The Dim-Post

November 22, 2011

A teacher’s lament

Filed under: education — danylmc @ 7:13 am

John-Paul – who is a secondary school teacher – is not impressed with National’s education policy:

  • Teaching is a long hard road to success, and it is even more brutal and even more important at decile one schools.  My experience of a  decile ten school is that the students can almost teach themselves.  Is it not then true that student teachers in higher decile schools will appear to have a better disposition to teach than those toughing it out in low decile schools?  Where do you want good teachers to go?  Into the low decile schools where the results are low, and they will be judged on league tables, and their position will worsen as white flight takes place over the next few years?  I assume that you are also planning to let parents have “choice” about where they send their kids.  Which means abandoning zoning, and abandoning certain schools whose funding is tied to their roll.
  • Can I ask you this?  What was broken about our education system?  One of the best in the world for decade after decade with results we can be proud of in maths, and reading and writing?  Our identified area of concern was our long tail.  A characteristic that all multi-cultural societies face, and one that they are all battling with.  Why have you created a policy that will disadvantage the schools where the long tail is over represented?  I think that it is so parents who are educated and comparatively wealthy (compared to long-tail parents) can have a good reason to send their kids out of area.
  • Finally, I would like you to show me another country similar to our own where this model has worked over a long period of time.

National and ACT supporters look at arguments like these and turn to public choice theory: ‘teachers are self-interested agents who oppose these reforms for selfish reasons of their own, and also they belong to unions!’ But you do have to consider the possibility that teachers all hate these policies and can make formidable critiques of them that National cannot intelligently respond to – just might be because these are really, really terrible policies.

61 Comments »

  1. Lets see who gets a mandate on Saturday.

    Then we’ll see who is the master and who is the servant.

    Comment by OECD rank 22 kiwi — November 22, 2011 @ 7:39 am

  2. I would hasten to add that “white flight” was a useful idea, but it is now slightly broader than that. In the southern suburbs of Auckland it’s Chinese, Indian, Samoan, and Maori flight. There are a lot of parents of the capable who move their children away from poorer schools, with considerable success. They, perhaps rightly, don’t want their children to suffer the disadvantage of being taught with the tail.

    As the commenter notes, New Zealand scores extremely highly on most international tests of child capability, in maths, science, and reading. It is the bottom quintile that performs below expectations, and which a policy response should address. They need interventions which address them directly – they don’t need to have the entire education system shaken up. Neither do the rest need radical change; they’re doing well for the most part.

    Comment by George D — November 22, 2011 @ 7:40 am

  3. This is bollocks. The Smithfield Project’s research for the MoE back in the 90s, “The creation of market competition for education in NZ”, showed that Maori and Pacific Islanders were more likely to use out of zone schools than others. Zoning has led to greater competition of wealth and poverty in particular schools, not less. This makes perfect sense when living in a good school zone can add $100,000 to the cost of a house.

    The Unions oppose this for the same reason the PPTA opposes ‘Teach for America’ type projects in NZ, they are focused on the job security of their weakest members and are afraid of objective accountability.

    I genuinely believe these institutions to be the villains they are shown to be in ‘Waiting for Superman’. Bring on the league tables and let the light shine in.

    Comment by Waldo — November 22, 2011 @ 7:50 am

  4. Danyl said: “…National and ACT supporters look at arguments like these and turn to public choice theory: ‘teachers are self-interested agents who oppose these reforms for selfish reasons of their own, and also they belong to unions..!’

    Which I think on the evidence is an extremely generous mis-interpretation of the right wing position.

    The usual right wing troll tells us it has nothing to do with education. It is, in fact, about establishing “…who is the master and who is the servant…”

    So it actually a simple authoritarian impulse to crush all alternative points of view and force obedience on any who dare dissent.

    Comment by Sanctuary — November 22, 2011 @ 7:53 am

  5. @OECD rank 22 kiwi – ‘who is the master and who is the servant’

    Teachers don’t work for the government or for the tax payer they work for their school and that school is administered by a board made up of elected representatives of the parents, the Principal and a teachers representative (and sometimes others). Teaching is a profession, people choose to become teachers, most teachers bring incredible energy and passion to their jobs and care greatly about the children they are teaching.

    They oppose National’s clumsy attempts at changing our education system not because they are union members or because of self-interest but because the changes won’t improve our schools, they are not based on fixing a problem, or addressing issues but are mindless ideology driven by a minister of education who is way out of her depth.

    Comment by ieuan — November 22, 2011 @ 8:38 am

  6. Sanc – don’t focus on the old troll, we have a brand new troll!

    Waldo makes it clear that it is all because teachers love a loser, especially when that loser is a teacher.
    Don’t encourage their obstinate focus on under achievers, cleanse them all with fire.

    Comment by greg — November 22, 2011 @ 8:38 am

  7. Waldo wants public opinion to beat schools into shape.
    To discover the debilitating effects of poor institutional morale he could do no better than choose a few years of less than brilliant salary and doubtful job satisfaction, and try working in low or even some mid-decile classrooms laced with unmotivated ill-prepared young adolescent males.
    The ‘tail’ is of critical concern to NZ in modern times, but National’s notion of judgemental bullying via league tables and funding cuts won’t do much to incentivise youngsters who have inadequate parents & life habits, or limited exposure to literacy beyond the school room. It will, as John-Paul said, discourage children and the teachers who might make a difference, from taking the risk that low performing schools afford.
    Better then to investigate ‘outside the square’ solutions such as that synthesis of school/community which is making such a difference in Otorohanga, where almost all school-leavers are in workplaces for employment and training. As they have found, individualised incentivised learning makes a huge difference, but only if you can prevent your learners from that process of disengagement which begins for some at age eight or nine. Of course, funding makes a difference too.
    At the school I had long experience with, they offer year 10 boys a hands-on small-engine course at the local polytech. While it’s initially popular and motivating, the fact is that there is only one practical session every three weeks, and the rest has to be unit-standards assessed classroom based work. The reason for this is simple: it costs the school money, and it doesn’t have much. Maybe Waldo would like to ‘celebrate’ this?

    Comment by Galeandra — November 22, 2011 @ 8:51 am

  8. “Who is master and who is servant”
    Thanks, Mr 22, for encapsulating NACT policy on everything so neatly

    Comment by Leopold — November 22, 2011 @ 9:10 am

  9. Or, you could consider National Standard will actually allow the parents to know if their child is doing as well as they should in each area – My wife an I are concerned that our oldest child is keen on Maths, and so is doing well at that, but appears to be falling behind in reading – but is that from our inflated expectations or is he actually falling behind? If he doing okay compared to the National Standard we will ‘cut him some slack’ as it were, but if not we’ll get extra help for him.

    I’ve found school reports not that helpful up to now, but we’ve recently moved house and his new school is one that is implementing GOVERNMENT POLICY and we are going to get a meaningful report. I am sick of teachers choosing to decide to implement the policy or not. They DO NOT HAVE THAT RIGHT – whether they thing it is a good idea or not, it is not their decision. My message to teachers is simple – DO YOUR BLOODY JOB. I have to – I work in the marine industry, and we have to conform to any number of imposed regulations – often created for and by organisations overseas, that don’t apply that well to NZ, but rather than spend 2 years bitching and moaning about it – we implement it and get it to work the best way possible for us.

    I for one do not believe the bollocks that NZ ever had a world leading educational system – I spent a few years overseas during my schooling. Every time I had a large amount to catch up to match the students I was the same year as, and after a returning to NZ (Dad had a couple of 2 year postings overseas) I got to cruise for a year as the NZ students caught up to where I was – to the point the last time I skipped a year and still cruised for a year. For example, the stuff I got taught as first year uni, they had covered in 6th and 7th form in Canada.

    Comment by Stephen — November 22, 2011 @ 9:42 am

  10. I understand that the Teachers’ Council can revoke the registration of a teacher who is simply not up to the task. How many teachers, in the last five years, have had their registration revoked for simple incompetence?

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — November 22, 2011 @ 9:48 am

  11. So Stephen is not a master but a servant mariner, then: “that don’t apply that well to NZ, but rather than spend 2 years bitching and moaning about it – we implement it” . Does he vote Act,too?

    Comment by Galeandra — November 22, 2011 @ 10:11 am

  12. Stephen #9. If you are concerned about your childs’ progress at school, don’t wait for a report. As a parent, you need to make the time to go and talk to their teacher straight away.

    Comment by Purple Scottie — November 22, 2011 @ 10:31 am

  13. Does it matter who I vote for? Over the last few elections I have voted: ACT, National, Labour – depends on who has the policies I feel are best for NZ. And I if I state who I plan to vote for this election or who voted for last election or the time before that (all different) does that now make my opinion invalid. Do you have children at primary school right now? I do. That is why I am for National Standards – I remember the stink with bringing in NCEA, and it now is working well. Took a few years to iron out the bugs, but it was GOVERNMENT POLICY. So teachers and principals – just STFU and DO YOUR BLOODY JOB.

    As for your servant/master bullsh*t – no one is ever truly a master – everyone works within rules and constraints, any number they disagree with or don’t like. The smart people don’t bitch about it, they get on a do the job. The organisation I work for is doing very well and is internationally recognised, even with having to implement international regulations.

    For all you “Labour / National/ ACT/ Green / NZ First / etc. is my team and no one else”, take a look at what you are doing. Why? If you honestly believe that Party X is the correct choice this election vote for them. But voting for them regardless of their policies is stupidity.

    Comment by Stephen — November 22, 2011 @ 10:37 am

  14. No way has George ever read the Smithfield report. He is simply repeating ACT lies put about by that master of educational propaganda, Roger Kerr. What Smithfield revealed was that schools were polarising along socio-economic and ethnic lines and this was confirmed by the investigations of Fisk and Ladd who published their findings in a book entitiled When Schools Compete: A Cautionary Tale (Brookings Institution Press, 2000). There was certainly some movement of Maori and Pacific Island stduents away from their local school but it was suggested that was as much because they were EXCLUDED from it as for positive reasons.

    Comment by Bronwyn — November 22, 2011 @ 10:39 am

  15. All through the National Standards debacle and here over the National policy, comments of the pro-commentary all have the same tone. Obey the Boss. To have credible discussion about the merits or otherwise of a policy is disobedient, and those who do so must be punished. Cut funding. De-register. Denigrate.
    How about a debate on the merits of the plan?
    Be silent you snivelling curs. The Mistress (although not qualified) has the whip.
    Tough on our kids underneath all that politicking.

    Comment by xianmac — November 22, 2011 @ 10:41 am

  16. @ StyephenI remember the stink with bringing in NCEA, and it now is working well. Took a few years to iron out the bugs, but it was GOVERNMENT POLICY.
    Bad choice there Stephen. Schools like Auckland Grammar choose to not use NCEA even though it was the National Government who introduced it.

    Comment by xianmac — November 22, 2011 @ 10:46 am

  17. One of the problems with discussions like this is that everyone once went to school, so everyone knows all about what works and what doesn’t. So, Stephen @9.42, maybe you should check out the stats from the Programme for International Student Assessment. NZ and Canada are comparable in performance. These league tables also show that NZ teachers HAVE been doing a bloody good job for quite a few years now – much better than many other larger, richer countries.
    Now how many times has Anne Tolley acknowledged that, I wonder?
    A more interesting question might be “Why does little Finland do so consistently well?” The short answer is “By steering well clear of all of National/ACT’s discredited bash-the-sector-over-the-head-and-force-them-to-compete policies.”

    Comment by Neil — November 22, 2011 @ 11:06 am

  18. Stephen:

    With all your ‘STFU…DO YOUR BLOODY JOB…DO NOT HAVE THAT RIGHT’ ranting, were your formative years spent in China? You seem have acquired a subservient, give-up-and-die mindset. The whole point of a democracy is to protest and push against government policies you do not like. When there are enough of you, the government must obey or it will be removed.

    Comment by Aztec — November 22, 2011 @ 11:13 am

  19. A more interesting question might be “Why does little Finland do so consistently well?” The short answer is “By steering well clear of all of National/ACT’s discredited bash-the-sector-over-the-head-and-force-them-to-compete policies.”

    I would suggest also that Finland’s essentially homogenous society has more influence than policy prescriptions.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 22, 2011 @ 11:21 am

  20. ‘“Why does little Finland do so consistently well?”’

    Perhaps this will help.
    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/Why-Are-Finlands-Schools-Successful.html?c=y&page=1

    Comment by Peter Martin — November 22, 2011 @ 11:39 am

  21. “I would suggest also that Finland’s essentially homogenous society has more influence than policy prescriptions.”

    Another advantage they have is that Finnish is a very easy language to learn to read and write, because it is totally phonetic.

    However, I’ve heard they also pay their teachers a much higher income than most countries do, and require them to have Master’s degrees in education. These could both have an impact.

    Comment by Kahikatea — November 22, 2011 @ 11:44 am

  22. No – teachers can protest against the policy all they like – that is their right. But what I object to is them NOT BLOODY WELL DOING IT. They are required to follow government policy / rules / regulations, just like the rest of us. The problem is they are vocal in their protest – but not listening or engaging with the government or the parents. They always reminded me of little children stomping their feet and yelling “SHAN’T”. The teacher’s unions have not won the “battle of ideas” – democracy require you to follow the rules you don’t like as much as the ones you do. The whole argument seems to me to boil down to an anti-league table – as the Teacher’s Unions support the Labour Party Policy which is pretty much National Standards (under a new name) but without publicly publishing the results.

    AZTEC – so which government regulations/policy, specifically related to your job do you not do? It’s not the protest – find, but to denigrate the actual Minister to her face? To refuse to implement policy – that isn’t protest, that is far beyond it. Once again, rather than explain to me why teachers are allowed to refuse to obey the government you say I am subservient, thus attack the messenger – can’t refute the message can you?

    NEIL – I suspect as the other commenter has already said, Finland society is significantly different in mix to make any comparison difficult. At the end of the day, it is not that this is the best and only way to do it. My complaint is and has always been – you’ve been instructed to implement this policy – whether you agree with it or not, DO IT. Protest all you want, suggest all the changes you want but DO IT, and DO IT PROPERLY.

    As for Auckland Grammar – they are a private school that the parents pay for, can do whatever they want. Look at the remaining 95% of high schools – all doing NCEA and doing well with it.

    Comment by Stephen — November 22, 2011 @ 11:54 am

  23. “…As for Auckland Grammar – they are a private school that the parents pay for, can do whatever they want…”

    Ummm, I think you will find Auckland Grammar is a state school buddy.

    Shall I take that as a suitable indicator of your general knowledge on education then?

    Comment by Sanctuary — November 22, 2011 @ 11:57 am

  24. Yes I agree that an essentially homogeneous society must account for some of Finland’s success, but then why do they do significantly better than all the other (similarly homogeneous) Scandinavian countries? And yes, a simpler language structure must help with reading but how does that explain their success in Science and Maths – PISA tests are conducted on all three fields independently.

    A quick search on “Finland Phenomenon” (sorry link attempts not up to scratch) describes the key to their success as the implementation of a “high trust model”, characterised by no standardised tests and no monitoring of schools or teachers by league tables.

    Does this sound like us? Jeeeeez!

    Comment by Neil — November 22, 2011 @ 12:09 pm

  25. As a teacher, National Standards go against everything I have ever thought, or been taught, about how to motivate kids and set them up for the future – they simply produce yet another bunch of statistics for politicians. They’re pretty easy to manipulate too as they are based purely on teacher judgement using the same assessments that have always been used and the standards themselves are extremely vague. If you’re a good teacher, you know how your kids are doing anyway and can explain it to any parents interested enough to ask, and if you’re a useless teacher you won’t know how they’re doing so will just make up the standards to make yourself look good – they’re not moderated anyway so no-one will ever know! The most common way of doing this is to nudge kids in the middle downwards in the middle of the year, and then nudge them up at the end – there’s no clear point at which they actually meet the standard so you’re pretty much guessing with these kids anyway.
    However, my main problem with National Standards is that they will demotivate the majority of students, setting them up for failure at secondary level. There has been an enormous amount of research demonstrating that levels of effort, perseverence and persistence are key in determining success beyond school – and B and C students do far better that A students. Standards teach most students that either 1) you’re never going to reach the standard and even if you do, it’ll just move again and once again you’ll suck, or 2) you’re doing just great so put your feet up and coast. I get my students to focus on doing better than they, personally, did last time, regardless of whether they are below, at, or above some arbitrary standard. As a high achieving student myself, the worst thing education ever did for me was teach me that I could get A’s without any effort at all – and fail to develop any strategies for dealing with failure (as I never experienced it). That is just not how life works – it took years of struggling for me to develop these skills.
    I teach Years 7 and 8 (Form 1 and 2) and whether you’re below or above is pretty set by that point. Struggling kids don’t need to be told they’re below the standard – it’s pretty bloody obvious. Kids above the standard need more information – they may have met the Year 8 standard years ago and need detailed information how they can still improve, or they may actually have fallen during the year but still be above the standard – and National Standards don’t provide this. I must admit, I do like the expanded space for individual commentary provided by the standards but seeing as I waste a lot of it explaining what the standard actually means in terms of each student, it’s not the answer. Much better reporting is required of teachers by parents, students and communities – plain language (no jargon ever!) and specific, targeted goals. Teachers still write crap in the comments and if all you have to go by is the standard, well, you don’t have much.

    Comment by Lucy Bailey — November 22, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

  26. Lucy – some thoughts and questions:

    if you’re a useless teacher you won’t know how they’re doing so will just make up the standards to make yourself look good – they’re not moderated anyway so no-one will ever know!

    I there no involvement from the school Principal here? In other words, is the chief administrator of the school not responsible for maintaining the standard of both teachers performance and any associated reporting?

    Standards teach most students that either 1) you’re never going to reach the standard and even if you do, it’ll just move again and once again you’ll suck, or 2) you’re doing just great so put your feet up and coast.

    Given that kids leaving school and going into a tertiary environment will inevitably go through this pass / fail exercise, why shouldn’t it be consistent at secondary level? Note – I’m not suggesting the method is correct but I am trying to understand your line of reasoning.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 22, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

  27. Gregor, I think Emily Bailey is talking about education. That is different to passing and failing tests.

    Comment by Purple Scottie — November 22, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

  28. Appologies – Lucy Baileys comment

    Comment by Purple Scottie — November 22, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

  29. you’ve been instructed to implement this policy – whether you agree with it or not, DO IT. Protest all you want, suggest all the changes you want but DO IT, and DO IT PROPERLY.

    To put a more tactful comparison: how many people here would be frothing at the mouth, in furious anger, if our commercial banks looked at the international Basel regulations and the regulatory requirements from FMA/RB/Treasury etc and said:

    “Yeah, but nah… Fuck you, we’re gonna do what we want”

    Comment by Phil — November 22, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

  30. @ Purple Scottie

    Fair enough.
    But if quality of education is the success criteria then we’d better address why we use pass / fail criteria at tertiary level as a measure of student ability.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 22, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

  31. Gregor W,

    There’s a pretty simple answer for that: we don’t. At least not in the sense that it’s a binary method of evaluation.

    Comment by The PC Avenger — November 22, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

  32. Stephen, you don’t need National Standards to know if your child needs help with a subject. Most schools – pre NS – did regular testing of children for literacy, numeracy and a host of other basic skills. These tests were done according to a group of accepted metrics and in accordance with the national curriculum. As a parent, all you had to do – and you can do this now – is ask to see your child’s folder and ask the teacher to help you understand it (it is full of educational jargon).

    A number of schools – a minority – did not regularly monitor the progress of their students. All the government needed to do was tell those schools to start monitoring the propgress of every child every year – as most schools were doing. Not implement some new thing called “national standards” – a type of testing that promotes a one size fits all approach to learning and doesn’t align with the curriculum and will take several years to bed in.

    IMHO there were two major problems with testing and reporting by primary schools when this govt came into power:
    – a minority of schools were not monitoring the progress of children
    – too much educational jargon in school reports.

    There was no need to pick a fight with teachers over this. And no need for “national standards”.

    Incidentally – NS won’t necessarily tell you about your child. It will tell you how your child is doing according to an average. But perhaps your child is doing the best they can? If so, who cares how that compares to others? Or their learning has plateaued for a while before it leaps ahead? (Learning requires consolidation and is not a continual linear progression – it moves in leaps and bounds with rests in between.) In which case, last year they were ahead of the average and this year they are behind it. This doesn’t matter so long as they leap ahead again sometime – meanwhile the labeling of the child as “below average” is potentially very damaging. Or maybe your child is doing really well according to the standards but they could actually be doing much better. NS won’t tell you this. A discussion with your child and their teacher will.

    NO NEED TO SHOUT EITHER. DIDN’T YOUR SCHOOL TEACH YOU WHEN TO USE YOUR INSIDE VOICE?

    Comment by MeToo — November 22, 2011 @ 1:42 pm

  33. Great post Lucy. Of course strange people like Stephen will just shout at you to do as you are told!
    Helping kids to know where they are, and in collaborating with them in deciding the next step to take and together with them evaluating success/failure is as Hattie said Feedback is a great path to learning. Trying to match that progress to a vague prescription is damaging in time and credibility.
    Friends who are teachers express opinions that once clever kids are “successful” they tend to stop trying to improve. Not only rest on their laurels but also hesitate to take risks in case they are seen to fail. Will NS help this? Hardly as the learning steps are much more precise than NS. Will League Tables help? Hardly. Will Performance pay help? Divisive, anti-collaborative, difficult to define.
    So National Policy is rubbish even before the detail is known.

    Comment by xianmac — November 22, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

  34. @ PC Avenger

    It might not be a binary method for evaluation but it is a binary method of attainment (nit-picky I know).

    Comment by Gregor W — November 22, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

  35. C’s get degrees!

    It also depends on the institution and course of study. A 4th at Oxford* is more likely to get you a job in the City than any other degree.

    *rowing studies

    Comment by Scullion — November 22, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

  36. Phil, presumably the regulatory requirements drafted by FMA/RB/Treasury are drafted by people with some expertise in the area? (I really hope so!) National’s education policy seems to be more about catchy slogans designed to get the vote of over-anxious middle class parents. It certainly doesn’t reflect any expertise in education.

    Another difference is few members of the ordinary voting public has any nous when it comes to regulatory requirements drafted by FMA/RB/Treasury so we don’t vote on them and we just trust/hope they know what they’re doing. In contrast, we all went to school and many of us are parents, so we all have an opinion – perhaps ill-informed – about education. As I commented on another thread,
    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.
    None of these are supported by the evidence. And when it comes to children, different schools and different approaches suit different children. So what matters is the progress and happiness of your own child, not the rest of the school.

    Comment by MeToo — November 22, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

  37. @ Phil

    “if our commercial banks looked at the international Basel regulations and the regulatory requirements from FMA/RB/Treasury etc and said:

    “Yeah, but nah… Fuck you, we’re gonna do what we want”

    You mean they didn’t? How the hell did the economy get the way it is then?🙂

    Comment by insider — November 22, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

  38. Stephen:

    There are no govt regulations specific to my job that I take issue with. But if there was one, and I was sure it did more harm than good, I wouldn’t do it. And my job is massively less important to society than teaching so morally, I needn’t think to hard about it.

    Large numbers of teachers clearly feel that NS is so bad for education that it is better for society that they ignore this particular regulation. I don’t think they do so lightly; they don’t remind me at all of “little children stomping their feet and yelling “SHAN’T”. They remind me of any person, adult or child, who believes wholeheartedly that what they are being asked to do is wrong, and so utterly wrong that the best course of action is to not do it.

    Please tell me you wouldn’t just meekly comply with any regulation you felt deeply, fundamentally opposed to.

    Comment by Aztec — November 22, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

  39. @ MeToo

    “As a parent, all you had to do – and you can do this now – is ask to see your child’s folder and ask the teacher to help you understand it (it is full of educational jargon).”

    SO as a parent I had to ask to see vital information and it was largely unintelligible (it’s true from my own experience BTW)?

    Seems to me teachers are reaping a bit of what they have sown. If they were the experts at education that they assure us they are, they might have figured out that actively communicating important information to parents in plain English could have has educational benefits. (Note We were one of the lucky few that knew to ask) but, as it stands, there is this lingering thought that there was a deliberate obtuseness in school reporting that was a thinly disguised way to avoid accountability.

    Comment by insider — November 22, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

  40. Sorry – don’t know how to get italics.

    @GregorW

    “if you’re a useless teacher you won’t know how they’re doing so will just make up the standards to make yourself look good – they’re not moderated anyway so no-one will ever know!”

    “Is there no involvement from the school Principal here? In other words, is the chief administrator of the school not responsible for maintaining the standard of both teachers’ performance and any associated reporting?”

    If you’ve managed keep teaching even though you’re not very good, then there is already something wrong with the school’s monitoring processes and standards won’t fix that. As MeToo says, a major problem was that “a minority of schools were not monitoring the progress of students”. Standards will not fix that problem as there is no guarantee that adequate monitoring has taken place. Relying on the monitoring processes of a school that has already been shown (by ERO) not to have adequate monitoring simply hides the problem. I have no evidence, but I’d be surprised if the schools most vocally opposed to National Standards were the schools highlighted by ERO as “failing”. When league tables come out, as I’m sure they will, and rewards and punishments are doled out (again a poor motivator as any teacher will tell you), schools will quietly nudge the statistics.

    “Standards teach most students that either 1) you’re never going to reach the standard and even if you do, it’ll just move again and once again you’ll suck, or 2) you’re doing just great so put your feet up and coast.”

    “Given that kids leaving school and going into a tertiary environment will inevitably go through this pass / fail exercise, why shouldn’t it be consistent at secondary level? Note – I’m not suggesting the method is correct but I am trying to understand your line of reasoning.”

    Firstly, National Standards are at primary, not secondary, level. Primary students do pass or fail assigments and tests and this information can be used inform teachers and students of the next steps they need to take to improve their learning. I taught the lowest streamed Year 7 maths class in which the students were at about the level of your average 6/7 year old. In a year, some of these kids moved about 2 years ahead in their maths ability and, damn, weren’t we all proud of that. So then to effectively mark them against a standard which is still 3 years ahead of them, and which they inevitably fail, is not just pointless but incredibly detrimental. Secondary and tertiary grading are a whole different system of measurement – but the main difference is that the tests set there are at a level which students can be expected to pass – you shouldn’t be on a course or sitting NCEA if there’s no hope of you passing. Day-to-day assessment in primary school is at this level. If I may indulge in an analogy, National Standards are like giving an exam to a 100-level class made up of a range of students from 14 year olds to PhD students, in which none of the students chose to be on the course, and then being surprised at the results. What useful information will the majority of those students get from this test?. If a Phd student actually performed at a 2nd year level, who’s to know? If a 14 year old achieved at Year 12 level, who cares? Primary school should be about teaching kids how to learn, how to get better at whatever they do – it’s not something you pass or fail. If you know how to do this, even if you can’t get NCEA you should be able to work hard and improve your life.

    PS. @MeToo National Standards are not the national average – at differing year levels in may be either above or below the average. Another thing I had to use my report comment to explain to parents rather than discussing how their child is doing.

    Comment by Lucy Bailey — November 22, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

  41. @insider I think report writing has often been abysmal. I had to translate my niece’s report for my sister as it consisted of nothing but jargon. I see jargon as a sign of poor teaching (or intelligence) as the author lacks the understanding necessary to translate it in to english. I have actually loved writing the comments in the standards as I have had all that space to get into greater detail than is offered by your ordinary old report form – I just don’t like the standard. However, I have the time to do this as I don’t have kids and share the housework with 5 flatmates – this is not usual for a teacher. I’d say I spent about 1 1/2 hours on each student (1/2 an hour per standard) just writing the comments and really think it was worth it. Figuring out the standard didn’t take very long at all for most students – just those few who had some aspects above and some below and trying to determine whether this was a result of their ability or a single poor score. Advice given to me was to put them below in their Term 2 report as they’ll likely be above the standard at the end of the year and it’ll look better if more move up. Report writing absolutely has to improve but where do teachers find the time? You will find your child’s assessments riddled with educational jargon as this is how the Ministry assesses competence – and the paperwork is sadly there for them not for parents. Oh to be a Montessori teacher…

    Comment by Lucy Bailey — November 22, 2011 @ 4:38 pm

  42. Thanks Lucy, Good point about the ministry driving jargon. Those who can, teach; those who can’t go to ERO or write unit standards and assessment criteria perhaps?

    The hardest assessments are always those on the borderline. Same in performance reviews – top and bottom are easy; the arguments are over the margins. My experience as a parent is the new reporting method under NS is far clearer and leads to a better teacher/parent/child discussion regarding focus areas for improvement.

    Comment by insider — November 22, 2011 @ 5:35 pm

  43. This debate reminds me very much of a comment post I saw on the US education system. I think the insight is just as relevant to New Zealand.

    “We don’t have an education problem, we have a poverty problem that exhibits itself in the education statistics”

    I don’t have a problem with National standards per se – I think being given more information about the performance of your kids is unlikely to be harmful. The question is will it do any good?

    For that we have to look at the problem, which all the stats show is the ‘long tail’ of underperformance as a bunch of people have stated above. Do I truly believe that the root cause of poor education performance in this group is that interested parents who have the means and motivation to improve the educational opportunities for their kids are not doing so because they don’t have the requisite information? No.

    My concern is not that National are introducing standards, it’s that they are trumpeting them as some kind of solution and don’t seem to be doing anything else of substance.

    To give another example – New Zealand has one of the highest rates of Rheumatic fever in the OECD, a disease of poverty and overcrowding. In a television debate yesterday John Key congratulated himself over increasing immunisation rates for Rheumatic fever.

    I can’t remember whether this was before or after he said he was interested in cleaning up the water quality of our rivers.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to doing these small things to solve problems of poverty and environmental degradation – but wouldn’t it be nice if we tried not creating these problems in the first place.

    Comment by Richard29 — November 22, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

  44. As a home-schooler who is not affected by the National Standards but was totally against them once I took the time to find them online and actually read them, I’ve found people that are for them have never even looked at them – they just like the whole idea. Which is weird, why do people want more Government control of education, don’t we already have enough?

    Really interesting comments, Lucy. Direct experience of teachers is always worth far more than whatever a political junkie can say.

    Comment by Lucia Maria — November 22, 2011 @ 6:10 pm

  45. As a parent of children going to a school which is against the standards I have no problem with the BoT expressing their concern along with numerous other school boards and principals. It is their right to and as it happens I agree with them. I would like to point out to Mr Shouty who is complaining that teachers have to “DO IT” , that in fact schools who have stood against these standards ARE doing it. They are implementing the changes and following the standards processes and reporting as required by the MOE. What they are doing is stating they think it is pointless and rubbish while still complying.
    You cant have a National Standard when there is no specified national standard or way of measuring them that is consistent across the board. Different schools are using different method to assess. One school may ask a group of yr 5 children to write a piece of descriptive writing and then assess, Another school- technically doing the same thing- will talk for half an hour about writing techniques and use of adjectives and then ask their kids to do some descriptive writing. In most circumstances the second group will have more children who can successfully complete the task.This exact scenario has happened. Which group followed instructions for assessing correctly? It all depends on the interpretation and that shouldn’t happen in a national standard.

    Comment by Ana — November 22, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

  46. Nice to see an early morning diatribe generating so much debate elsewhere. I’m not a huge fan of teaching my students to STFU and do what they’re told, but I am also a grown up and get on with my job. When National Standards arrive in secondary I will use them, as I will use the reporting system. Actually I have often thought that reporting was bad, and could do with some sharpening up. Schools have always been accountable to parents because we have to report three times a year, and hold parent teacher nights. I look forward to the parent teacher nights because there is no better way to get down to the nitty gritty than by having a face to face meeting. I have no idea what the master and servant quote means so I can’t comment. I don’t teach my students to be servants, but I do think of myself as a servant of my community, and my country.

    I strongly believe that league tables based on national standards are a bad idea. Not to you or me, but to the fabric of the education system as a whole, and to a deeper belief in good local schools for all. Of course National has said that poorly performing schools will receive support but I am skeptical. Funding for schools is heavily tied to rolls. A poor year in the league tables, a drop in the roll, and schools are in the position of letting people go. Not on the basis of the quality of the teacher, but on the basis of which subjects are in demand. Imagine working in this environment. It could lead to increased performance, or it could lead to a slippery slope for the school and the community. Parents do move their kids away from schools instead of sticking at it. Why wouldn’t they? An abstract discussion on the common good is fine until it is your kid, and it is affecting their education. It concerns me that this policy will lead to a strongly segregated New Zealand. This segregation may not be as simplisitic as by race, but it may as well be.

    As for disposition testing for teachers? Well, a lot of very odd people make outstanding teachers. Search and seizure? I really don’t want that power. That is a power that should happily reside with the police.

    Still, I am happy to admit it is complicated. Education is complicated. I may be proven wrong, but I feel that National has fallen into a trap that many people fall into in this world. Data is collected, problems are identified, and then everyone walks away when they realise how hard it is to magic solutions out of hat.

    Comment by John-Paul — November 22, 2011 @ 9:00 pm

  47. Why do so many people hate teachers (particularly you Stephen)? I just don’t get it. Teachers slave away day after day in a classroom trying to inspire, encourage and support children. I don’t know a single teacher that wakes up in the morning and says to themselves: “I am going to try my hardest to screw up a child today.” But, for some reason, teachers are treated as thick parasites that have absolutely no professionalism or desire for social good.

    If the whole law fraternity stood up and said they don’t agree with a new legal policy I think the public would actually listen. If the entire police force did not agree with a policy the government was putting forward people would probably support them – same with doctors, economists and so on. But this just isn’t the case with teachers. And it is sad.

    There is also this attempt to label the problem as ‘unions’, but the unions are simply voicing the thoughts of their members. Every survey that has been completed shows that teachers find National Standards a complete waste of time that they are doing nothing for students but getting in the way of good learning.

    Comment by Tim — November 22, 2011 @ 9:57 pm

  48. @GregorW: “I would suggest also that Finland’s essentially homogenous society has more influence than policy prescriptions.”

    Apparently not: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/nov/21/finland-education-immigrant-children

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — November 22, 2011 @ 10:48 pm

  49. Re Finland…

    So in a (possibly) largely homogenous society, education policy was improved by removing it from the influence of politicians, and decentralizing it somewhat. But in our diverse, multicultural society we need centralized guidelines and heavily politicized national standards to make progress.

    Where’s my nearest Tui billboard…

    Comment by Nick — November 23, 2011 @ 8:50 am

  50. @ AG

    Thanks for that link. Within the article though there iare a few points that back up the monocultural premise.

    “Finland is seen by many outsiders as monocultural – its foreign-born citizens make up just 5% of its population, compared to about 11.5% in the UK. But, over the last 15 years, Finland has diversified at a faster rate than any other European country. By 2020, a fifth of Helsinki’s pupils are expected to have been born elsewhere – the majority in Russia, Estonia, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia.”

    5% indicates monoculture to me.

    Even taking the 2020 estimate and directly extrapolating it across the board (unlikely given that only about 10% of the Finnish population resides in Helsinki and it is likely to be proportionally higher in urban centres), of the 20% of pupils born elsewhere, Baltic Russia and Estonia are to all intents and purposes ethnically indistinguishable to native Finns.

    So unless Yugo’s (also white Europeans) or Somalians make up a larger proportion of that 20%, then the overall numbers are pretty low.

    Further excerpts that supports the concept of monoculture as follows:

    “Anastasia, Artur, Kevin and Arthur stay in their class of four with a teacher and teaching assistant for 25 hours a week – for every subject except sports and arts. It can be anything between six months and a year before they are judged to have mastered Finnish and are ready to be placed into their correct year group.”

    “It’s not just in primary schools that young immigrants are helped. Helsinki’s education department is running a pilot project that puts 15- and 16-year-old immigrants in touch with “social instructors” to ensure they fit in with Finnish society and don’t drop out of school”

    So there is a clear policy of cultural immersion – actively imbuing students with ‘Finnishness’.
    The ideological adoration of multiculturalism doesn’t appear to influence educational policy in Finland. Maybe we can learn from that.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 23, 2011 @ 10:04 am

  51. Finland may be wonderful and have wonderfully empowered teachers etc. but PISA rates Shanghai-China,
    Korea, as better and Hong Kong-China, Singapore and Canada as not far off. So does anyone know (or think) all those countries have exactly the same approach to education and teaching? Singapore certainly assesses and ranks schools. It’s far from homogenious. How can they be better than us if national standards and ranking is the end of education as we know it?

    Comment by insider — November 23, 2011 @ 10:08 am

  52. Gosh this wee post has got people going.

    It is interesting though that this debate is happening as the Minister of Education has told a Northland school to close its senior secondary school class. This is despite the student cohort achieving pass rates in NCEA that are higher than the national pass rates across the country. This suggests that whatever is going on with National’s education policy, it has little to do with achieving good educational outcomes for disadvantaged students and quite a lot to do with National’s continued adherence to policies that ignore the fact that all children do not come to school equally well prepared and capable of learning. Justifying these policies through adopting some imagined moral high ground against teachers unions completely avoids the issue at hand which is whether or not national standards and league tables will improve New Zealand’s ‘fat tail’ of underachievement.
    And as for disposition testing for teachers – what a load of nanny state claptrap from the party of free enterprise. Who’s afraid of fluorescent lightbulbs now?

    Comment by donna — November 23, 2011 @ 10:44 am

  53. It is interesting though that this debate is happening as the Minister of Education has told a Northland school to close its senior secondary school class.

    Actually, it’s not interesting at all. Small-school closures are a consequence of New Zealanders moving out of the provinces and into major cities. It’s nonsensical to tie these two issues together.

    Comment by Phil — November 23, 2011 @ 10:54 am

  54. Finland may be wonderful and have wonderfully empowered teachers etc. but PISA rates Shanghai-China

    You’re right. What we really need is a completely unaccountable and occasionally ruthless Communist government here. Kids would learn so much better.

    I’m intrigued by the “they’re more homogeneous therefore comparisons don’t count” line – I am still waiting for some evidence that it’s anything other than “I have taken an ideological standpoint. It’s been challenged. Now I need to make up some reasons why I’m right.” Where are the links? There seem to be quite a few references in this thread supporting the notion that Finland’s model works and it works for reasons diametrically opposed to the policy direction in which we are steadily travelling in NZ.

    The direction is sad enough, but the rationalisation of it is tragic.

    Comment by Neil — November 23, 2011 @ 11:35 am

  55. @insider

    So does anyone know (or think) all those countries have exactly the same approach to education and teaching? Singapore certainly assesses and ranks schools. It’s far from homogenious. How can they be better than us if national standards and ranking is the end of education as we know it?

    Simple. Singapore / Hong Kong-China, and Korea are full of Asians and they are way smarterer. Ask anyone.

    Also, Singapore is a family run autocratic fiefdom where the Lee family can, in the immortal words of Stephen, tell the inhabitants to “STFU…DO YOUR BLOODY JOB”.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 23, 2011 @ 11:43 am

  56. “Simple. Singapore / Hong Kong-China, and Korea are full of Asians and they are way smarterer. Ask anyone.”

    indeed. everyone knows the reason why South Korea has done so well economically in recent decades is because it’s full of Koreans. Just like North Korea. Which hasn’t.

    Comment by Kahikatea — November 23, 2011 @ 11:55 am

  57. SO what you are all saying is that the reasons these countries do so well is because they do…

    Comment by insider — November 23, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

  58. Actually, it’s not interesting at all. Small-school closures are a consequence of New Zealanders moving out of the provinces and into major cities. It’s nonsensical to tie these two issues together.

    Phil, inform yourself before you are so dismissive. This is not about the closure of a country school.

    Donna is pointing to Moerewa school in Northland that expanded its service offerings to include secondary classes to children who were poorly served by the local high school. Despite acting in what appears to me to be laudably entrepreneurial, and despite its having outcomes that far exceed the results achieved by BoIC (and nationally), the school has been ordered by the Minister to stop offering these classes.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/regional/91761/moerewa-up-in-arms-over-closure-of-school-class

    Comment by Paul Rowe — November 23, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

  59. Maybe I should have appended ‘PS – tongue in cheek’.
    Serves me right for being a smartarse.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 23, 2011 @ 1:05 pm

  60. John-Paul is dead right. High-decile schools do well because the students are typically from stable households, and not necessarily because of good teachers. At the end of the day, National Standards and league tables are only going to attack the symptom, and further reinforce the educational class war. High-decile schools have already been in their power to turn away low-decile students who might weaken their ‘reputation’, as happened with de-zoning.

    In America, compulsory bussing was implemented not long after the Brown vs Board of Education case which ruled that America’s schools had to be de-segregated. But there was one fatal weakness with bussing – it didn’t apply to the private school sector, which meant there was a white flight to the private system. I can attest from my own experiences that private schooling has little to do with excellence and much to do with the ‘right connections’. This has only been reinforced by reports that Auckland ‘elite schools’ are considering forming a breakaway sports league so that they don’t have to face off with the proles.

    Comment by DeepRed — November 23, 2011 @ 10:36 pm

  61. Educate the fossil fools!

    http://www.electwho.org.nz

    Comment by 2050alliance — November 24, 2011 @ 11:55 am


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: