National standards have been imposed on schools against expert advice, against international experience, and against considerable opposition. The government can bully schools into the appearance of compliance. But they can’t make a flawed and unworkable scheme workable. They can’t stop the perverse and damaging incentives that standardised testing creates. And they can’t stop some teachers from doing what they think is best for the education of their kids.
So the news is breaking that national “standards” are nothing of the kind:
Study finds schools are setting own standards
A report looking at six diverse schools from around the country has revealed schools are struggling to keep up with demands under the system. It also shows at least one school has lowered its students’ achievement target so that it did not look bad if the set target was not reached.
The Research, Analysis and Insight into National Standards project – commissioned by the education sector union, the Educational Institute – is a three-year study led by Waikato University professor Martin Thrupp. It showed schools were interpreting National Standards in different ways, taking into account factors within their own community such as socio-economic status, location and curriculum development.
One school had refused to use the category “below” when informing parents of their child’s progress because, it said, it unfairly labelled them as failures. Another school had gone to the extreme measure of lowering its school achievement target. …
In contrast to “Seagull School”, staff at another school, dubbed “Cicada School”, were cutting back its curriculum in order to get students up to National Standards levels. … In a newsletter, the school told parents: “The curriculum is going to become very narrow. If everybody’s jobs are now dependent on making significant improvement in achievement … people are going to focus only on reading, writing and maths.
“Curriculum areas such as PE, music and art are likely to be squeezed out. Those things that many students enjoy and most of us see as important in an education system will be given a reduced status.” …
Perry Rush, chairman of the Boards Taking Action Coalition which believes there are numerous flaws in National Standards, said the study confirmed that National Standards was a policy of forced compliance.
“Last year, the ministry decided to ignore the clamour from the education sector regarding these flawed standards and I think it’s no surprise that this study shows that schools are conforming in name only,” he said.
Hey National – time to put an end to this fiasco and an end to the standards before they do any more damage. Use the perfectly adequate existing methods of assessment and reporting. Have confidence in our world-class primary education system and the (remarkably cost-effective) results that it produces. Stop damaging kids – just because you don’t want to be seen to back down.