National standards aren’t

Written By: - Date published: 9:32 am, March 16th, 2012 - 34 comments
Categories: education, national, schools - Tags: ,

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.

There is other reporting of the Thrupp report here and here.

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.

34 comments on “National standards aren’t”

  1. Hate to say we told you so.
    Actually I love to say it.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 1.1

      Yes, add this to the long list of National policies that were predicted to be total and abject failures by everyone credible, and lo and behold, the predictions came true.

      You’d think they’d be embarrassed by the utter incompetence of everything they have ever done.

  2. happynz 2

    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.

    This is what happens. I’ve seen it in schools in countries that are mad keen on ‘standards’. If a teacher’s job security is dependent on students’ performance in certain areas, the curriculum indeed would become narrow. In the worst case, students could be fed the answers to exams so as to maintain the illusion of ‘standards’ being met.

    • shreddakj 2.1

      That’s exactly what happens in a lot of schools around the states with Bush’s “No Child Left Behind”.

      • Maggie May 2.1.1

        Presidenrt Obama has already officially disbanded the “No child left behind” national standards in America as it has proven to be a failure in children’s education.

        In fact I watched a clip on CNN where school children were themselves starting a partition against 40 children in each classroom as they feel their education has suffered greatly since it’s introduction of “no child left behind” national standards.

        But then again it is very clear John Key is not interested in educating all our young, he seems to think only “rich bitch” kids should get an education so they can be the ruling class over the surfs.

        They do not seem to have asked themselves yet, why on earth would these surfs want to create wealth for these educated people when there is nothing in it for them other than a below the cost of living wage.

        Wonder what will happen when they finally realise the surfs arn’t interested in creating their wealth for them.

    • Shane Gallagher 2.2

      “students could be fed the answers to exams so as to maintain the illusion of ‘standards’ being met.”

      That is, in fact, what happens in the US and the UK. You impose a set of “rules” and “targets” and people game the system in order to win. It is bloody-mionded game-theory based neo-liberalism.

    • Rusty Shackleford 2.3

      This is certainly my experience in the standards mad Republic Of Korea. Every eight weeks around mid and end term exams my classes are canceled so the students can have ‘test prep’ with their subject teachers. It isn’t a covert thing. It’s pretty explicit that they are being fed the answers.

      All of the exams are multi-choice as well. They do zero project work. I taught essay writing to a large group of teachers during the winter vacation. The ability to write a simple precis of a short article was nigh on non-existent. They admitted that it was the case in their native language as well.

      Moral of the story; it’s safe to ignore Korea’s supposed superiority in educational attainment.

  3. Roger 3

    Not exactly a surprise, even John Hattie warned that this was going to happen as well as various groups interested in childrens education that actually have any expertise. This is a sad time to say I told you so since a world class education system is under attack and children are being used as collateral in what is effectively an ego trip by a few idiots with their hands on the levers.

  4. Wouldn’t it be better, given N.C.E.A. doesn’t work terribly well either – I never could see the need for it – if New Zealand were to go back to the old tried and true School Certificate/Sixth Form Certificate/University Bursary, with a few modifications?

      • McFlock 4.1.1

        Agreed.
           
        Three consecutive years of “one shot to pass in 3 hours or ruin your life” stress should be left in the dustbin of history, along with the 11+

        • shreddakj 4.1.1.1

          I did NCEA, I think I was in the second or third group of students to do it, and while I had some criticisms of the system there is no way I would have been happy with being shaped to a bell-curve.

        • RobertM 4.1.1.2

          Even for a nervous little nerd like me, SC in the 1970s wasn’t so bad. But in reality SC like NCEA was too easy for the bright who in many cases had to make little effort and impossible in English and Maths for the bottom 40%. My parent’s were in many ways not as conservative as me and my father believed the SC English syllabus in the 1970s was inapproprite and impossible for the low streams and had to be replaced by something else and in reality that SC, English was little more than an intelligence test in which the teachers effort made little or no difference, I would say that wa true for half the pupils.
          In terms of my own English which some criticise on the Standard , I would say both my parents were secondary school English teachers, my mother a specialist reading teacher. My father had a first in English from Victoria, Wgtn, by mother a good second. When I was at primary school in the l960s look and say was at its height and in that period and 70s there was the least emphasis on grammar and spelling. In my case over the last decade the issues have been magnified by poor eyesight problems and often composing on time or pay limited computers.
          Essentially my mother used whatever method of reading teaching would get the best results for a pupil be in phonics or look and say. But in my case,, my mother and other teachers in the early l960s used look and say to the maximum degree, with only a very minimal phonics correction ability, to maximise a certain type of intelligence with a very considerable trade off in less gramatical or spelling ability. This in some ways gave me an advantage , but it became less so in the 21C with more emphasis on what mid level employers wanted and the growing importance of the internet and computing which being middle aged I never achieved more than the ability to get thru on even as an honours student in 2006. Also the professional journalsim and commentary I did in the 1980s was often edited by four or five editors and family members with IQs in the 130s and a great deal of my work also went thru word processing and correction by professional secretaries and professional secretaries , and this ceased to by the case in the 21C.

        • Colonial Viper 4.1.1.3

          Yeah easy to say McFlock, except males are adversely affected in situations where the sole focus is internal assessment.

          Ask any law or medical faculty, since the change in high school exam systems a few years back the boys have a much harder time being competitive with the girls and have a much reduced confidence in academic settings than even 10 years ago.

          • McFlock 4.1.1.3.1

            I tend to exam better than internals. But I also burned out in school and didn’t make the cut for UE (although did very well in SC).
                  
            My impression of male students at university (and recollection from when I was doing educ stats) is that many of them were less focused and less prepared than their female colleagues. A significant block of female students seem to arrive in town earlier, focus on classes earlier, and often have caregivers in town in the first few days to help them settle in. They also tend to hold a grudge against disciplinarians longer than male students, as an aside (but sly bottle-throwing at the source of their displeasure was less common than from male students). Personally I think that part of the issue is that education of females transitioned to empowerment and collaborative encouragement several years ago, whereas I think a few of the boys’ schools and teachers are still in the rugby-and-entitlement mentality. A significant block of male students haven’t yet figured out that they now have to work for some stuff in life, and there’s some shit that dad can’t get them out of. 
                 
            But gender disparities in educational achievement could even be down to the lack of male role models in education faculty since Peter Ellis. Blaming it on a lack of exams seems to be a bit precious.
                  
             

          • Vicky32 4.1.1.3.2

            Yeah easy to say McFlock, except males are adversely affected in situations where the sole focus is internal assessment.

            My son would disagree with you about that! He and his guy friends all did as well as the girls around them. He knew boys who didn’t do as well, but told me that they were simply lazy – and I believe him – he knows much more about that than I do (I went to an all-girls school in the days of School C., and I did well, and I had uneducated parents, RobertM.)

        • Bored 4.1.1.4

          Fekk Macker, I excelled at both of those: here I am as living proof that they look impressive at the time but mean Fanny Adams (especially if you are a non conformist)….

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      NCEA works fine – it’s why we have a world class education system. If we went back to the old system our education system would get worse and our children would suffer.

    • Vicky32 4.3

      Wouldn’t it be better, given N.C.E.A. doesn’t work terribly well either –

      I beg to differ, it works perfectly well.  My son sat NCEA level 3 a few years ago, and now is working as a nurse after successfully completing his degree course. No problems at all!

  5. The modifications I was thinking of would be to ensure all courses have a component of internal assessment so that it does not come down to three hours in November. I was thinking courses could all have tests at the end of each subject or mid year exams that account for everything done up to say, June.
    The only reason why I got my mediocre marks in this format was that I did not do enough study. You can’t blame the system for that.

    • Dv 5.1

      Oh, like Ncea then.

      • Simon Poole 5.1.1

        Not necessarily. When I took Bursary Biology I believe 35% of the grade was internal assessment, with the remainder coming from the exam. Friends of mine did Physical Education at the bursary level, and again there was a not-insignificant internal component.

        Of course, other classes I took (Chemistry, Calculus, Classical Studies, English) were all 100% external. And NCEA certainly can’t be worse than 6th form cert, where your pool of available grades is set by the performance of the school in School Cert the year before. That was a clusterfuck.

  6. Bored 6

    My shot as an employer: more tech courses where I can hire good keen 18 year olds with a few skills that I can hone and reward. Hired a guy with a little skill set recently who has great attitude, worth his weight in gold already.

    Big thing to me is demonstrable aptitude (the tech course at school helps here) and attitude (school can do that too)…NCEA L3 in whatever, or BCom just does not give me anywhere to go.

    Having said that pretty much every 18 – 25 year old I see wants the job and would make a fist of it, we employers (and the economy in general) are letting down a whole generation. They all want to work and contribute, and we serve up crap as a future to them from day one.

    • seeker 6.1

      @Bored

      “Having said that pretty much every 18 – 25 year old I see wants the job and would make a fist of it, we employers (and the economy in general) are letting down a whole generation. They all want to work and contribute, and we serve up crap as a future to them from day one.”

      I agree with your wise and perceptive comment on this issue. We should really try to put our heads together to try and come up with some answers to this problem that you have pertinently exposed. Maybe this is where the business community could show some creativity outside their own bubble?

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Alfred Ngaro might be sorry – but to whom?
    The fact that the number of people classified as homeless on the Social Housing Register has doubled over the past year alone should be the real reason for Alfred Ngaro’s recent apologies, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. “As ...
    11 hours ago
  • Government’s data-for-funding backdown embarrassing
    The Government’s U-turn on their shambolic attempt to collect private client data from social services is an embarrassment for a senior Minister, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. “After months of criticism and mismanagement, the Government has finally cut ...
    12 hours ago
  • Overloaded hospitals reach crisis point
      The country’s hospitals have reached breaking point with some hospitals discharging patients to free up bed space and patients with serious injuries having to wait hours to be seen by a doctor, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark.   ...
    12 hours ago
  • National fails on critical school building needs
    Students are paying the price of the Government’s failure to invest fast enough in school buildings to keep pace with Auckland’s increasing population, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “Parents should lay the blame for their children having to put up ...
    19 hours ago
  • Tipping culture is not welcome in NZ
    Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett’s comments about tipping have been in the news and have sparked off a series of furious discussions about tipping in Aotearoa. From our point of view, tipping every time you’re provided a service is a ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche
    1 day ago
  • Mental Health a huge cost for Police
      The cost of dealing with mental health incidents for our police was a staggering $36.7 million which shows just why we need Labour’s fresh approach on Mental Health, says the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.   “Police now ...
    2 days ago
  • Grant Robertson: Speech to Otago-Southland Employers Association
    Thanks to the Otago Southland Employers Association and Virginia for hosting me this evening.  It is always a pleasure to come back to the city and region that shaped who I am as a person. I believe that growing up ...
    2 days ago
  • Renting a home in the Wild West
    It can be tough renting a place to live, and it could be about to get tougher. Radio NZ is reporting that the American Rentberry app wants to start operating in New Zealand. Rentberry allows landlords to play perspective tenants ...
    GreensBy Metiria Turei
    2 days ago
  • Free West Papua leader in Aotearoa
    Last week I hosted Free West Papua leader Benny Wenda at Parliament and travelled with him to a number of important events. Benny is spokesperson for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua and lives in exile in England. 14 ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    4 days ago
  • Nats unprepared for record immigration
    National’s under-investment in housing, public services, and infrastructure means New Zealand is literally running out of beds for the record number of new migrants, says Labour’s Immigration spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway. ...
    6 days ago
  • Labour opposes Ports of Auckland sale
    Labour would strongly oppose the sell-off of the Ports of Auckland to fix a short term cash crisis caused by the Government blocking the city’s requests for new ways to fund infrastructure, says Labour’s Auckland Issues spokesperson Phil Twyford. “National ...
    1 week ago
  • Workers pay the price of Silver Fern’s Fairton closure
    The threatened closure of Silver Fern Farms’ Fairton Plant in Ashburton raises serious questions about the Government’s support of the sale of half of the company to a foreign company, when it appears this outcome may have been inevitable, says ...
    1 week ago
  • National’s answer to the housing crisis: One new affordable house per 100 new Aucklanders
    National’s fudge of a housing plan will make Auckland even more of a speculators’ paradise, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    1 week ago
  • Government can’t be trusted with private data
    The independent review of the Ministry of Social Development’s data breach in April has shown, once again, that the Ministry cannot be trusted with private client information, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. “The investigation by former Deloitte chairman ...
    1 week ago
  • Another crisis, another half-baked National plan
    The National Party may have finally woken up to the teacher supply crisis facing our schools but their latest half-baked, rushed announcement falls well short of the mark in terms of what’s required, says Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins. ...
    1 week ago
  • Nats: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you
    Alfred Ngaro’s recent comments have exposed the Government’s ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’ approach, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. ...
    1 week ago
  • Breaking news – National admits there’s a housing crisis
    National finally admits there’s a housing crisis, but today’s belated announcement is simply not a credible response to the problem it’s been in denial about for so long, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “National can’t now credibly claim ...
    1 week ago
  • Nats lay the ground for housing bust
    Goldman Sachs’ warning that New Zealand has the developed world’s most over-priced housing market, with a 40 per cent chance of a bust within two years, shows the consequences of National’s nine years of housing neglect, says Labour Housing spokesperson ...
    1 week ago
  • Well they would say that, wouldn’t they?
    Property investors’ lobby groups have been up in arms this week about Labour and Green parties’ plans to close tax loopholes and fix the housing market. That’s probably a good thing. Like an investor in any other sector, they expect ...
    GreensBy James Shaw
    1 week ago
  • Alfred Ngaro reflects National’s culture of silencing debate
    Image from Getty Images Community groups must be free to advocate for the people they serve. It’s these people who see first-hand if ideas dreamt up in Wellington actually work on the ground. It’s essential that they can speak freely ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    1 week ago
  • Bill English must reassure community organisations
    The Prime Minister must do more to reassure community organisations after Cabinet Minister Alfred Ngaro's apparent threats to their funding if they criticise government policy which has left a born-to-rule perception amongst many, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “Alfred Ngaro ...
    1 week ago
  • Extremism and its discontents
    Another scar on global democracy appeared recently, this time in Germany.It seems that the number of soldiers on duty with extremist political leanings has become a concern to the military leadership in that country. Soldiers were found openly possessing ...
    GreensBy Kennedy Graham
    1 week ago
  • Government’s suicide approach disappoints
    Mike King’s sudden departure from the Government’s suicide prevention panel, amid claims the Government’s approach is ‘deeply flawed’, is further evidence National is failing on mental health, says Labour’s Deputy Leader Jacinda Ardern. “Mental health is reaching crisis point in ...
    1 week ago
  • National backs speculators, fails first home buyers
    National is showing its true colours and backing speculators who are driving first home buyers out of the market, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “By defending a $150m a year hand-out to property speculators, Bill English is turning his back ...
    1 week ago
  • More oversight by Children’s Commissioner needed
    More funding and more independence is required for the Children’s Commissioner to function more effectively in the best interests of Kiwi kids in State care, says Labour’s spokesperson for children Jacinda Ardern. ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour to end tax breaks for speculators; invest in warm, healthy homes
    Labour will shut down tax breaks for speculators and use the savings to help make 600,000 homes warmer and healthier over the next ten years, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “It’s time for fresh thinking to tackle the ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Health of young people a priority for Labour
    Labour will ensure all young people have access to a range of health care services on-site at their local secondary school, says Labour’s deputy leader Jacinda Ardern. “Our policy will see School Based Health Services extended to all public secondary ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Ratifying the TPPA makes no sense
    The recent high-fiving between the government and agricultural exporters over ratification of the TPPA (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement) is empty gesture politics in an election year. Ratification by New Zealand means nothing. New Zealand law changes are not implemented unless the ...
    GreensBy Barry Coates
    2 weeks ago
  • NIWA report proves National’s trickery re swimmable rivers
    National have a slacker standard for swimmable rivers than was the case prior to their recent so-called Clean Water amendment to the National Policy Statement (NPS), says Labour’s Water spokesperson David Parker. “The table 11 on page 25 of the ...
    2 weeks ago
  • MPS shows new approach needed on housing
    The Reserve Bank’s latest Monetary Policy Statement provides further evidence that only a change in government will start to fix the housing crisis, says Labour Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “It is more evident than ever that only a Labour-led government ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Fresh approach on mental health
    Labour will introduce a pilot scheme of specialist mental health teams across the country in government to ensure swifter and more effective treatment for those who need urgent help, says Labour’s Leader Andrew Little. “Mental health is in crisis. It ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Sallies back Labour’s plan for affordable homes
    The country’s most respected social agency has endorsed Labour’s KiwiBuild plan to build homes that families can afford to buy, and delivered a withering assessment of the National Government’s housing record, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Education is for everyone, not just the elite
    Proposals by the National Party to ration access to higher education will once again make it a privilege only available to the elite, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “Speaking at the Education Select Committee, Maurice Williamson let the National ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Cancer support changes far too little, certainly late
    Anne Tolley’s belated backtrack to finally allow Jobseeker clients suffering from cancer to submit only one medical certificate to prove their illness fails to adequately provide temporary support for people too sick to work, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Kids must come first in enrolment debate
    The best interests of children should be the major driver of any change to policies around initial school enrolments, not cost cutting or administrative simplicity, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.   “The introduction of school cohort entry is ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Feed the Kids
    While in Whangarei last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Buddhi Manta from the Hare Krishna movement whose cafe is making lunch for some schools in Whangarei. His group have been feeding up to 1,000 primary school kids at local ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    2 weeks ago
  • DHBs’ big budget blowout
    New Zealand’s District Health Boards are now facing a budget deficit of nearly $90 million dollars, a significant blowout on what was forecast, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark.   Labour believes health funding must grow to avoid further cuts ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Govt plays catch up on drug funding
    The Government's backdown on Pharmac is welcomed because previous rhetoric around the agency being adequately funded was just nonsense, says Labour's Health spokesperson David Clark. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Labour to build affordable homes in Hamilton
    Labour will build 200 affordable KiwiBuild houses and state houses on unused government-owned land as the first steps in our plan to fix Hamilton’s housing crisis, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “We will build new houses to replace ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Mental Health waiting times a growing concern
    There is new evidence that the Mental Health system is under increasing strain with waiting times for young people to be seen by mental health and addiction services lengthening says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark.   “Following yesterday’s seat of ...
    3 weeks ago