The headline items are free food in low decile schools, and extending the reading recovery programme, all well covered in the pieces linked above. In this post I want to look quickly at the simmering background issue of national standards, and the difference that this illustrates between the two leaders.
In responding to Shearer’s speech, here’s what Key had to say about standards:
‘My basic view of education has been that unless you measure, monitor and report on something, you’re unlikely to get good outcomes,” Key said.
Note that this “basic” (got that right) “view of education” is at complete odds with all of the Nats’ supposed beliefs – small government, minimise red-tape, cut bureaucracy, down with the nanny state, except for education which must be measured monitored and reported! (Gosh it’s almost like they have a separate agenda just for teachers, but I digress).
Note also that this “basic view of education” is stone cold wrong. It is wrong everywhere that national standards have been tried (see UK, see USA). The Nats have been warned by their own education advisor that it is wrong for New Zealand. But Key has a “basic view of education” so too bad for the kids.
National is systematically undermining the very values that make our education system great . They are peddling tired ideas that don’t work, copied from countries that rank far below us. …
We need to take Fraser’s vision for education and match it with the best research and listen to the ideas of our talented professionals.
If you need any more convincing on the futility of national standards – Finland has you covered:
Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West’s reigning education superpower, Finland. …
From his [Finnish expert Pasi Sahlberg] point of view, Americans are consistently obsessed with certain questions: How can you keep track of students’ performance if you don’t test them constantly? How can you improve teaching if you have no accountability for bad teachers or merit pay for good teachers? How do you foster competition and engage the private sector? How do you provide school choice? The answers Finland provides seem to run counter to just about everything America’s school reformers are trying to do.
For starters, Finland has no standardized tests. … Instead, the public school system’s teachers are trained to assess children in classrooms using independent tests they create themselves. All children receive a report card at the end of each semester, but these reports are based on individualized grading by each teacher. Periodically, the Ministry of Education tracks national progress by testing a few sample groups across a range of different schools.
As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. “There’s no word for accountability in Finnish,” he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”
For Sahlberg what matters is that in Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility. A master’s degree is required to enter the profession, and teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country. If a teacher is bad, it is the principal’s responsibility to notice and deal with it.
Oh and also note:
In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.
Labour has started heading in the right direction. Labour is looking for the evidence – for “the best research” and “the ideas of our talented professionals” – I very much hope that they look to Finland for a model of what actually works. Or, of course, we could stick with the Nats, Key’s “basic view of education”, and the provably failed model of national standards. What does it matter after all. They’re only kids.