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School boards revolt

Written By: - Date published: 10:20 am, June 19th, 2010 - 14 comments
Categories: education - Tags: ,

All available evidence and expert opinion suggests that National Standards, as the government is introducing them in our primary schools, won’t work. As some wag put it, no matter how often you measure the pig, measuring it won’t make it fatter. National standards won’t raise educational achievement, they may actually do damage. According to the international evidence:

Tests blamed for blighting children’s lives

Landmark study of primary schools calls for teachers to be freed of targets

Children’s lives are being impoverished by the government’s insistence that schools focus on literacy and numeracy at the expense of creative teaching, the biggest review of the primary school curriculum in 40 years finds today.

Sadly the Nats are steered not by evidence, but by blind ideology. They are ploughing ahead with the standards. School boards have been threatened and warned not to speak out. It a measure of the level of resistance to the standards that some schools are taking action anyway:

School boards revolt over national standards

A Dunedin school and two in Invercargill are believed to have categorically refused to implement the Ministry of Education’s national standards. The School Trustees Association has warned the schools’ boards of trustees they could be sacked if they do not back down.

They are among eight schools nationwide which have taken a stance against national standards, and NZSTA president Lorraine Kerr said the boards of the schools would face consequences if they continued to rebel against the standards “in much the same way there are consequences if we break any law”.

This puts our bully government on the spot – what to do? Well they could start by ignoring the comprehensively stupid suggestion of DPF, to reduce funding to the schools. That’s right, National’s spinster suggests punishing the children. Nice. Back in the real world, seems to me that the Nats have only two choices, negotiate with the school boards (which will obviously never happen) or sack them and impose their own rule (as per Canterbury). Trouble is that the latter is not going to win them any friends in the local communities. Interesting dilemma. And to think that it could have all been avoided if National had just agreed, as educationalists and teachers everywhere advised and asked them, to trial the new standards before arrogantly forcing their introduction.

14 comments on “School boards revolt ”

  1. ianmac 1

    Must be very hard for BOTs. If they believe the Anne Tolley’s rhetoric, then quite simply it would be good if there was “better” reporting of kids’ progress. And it would be nice to know which schools are better and how their kids are doing against the “norm”.
    The real implications are less well known by BOT. Trying to measure Standards against the progress are very time consuming , there is little or no moderation, unclear standards, and yet the detail available about kids is already there.
    It would take a brave BOT and staff to demand a moratorium at least until training and detail is available.

    I wonder if the Nat Stds are a softening up of schools for say, Bulk Funding? Get the parents riled up about uncooperative teachers so that they are unable to gain support for other measures?

  2. Oliver 2

    8 out of 2,000 schools…..

    • Fabregas4 2.1

      What the government will most probably do is appoint a commissioner for these schools (1 commissioner for all schools). The commissioner will instruct the school principals to do National Standards – then threaten them with the sack if they do not comply.

      8 out of 10 have publicly said no which will lead to the actions above – many more are silently saying no which will lead to a system that simply won’t work (as if it had any merit anyway). Expect some very strange data come 2011.

  3. Nick C 3

    So Rob you’re quite happy for school boards to revolt against government policy, but (im guessing) you dont support giving them the autonomy to run their school how they see fit through bulk funding?

  4. loota 4

    Uh Nick C, great idea, lets go ahead and conflate two completely different issues, one on funding/finances/spending and the other on tracking the educational achievement of children.

  5. Hilary 5

    NZ schools are second in the world for comparability between schools which means it doesn’t really matter which school you go to in NZ you will get much the same teaching and access to the curriculum. Of course some schools have flasher buildings and resources and overseas trips but the teaching is probably much the same. Decile funding compensates a little for those schools who have kids from lower socio economic areas which means they are less likely to have computers and other educational resources at home. All schools have a similar bell curve, and some high achievers and some in the ‘tail’.

    Education in NZ is so equitable because it is centralised with centrally funded (and well unionised) teaching staff, state run teacher training, and one curriculum. There is a strong Ministry of Education, with nationwide requirements of compliance for school boards, and ERO audits all schools on the same criteria. School boards give the community some control over much of the culture and priorities of the school but they still have to teach much the same stuff with the same accountabilities as the school down the road.

    What threatens all this is bulk funding which increases the influence of the ‘market’ between schools as individual teachers become commodities to be bought and sold.

    And re National Standards. Prof John Hattie said the other day at a public talk that the whole thing is a three year nationwide trial.

  6. loota 6

    Nothing like using an entire generation of kids as research subjects for someone’s mad scheme theoretical ideas.

    • Bob Stanforth 6.1

      No, no bringing up NCEA, this is about National Standards 😉

      Im on my kids school BoT. The school and the Principal has taken a very pragmatic viewpoint which is it isnt complete, its hard to understand, but it is the right way to go, and we as a Board have supported that view. This is about a first step, and sometimes thats very hard. No, that hasnt been made easy, and it could have been, railroading change is never right. Black mark National.

      Its not perfect, and yes, a trial should have taken place, but parents and children deserve to know how their education is progressing, and how that matches up nationally. Despite what the relevant unions say, that is what parents want – if they give a damn about their children’s education.

      • Pascal's bookie 6.1.1

        Why do you think it is ‘pragmatic’ to do a complicated and difficult thing with a halfcocked tool, without any testing to see if the still-being-developed-tool will help? Sounds more like blind reflexive panic to me, which would be close to the opposite of ‘pragmatic’.

        Or do you mean pragmatic in the sense of ‘rolling over for the Minister so we don’t get sacked’?

      • Fabregas4 6.1.2

        Would have thought any Board and Principal worth their salt would not be pagmatic about something that they consider is ‘ incomplete and difficult to understand” and that has been ‘railroaded’.

        Maybe this is why you have missed the point entirely. First of all if you as a Board member want your principal to do a better job in ensuring clear reporting to parents then ask him/her to get on with it. Secondly, if your principal does not or cannot tell you how the children and your school are doing nationally in reading, writing and mathematics – get a new principal but first ask him/her about your schools use of PAT’s, STAR testing, Numeracy levels, and National Writing Progressions and Writing Exemplars. All good schools, those run by good BOT’s and Principals use these already well accepted and in the case of PAT’s and STAR nationally normed assessments.

        If as you suggest parents want to know this stuff and you are on the Board ring your principal tomorrow – using these tools will give your school community richer and more relevant information than National Standards ever will.

        Lastly, if this is what parents want how come you haven’t been providing it – anybody actually ask you for this information? I doubt it because what parents actually want is to see their children progressing and improving -whether they are better or worse than their neighbours or some kid from the other end of NZ is largely irrelevant. I can tell you now – make the league tables from this information and do it now – Decile 8/9/10 schools will do best against these standards. Decile 1/2/3 will do worst (there will some exceptions of course). This is because of social and school capital is the domain of the high deciles – not rocket science. Add in social and economic deprivation of the lower deciles and surprise surprise you have ‘the losers,’ the tail’ whatever you want to label it. You may be interested to know that the tail was reducing over the last nine years as successive Labour governments worked to reduce inequities in society. The solution? Fix our society and leave the kids and teachers alone. Despite all this NZ is still, on a comparatively low spend, one of the top countries in the world for educating our children. Man!

      • Dellis 6.1.3

        ‘Its not perfect, and yes, a trial should have taken place, but parents and children deserve to know how their education is progressing, and how that matches up nationally. Despite what the relevant unions say, that is what parents want if they give a damn about their children’s education.’

        I give a damn about my children’s education, so much so that I have done my own extensive research, talked with hundreds of parents, teachers, principals, NZEI, MoE and Tolley over the last year. Tolley and the MoE has not been able to furnish me with any evidence or research that backs this policy as being able to do what is intended, to close the gap between the achieving and underachieving. No evidence or research that shows what happens to children who are constantly measured as not meeting standards year after year. My research shows that children stop seeing themselves as capable learners, become demoralised and often begin a downward spiral which is the opposite of what we want as parents. The scary thing is that after national standards training has taken place, teachers have begun to realise that the majority of children will not reach these NEW standards because they are not aligned with the curriculum and are ‘aspirational’ in Toleys words.

        Most of our schools and teachers are already able to identify children who are struggling and are able to give us parents the feedback that we need re progress etc. Why this sledge hammer policy that has many potential risks and no benefits over what we already have. We already have national benchmarks which have been in place for some time.

        National standards cannot be national standards when each school has to make their own moderation process to check the accuracy of the assessments against the standards. Both the MoE and Tolley have told me that this is the case. There is no national moderation being implemented so we now have 2000 odd national standards. How is this going to help us see where our children sit nationally? We have assessments in place already that measure national norms for literacy and numeracy.

        As I say, I care very deeply about not just my child but all children who are at risk because of this policy.

  7. ianmac 7

    Fabregas4: Well said! You must have good contact with Education to be so well informed. Somehow the supporters of National Standards like Bob @1:32 seem to be very aggressively missing the point, – repeatedly!
    They somehow argue that Nat Stds and knowing how well the kids are doing are the same thing. All those assessment tools that are used now , as you name above, have been available for years. If parents are not asking for and getting clear assessments now they should be. And if Bob really is on a BOT then he has been deficient in signing off approval for the School Policy on Assessment.
    Of course children are not like machines where it is easy to measure energy used against energy output. There are far too many vaiables and changes in learning rates from day to day and year to year, for a simple figure to be meaningful or helpful for the kid to progress.

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