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National Standards causes decline in educational levels

Written By: - Date published: 8:13 am, December 7th, 2017 - 30 comments
Categories: accountability, education, national, Politics, same old national, schools, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: ,

If you ask a Primary School teacher what has been the most retrograde step the last Government took in the education sector it would be National Standards.

It sounded great. Instant ranking of your kid amongst their peers so you would know if they were going to be a brain surgeon or a factory hand. Perfect opportunity for the anxious rich and middle class to make sure that their kids got ahead and if they were not getting ahead then things could be done to help.

But teachers hated it. They had to spend so much time testing and collating and inputting data. They had to deal with anxious parents who were upset their kids were not doing as well as they thought they should be doing, and kids who hated doing assessment after assessment. They complained because all this testing and assessing and data collection was stopping them from teaching which is actually the thing that teachers want to do.

They were really concerned that all this testing and assessing and stressing was affecting the quality of education their kids should have been getting. And they were right.

From Radio New Zealand:

Teachers and principals are blaming the national standards in reading, writing and maths for a sudden drop in 10-year-olds’ scores in an international reading test.

For the past 15 years, New Zealand’s average score in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study was static at about 530 points, but in the most recent round of testing it fell from 531 points to 523.

New Zealand’s ranking in the study also fell, from 23rd to 33rd out of 50 countries.

And from the coalface:

The president of the teacher union, the Educational Institute, Lynda Stuart said the standards were to blame because they took the joy out of many classes after they were introduced in 2010.

“The creativity has actually gone and we know that creativity helps children to learn within that literacy and numeracy area.”

Principals Federation president Whetu Cormick also blamed the standards for the drop.

“The profession has always been fearful that with the narrowing of the curriculum that we would see a slip,” he said.

“Many would argue that when you fixate on a particular area, kids are going to switch off and this is what has happened. Children are being relentlessly pushed in reading, writing and maths.”

And if you want a clear example showing how cynical the introduction of National Standards was then National’s early decisions when its last term of Government started provide plenty of evidence.

In 2012 I wrote this:

The Government was urged [in the 2008 Briefing to Incoming Ministers] to continue with professional development programs.  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.  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. 

So what happened to the recommendations?  In Budget 2009 then Minister Ann Tolley gave private schools $35 million extra funding, announced the roll out of National Standards while 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 looking to appease National Supporters and introduce testing for PR purposes at the cost of two quality programs.

With the benefit of hindsight it is clear that the concerns of the Public Service were totally justified.  And cutting quality programmes, giving the money to private schools and then foisting National Standards on us were the wrong things to do.

Of course National Standards may have not been the only cause.  Increasing child poverty no doubt also had an effect.

Thanks National for putting political gain ahead of what is best for our kids. Again.

30 comments on “National Standards causes decline in educational levels”

  1. Cinny 1

    For years and years teachers have told the government that national standards are not working, government have refused to listen.

    Now post election data like this comes out, thank goodness we have a new Government who does listen to the teachers and the people.

    A big thanks to all who voted for change, the children of NZ will be better for it, so will the schools and our wonderful educators.

    Thanks Micky for your excellent post

  2. Incognito 2

    This poorly designed and ill-fated experiment with National Standards lasted about 7 years. It could have been a lot worse if National had again been elected into Government but luckily they were voted out. Meanwhile, thousands of children do and will suffer the consequences of these neoliberal brain farts for a very long time.

    • greywarshark 2.1

      What is more we must see that National never get back in again, and just use that possibility as a stick to wave at Labour if they don’t produce adequate policy that gets properly implemented and monitored. We know how determined the Gnats can be now, and the wealthy who on the smell of an oily rag that promises some high gains for themselves, will abandon a working system that meets most needs but requires revision and ‘reboring’ to get it working at top speed.

      You can lose all you have gained if you don’t watch what’s happening and believe some smart-talker with a cohort of shadowy figures in suits and PhDs which they wear as a badge of brotherhood (sisters allowed). 1984-2017 – have we gained our PhDs in how to be a seasoned citizen voter on all things political.

      (Listen to how The Smart One handles Lisa’s hard question about 2.30m)

  3. David Mac 3

    There are more forces at play than National Standards.

    Truancy is rising. I was surprised to read that currently 55.9% of children in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate do not meet the threshold considered to be Regular Attendance. (present for more than 75% of half days)

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/93846273/national-decline-in-the-number-of-students-attending-school-regularly-report-shows

    • JanM 3.1

      Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

    • Tricledrown 3.2

      Unfortunately your argument has been researched overseas.
      The UK govt a Toy govt found that National Standards caused a decline in literacy as in 2008 the dropped it finding without National Standards literacy improved rather than declined.
      The Tory govt found it was an expensive waste of money.

  4. JanM 4

    I have no time whatsoever for the National Party and all who sail in her, but I still struggle with the level of uncaring cynicism that was prepared to sacrifice the education and wellbeing of our children for a deeply impaired system, even for them. It wasn’t even experimental as it had been proved to be detrimental in other countries. Besides which, it flew in the face of known best practice, as many knowledgeable people tried to tell them.
    Of all the awful things that this last government did, and there were a lot, heaven knows, this rates to me as the worst. It was deliberate, and almost, in my eyes, treasonous!

    • David Mac 4.1

      It was done for votes rather than the quality development of children. It gave parents with a cursory interest in their child’s education the opportunity to say ‘Ahhhh great, A, B and C passes, 72% in the exam , I can understand that, thanks National’.

      It’s done at the price of identifying and nurturing the dormant and special talents that dwell within all of us.

      • solkta 4.1.1

        I think as much as that it was done in an attempt to narrow the curriculum. Labour had spent several years consulting with the sector to create the New Zealand Curriculum. This had moved more to a whole person approach with focus on identity and relationships as well as broad subject content. National Standards forced teachers to focus back on the ‘core’ subjects of reading, writing and maths.

        • David Mac 4.1.1.1

          I enjoy chatting with young dedicated teachers, the education process has changed so much since I was there.

          I had information laid out for me to sponge up. Today all the information is at our fingertips and education has become sorting out what are the bombs and Bentleys on the Information Highway and more importantly, how to start grouping that information and applying critical thinking.

          Fascinates me, ignites my imagination.

      • Cinny 4.1.2

        So hearing you on that David Mac. Creativity has been left behind, talents un-nurtured, the answer has to be “X” any other answer is wrong etc etc. Worksheets and more worksheets, it’s been bullshit for all involved.

        Kids need to feel proud about something, give them that and they will excell, they will be so involved with their passion, nurtured at school, that they won’t need a crutch of social media to feel good about themselves, or to bully others. As social media often has the reverse results, and the youth suicide rates speak for themselves. Once they are feeling good about themselves life starts to flow.

        Give them more music in their curriculum and watch their maths improve. It’s all relevant, it’s all connected and it’s all important and it’s all been overshadowed by national standards.

        Some kids will never ever reach national standards, and while the focus and pressure overwhelms them to ‘pass’ the failed imported system; another invention, idea, piece of art is lost and forgotten, unacknowledged and unvalued, because of national standards.

        “X” is not always the only correct answer and there’s more than one way to find it.

        There will be some happy teachers this holidays, so excited for all the kids, for their futures. Looking forward to the next episode in education, so thrilled with the new government. There’s such a positive hum at all the primary schools in our region, rather than the end of year stress and restlessness that it has been in the past. Going to call it “Hope”, a wonderful contagious feeling

        • David Mac 4.1.2.1

          We share similar views Cinny.

        • Reality 4.1.2.2

          Great post Cinny

        • greywarshark 4.1.2.3

          Cinny
          Great news. Wishing all in education, at the ‘coalface’, a Happy Christmas and 2018.

          • greywarshark 4.1.2.3.1

            Cinny
            Here are some good quotes for Chrissie presents! I came across these on education and children and thought them excellent, so give them to you. And an extra one that is meaningful, from Frederick Douglass who had been a Negro slave, so knew what he talked of.

            The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent and discover, to create men who are capable of doing new things. Jean Piaget

            Author Profession: Psychologist
            Nationality: Swiss
            Born: August 9, 1896
            Died: September 16, 1980
            Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/jean_piaget_751077

            It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.
            Frederick Douglass

            Everybody has asked the question, and they learned to ask it early of the abolitionists, ‘What shall we do with the Negro?’ I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us.
            Frederick Douglass

            Author Profession: Author
            Nationality: American
            Born: February 14, 1817
            Died: February 20, 1895
            Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/frederick_douglass_20157

      • Tricledrown 4.1.3

        David Mac.Redneck appeasment Talk back radio policy.
        Is why National turned teaching into production line pupils.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 4.1.4

        It was done for votes

        It was done as part of the long term goal of privatising all public services.

  5. Psych nurse 5

    Teachers always said that National Standards would fail, that teachers would have to teach to the narrow standard to the exclusion of all else. This is a class thing, some years ago a friend was a House Master and teacher at Christs College, he explained how that school achieved such high School Cert results, they learn’t the 5th form curriculum three years in a row, what was important was not the journey through Education but the result, nothing has changed.

    • David Mac 5.1

      Taught the 5th form curriculum 3 years in a row! Ha, that’s genius. Brilliant for passing exams, shame about life.

    • greywarshark 5.2

      Christs College, and others of that ilk which attract the so-called brightest and best students, is the seedbed where the minds and morals of advantaged people who get to be leaders and politicians are formed. Voila here are the flower of NZ’s education and advancement, the crop we have at present have all been raised in this nursery of cactus plants with unpleasant barbs which occasionally flower spectacularly and then just sit and swell up with the juice of kool-aid some to burst like Mr Creosote of Monty Python in-fame. He was very fat, very gross by the way.

      The item below on Don Brash gives a timely example of how hard it is to be an economist and a person of principle committed to acting for the good of the people, even the country, not for the most presently compelling argument.

      (cf Don Brash similar)-
      He attended Cashmere Primary School and Christchurch Boys’ High School before going to the University of Canterbury where he graduated in economics, history and political science.

      He continued his studies in economics, receiving his master’s degree in 1961 for a thesis arguing that foreign investment damaged a country’s economic development. The following year he began working towards a PhD (again in economics, at the Australian National University), which reached the opposite conclusion. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Brash

      And early in 2014, Don published Incredible Luck, a book which is in part Don’s own assessment of his life –
      http://www.donbrash.com/about-don/

      • He continued his studies in economics, receiving his master’s degree in 1961 for a thesis arguing that foreign investment damaged a country’s economic development. The following year he began working towards a PhD (again in economics, at the Australian National University), which reached the opposite conclusion.

        Which should tell people just how out of touch with reality modern economics is.

        He was actually right the first time. Due to its propensity to grab the IP, close the local branch and then leave NZ foreign investment actively destroys local development.

  6. savenz 6

    National Standards has been shocking and deliberately put into place by National in my view to do five things.

    1/To destroy the Teachers union, by assessing kids and then making an argument for performance pay based on those assessments. Then to bring that in and divide the teachers into ‘good’ teachers and ‘bad’ teachers and thus drive wedges between them and reduce the teachers union power for collective bargaining.

    2/To divide children, parents and teachers who are at the coal front of teaching the slop that the ministry have forced them to teach and assess. Some kids ‘appear’ to be doing very well, while other’s don’t and are unable to, as the standards themselves were extremely flawed and without any merit. Therefore creating division between the kids doing well and the kids not doing well and the parents whose kids were doing well and the parents of kids not doing well, as well as division between the parents and teachers when the kids were not doing well or demotivated by the curriculum.

    3/ Create diversion so that the education funding could be cut and redirected into private schools, charter schools and building more schools for their desired increased population and construction industry (rather than concentrating on the education within the schools aka the children getting the funding for their education or teachers pay).

    4/Force parents to use the private sector more to ‘catch’ their kids up with special needs and assessments and pay for other private providers in all the areas now missing or very weak from the curriculum like music, arts, drama and PE. As well as catch up for literacy like reading, maths and writing.

    5/Force the schools to use the private sector for things like swimming as funding for that and the maintenance of that is cut and eventually try to get the schools to sell off land to pay for the running of the schools or actually close the schools with a view to having giant superschools and more kids being taught via video links and not actually going to a school.

    In short our precious kids are collateral damage for the National parties ideology of a unionless, privatised education sector for business profit not education.

    • JessNZ 6.1

      +100000

    • In short our precious kids are collateral damage for the National parties ideology of a unionless, privatised education sector for business profit not education.

      QFT

      And it is actions like this that destroys society and all done in the name of greed profit.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 6.3

      Once again, exactly as predicted.

      If the goal is to privatise education the policy is working perfectly.

  7. patricia bremner 7

    This whole mess began with Lockwood Smith’s syllabus.He threw out creativity.

    National standards were like the National party, not fit for purpose.

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