to argue about whether education is a science here, let’s just agree to differ on this.

    , what you measure and how you measure it is going to tell you some things about certain educational outcomes, but not about education itself. By which I mean that you can measure numeracy and literacy, and do so with some (not a lot) of consistency, but that is not what education is about.

    Sorry I obviously gave you the impression I thought education was about letters and numbers. Far from it. Nor do I believe the ... er science of education considers education to be about numbers and letters.
    What I was trying to say was that it’s a bitch to try and measure quality of education because what the hell you measure is tricky. The value of art history to a mechanic is indefinable and yet you want to define it in order to measure how well the system is allowing/enabling the mechanic to learn art history.
    And that doesn’t even begin to look at the social engineering functions of the education system which are vital to society.
    And yet if you want to improve the system you need some way of assessing changes to determine if they have achieved what was intended.

    Being at school also means learning to be a social being and the skills you need to adjust in a number of different contexts and situations. You simply cannot measure any of that.

    Of course you can Gio. You do every day with your own children. You can’t do it cheaply because it takes time to make the assessments and it takes time and effort to put those assessments into terms that can be analysed properly. It's hard but not impossible.

    But if you adopt the view that education is a science, you'll also invariably focus on the things you can measure and those things only

    Why? What makes you think scientists are only capable of measuring easy things?

    There are values, exposure to different cultures and social groups, a sense of community and cooperation, learning extracurricular skills, acquiring a better sense of oneself. Very little of this can be measured, but as a parent you get a pretty good sense of it without too much difficulty really.

    You are right about all of this except that you can measure it. Just not easily and certainly not in terms that fit conveniently in an executive summary. It is the very complexity of the kinds of things you are talking about that makes education a science and not a newspaper headline.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    There's a very succinct solution to league tables. Require all schools, public and private, to reflect the demographic makeup of the nation.

    Small problem - I can easily visualise the headmasters of Grammar or Kings obstructing the entrance to kids of Mangere & Otara who they haven't cherry-picked.

    Oddly, I was looking at the wikipedia pages for these just yesterday: the idea that we'd forcibly transport North Island Māori to the South Island for their education just to even things out is kinda funny in a funny kind of way. Busing is just really weird - and the diametric opposite of the likely support I'd generally anticipate finding here for the right of puils to attend their local school.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • buzzy,

    Don't assume that about universities at all. 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.

    So you're saying that a university recognises a top mark from an underachieving school is as valid as the same mark from a privileged school (interesting choice of words there). What I'm saying is that Universities don't - as far as I'm aware - take a failing mark from an underachieving school and determine that it's worth as much as a top mark from a privileged school.

    Certainly when I went to Victoria, the requirement to get into - say - Math 112 was a B or higher in bursary Maths. It wasn't "B in bursary Maths, unless you come from an underprivileged school, in which case we'll let you in with a C"

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 20 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    Reminds me of my first year at uni. Living away from home and expected to self govern my time and learning was a complete shock. I failed the two main papers in my degree and had to redo the year. While independent learning was encouraged in 7th form at my high school, I did not feel prepared for what I had to step up into.

    I was even worse. I dropped out a couple of weeks into my second semester because I felt so utterly lost, with accommodation debts, bad grades, and unresolved relationships all left in my wake. I had none of the skills I needed as an adult, though I don't fault my high school for this-put it down to the inevitable gaps in my education as the result of the time pressures on a single parent. It might be nice if high schools offered kids courses in "How to open a bank account", "How to obtain and manage a bank loan", "Shared accommodation etiquette", etc

    Perhaps those courses are there now, at least at some schools, or perhaps university orientation organisations offer them, but to me learning that stuff beforehand would have made all the difference.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    That isn’t true as is demonstrated by any of the social sciences and any of the sciences that study humans directly.

    You said a science like physics. It's not, it's a social science. Pretty elementary, really.

    Why? What makes you think scientists are only capable of measuring easy things?

    It's not that in the hard sciences you measure only easy things, but those measurements are expected to be repeatable. You can't do that with education. You can pretend to do that, wrapping your "results" in the language of the hard sciences, with usually calamitous results.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    And yet for graduate school, grades mean almost nothing because so many people have straight-A averages due to grade inflation.

    I did read someone once argue that in the case of A Levels, grade inflation tracked productivity gains reasonably well. (Mind you he went on to point out that the Gold Standard was a truly abysmal idea, so why do people talk about gold standards in education so much etc etc.)

    That's the other league table issue; without really strict monitoring, in an environment of competition for students, everyone just nudges up their grades to make themselves look better. Which entirely fails to solve the problem national standards were meant to address.

    Yep. And the required strict monitoring needs money, which isn't free. At which point, wouldn't you be better just spending the money on the schools?

    It all seems to be policy in search of a point.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    Certainly when I went to Victoria, the requirement to get into - say - Math 112 was a B or higher in bursary Maths. It wasn't "B in bursary Maths, unless you come from an underprivileged school, in which case we'll let you in with a C"

    Do universities even take individual grades at 7th form/year 12 (or whatever) in to account anymore for entry into specific papers?

    I seem to remember getting in to every paper I wanted at Vic back in the mid 90's with pretty marginal grades, and the same again when I applied for UoA in the late 90's.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • buzzy,

    For many parents, there's a lot more to a school than grades. What if the higher-ranked school has an endemic bullying problem? Or the lower-ranked school has a better involvement with their community, a broader range of cultures, a sensational kapa haka group, is more open to dealing with the needs of disabled children?

    Yep, agreed. All I'm trying to point out is that league tables attempt to abstract a lot of that into a mark out of ten, and that's not a good thing, especially if parents use the league table as a decision criterion - which becomes more likely if they're published in newspapers as black-and-white guides to which schools are best.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 20 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    Do universities even take individual grades at 7th form/year 12 (or whatever) in to account anymore for entry into specific papers?

    Depends on the paper. I remember MATH 113 as the one with the entrance requirement (in 2002) - I just squeezed in (thanks to massive scaling of the Bursary exam results, but that's another rant), and failed the paper miserably in a year when I got B+ to A in everything else. Protip: the requirement was there for a reason.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

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