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Why New Zealand’s educational standards are crashing

Written By: - Date published: 4:29 pm, December 4th, 2013 - 55 comments
Categories: education, Hekia parata, same old national, uncategorized - Tags:

The PISA results are now out.  From 2009 to 2012 New Zealand’s educational standards have apparently crashed.  Our results have gone from seventh in reading and science to 13th and 18th respectively, and from 12th to 23rd in maths amongst the 65 countries engaged in the study.

Hekia Parata has said that the cause is not the introduction of National Standards but because of a major shift in the curriculum in the last three years and under-investment in teachers’ skills.  She may be right but she does not acknowledge that funding for teacher professional development was cut in 2009 and the money was transferred to the National Standards Programme.  There may be a direct link between the drop in standards and the roll out of National Standards.

The 2008 briefing for the Education Minister gave a snapshot of the education system that National was inheriting under Labour.  Three points stand out from the briefing:

  1. The average performance of New Zealand 15-year-olds in mathematics, science and reading literacy placed New Zealand at that time among the top performing countries of the OECD.
  2. The Government was urged to continue with professional development programs for teachers.  The Numeracy Development Project, established in 2000, had resulted in significant improvements. Between 2002 and 2007 the percentage of Year 6 students achieving at or above the expected level in mathematics increased from 40 percent to 61 percent while the percentage classified as at risk decreased from 30 percent to 13 percent.
  3. The Literacy Strategy, also established in 2000, also saw significant improvements.  A 2008 evaluation showed that after taking into account expected growth and maturation, students’ gains in reading and writing were twice those that could be expected without the intervention and that schools accelerated the rate of progress for the majority of the at-risk students by four times the expected rate.  The Minister was also urged to continue with this programme.

So what happened?  In Budget 2009 then Minister Ann Tolley gave private schools $35 million extra funding, announced the roll out of National Standards and at the same time cut funding for the literacy and numeracy projects despite their effectiveness. If she wanted to do something for literacy and numeracy she would have not done this.  She was obviously looking to appease National Supporters and introduce testing for PR purposes at the cost of two quality programs.  It is not difficult to see a link between declining professional standards and the subsequent decline in PISA results.

Of course this is probably only half the reason for the decline.  The ongoing attacks by the Government on the teachers unions and fiascos such as the Novopay have sapped morale and reduced the effectiveness of teachers.  And the growth of inequality and poverty is no doubt one of the major contributors.  Young people will not perform to their best if they are hungry or stressed or living in overcrowded conditions or their family is suffering financially.  Attacks on working conditions and on beneficiaries will inevitably have an adverse effect on their children.  I am sure that it is no coincidence that worsening results have occurred at the same time as increasing disparity in our society has occurred.

There could be implications for the Government’s Charter School policy.  As noted by Gordon Campbell the Pisa report comes out strongly against Charter Schools.  He quotes Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s deputy education director as saying the following:

My organisation [the OECD] is very strong on choice, enabling citizens to make choices, and you would expect that systems with greater choice would come out better. You expect competition to raise performance of the high performers and with low performers put them out of the market. But in fact you don’t see that correlation… Competition alone is not a predictor for better outcomes… The UK is a good example – it has a highly competitive school system but it is still only an average performer.”

And further,

Our data doesn’t show much of a performance difference between public and charter and private schools once you account for social background.”

What this occurrence has done is shoot down in flames any pretence that National may claim that it cares about improving education standards.  It is willing to attack teachers unions, is totally indifferent to the effects of poverty on the lives of young people, and is willing to engage in mass state funded PR at the expense of a rounded previously high quality education system.

When it comes to education National does not have a clue.  It needs to be removed from office before it does further damage.

55 comments on “Why New Zealand’s educational standards are crashing”

  1. Philj 1

    Xox
    Hekia’s response, “Trust us, and give us time for it to work”
    All fools us, for this unfortunate experiment of a government.

    • mickysavage 1.1

      In Parliament this afternoon the Nats have started to run the line that it was all Labour’s and the Teacher Unions’ faults. They are so predictable …

      • BrucetheMoose 1.1.1

        This is Key’s government of we are right and everybody else is wrong, and when it goes all wrong, it’s somebody else’s fault. Re writing politics and accountability according Johnny. Who the hell votes for this imposter?

      • Dumrse 1.1.2

        I guess you’re not denying it shows some agreement to the progress being made. And, don’t forget the choice we will all have.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.3

        +1

        The party of personal responsibility never takes responsibility for their own actions.

  2. Rogue Trooper 2

    My pick; NZ will not be able to claw back from these slips (short of drilling, mining and fracking Bonanzas Hoss). This is the century of Hop-Sing! :)
    -“Dance to your Daddy my little laddie
    Dance to your Daddy, my little man
    When thou art a young boy, you must sing and play
    Go along the shore and cast your shells away
    Build yourself a castle, watch the tide roll in.”

  3. tc 3

    Keep the message simple and get all Mp’s any opportunity to repeat it : national is failing our kids and doing so in the face of evidence that told them this would happen.

    All this and those taxpayer funded charter schools yet to kick in.

  4. Chooky 4

    +100…good post!

  5. Tracey 5

    Yup failure of charter schools to be the promised panacea are inevitable.

    Beware the various “research” available on charter schools versus public schools

    http://shankerblog.org/?p=5867

    also see

    employees review Charter Schools USA

    http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Charter-Schools-USA-Reviews-E234934.htm

    Also

    “Fed up with persistently poor student results in Ohio’s eight largest urban school districts, Republican state legislators enacted a law in 1997 allowing charter schools to locate exclusively within the boundaries of the “Big 8” systems.

    Sixteen years later, charters statewide performed almost exactly the same on most measures of student achievement as the urban schools they were meant to reform, results released under a revamped Ohio report-card system show. And when it comes to graduating seniors after four years of high school, the Big 8 performed better.

    Akin to a deregulation movement, charters operate under different rules: Operators are allowed to turn a profit from a portion of the tax money they’re given and don’t have to follow state laws that dictate everything from the distribution of textbooks to minimum teacher salaries to school-board elections. In return for that freedom, their supporters expected them to deliver strong academic results.

    But what started as an experiment in fixing urban education through free-market innovation is now a large part of the problem. Almost 84,000 Ohio students — 87 percent of the state’s charter-school students — attend a charter ranking D or F in meeting state performance standards.”
    http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/09/01/charter-schools-failed-promise.html

  6. Tracey 6

    Mickey

    have our results slipped or have others moved ahead of us? If the second, then our standards, that is, results, could be the same as last report.

    • mickysavage 6.1

      Hi Tracy

      I understand that our results are declining. There is a graph at the link below that suggests that our overall performance is getting worse, the results for our top end students still above average but getting worse and the results for our low end average but getting worse. Not very pretty …

      http://www.compareyourcountry.org/pisa?cr=F024&lg=en

  7. Phaedrus 7

    Their education cupboard is now empty. Didn’t have much to start with, mind you! Expect a rev up in implementation of existing programmes. PPP schools in Christchurch for a start.

  8. Disraeli Gladstone 8

    I would like to state early on that we put too much damn stock in the PISA rankings. Teaching, just like learning, isn’t something that you can just set up a league table for (or otherwise we’d all just support National Standards?).

    The fact of the matter is that they’re a good indicator when used with other measurements and studies. On their own, we put too much stock in reports and numbers that can be faulty. Also important to note that while the UK is average on test results, on enjoyment at school, they’re at the top and the Asian Elites are toward the bottom.

    Neither position is ideal.

    Somewhere in the middle is nice.

  9. Rogue Trooper 9

    nice? The particular combination (perfect storm) of historical influences that NZ is increasingly facing the outcomes of -the inevitable outcomes of inequality produced by our particular form of Welfare State, for example, disproportionately benefiting the ‘boomer generation’ , numerically speaking; trading in the NZ dollar (paper economy), interest paid to Australian-owned banks; deregulation; the centrality of neo-classical liberal economics (Chicago School) ; post-colonial hangovers; residential property speculation bias; climate change; dairy intensification; movement into greater fossil fuel extraction; INEQUALITY; just add it up!

    • Colonial Viper 9.1

      Bernard Hickey noted yesterday that NZ’s “terms of trade” was at a 40 year high (this is good), in other words the value of imported goods that we can access with our exports. But even so our current account deficit was well in the red at 5% of GDP. The implication being that when those terms of trade decline, that current account deficit will worsen considerably. And foreign money will end up owning more of NZ, worsening the situation further.

  10. ghostrider888 10

    In your head would preferable to needing to show the workings! Gottit? Fucking entitled Tory pestilence.

  11. Craig Glen Eden 11

    The unions told National that National Standards would not lift student performance and it hasn’t.
    How you are going to improve teacher performance by cutting the money invested in teacher professional development heaven wouldn’t even know, but apparently the National Party knows best.
    Then you cut funding to State schools and increase funding to Private Schools.
    Then you cut funding for therapist to special needs kids in public schools because the National Party knows best
    Then you set up Schools that are not subject to the same scrutiny/standards that is expected of public Schools despite no evidence that they will improve student achievement why? Because the National Party knows best.

    The animals have control of the zoo and the shit is mounting up!

    • amirite 11.1

      +100

    • Anne 11.2

      On the button Craig Glen Eden! You don’t need a PHD or be a trained teacher to see why it’s all going belly up! You don’t need any Inquiry either because the reasons are under our noses for all to see.

      Huge cuts to Education spending
      Cuts to curriculum.
      Blocking off the avenues for adults to acquire qualifications or retrain.
      Cuts to supply of state houses.
      Cuts to employment opportunities.

      then:

      Demonisng those who, through no fault of their own, are forced through the cracks by the above cuts.

      • Colonial Viper 11.2.1

        Steps to increase teacher morale and leadership skills needed

        Plus I don’t hear good things about M. Ed in Welly

      • Draco T Bastard 11.2.2

        You don’t need a PHD or be a trained teacher to see why it’s all going belly up!

        No you don’t but you do need to be able to accept facts that are contrary to your ideology. National is incapable of this.

    • Fran 11.3

      Thank you

  12. Will@Welly 12

    What pisses me off is this will take a generation to turn around. Merv Wellington oversaw a similar destruction when he was Minister, why can’t Ministers just leave well alone. Children’s education is just too important to muck around with. Sorry, teachers are trained to teach, those of you who think you know better, why don’t you sign up, and see if you can do better.

    • Rogue Trooper 12.1

      not being a politician, no admissible criticism of teachers from me, or primary health workers; Jesus Wept, as he watched upon the gentrification of Godzone. Where’s that ‘money-changers’ pic Viper, I too fail to bookmark occasionally. Sh!ts gonna’ hit the fan now, many parents politics are motivated by their children’s perceived needs.

  13. Macro 13

    Actually these results are a total reflection on our increasingly inequality as a society, not only have our overall performance in the critical areas declined, but there has also been a significant decline in the performance of lower socio-economic groups and a fall in the number of high achievers. The commentators don’t seem to get this point yet (eg K Ryan on Radio NZ this morning flabber gastered that inequality could have had such an effect in just 3 years), but they simply fail to see, that the only ones doing well under the current administration are the uber rich. Those in the middle are going backwards financially with respect to the upper brackets as are those at the bottom, just not as quickly.

    So what it appears now is we have a new society with a distinct class structure.

    Those who have

    Those in the middle who think they have but are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.

    Those who have not and have no prospect of ever doing anything about it.

    These PISA results are simply a reflection of our society as it is now. The sooner NZ wakes up to this new reality the better.

  14. irascible 14

    Some interesting findings from the PISA results.
    Sweden has suffered an education decline since the introduction od Charter Schools.
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/03/swedish-results-fall-free-schools-pisa-oecd

    The UK results have slipped back since the advent of the Cameron-Clegg Tory government and the introduction of TEst, Test, Test and Charter Schools.
    http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/dec/03/uk-students-education-oecd-pisa-report

    Researchers raise questions about conclusions being drawn from PISA because of its methodology.
    http://www.theguardian.com/news/2013/dec/03/pisa-methodology-education-oecd-student-performance

    One does start to wonder if there is a correlation between neo-liberal “reforms” of education as implemented by conservative governments in Europe and in NZ. It would appear so.

  15. Rodel 15

    I meet and talk with a lot of immigrants.

    One of the main reasons they want to settle in New Zealand is the superiority of our education for their children. This include Japanese, Korean and Chinese parents, and a few Americans plus others .

    They all think our broad based education is far better than their narrow test and teach systems.
    I suspect the so called assessments by renowned OECD assessors is invalid and has little reliability or authenticity.

    Many of the immigrant parents say..’children in our country can read, write, do math but are not taught to think.’

    • Draco T Bastard 15.1

      Many of the immigrant parents say..’children in our country can read, write, do math but are not taught to think.’

      And if we keep going the way National are taking us our children won’t be taught to think either. I sometimes wonder if this is what National wants because who don’t think also don’t question.

    • grumpy 16.1

      Yep read that. So those same academics who were happy to use our PISA rankings to claim there was no need for National Standards, now want to discredit those same rankings when the results do not go their way.
      I agree that results in the PISA exam tells us little about the value of subject content, it’s usefulness in life and give nothing more than an indication but the sheer hypocrisy from the teachers unions and education academics is breathtaking.

  16. Steve Wrathall 17

    Why? NCEA. Which your lot brought in. Students can now cherry-pick the easiest credits. Why work hard?

    • Draco T Bastard 17.1

      Actually, it was National that brought in NCEA, the Labour led government started fixing it and now National are fucking it up again.

      • millsy 17.1.1

        Back in 1997 I was doing NCEA. Only back then we just called it ‘Unit Standards’. It was National that brought in the whole concept of unit standards and mastery learning, etc and it fucked up education in this country. Any old cowboy could offer up a certificate and create unit standards for making beds, playing golf and ringing people up.

        If you want to blame anything for the state of our education system, and the ‘long tail’ in this country, you blame the Tomorrow’s Schools model, which privatised school support and made schools compete with each other, to the point where they would rather attract international students and hope the underachivers get themselves expelled.

        • Rogue Trooper 17.1.1.1

          many accurate points millsy; thankful I was gone before NCEA, although, if they’d offered Units in rock music appreciation, majoring in Tom Petty, Joy Divison and The Clash, I’d be a different man today! (School was shit for lower decile equivalents when I was there).

          • Rodel 17.1.1.1.1

            Reluctantly agree that Lange’s ‘Tomorrow’s schools was a stupid idea promulgated by some twit whose name I can’t remember..Picot was it? ( I believe he was a manager of a light bulb factory) who had read an obscure Canadian manual about semi privatizing education and got paid a lot of money to regurgitate the idea which was swallowed by Lange & co.and Roger Douglas / Prebble clapped their gleeful hands.

  17. tricledrown 18

    Education achievement constantly went up under labour down under national 1990to 1999 standards fell here we Go again cutting investment in education and demoralizing teachets again same result.
    National are slow learners!

  18. infused 19

    Can’t use league tables in schools, but we use them to compare us to the rest of the world. Only when it suits eh.

    • Colonial Viper 19.1

      The country league tables also say zip about what NZ needs to do to improve, say zip about why we have fallen, and say zip about why other countries improved.

      In other words, just as useful as National Standards.

      • grumpy 19.1.1

        Pretty well correct but without standards how will we know if outcomes have fallen. A bit like the canary in the mine, they tell you something is happening but it’s up to you to look at the indication and figure out what to do about it.

  19. From 2009 to 2012 New Zealand’s educational standards have apparently crashed. Our results have gone from seventh in reading and science to 13th and 18th respectively, and from 12th to 23rd in maths amongst the 65 countries engaged in the study.

    “Apparently” is the best word for it. It takes kids 12 years to pass through the education system, so if a study is showing a dramatic change in quality over a three-year period in the absence of a war or something similarly disruptive, you really have to ask a few questions about the reliability of the study. This might be a tempting propaganda stick to beat the government with, but it’s not a very convincing one.

  20. Philj 21

    Xox
    Sad to say but this is depressing. The Nats misgovernment, or non government, fails our kids at school. Dumb parents vote National back in. It’s a vicious self fulfilling cycle. It’s us folks, we’re too stupid to realise it. Sad, but kind of funny. And we are top of the non corruption countries. There is the proof of our gullibility and dumocracy right there folks. Hahaha. Take all you can JK, make hay. You can fool most of the people most of the time.

  21. Rogue Trooper 22

    somebody has the wrong end of the stick!

  22. captain hook 23

    this is what happens when yew get people who cant reed and who dont believe in the moon landing in charge.
    The National government are basically a party of carpebaggers and lowbrows who think they know everything just because they have had their false teeth polished.

  23. grumpy 24

    Same argument in Australia who have just dumped a Labor Government
    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/test-scores-show-were-being-outclassed/story-fni0ffxg-1226775380344

    This argument will go nowhere unless people start looking at the global perspective and why the Western education systems are failing to keep up, not the political leanings of individual countries, however appealing that might be to local political interests.

  24. tc 25

    All part of their plan, as the late George Carlin put it
    US Dream

  25. Delia 26

    The sight of Anne Tolley blaming the teacher’s unions for these stats beggers belief. The contempt she sneered at teachers. No wonder teachers are feeling undervalued.

  26. JanM 27

    I am intrigued by all the comments from people who still think that the decline of our education system under a National Governmens arises out of ignorance rather than intent. Really?

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