The Dim-Post

November 21, 2011

Quote of the day, although the day was a couple of years ago edition

Filed under: education,Politics — danylmc @ 3:18 pm

Education Minister Anne Tolley on league tables for Primary Schools, back in October ’09:

After months of disputes, Education Minister Anne Tolley has struck a deal with primary school unions that will see them work together on its controversial national standards policy.

Under the agreement, the Government has confirmed it will make it as difficult as possible for the media to produce league tables that rank schools.

Mrs Tolley told The Dominion Post the deal was a “a momentous occasion”.

She said she told the groups she was prepared to work with them to stop the use of league tables. “We want to make it as difficult for you [media] as possible. It will be too hard and too much work and not worth it in the end. There are a few ideas we will discuss as to how we can do that.”

Today . . .:

Education spokeswoman Anne Tolley said a National-led Government would not roll out any league tables of its own but primary schools would, from next year, be required to publish their results against the National Standards. There were be no steps to stop media or anyone else from constructing league tables out of the information.

“We want the system to be far more accountable to parents and communities,” Tolley said.

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33 Comments »

  1. Speaking as a parent living in a country with national education standards, published “league tables” are FUCKING BRILLIANT. I don’t understand opposition to them, they’re ace.

    Comment by SHG — November 21, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

  2. Tolley is the leading candidate for the worst Minister of Education since Merv Wellington.

    Comment by psbwilliams — November 21, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

  3. The problem is when they are based on standards that don’t take into account the base off which pupils start. Low decile schools are more likely to see children enrolled who have not had regular exposure to books etc. This can lead to their “stats” appearing worse than a school even though they might actually do a better job of teaching children.

    Comment by Luke — November 21, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

  4. They also disincentive schools from taking special needs children – or any children that are inclined to hurt the schools score.

    Comment by danylmc — November 21, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

  5. True Luke and Danyl but should we base a system on the edge conditions and exceptions, or the norm and apply point solutions for the edge conditions?

    Comment by merv — November 21, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

  6. @ Luke

    The fact that they are low decile (publicly available information) already acts as a proxy for achievement for most parents that give a damn about league tables and have the capacity to move their kids. Parents are pretty good at making up their own league tables around the dinner tables and parties of suburbia

    Comment by insider — November 21, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

  7. I’m a little confused by Simon’s comment. I suspect he is referring to myschools which compares Language Literacy and Numeracy data for years 3, 5, 7 and 9. Senior Secondary curriculum and assessment are state-based. myschools also has SES and funding data so against a limited range of factors you can do comparisons (but not league tables as the data per school is only comparable against other comparable schools).

    Incidentally, I’m not averse to standards per se, and the world’s not stopped turning since myschools was implemented, but lets not overstate what it is and it’s not league tables.

    Comment by psbwilliams — November 21, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

  8. “The fact that they are low decile (publicly available information) already acts as a proxy for achievement for most parents that give a damn about league tables and have the capacity to move their kids. ”

    Holy shit.

    Comment by garethw — November 21, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

  9. @insider

    Are you aware that a low decile school just means “a school that poor people send their kids to”.

    Parents who “have the capacity to move their kids” (i.e. wealthy parents) simply don’t send their kids to such schools by definition.

    Comment by Richard — November 21, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

  10. They also disincentive schools from taking special needs children – or any children that are inclined to hurt the schools score.

    That depends on how awesomely the table-compiler compiles the tables. Maybe schools which work with special needs kids will get bonus points.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — November 21, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

  11. The difference between the New Zealand ‘standards’ and those in Australia, is that they are actually not ‘standards’. The government has chosen to not have a moderation process so there is absolutely no consistency across schools. Basically all the teachers are guessing what ‘improvements’ students have made and then waiting for someone to say ‘that doesn’t look right’. Then when the shit hits the fan, Tolley will come out and attack teachers as unprofessional and blame them. Moderation costs money. Tolley doesn’t want to spend any.

    The irony of course is that National Standards have resulted in students falling further behind in literacy and numeracy in the UK and the US – and both are trying hard to wind back the ‘focus’ on standards.

    The other implication of league tables is further narrowing the curriculum that is taught in the classroom. You will not have art, sport, thinking skills, music etc. Instead, in order to get the top scores for the league tables, lessons will simply be anchored around drilling students in reading and math problems. This will show temporary improvement, but long term will have students switch off learning and lack the thinking skills required to achieve highly in their senior years… But that is just what the evidence shows. Much better for us to select our education policy based on slogans that can handily fit on a bumper sticker – ‘More Accountability’ ‘Back to the Basics’ ‘Keeping you Informed’.

    Comment by Tim — November 21, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

  12. based on standards that don’t take into account the base off which pupils start… This can lead to their “stats” appearing worse than a school even though they might actually do a better job of teaching children.

    They also disincentive schools from taking special needs children – or any children that are inclined to hurt the schools score.

    Or, to boil the argument down to its true core:

    Parents (and the media) are too thick to understand how the results have been computed, therefore we shouldn’t publish them.

    That attitude is a fucking disgrace and, sadly, it’s exactly the attitude that many schools have.

    Comment by Phil — November 21, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

  13. You lefties. Doncha know …
    1: Ranking schools makes monied people shift their kids. Who’s going to employ a kid from a low-ranked school, how would they even get an interview?
    2: More money thus moves to the schools that already have more money, allowing them to increase fees and push out all the poor families without losing numbers.
    3: Participation-based funding ensures lowest-ranked schools suffer financial collapse, but they’re just full of immigrants and special eds anyway, so who cares?
    4: …?
    5: Profit!

    If you were earning more money, this wouldn’t be a problem for you. Try some ambition, eh.

    Comment by tussock — November 21, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

  14. Given the fact that we know a small proportion of the variance in kids’ academic abilities is attributable to schools and teachers (something like less than 20%) and much more is attributable to socioeconomic status of the kids’ families it’s insane to trot out these figures as if they are a measure of the quality of schools (even if they were good measures of kids’ performance … which they aren’t). And even if they WERE good measures of the qualities of schools they wouldn’t magically improve the quality of poor schools – national standards don’t actually help to improve education at all.

    Comment by SteveH — November 21, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

  15. They also encourage schools to teach to the standards rather than all the other things we consider important for schooling.

    Comment by lyndon — November 21, 2011 @ 5:29 pm

  16. Hey everyone!

    New sensational blog for your entertainment!

    http://liberalpartyofnzandotherinsanestuff.blogspot.com

    Comment by Dannyboy — November 21, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

  17. We don’t expect children to all walk at 1 year or be out of nappies at 2, not to mention all those other milestones kids meet so why the hell when they are aged 5/6/7 and still very much developing, do we expect them to be able to read, write and do maths to a certain ‘standard’? Having taught at both high and low decile schools, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, only a teacher, to see standards are not the norm for a huge proportion of students.

    Comment by caroline — November 21, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

  18. I don’t even want to understand what she is talking about.The whole education system is based around an antiquated industrial model. Kids are processed on factory lines. What has any of this to do with whats good for kids? Put kids in charge of their own education.Check out Ken Robinson’s books or there’s a good summary of his ideas on TED.com. Its brilliant.

    Comment by tawhaowhao — November 21, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

  19. National Standards And League tables hurt kids. Stop the insidious political creep.

    Comment by xianmac — November 21, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

  20. @12 “Or, to boil the argument down to its true core: Parents (and the media) are too thick to understand how the results have been computed, therefore we shouldn’t publish them. That attitude is a fucking disgrace and, sadly, it’s exactly the attitude that many schools have.”

    As a parent I am mortified when I hear what other parents think makes a good education. For example:
    – a primary school with a uniform is a better school than a primary school without one
    – more homework is better than less homework
    – a high decile school provides a better education that a low one
    – we need to know the ranking of our school.

    A load of nonsense, all of it. We don’t need to know the ranking of our schools, we need to know whether our individual child is making progress and whether a particular school suits our particular child and their needs. The number of children below or above the standards at a particular school is so distant a second it doesn’t really rate. And yet parents seem to rate this. Just like they rate homework and decile rankings and uniforms.

    Comment by MeToo — November 21, 2011 @ 8:20 pm

  21. Hardly a “A load of nonsense, all of it……”– it’ll all become much easier to understand when failing schools are ‘punished'(or, more likely, left unrewarded) as has been intimated in National’s education policy ‘revealed’ today on NatRad news. That should cheer up all those narcissists who want to see their children as shining reflections of their own success. Of course, the news about re-jigging student loan elegibility was much easier to cram into a sound bite on TVMoronic tonight.

    Comment by Galeandra — November 21, 2011 @ 9:17 pm

  22. So those people who kep saying ‘aha, now I will know how my kid is doing!’ – are you proposing that the final data should not be anonymous but should point out the data belonging to your child? There’s a reason you get personal reports at the end of the year.

    Also just wanted to address this: Are you aware that a low decile school just means “a school that poor people send their kids to”.
    Not exactly. It usually ENDS UP that way, but that’s not how it’s defined. It’s a measurement of how rich people who live in the area are – people can easily choose to try and send their kids somewhere else (whether they get in is obviously a different issue).

    Comment by Flynn the Cat — November 21, 2011 @ 10:13 pm

  23. Key’s tack has changed a bit:

    Mr Key said the decision to release the policy at this stage was to highlight the importance of education to National.

    He remained unrepentant about requiring schools to report on National Standards, saying parents had to know how their child and the school as a whole was doing.

    He said although it was possible the material could be collected to form a “league table” of schools, it would not be simple because the information was not easily comparable.

    So the data aren’t comparable, but we’re not going to lift a finger to stop people compiling them into comparative tables. Jesus wept.

    Comment by Russell Brown — November 22, 2011 @ 8:50 am

  24. (Sorry, I’ll have to repost that with italics …)

    Key’s tack has changed a bit:

    Mr Key said the decision to release the policy at this stage was to highlight the importance of education to National.

    He remained unrepentant about requiring schools to report on National Standards, saying parents had to know how their child and the school as a whole was doing.

    He said although it was possible the material could be collected to form a “league table” of schools, it would not be simple because the information was not easily comparable.

    So the data aren’t comparable, but we’re not going to lift a finger to stop people compiling them into comparative tables. Jesus wept.

    Comment by Russell Brown — November 22, 2011 @ 8:53 am

  25. My thought: National have realised that they may have to enter a coalition with the Greens – so they’re releasing some policy that’s going to be frantically unpopular with the sort of left-wing types who’re likely to vote Green (but probably not with core National voters). If they win enough seats to govern without the greens, they can claim to have a mandate to do this. If they need the Greens: this isn’t a particularly core policy, and they can throw it into the pot and let the Greens negotiate to remove it.
    Basically, it’s briar patch politics. “Oh, Metiria, don’t negotiate against our league tables! Anything except our league tables!”

    Comment by Jack — November 22, 2011 @ 9:44 am

  26. So the data aren’t comparable, but we’re not going to lift a finger to stop people compiling them into comparative tables. Jesus wept.

    And nor should they. If people are concerned about stupid league tables, then they should get someone to make better ones, not abandon freedom of expression or open information.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — November 22, 2011 @ 9:45 am

  27. Jack, I can’t see it being that way. National just released yet another policy which is odious to the Greens caucus, membership, and many voters. The Greens have had strong electoral support from the teaching profession this year, and that’s likely to increase in the next few days.

    Comment by George D — November 22, 2011 @ 10:21 am

  28. Greens have had strong electoral support from the teaching profession this year, and that’s likely to increase in the next few days.

    Somewhat of topic, my wife (a medical professional) received a nice letter from the Greens asking for her vote; “As someone involved in public health, we are sure you care about health policy etc…”

    A clever piece of addressed advertising and market segmentation I thought.

    Has anyone else received anything like this and in what sectors?

    Comment by Gregor W — November 22, 2011 @ 10:47 am

  29. Gregor, I got a letter from the Greens, however not personalised. But it’s still significant as I live in Sydney and have done for 9 years. Moreover, although I admire many Green members (and potential members), I’ve not participated in Green activities so am curious as to how the identified me as a potential voter (which I possibly am).

    Comment by psbwilliams — November 22, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

  30. Hah, we got a letter from ACT saying that Labour want to stop our right to party by having minimum alcohol prices. Guessing they were targetting the youth/student vote but seeing as we’re all over 30, working, and live next to the central city, I think they just got Labour some extra votes right across the suburb. A not so clever piece of advertising and market segmentation.

    Comment by Lucy Bailey — November 22, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

  31. @ gregor

    LAbour have been doing it to teachers too. They work off the occupation column in the electoral rolls. So if you list as nurse, doctor, physio, therapist etc you might get a medical one. Same thing for the ‘Dead parent’ mailout. Nothing sinister or unethical going on in terms of targeting. Note: if you tried to do the same with the electoral roll to say promote a medical supplies business, it would be illegal. MPs are special.

    Comment by insider — November 22, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

  32. I keep getting enthusiastic letters from Nikki Kaye, but I am putting that down to a revenge attack on me for signing up my flatmate to a Scientology database.

    Comment by Sanctuary — November 22, 2011 @ 3:00 pm

  33. Hah! I got a NZ First flyer today targeted at ‘you as Maori’ voters, despite none of my household being Maori (so definitely not listed as Maori on the electoral roll). I think targeted marketing was too hard, so they did a dump in an electorate with a high Maori base.

    @ Graeme E – your comment 26 is plain silly – the solution to someone yelling ‘fire’ in a theatre (when there is no fire) is not for me to shout ‘there is no fire’ louder than them.

    That is, publishing better statistical analysis of school performance is not the answer to completely invalid analysis in the form of league tables being published.

    For one thing, I may not have time, effort or funds to publish better research. For another, there is significant risk that the first scaremongering league table will create adverse effects (ie white flight, etc). That is the problem with simplistic right-wing electioneering – sound bites are so easy to throw out there, but so time-consuming to counter with facts. In the meantime, hysteria can easily prevail. Then nobody wins.

    Comment by bob — November 22, 2011 @ 3:01 pm


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