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The Press on Standards

Written By: - Date published: 11:30 am, September 26th, 2012 - 34 comments
Categories: newspapers, schools - Tags: ,

The Christchurch Press as part of Fairfax released National Standards data over the weekend, but had a number of articles with a curiously sensible line on it:

…the standards’ main effects will be to impose on schools a crude, misleading and unhelpful form of accountability and to focus attention on learning targets that are inappropriate for many children.

Other commentators have identified the serious dangers of using national standards data when judging the performance of schools. They have noted the inconsistency between schools in how national standards are assessed, the lack of attention to performance in other curriculum areas and important social, cultural and attitudinal outcomes, and the unfairness of publicly releasing information that cannot reveal the true merit of the programmes and teaching of each school.

That was Otago’s emeritus professor of education Terry Crooks.  This Nisbet cartoon was there as well:

There’s even a piece by David Shearer.

But it’s not all sense.  There’s also an editorial defending the Standards and their publication as well:

“The teachers’ union, some principals, a few school boards and many teachers have deplored Fairfax’s creation of a website on which schools’ performance may be compared, saying it is misleading, will misinform parents and will damage schools.

The outcry is entirely predictable. It is part of a continuing campaign against national standards and it is deeply misguided. It rests in part on a heavily patronising assumption about parents’ capacity to weigh such data in judging how well a school is doing in educating their children.”

Err, no.  It’s because the data has no useful value in it to evaluate a school – as per Keith Ng’s excellent posts.  It is statistically unuseful.  It is unmoderated, meaning schools can’t be compared.  It does not measure against the curriculum, just one small part.  It does not tell us how much value a teacher is adding in even reading, writing and arithmetic, let alone on a broader educational basis. Or how much support a school is getting, either from the government and its board, or from the parents and the community.  It tells us nothing useful.

It does give a (false) impression of being something to grade schools by.  As currently all too many (particularly estate agents) use deciles as a proxy for school quality when it’s purely a measure of the wealth of the local area (and your higher decile means you’re getting less government support…), something like National Standards is certain to get misused.

Especially as this ‘ropey’ data has no correct use…


34 comments on “The Press on Standards”

  1. grumpy 1

    Bloody oath it’s useful in evaluating a school.

    An intermediate with absolutely no maori meeting minimum standards while all it’s feeder primaries has good results for those same students is good information.

    Sack the principal, hire better teachers, pay them on results – that’s the way!

    • Kotahi Tāne Huna 1.1

      Citation please, of an example (just one) of a single country anywhere in the world, ever, that has done this with better results than what we have now.

      You’ve failed to show there’s a problem; ignoring your failure, while mindlessly repeating your “20%” lie mantra, doesn’t cut it.

      Who needs the separation of church and state when the government insists on faith based policies anyway?

      • Grumpy 1.1.1

        Easy to validate. Just compare Manning Intermediate with it’s feeder primaries, Spreydon, Hoon Hay and Rowley.

        No maori? What a weak bullshit excusevthat is, do they just vanish between thos primary schols and Hillmorten High?

    • Dv 1.2

      Hey Grumpy, NO Maori met the standards BECAUSE there were no Maori at the school!!!

      • Grumpy 1.2.1

        See above, there are high numbers of maori which just makes it worse.

        • Dv

          BUT what if the standard at the schools are different?
          How could you possibly tell without moderation.

          It might be that manning is tougher and the others are easier.

          How would you know?

          AND Grumpy, it is these crap teachers that are doing the assessments.
          May be they got that wrong as well.

          Thank you for replying.

          • Grumpy

            You need to give Manning some credit. They could have corrupted the data or not supplied them as some schools did but they didn’t..

            Don’t know what is the problem there but this is the start of finding out.

            • Dv

              They Probably knew what the problems were already.

              BUT my point still stands I would not want to spend a lot of time trying to sort about issues based on ropey ‘data’ that is unmoderated.

              And the differences my be within statistical sampling error

              Until the data is moderated there is little point.

            • Colonial Viper

              A decent ERO investigation would have done the job. Instead of this arduous round the way, expensive, indirect path.

              • Grumpy

                ….but it didn’t……

                • You’re assuming that the data is even sufficient to draw a conclusion from. Unless you’re going to back that up with statistical error rates and an explanation for how we can know that the difference in grade overcomes the possible difference due to unmoderated data, I don’t know how you can actually say ANYTHING based on it.

                  So yeah, ERO reviews didn’t show us there was a problem. National standards give Manning a lower number, sure, but there’s no way to know whether Manning interprets the standards in a harsher or kinder way than other schools without moderating it in some fashion. When you’ve compensated for that lack of moderation and shown you’re working, then maybe we can ask questions about ERO.

                  Until then you’re wasting time, and the national standards are degrading education (all assessment degrades learning to some degree, especially standardised assessment, so it should be balanced against the need for it) and costing money for no real gain in measurement of kids’ education.

    • bbfloyd 1.3

      Is it just me, or are you pulling a “for instance” out of your other orifice?

      I feel quite confidant that you havn’t a shred of evidence to show which school you allude to… I’m also utterly confidant that you are telling fairy tales just to be annoying, as you know very well that there aren’t any examples to show….

      Is this your attempt to be the kiwi Mitt Romney?

      • Grumpy 1.3.1

        See above, apology welcome – any time…….

        • bbfloyd

          Your going to have to do a lot better than that little g….. you make a strident assertion…. if you can back that up, then i suggest you supply the information you used to make your assessment,, assuming you made that assessment, and that you aren’t just parroting….

          And while you’re at it, make sure you have factored ALL the relevant factors into that assessment…. As a rule, I make it a policy never to take the word of someone who tries to shout “truth” at me and then gets evasive when asked to clarify that statement with more than unsubstantiated assertions…..

          Am I making myself clear, or shall I write slowly next time?

    • fatty 1.4

      there are way too many variables for this to be useful grumpy. Your comparison with feeder schools (kind of) mitigates only one of those variables.
      I can’t understand how in an example such as this, people can be given number and believe it represents an objective truth. wake up

      • Grumpy 1.4.1

        See above.

        • fatty

          I’m not sure what I am supposed to be looking at above…is it this: “Easy to validate. Just compare Manning Intermediate with it’s feeder primaries, Spreydon, Hoon Hay and Rowley.”

          Your validation is relying on a number of assumptions, and is far too simplistic to be useful.
          At primary school level it is more likely that parents will send their kids to the closest school, whereas when they get older wealthy parents will look around for more schooling options. Its a kind of ‘class flight’, so some feeder schools may contribute a disproportionate amount of poor children, and therefore the results of the intermediate will drop, compared to the results from the feeder schools. Likewise, some schools will attract better students from a wide catchment of feeder schools. Therefore, the quality of the teaching cannot be measured.
          Same goes for cultural groups. I went to Shirley Boys High School in Chch. Its on the East side, but is mostly white. The feeder schools came from large distances, particularly Pakeha students – many were wealthy and came from sumner, but other students from sumner went to cashmere, linwood and boys high…you have no idea of the quality of the students from the feeder schools.
          Also, there is not standardised testing, so successful students from feeder schools could be considered average at new schools, while they could be deemed above average at others. This has nothing to do with the quality of the school, or the learning progress of the students. It measures nothing.
          Don’t take stats as gospel, they are little more than numbers.

          For example, answer me this: If the number of children being admitted to hospital due to domestic violence increased from 5,000 to 10,000, what does that tell you about the level of domestic violence on children?

          Whatever your answer is, there is no way of proving it, and I will be able to argue the opposite with the same degree of validity.

    • Mel 1.5

      Seems you have yet to realise the data is not moderated and so dangerous that no conclusions can be made, except that the primary schools and intermediate schools were obviously measuring in different ways or that the intermediate has a different group of children (class flight).

      It demonstrates how dangerous it is to take such data at face value.

  2. vto 2

    If an engineer tells you the design of a building is no good, do you listen to that engineer or do you charge off on your own opinion?

    If a farmer tells you the soils on a farm are no good do you listen to that farmer or do you charge off on your own opinion?

    If a doctor tells you the lump under your arm is not good do you listen to that doctor or do you charge off on your own opinion?

    If a politician tells you …. oh, wait on… doesn’t apply…

    If a mechanic tells you that the funny noise means your car is about to fall apart do you listen or do you charge off on your own opinion?

    Same with teaching. What do the teachers and education experts say about this? Or shall we all just charge off on our own opinion

    • RedLogix 2.1

      Again the problem here is that in their simplistic faith that all problems are automagically solved by markets, this govt also believes that the problem of improving education can be solved using the same tool.

      All they have is a hammer so all problems are nails.

      Yet we only have to look at the wider world right now to see exactly how badly wrong this ‘market’ idea can be.

    • Grumpy 2.2

      If a fertiliser salesman tells the farmer that his soil is no good and needs fertiliser, what does the farmer do?

      Gets the soil tested……..

      • Colonial Viper 2.2.1

        The fertiliser salesman is usually all too happy to arrange that testing…

        • TightyRighty

          What would you know about having to make a sale so the salesman has a job?

          • Colonial Viper

            And your point in relation to selling fertiliser is…what?

            • TightyRighty

              It’s a J.O.B. The salesman is earning their keep, yet your snide tone reveals your sense of superiority to those in sniff “trade”

              • Draco T Bastard

                The salesman is earning their keep…

                Not if the fertiliser wasn’t needed in which case they’re just lying.

                • Colonial Viper

                  I have heard of trusting, honest farmers in financial stress being brought down to their knees with mischievious, incorrect advice from fertiliser salesmen looking to make their monthly quota.

                  I guess the investment bankers who created the financial weapons of mass destruction which brought the global economy to its knees were also “just doing their job”.

      • McFlock 2.2.2

        I am in a quandary: is that analogy intended to distract/mislead, or are you really as thick as pigshit for putting it forward?
        I would use a test, but both IQ and polygraphs are pretty hit and miss. More “national standards” than “litmus strip”.

        • prism

          Hey I know something Tighty Righty. I know that pigshit is fertiliser and I know about things like T R A D E and J O B S. T R you’d better go and loosen your tourniquet, it is blocking the flow of blood to your brain. (And blood is a fertiliser too. It’s good shit they say for growing things, perhaps even ideas and perception.)

          • TightyRighty

            You know something? Pretty poor display if whatever knowledge you might possess with that comment. Why are you white knighting some loser who lives off his wives parents funds and makes derogatory remarks about people actually earning a living. Is it because he agrees with you?

            • Colonial Viper

              Mate don’t start playing the politics of envy. You too can have what I have. If you work at it hard enough, that is.

      • Dv 2.2.3

        Who is going to do the test, to what standard.

  3. Blue 3

    Send the parents and the journalists back to school if they think there is any value in this data.

    They need remedial education if they think you can draw conclusions from any data which is assessed differently by every school, not moderated at a national level, and the raw results are dumped out like sewerage on the idiot notion that ‘any information is better than none’.

    What would these morons think if NCEA results were treated the same way? They’d be up in arms crying that little Charlie or Petunia’s results were not recognised by tertiary institutions because they couldn’t have any confidence in them.

  4. Craig Glen Eden 4

    If their were no National Standards until now, how is it that 20% of kids are so called failing. Who make up the 20%? National Standards are a joke and anyone with half a brain with any worth while education should be able to work that out.

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