Enough already – no more tests please

Written By: - Date published: 5:00 pm, December 16th, 2008 - 15 comments
Categories: education - Tags:

When I went to my first parent/teacher interview I was amazed at the breadth of markers against which my daughter’s performance was being evaluated. I admired the commitment of the teacher to such a level of engagement. I felt fully aware and informed of my daughter’s strengths, and the areas we needed to work on. So when I read of National’s plans to introduce national testing I was agnostic to say the least. Now I see the NZ Principals Federation saying that the new Government’s bid to set national literacy and numeracy standards “totally unnecessary” and they want to work with the Ministry of Education to make sure no extra testing is put in place:

New Zealand Principals Federation president and Balclutha School principal Paddy Ford said schools already had testing tools to find under achieving pupils. Tests such as Assessment Tools for Teaching and Learning (ASTLE) (progress and achievement tests), Running Records (reading test) and STAR (school reading test) were used extensively, he said.

“We don’t need any more tests. We’ve already got enough tests in place – we’ve just got to use the ones we’ve already got. The Government is trying to do something that’s totally unnecessary.”

This government was elected on a platform of reducing compliance and red tape. Surely we have an inconsistency here? Perhaps that’s why they passed this legislation without allowing time through the select committee process for groups and individuals to make their contribution – and highlight that the changes were really not required in the first place.

Meanwhile what scenario awaits parents with children due to start school next year? I fancy the idea of an opt out clause myself……

15 comments on “Enough already – no more tests please”

  1. Paul Robeson 1

    Where was this before the election?

    There was little or no defence of our current system. Now just like the 80s and 90s we’ve got some dumbfucks with half cooked ideas with their hands on the tiller, getting to use us as lab rats.

    I had got so used to competent government it was a complete shock to see that Nick Smith and Tim Grosser would actually disagree with each other over climate change. The government needs a clear position, and a mandated one.

    yikes. again.

  2. Janet 2

    Check Russell Brown’s Hard News post on Public Address (publicaddress.net) for 12 December. The thread went through the weekend and followed the debate in parliament and provides a lot of information about it.

  3. rainman 3

    I have kids in the school system, and have seen the primary, intermediate, and junior college systems up close and personal. My kids have been continually assessed since starting school, and provided with targeted activities to suit their capabilities, which vary by subject/competence. The school frequently reports progress to me in terms relevant to my needs. I’m one of those pushy parents who wants their kids to achieve as much as they can, so pick up on slacking 🙂 My partner’s a teacher, and spends vast amounts of her life delivering this assessment and development process.

    To describe this as better than the schooling system I grew up in (overseas), which was more one-size-fits-all to say the least, is a candidate for understatement of the century. There is no shortage of testing and assessment, at all, and little wrong with what is already in place. This is just the usual Nat wacko ideology at work. How it deserves to be legislated under urgency I cannot comprehend.

    We in NZ do not know how good our education system (and welfare, and health, and even police) is.

  4. Dancer 4

    Thanks Janet – it’s good to have the cross reference. And now back to convincing  the daughter (as mentioned above) to eat her dinner! Ah the big issues, the little issues. Such is the nature of existence…

  5. rainman 5

    Ok, just read the post about police spying on political parties – I withdraw my police reference above…

    The rest is pretty good though.

  6. burt 6

    rainman

    Your partner is a teacher and you are a pushy parent that has taken some responsibility for the outcomes of your daughters education. It’s undeniable that between yourself and your partner you understand and know how to get benefits from the assessment systems in place.

    The problem is that a lot of parents don’t take the same level of interest as you do and assessment systems that compare to national standards are optional in primary schools. This leaves parents who are struggling to get interested or concerned a perfect way to avoid taking any responsibility – IE: I don’t understand WTF this page of writing report is telling me.

  7. burt 7

    rainman

    Also, good on you for getting involved.

  8. deemac 8

    testing (and the school league tables that inevitably follow) have been thoroughly trialled elsewhere eg England and Wales, and have been an unmitigated disaster. So we don’t have to argue about their possible value, we can look at the results in Britain. The British government is now scrapping some tests precisely because of the deadening effect they have on education.
    Oh and the NZ police – for all their idiocies – are still better than the police in any other country I’ve lived in (google the recent police behaviour at Kingsnorth power station in the UK if you don’t believe me)

  9. Dale 9

    Yes im sure the universities are just loving having to teach their students how to spell and add.Something they are failing at school in very large numbers at the moment.Time to wake up people!Our education system is a mess.

  10. lenore 10

    Most reports systems are pretty straightforward these days and most schools give out a letter of explanation about the report including the star test and stanines plus there are still the comments and the often two or sometimes three parent interviews during the year as well as a reasonable an open door policy by most teachers, senior teachers, DPs and principals to talk about our kids.

    How much more my 3 kids could be tested, I don’t know, but I think it is a complete waste of time. I would rather the teachers have more time on the “doing” ie actually teaching and more resources / money was spent on reducing class sizes.

  11. Tim Ellis 11

    It seems to me the problem isn’t with the majority of children who succeed in what is an otherwise pretty successful state school system for the majority of children in the majority of schools. My kids have been through or are in the primary school system and have done very well out of a decile 8 school in Auckland. They all sat literacy and numeracy tests, and that was well reported to the parents.

    There seems to be two issues here though. I haven’t seen anything to suggest that the nationwide literacy and numeracy tests will be in addition to the tests already being done in schools. From what I’ve seen from National they appear to be advocating that the tests that most schools use be applied nationwide. That isn’t happening now. We’re not talking about new levels of tests being applied to kids who already have them.

    The second issue appears to be a number of schools, and for a number of kids, who aren’t being tested, and who manage to make their way through primary and secondary school without adequate levels of literacy and numeracy. There is an alarming number of kids who are simply being failed by our school system. Twenty percent functional illiteracy just isn’t good enough.

    I’m not convinced that the answer lies just in providing a proper testing regime for those kids and reporting it to their parents, although I don’t see a problem with doing that. Those parents need to be more involved in their kids’ education. The issues of poverty and associated deprivations seem to wreak havoc on the education of far too many kids in our state system, particularly in South Auckland.

    At the moment most of the bleating about a nationalised system seems to be coming from middle class teachers and principals in middle class schools. It isn’t those kids who are at risk, and I’d like to see a broader solution tackling the issues of poverty and poor educational outcomes emerge from this. Identifying which kids are at risk through a nationwide testing regime seems to be a good start.

  12. Dancer 12

    Tim you raise a good point. My impression was that the testing system was already used widely around the country – but I’d be interested to know whether I’m actually correct in that assumption. However this is just the sort of question that should have been before a select committee. Then the sector and the policy people could have told us the answer before the law enforcing the changes was rushed through under urgency.

  13. lampie 13

    “Yes im sure the universities are just loving having to teach their students how to spell and add.Something they are failing at school in very large numbers at the moment.Time to wake up people!Our education system is a mess.”

    Yes let us increase our 80% pass rate. Let us really make it easy to pass than it already is!!!

  14. Ianmac 14

    Identify the problem group then resource it well. Simple. Hey! Wait a minute. How come everyone already knows that there is a group of about 20% who are under par? Because the diagnostic testing is already being done!
    Perhaps the funding would be used to identify causes: health, autism, bullying, lack of intelligence, lack of intervention at the right time, funding, overcrowded classrooms and so on.
    Surprise! The same kids underachieving are often those who are disconnected with school and become truants!
    Like if you tested car drivers each time you went for a warrant of fitness you would bring down accidents and car deaths! Yes. It would cost millions more to run but hey. Believe me. The more you test drivers the better they will be.

  15. Rodel 15

    I once dealt with a student from Texas who came to New Zealand with pages and pages of computer print-outs which presented all the results of all the tests she’d undergone at school in Texas.An unbelievable number of tests.

    There were pages of columns and rows and nearly all the marks were in the percentiles 95 -99. Her parents (maybe friends of George) couldn’t understand why she was well below kiwi kids of the same age in basic literacy and numeracy skills.

    They decided that the NZ education system must be faulty.

    I think the Texas education system worked on the principal that testing is the same as teaching and if a child was tested enough then that was equivalent to being educated.
    Is this what our Nactional party experts think?

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