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On decile ratings of schools

Written By: - Date published: 11:50 am, August 21st, 2012 - 20 comments
Categories: education, national, schools - Tags: ,

Interesting piece on Stuff this morning:

ERO drops decile ratings from reports

The decile rating of schools has been scrapped from Education Review Office reports. ERO chief review officer Dr Graham Stoop made the surprise announcement yesterday in an effort to “correct the stereotype that a school’s decile equals performance”.

Schools are given a decile rating of one to 10, reflecting the proportion of students from low socio-economic communities. About 10 per cent of schools are in decile one and have the highest proportion of pupils from low socio-economic communities. Lower deciles are allocated higher rates of funding by the Education Ministry but deciles are no reflection on the quality of a school.

There have been suggestions that some parents have been treating deciles as a reflection of quality, with a “white flight” recorded of tens of thousands of Pakeha children away from decile one, two and three schools in the last 10 years.

Prime Minister John Key has said some parents assume the decile ranking is “a proxy for the quality of a school” which could be “very unfair”.

Dr Stoop yesterday said taking the decile rating off ERO reports would “help remove this element of confusion and correct this misconception”.

Right, so the government ignored most expert advice, international precedent, and the overwhelming majority of schools and teachers, to bulldoze through national standards. The data from the standards is nonsense, but it is going to be published anyway because the Nats’ claim that the good parents of [insert region here] are desperate to see it. But – they are excising decile ratings because they are confusing, unfair and misleading? White flight – what the hell do they think is going to happen with the national standards data?

These two “policies” are so completely incoherently at odds with each other that it’s hard to believe (typical for Nat “education” policy I’m afraid). A cynic might suggest (and several did in Open mike this morning) that the dropping of decile ratings is really an attempt to obscure the link between poverty and educational underachievement. Mmmmm.

All that said, no one is a big fan of decile ratings. The piece above continues:

Teacher union the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) said clear information about the social and economic context of schools should be published in place of the decile ratings, which were “crude”. It suggested including data on student transience, the number of children with special needs or English as a second language and the number of children attending breakfast clubs.

Decile ratings shouldn’t be dropped, they should be replaced by better data. And if “ropey” national standards data is to be published, these economic measures should be included with it. The only reason that the Nats would argue that parents want some facts but not others is political game-playing.

20 comments on “On decile ratings of schools”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    They had two head masters interviewed on the radio this morning.

    They were saying it was good that decile ratings were being dropped, because it had nothing to do with educational achievement. A question or two later, one of them said that when the National Standard’s results were published, they would in some way mirror what the decile rating showed. This means that, implicitly, decile ratings did actually reflect student achievement, despite the fact that they both said that it didn’t.

    Really the problem is that there’s no easy and clear way to differentiate student achievement from school achievement, and in many regards they are the same thing.

  2. fabregas4 2

    Doesn’t sat that all – it means that decile rating reflect socio economic status of the school community – low socio economic status leads to it being harder to be successful at school.

  3. Lanthanide-Margret Wu is an internationally respected academic who has assisted with the development of the PIRLS assessment used to compare different nations’ education achievement. She often explains that of all the determining factors of a child’s academic success (including family and socioeconomic background) a teacher only contributes around 10%.

    Schools and teachers can and do make a difference but cannot work miracles over the deficits that many children bring with them through the school gate. While school achievement will generally align with the decile rating it cannot be used to ascertain the quality of teaching and learning within a school. It just so happens that you are less likely to have children in a community full of migrants who speak English as a second language and have low incomes who will do well in assessments based on English. Whether they are academically able or struggle with learning there should be little difference in their attainment no matter what decile school they attend. There is also some evidence that the quality of teaching in higher decile schools can be below that of low decile because it is much easier to teach in such schools. Able, motivated students from supportive, academic families often succeed regardless of the teaching they receive. When you say “…there’s no easy and clear way to differentiate student achievement from school achievement, and in many regards they are the same thing”, I would have to disagree. You are implying that if a child scores badly in a National Standards it just reflects the level of teaching in the school.

    A mother of a child with autism told me recently that a “good” school for her child would be one that is inclusive of all children, provides a variety of learning contexts that would excite and inspire her child and one where her child will feel happy and supported in their learning. A decile number or a National Standards assessment wouldn’t be able to discover that for her.

    Using the either flawed National Standards data or the decile rating to ascertain the quality of a school is equally problematic.

    • Lanthanide 3.1

      “Using the either flawed National Standards data or the decile rating to ascertain the quality of a school is equally problematic.”

      I don’t disagree.

      What I was pointing out are the following logical positions:
      1. It was stated that decile rankings do not have *anything* to do with educational achievement
      2. It was stated that when National Standards rankings are brought in, some of the decile ranking will be reflected in the National Standards rankings; presumably he meant that schools with lower National Standards rankings would tend to be the ones that had lower decile rankings and vice versa.

      If we assume that National Standards do measure student achievement in some way (perhaps a bad assumption?), from statement 2 we should conclude that statement 1 is in fact wrong, in that lower ranked decile schools perform worse on National Standards, therefore lower decile schools are transitively indicators of lower performance. I’m not saying that lower decile schools cause lower performance, just that’s it’s correlated. This should be obvious.

      ““…there’s no easy and clear way to differentiate student achievement from school achievement, and in many regards they are the same thing”, I would have to disagree. ”

      Ok, if there is an “easy and clear way” to differentiate student achievement from school achievement are you asserting there is, then surely you can come up with good measures, better than National Standards, to do this.

      Because at the moment National Standards will be used to measure school achievement, based on individual achievement, and IMO the system simply will not work at all for all the obvious reasons (kids in lower decile schools will likely have lower National Standards scores, but that’s more to do with the kids attending the schools than the actual school performance). It seems you agree.

      • Georgecom 3.1.1

        Decile ratings don’t tell you very much about the quality of a school or its ability to raise achievement levels for particular students from the point the student eneterd that school.

        What decile ratings might reflect, broadly, are some of the socio-economic advantages or disadvantages that children bring with them to that school which will have an inpact on academic achievement levels.

        A schools finds children as they walk in the school gate, including such things as decile, and then goes to work from there to create learning, the actual achievement rates that schools can control.

        Reporting data against National Standards might also reflect some of the socio-economic advantages or disadvantages that children bring with them to that school. That is, the ‘readiness for learning’ state that students enter the school gate may well be reflected in reporting under, at or over National Standards achievement rates for students.

        What the NS don’t reveal is the level of learning growth that each particular child has made in a set period of time, measured against a preceding set period of time. The NS data is far too blunt a measurement to capture contextual learning improvement for individual students.

        So, decile and reported NS data might both reflect the particular socio-economic data that students bring with them through the school gate. Decile ratings won’t describe the quality of learning that occurs within the school and neither will, really, reported data against National Standards.

        • Lanthanide 3.1.1.1

          Yes, I fully agree with you, and in fact that is my point.

          NS (purport) to show the performance of an individual: do you know what 2+2 is or not? What it doesn’t show (very well) is how much progress an individual has made. NS attempts to take a measure of individual ability and then apply it in aggregate as if it is a measure of the performance of the school they attend. But because NS isn’t directly measuring a change in attainment, it isn’t measuring whether a school does a good job at improving attainment or not, which is the purpose to which it is going to be used.

          • It seems like we are generally in agreement, Lanthanide, and what it all really means is that while decile rankings and NS do measure things that have some basis in fact, they are blunt and limited measures and cannot and should not be used to make judgements about something as complex as the teaching and learning process.

            • Dv 3.1.1.1.1.1

              To say that NS measure anything is a bit of a stretch.
              Measurement needs to be reliable, and valid.
              Can anyone guarantee that a standard measure in a school in Northland is the same as a std in southland.
              Will it give the same results over time and with the same and different pupils who are at the same level?
              Will it give the same result over time?

              The ‘standards’ are neither national nor standard.

              • Georgecom

                More than that, decile ratings were developed with a logical purpose in mind and have some logical and consistent methodology behind gathering of data.

                National Standards? Hmmmm, well.

                Shambles?

              • National Standards are overall teacher judgments (OTJs) on a child’s attainment in literacy or numercy. I have no doubt that the information they provide would be useful for parents and supporting learning, but they only focus on a fraction of the curriculum and do no more than touch the total package of what a school provides to support teaching and learning. DV, they do measure something but I agree, they are neither national nor standard.

  4. Ianmac from Vietnam 4

    Many low decile schools are hugely successful. Not necessarily in academic standings but in adding huge value from where the kids start. Learning enough words to be able to communicate with more than grunts. Being able to share. Being able to play fair. Being able to respect the rights of others. Being able to handle books properly. Many kids from deprived homes have these hurdles to overcome before they can begin to learn the academic stuff. It must tear the teachers apart to be regarded as low level schools because of the labels like decile ranking. As for National Standards…….

  5. Georgy 5

    Lanthanide – you don’t appear to know what decile rankings actually are.

  6. Georgy 6

    To see what how effective a school is you get a better idea by looking at data from the “native cohort”

    When a school separates the achievement data in literacy and numeracy into two sets –

    [a] children who started at the school and are still there and
    [b] children who have enrolled since starting school [ie have been to other schools]

    then the data for set [a] shows quite a different picture from set [b] – obvious to schools but not necessarily so to others. A significant number of children in the second cohort tend to be transient and usually come from “poorer” homes.

    As schools are forced to submit data to the Ministry of Educ they should send the data from set [a]

    The MoE will misuse it for league tables and pai websites but there may be more integrity in the set [a] data as a reflection of the school learning programme.

    While the decile rank will reflect the community the school sits, it does not reflect the quality of the teaching programme.
    Many schools will tell you that set [a] data shows very high levels of attainment against any criteria.

    When all the data is collated, the effect of the set [b] data will show the school as being “less successful’ in the eyes of the community – a very unfair way of measuring.

  7. Mike Steinberg 7

    *** obscure the link between poverty and educational underachievement. Mmmmm.***

    This obscures the main causes of educational achievement are motivation and intelligence. Unless you are talking extreme malnourishment (or perhaps exposure to toxins in utero), cognitive ability is not going to be significantly depressed. As Professor Steve Hsu notes:

    “It is sometimes claimed that IQ is just a proxy for SES (Socioeconomic Status): high IQ kids are merely the beneficiaries of better home environments, and correlations between IQ and life outcomes are merely a proxy for correlations between childhood environment and outcomes. Of course, this claim does not address the significant variations in IQ within families. Does IQ have predictive power once SES is controlled for? The answer is obvious from anecdotal experience: we all know siblings who, by definition, shared the same family SES, but with different IQs and life outcomes….

    SES does not cause SAT (weakly at most).
    SES does not predict college success, SAT does.

    http://infoproc.blogspot.co.nz/2010/03/ses-and-iq.html

    • Urban Rascal 7.1

      Although from an economic and statistical analysis it seems that things such as merely having the presence of books in the house as a child can drive better schooling outcomes, as well as mother’s age at birth and a raft of other correlated factors.
      – Based of the analysis in the book Freakonomics.
      So I’d have to say you argument has a fairly well known counter. As these common factors are far more evident in lower socioeconomic areas.

  8. Ianmac in Ho Chi Minh city 8

    An afterthought. Without decile rankings will it mean that when national Standards are published, there will be no more guidance that a “lower performing” school draws from lower socio economic shoeless English as a second language transient kids. Just a bald percentage. This would confirm the government’s argument that some schools are failing. Ugh!

  9. Georgy 9

    Poverty, Deciles and Achievement

    Poverty is one dimension of a bigger and more complex situation. Many families who are “at the bottom” of the heap socio-economically move a lot for a variety of reasons. This directly impacts on learning. Also many children from these families have a high absentee rate, as well as often arriving at school late.

    We know that learning is a wholistic process and in school terms begins the moment a child arrives at school until the moment they leave. The first 15 minutes of class time are crucial and set the tone, the direction and timetable for the day. Children who arrive late miss the informal events and social interaction before the bell and the first part of the formal stuff – and are then on the back foot for the rest of the day. And if they have missed days then whats’s going on is a mystery. It is easier then to turn off and not really try. Input zero, output zero, development low, attitude negative.

    Many schools try various strategies to overcome this but it is a major challenge – and if the transient rate is 25% or more the school faces a lot of problems. the families also don’t value education, have language deprived homes, don’t have books and don’t have the routines that children need to support their education.

    This dimension of poverty is very real for schools and impacts hugely on individual achievement thus the collation of school wide data will reflect this. So, low decile schools will reflect their community in terms of achievement. What this won’t show is the incredible job a lot of teachers do to get children ahead. Many Reading Recovery teachers will report that they just get children going and the family moves again. Many Special Ed teachers will report the same. Many children can attend anywhere between 5-12 schools during their primary school years, often with long breaks between schools while the family shifts, finds a house, buys new clothes, sorts out benefits with the new winz office, waits for the benefit to come through to get money to put on their phone….

    The link between poverty and school achievement is very real for many teachers throughout nz.

  10. fabregas4 10

    This move also raises questions about whether the powers that be want to forget about the context that schools work in. Maybe not talking about the socio economic deprivation that is Decile 1-3 areas
    means that the govenemnet can expect the same results from these kids as those for decile 8,9, 10 schools?

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    1 week ago
  • Investment in New Zealand’s history
    Budget 2020 provides a major investment in New Zealand’s documentary heritage sector, with a commitment to leasing a new Archives Wellington facility and an increase in funding for Archives and National Library work. “Last year I released plans for a new Archives Wellington building – a purpose-built facility physically connected ...
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    1 week ago
  • Driving prompt payments to small businesses
    Government Ministers are asking significant private enterprises to adopt prompt payment practices in line with the state sector, as a way to improve cashflow for small businesses. The Ministers of Finance, Small Business, Commerce and Consumer Affairs have written to more than 40 significant enterprises and banking industry representatives to ...
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    1 week ago
  • Rotorua tourist icon to be safeguarded
    Maori Arts and Crafts will continue to underpin the heart of the tourism sector says Minister for Maori Development Nanaia Mahuta.  “That’s why we are making a core investment of $7.6 million to Te Puia New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, over two years, as part of the Government’s ...
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    1 week ago
  • $14.7m for jobs training and education
    The Government is funding more pathways to jobs through training and education programmes in regional New Zealand to support the provinces’ recovery from the economic impacts of COVID-19, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Employment Minister Willie Jackson have announced. “New Zealand’s economic recovery will be largely driven by ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Is it time to further recognise those who serve in our military?
     Minister for Veterans Ron Mark has announced the launch of a national conversation that aims to find out whether New Zealanders think there should be a formal agreement between service people, the Government, and the people of New Zealand. “This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World ...
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    1 week ago
  • Paving the way for a fully qualified early learning workforce
    The Government’s drive to improve the quality of early childhood education (ECE) is taking another step forward with the reintroduction of a higher funding rate for services that employ fully qualified and registered teachers, Education Minister Chris Hipkins has announced. “Research shows that high-quality ECE can improve young people’s learning ...
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    1 week ago
  • Sport Recovery Package announced
    The Sport and Recreation sector will receive a multi-million dollar boost as part of the COVID-19 response funded at Budget 2020.  Grant Robertson says the Sport and Recreation Sector contributes about $5 billion a year to New Zealand’s GDP and employs more than 53,000 people. “Sport plays a significant role ...
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    1 week ago
  • Major boost in support for caregivers and children
    A major increase in funding and availability of support will improve the incomes and reduce the pressure on 14,000 caregivers looking after more than 22,000 children. Children’s Minister Tracey Martin says that caregivers – all those looking after someone else’s children both in and outside the state care system – ...
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    1 week ago
  • Great Walks recovery on track for summer
    Vital conservation and visitor infrastructure destroyed by a severe flood event in Fiordland earlier this year is being rebuilt through a $13.7 million Budget 2020 investment, announced Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage.   “This investment will mean iconic Great Walks such as the Routeburn track and the full length of ...
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    1 week ago
  • Māori – Government partnership gives whānau a new housing deal
    The Government is investing  $40 million in a partnership with Māori to get more whānau into warm, dry and secure accommodation, Associate Minister for Housing (Māori Housing) Hon Nanaia Mahuta says.. “We are partnering with Māori and iwi to respond to the growing housing crisis in the wake of COVID-19. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Keeping New Zealanders Safe In The Water
    Keeping New Zealanders safe in the water Our lifeguards and coastguards who keep New Zealanders safe in the water have been given a funding boost thanks to the 2020 Budget, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector Poto Williams has announced. The water safety sector will receive $63 million over ...
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    2 weeks ago
  • Legal framework for COVID-19 Alert Level referred to select committee
    The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, which set a sound legal framework ahead of the move to Alert level 2, has been referred to a parliamentary select committee for review.  Attorney-General David Parker said the review of the operation of the COVID-19 specific law would be reported back to ...
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    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand condemns shocking attacks on hospital and funeral in Afghanistan
    Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says New Zealand condemns the targeting of civilians in two terrorist attacks in Afghanistan earlier this week. “The terrorist attacks on a hospital in Kabul and a funeral in Nangarhar province are deeply shocking. The attacks were deliberate and heinous acts of extreme violence targeting ...
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    2 weeks ago
  • Government to close tobacco tax loophole
    The Government will close a loophole that allowed some people to import cigarettes and loose leaf tobacco for manufacturing cigarettes and ‘roll your owns’ for sale on the black market without excise tax being paid, says Minister of Customs Jenny Salesa. The legislation, which doesn’t affect duty free allowances for ...
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    2 weeks ago
  • $62 million package to support families through the Family Court
    The Coalition Government has made a significant $62 million investment from the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to start the reform of the Family Court and enable it to respond effectively to the increased backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Today Justice Minister Andrew Little introduced the Family Court (Supporting ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Tailored help supports new type of job seeker – report
    The Government’s expanded services to support people into jobs will help an emerging cohort of New Zealanders impacted by COVID-19. The impacted group are relatively younger, have a proportionately low benefit history and have comparatively higher incomes than most who seek support, as captured in a report published today from ...
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    2 weeks ago
  • A modern approach to night classes
    New funding to boost Government-funded Adult and Community Education (ACE) will give more than 11,000 New Zealanders more opportunities to learn, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. “This includes a modern approach to rebuilding night classes, which were slashed in the middle of our last economic crisis in 2010,” Chris Hipkins ...
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    2 weeks ago
  • Christchurch Call makes significant progress
    Significant progress has been delivered in the year since the Christchurch Call to Action brought governments and tech companies together in Paris with a single goal to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardent says. On its first anniversary, Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron as ...
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    2 weeks ago
  • Christchurch Call: One year Anniversary
    Joint statement: the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern Prime Minister of New Zealand and His Excellency Emmanuel Macron President of the French Republic. One year since we launched, in Paris, the Christchurch Call to Action, New Zealand and France stand proud of the progress we have made toward our goal to eliminate terrorist ...
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    2 weeks ago
  • Budget 2020: Jobs and opportunities for the primary sector
    $19.3 million to help attract and train recently unemployed New Zealanders and grow the primary sector workforce by 10,000 people. $128 million for wilding pine and wallaby control, providing hundreds of jobs. $45.3m over four years to help horticulture seize opportunities for future growth. $14.9 million to reduce food waste ...
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    2 weeks ago