Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Standards Matter

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  • Russell Brown,

    Oh, and for an alternative view of the same story -- the Kiwiblog thread.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    It's seems to me that the NZEI would be remiss if it was not, on behalf its teacher members, raising this new commitment as an issue.

    I can't really argue with that, but for future reference could the NZEI please stop using children as campaign props in their media 'roadshow"? (Now, I'm sure someone is going to pop up and say "well, you would say that, wouldn't you?" Yes I would, and I'd be saying the same thing if Tolley and Key did a stage-managed press conference in the Beehive theatrette surrounded by kids.)

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

  • Steve Barnes,

    It's simple really. T'Erald has been sitting on this headline and wants to use it "Tolly's Folly" It just has such a good ring to it, like a cash register.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    I've been looking back through newspaper archives from the late 90s, early 00s; the difference in quality between the Herald today and the Herald of old is pretty stark. It really was a very good newspaper only a few short years ago.

    The editorials were the real shock: still conservative, but also informed and thought provoking. 'How interesting,' I thought, reading their critique of the new Labour governments charter for TVNZ in early 2000. 'How articulate and (in hidsight) how wise.'
    My standard response to their editorials nowadays (I only read them when you or DPF link to them) is to wonder at where they found a clueless-enough half-wit to churn out such a high volume of drivel.

    Garth George was back there then, grumbling about doctors who want to stop him smoking in enclosed public spaces (just like the nazis) and the unfitness of woman for political leadership, bless his little heart.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Ah, good. Audrey Young seems to get it. Or, at least, can be bothered to do more than just interview herself:

    4. Here to help

    Professor John Hattie told Andrew Laxon in the Weekend Herald he wants to help design league tables around national testing that will satisfy everyone. I trust he includes the the Newspaper Publishers Associaiton in that as well. I've been looking at the Aussie league tables that have got the teachers over there in a lather. And their tables are based on national testing, not just national standards.

    Have a look here. Scroll down a little and you can see the colour coding for this example in Sydney. (I have a couple of little relatives there). The comparisons are with similar schools (SIM), essentially schools in the same decile, rather than all other schools. The Sydney Morning Herald has compiled their own league tbales from the public data available - which is against the law. Key said two weeks ago he would not stop New Zealand media compiling league tables. Last week he was not resolute and just said it wasn't a problem he needed to face yet.

    It will happen here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • slarty,

    It really was a very good newspaper only a few short years ago.

    I actually used to proudly show it overseas to contrast with the festering pile of poo that was the British situation.

    But not any more.

    Since Nov 2006 • 290 posts Report Reply

  • slarty,

    And, re: standards.

    Putting my personal, selfish hat on... I don't care. Having had an early association with the education "process", I know what to do that will generate the biggest advantage for my child - I will pay attention and stay personally involved.

    But that doesn't help everyone else. Surely these people can look at the US, British and French systems and see what happens (not to the rich, but to everyone else...)?

    Since Nov 2006 • 290 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Wild applause from the cheap seats. Thank you Russell.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • James W,

    Just want to say what a fantastic entry today, Russell. Really good, interesting read.

    Since Jul 2008 • 136 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    A majority of readers - 56.3 per cent - believed the system would create "league tables"...

    We can fairly say that at least 56.3% of Herald readers surveyed do not have a clue what they're on about. Nowhere in the government information about standards does it say that the system will "create league tables". Indeed, the people tasked with making it work are desperate that it not do so.

    It will happen here.

    With respect, these statements seem at odds. Could you clarify?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    Agree, great article, thanks Mr Brown.

    Oh, and for an alternative view of the same story -- the Kiwiblog thread.

    Nice to see you raising the tone of the KB comments thread too!

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 821 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    So far it is difficult to work out whether this is supposed to highlight the failings in the system, or address them. Well, actually not so difficult at all. Withdraw individualised teaching support for known areas of critical need, and increase the bureaucracy. Great idea, why didn't someone think of this before?

    Thought Finlay MacDonald in the Sunday Star last November was good on this point.

    Obviously our school system could do better. But Tolley's updated version of the Victorian schoolroom, where children have it drummed into them as early as possible that they're either successes or failures, is recklessly retrograde.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Dave Patrick,

    I have some questions I really would like someone to answer on this.

    Why, if we are to have National Standards, can't we use the existing "national" standards of PAT tests, running records, 6-year-net, that all schools are already required to perform on all children?

    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?

    Why do we need National Standards when apparently Ms Tolley already knows exactly how many children are being failed by the education system?

    And, as Russell already alluded to, when we have identified all these children who are Below or Well Below, what happens then? All teh talk so far has been about identification, there has been no mention of assistance to schools to raise their scores, no mention of increased funding to bring all children up to the required level, no mention of any extra money in the education system at all apart from the funding already announced to "support and publicise".

    And can someone please PLEASE tell everyone involved to stop talking about "kids"? They're children for goodness' sake..... (sorry, pet peeve, ranking alongside all references to New Zealanders as Kiwis, I'll shut up now....)

    Rangiora, Te Wai Pounamu • Since Nov 2006 • 261 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    A link to the Australian website just launched that Audrey Young was referring to:

    My School

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    A really good post, Russell. It seems peculiar that people want objective measuring, yet when it can be shown objectively that such measuring does not work, those people will stick to their dogma. Much the same has happened in the MMR 'debate' and other challenges to science: feelings trump facts.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • Julie Fairey,

    Thank you Russell. (I work for NZEI so will resist the urge to comment further!)

    Puketapapa Mt Roskill, AK… • Since Dec 2007 • 234 posts Report Reply

  • Gregor Ronald,

    Ms Tolley's hope reminds me of Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon, where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."

    And if teachers are going to be sacked for not getting all children to be above average, then how will principals get anyone to teach Year 6Z? The kids with no support from home will take the teacher down with them...

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome,

    When Feelings Trump Facts: A new reality TV show from Fox...

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    1) The education system in New Zealand needs to improve.

    Not because it isn't already a very good system that produces a well educated population, but because it will always be able to do better. That is the nature of education, we are constantly learning new ways to teach and train our children and those methods will improve the system. And we need to teach new skills and behaviours as society changes.

    2) In order to know you have improved the system you need to be able to measure the performance of the education system.

    Simply put if you make a change then you need to have some way to measure if the change improved the system.

    The whole thing falls apart at this point because defining what is "good performance" is a moving target based on changes in culture and society. Even worse the actual methods to measure performance are pretty much constantly in flux. Not because educators are whimsical fools who can't settle on a measurement system - but instead because they are actually knowledgeable and skilled in their profession and realise that no measurement tool is perfect and hence are constantly trying to improve the measurement tools.

    So yes you need some kind of standard to measure performance and no it won't work properly and yes you have to keep trying.

    And most importantly if all you want to read is the executive summary then you aren't competent to make any decisions.

    What most folks haven't really adapted to yet is the idea that education is a real science in the same way physics and medicine are sciences. Because we all play a part in education of ourselves and our children we assume we are as knowledgeable as the experts. An assumption that is patently false.

    It is entirely possible for a parent to become sufficiently skilled to do a better job of educating their child than your average teacher, especially if that child is not average themselves. But that doesn't mean the parent is skilled at building an education system that can improve the skills knowledge and enjoyment of life of the population of children. That requires a whole other level of skill that takes years of training and experience.

    That also means that your average person is about as competent to judge the "education system" as they are to judge the methods used to improve soil sustainability in Iowa.

    It would be nice if some enterprising journalist took the time and effort to try and bridge that knowledge gap. It is after all something of quite significant interest to most folks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    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.

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

  • Tom Semmens,

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

    100% agree, along with banning private schools.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2212 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    I can't really argue with that, but for future reference could the NZEI please stop using children as campaign props in their media 'roadshow"?

    Okay, but only as long as any time Tolley or Key says "Parents want" (parents tell us, parents think, etc) a pixie comes and kicks them in the bottom.

    All teh talk so far has been about identification, there has been no mention of assistance to schools to raise their scores, no mention of increased funding to bring all children up to the required level, no mention of any extra money in the education system at all apart from the funding already announced to "support and publicise".

    This. This this this. I could bore you all with a long, hateful rant about the way my daughter - clearly already identified as being 'in need' - started high school last week with no assistance from the MoE at all, despite being promised both a facilitator and an itinerant, but you don't want to hear it, and I don't want the headache from crying again.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    What most folks haven't really adapted to yet is the idea that education is a real science in the same way physics and medicine are sciences.

    Of course it could be that they haven't adapted to it because it's not true.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I could bore you all with a long, hateful rant about the way my daughter - clearly already identified as being 'in need' - started high school last week with no assistance from the MoE at all, despite being promised both a facilitator and an itinerant, but you don't want to hear it, and I don't want the headache from crying again.

    That would be because having a need is not the same thing as having a right. We must move from a needs based system to a rights based system as soon as humanly possible.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    The whole thing falls apart at this point because defining what is "good performance" is a moving target based on changes in culture and society.

    And because any system based on getting children to achieve at or above an average means, by definition, that half should be achieving below it - or it's not an average. How that is dealt with is the important question, but it's always such a "you keep using that word...." moment.

    (Word to the rest of your post, too.)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

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