- Date published:
6:54 am, August 31st, 2011 - 58 comments
Categories: schools - Tags: national standards
There’s an excellent article in the latest issue of Smithsonian Magazine looking at Finland’s schools, and their incredible success. On international tests they keep coming top, or near to it.
And there’s a certain irony in it – the Finnish don’t really believe in testing.
As such they’re not as proud of their PISA scores as they might be. We certainly make a song and a dance about how well we do on them. Much better than the UK & US, even above Australia…
Which makes it very odd that we seem keen to follow the policies that the UK, US and Australia are ditching and seen as part of their failure: National Standards.
Finland hasn’t just not gone down the National Standard route, they only have 1 exam – at the end of senior school. Before that they trust their teachers.
Anne Tolley certainly doesn’t trust teachers. She sees them as vested interests, rather than professionals whose interests are vested in our children.
She talks about our 20% failure rate of our schools – and the need to measure them. Teachers will tell you they know exactly who the 20% are now. If we want to fix the 20%, instead of spending our time constantly measuring them, we should put the resources into classrooms to enable teachers to deal with them. Finland has lots of qualified teachers’ aides to work with slow or difficult children, so that they don’t hold the class up – indeed nearly 30% of children receive some special help.
Testing has unwanted side-effects. The first is that we teach our children to pass tests, instead of to learn. The test becomes the curriculum. In Finland a wide variety of play and curriculum is encouraged, to develop children’s brains and their love of learning. In the US, with the No Child Left Behind policy (from George W Bush, who wished to be the education president), Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic trumped all else. Jolisa Gracewood wrote a chilling account of the consequences there.
It also produces league tables, which Anne Tolley has admitted to being powerless to stop. Teachers will be judged on these tables, and thus they will want to make sure that the maximum of children will reach National Standards. Good thing I hear you say? Not if the logical consequence is that teachers spend all their time concentrating on the 30% below the Standard, leaving the 50% who pass anyway bored and unchallenged, and the 20% who are too hard to get over the mark… failing like they were before.
ACT’s answer is Performance Pay. The obvious first question is how you measure performance. The easiest answer is with the Standards and how many pass – which will just exacerbate teaching to the test, and really kill the chances of our children having a balanced education. Good luck to anyone trying to get good pay in a decile 1 school – and good luck to any decile 1 school trying to employ decent teachers. It will also lead to the Performance Pay Paradox – where performance decreases if you pay for it. Teachers don’t become teachers for the money, but with performance pay it becomes the focus – instead of the children, who suffer for it.
Finland has a nice counterpoint in its neighbour Norway. Also well below us in the PISA scores, it has also gone down the testing route. Resources are going into testing and recruitment, instead of into the classroom. Education is dictated to the teachers, not lead by them.
We need to decide whether we want to be Finland or Norway. Whether we back the professional teachers or the amateur politicians.
Both National & Act’s simplistic solutions risk leading our children (and our future) to simplistic failure.
Although this post should be covered by the opinion section of electoral law and shouldn’t need authorisation, here’s mine anyway, just to be safe:
Authorised by Ben Clark, 54 Aramoana Ave, Devonport
We need to equip ildren to be thoughtful, to be aware of themselves and others, to understand that they can play an important part in a society which values them, to teach them how they can gain skills and knowledge, and use them to solve problems, get things done and make a difference to the community.
Private schools understand this, which is why they won’t have a bar of National Standards.
I haven’t seen any report confirming that, CV – can you be sure there isn’t one private school that has followed Anne Tolley’s advice? Surely if they don’t they must be concerned that she may roll back some of the increased funding that private schools were given . . .
I guess there might be a slow one out of that pack.
Private school funding is not dependent on National Standards at all. The get to take it or leave it as they please, as befits Toff outfits.
Guessing here but I wouldn’t be surprised if private schools already had a similar testing regime to National Standards. Something along the lines of the Cambridge Exams. I suspect it’s where National Standards and other similar national testing systems came from.
From what I have been advised Cambridge exams, whilst in mainstream schools, are a bit of a rort organised by Auckland grammar to attract extra $’s from families with bright kids, especially expats (like me) familiar with that system.
As a parent I have spent about $1000 on these exams this year, and then was told by a teacher from another school that Auckland Grammar are like a master franchise, they take their cut, the school gets their cut and Cambridge get theirs – one big money making exercise.
I think all schools understand this. I’m not sure why you think national standards will prevent our children from being thoughtful et al?
Perhaps you’re confusing the standards with the curriculum?
Because NS become a high stakes assessment and therefore the be all and end all. Reading, Writing and Maths will become the curriculum gods.
On the other hand there is a general acceptance that after many years in the dark ages the curriculum is great. If only NS didn’t hamstring it.
But national standards are in line with the curriculum! If you look at both documents (and the learning progression documents), you would see that they tie together well. National standards support the curriculum.
If children have the core skills outlined in the standards (reading, writing and maths), it can only enhance the other areas of learning.
Wanker. NS are not in line with the curriculum at all. They are ‘aspirational goals’ according to Key and Tolley. They were set, according to the MOE backwards from NCEA level 2. Drawing a straight line back to year 1 and dividing it into tidy little yearly progressions. A 7 year old is 1/2 a 14 year old.
Except in reading when tracking back they didn’t count and to reach NS Year 1 kids need to be at Level 12 at the end of 12 months – regardless of their school and social capital. So for a kid with no pre school, no books in the home, poverty, etc it is unlikely they will get there, but for the kids at the other end of society – should be ok. We already know this.
Spend the money where it will make a difference- I’d like a reading recovery teacher for example. Maybe an extra teacher in decile 1-2 schools? Something more than a new (and flawed) way to measure what I already know.
Go and read both documents. It’s obvious you’ve not done this yet if you don’t believe the National Standards are in line.
As for money, think about how much we’d all save if schools just got on and did what they needed to do with relevance to their charters. You might get that RR teacher after all!
Dan you are a complete fuckwit with no idea what you are talking about.
Thanks for that intelligent reply.
Looks like Fabregas needs to retuern to school and learn how to be an adult, and argue without wetting his pants. Some anger issues there I think. Might see him soon on Police 10-7 being hauled away for something unpleasant. Of course that won’t be his fault, it will be society that is to blame.
If they’re so great why aren’t private schools forced into adopting them. They get public money and isn’t this just educational apartheid nat style.
To me it’s simple, you enjoy some public funding you should be measured exactly as the public schools are. Hardly a national standard, and why pass up a marketing opportunity to show folks how great your elite private school is via those league tables.
Its the love of learning that we need to foster, thats the key to education.If a person loves to learn they will be passionate about it and will excel in their areas of interest.
A big thanks to all those teachers out their who are busting their arse for our kids despite this Governments stupid meddling in your class rooms.
Teachers are incredible people who do an essential public service and a big thanks to the NZEI and PPTA for supporting them at this difficult time, you often get maligned by self seeking politicians when you don’t deserve it.
Correct see this article for proof
A good teacher, full of enthusiasm for their subject, has done it for me, every time – and, for others who have been having trouble…..
Craig, as a primary teacher, thank you for your kind words. However I want to make clear that, if implemented without bias, fear and ego, National Standards are a powerful tool. They help us to realistically feedback to you about your child. Before, different communities had different standards, eg it was fine for a child in Manuwera to be at a different (ie, lower) level to a child in Takapuna, simply because of homelife, parent support etc. National standards are saying that children, no matter where they are, no matter what their background is, have the potential to achieve. And if they’re not achieving that potential, it is our (the teachers’) responsibility to be honest and open with the parents.
National standards do not impact on a ‘good’ teacher. We still test and report back to parents, just as we’ve always done. We feedback to children whether they are above, at or below, just as we always have done.
It’s a shame this tool has had such a bad rap.
What rubbish Dan.
First of all your assessment against the standards may be quite different from a teacher in another school. Just the other day on NatRad I heard a principal in Masterton who supported the standards say they will decide if the children reach the NS by using ‘Solway Park’ standards!
It has never been ok for any child to be achieve at lower levels because of where they live. What you are describing, poorly, is the difference in starting points and social and school capital that children come to school with. Where NS have a particular impact is in the situation you describe and your hypothetical child in Manurewa starts at low levels and moves up six in a year (for example) but remains below standard and your imaginary kid in Takapuna lmoves up only four levels but is at the expected level.
I don’t think that you understand NS at all.
Fabregas4, I’m pretty sure I do understand National Standards. It seems more likely you’re not willing to listen to the opinions of others.
My point about there being, in the past, different acceptable standards for different communities, stands. And, as you pointed out, said child in Manuwera who moves up, but is still below standard should be celebrated, as I’m sure any decent teacher would do. But, again, this isn’t new. A child below exemplars, but who had made progress, would be celebrated, too.
You said that it’s never been ok for any child to be achieve at lower levels because of where they live. (sic) Of course it’s not okay. But then again, it’s accepted that 20% of our children have always failed at school. Us teachers like to believe we’re perfect, but we’re not. There are some children who are behind others and are hard work to get up to speed. And, while I’ve not seen it happen in my current school, I am aware that teachers can put children in the ‘too hard’ basket, waiting to pass them onto someone else at the end of the year. What have we tried to do in the past? What official responsibility have schools had to feedback to parents about a) how they are expected to support the child at home and, b) state, plainly and honestly, where said child is in relation to their peers across the whole country.
If you honestly believe that different schools with different values/socioeconomic backgrounds have the same expectations of children, you’re living in a dreamworld.
As for National Radio and Solway Park, I honestly can’t comment. I didn’t hear the article, and I’m concerned about the bias NatRadio show in their articles. But perhaps they’ve just renamed the standards to more suit their school? Who knows. If you find a link to the article, I’d be keen to hear it.
I’m pretty sure that you don’t. How do you celebrate a child moving up when they get a report saying below standard?
It’s not accepted that 20% of our children fail at school at all. That is Key and Tolleys line. And what does fail mean anyway?
I don’t know any teacher who thinks they are perfect- again you are talking about yourself through a hole in your arse. Love the – its not me, not at my school line. Then how do you know this? Never seen kids put in the too hard basket either- rather I’ve seen teachers do all sorts of things above and beyond the normal expectations of teachers to get kids moving and acheiving.
What official responsibility have schools had to feedback to parents about a) how they are expected to support the child at home and, b) state, plainly and honestly, where said child is in relation to their peers across the whole country. -They haven’t because you simply can’t.
If you believe that NS will change anyones beliefs you are in a dream world. And actually i find it extremely offensive that you think that some schools have lower expectations because they are in lower socio economic situations. Let me tell you buddy that I teach in a decile 1 school. Everyone works their butts off every day, against the odds, to not only teach our kids but to care for them, and do all sorts of other community work too.
You are a complete idiot. If you area teacher give up now.
You celebrate any child who’s moved up. Even if they are below all the other children in the class (and they usually can work out where they are/believe they are compared to their peers), any child who has moved up is so happy.
It’s crazy. I don’t understand how this is a new problem. It’s not National Standards who are saying children a ‘failing’, it’s the teachers!
One factor in Finland’s results is that its teachers are highly respected and well paid. Over there they are more respected than accountants or real estate agents.
And part of New Zealand’s problem is the anti intellectual belligerence shown by some who think they know more than teachers who have spent their working career figuring out what works.
That’s setting the bar pretty low.
I did not express it that well but meant to equate pay with respect and noted that teachers were paid better over there than the likes of accountants and real estate agents.
Indeed, the Smithsonian article says that only 10% of applicants are accepted to the required Teachers’ Masters course (and indeed most teachers are PhDs).
It’s a very high-status profession there. As it should be – our future depends on the success of our children, which depends on our teachers…
I work in education (primary and early sector) and I can tell you not one private school has adopted National Standards – why would they, it’s a bad policy, bad for children’s learning, bad bad bad
Typical of National’s modus operandi. ‘National Standards’ for you, but not for me.
AND because there is no national moderation they are NEITHER National NOR Standards.
National Party Standards.
Roads of National Party Importance.
When National Standards first came out, I went to several of the free pd sessions, where speakers said that national moderation is something they want. There was talk about moderating within zones (eg, with other local schools). It’s a shame that so many schools are anti the standards, otherwise we could perhaps get on with doing this!
As an aside, I might be confused, but exemplars (which are examples of work according to level – predating national standards) and tools such as e-asttle were accepted at the ‘standard’ for a particular level. That hasn’t changed just because of of the Standards.
You are very confused, and lacking in any real insight, within schools moderation of writing samples causes great debate – across schools? across the country? – a complete joke. And may I say a bloody waste of time. What is important is that teachers can identify what kids need to learn next not where they are at any given time. It is called Formative assessment – look it up.
Exemplars and asttle have never been a standrd – except in schools with no idea.
An exemplar is an authentic piece of student work, annotated to illustrate learning, achievement, and quality in relation to the levels in the national curriculum statement.
The purpose is to highlight features that teachers need to watch for, collect information about, and act on to promote learning. Exemplars help to answer the question, “What is quality work?”
You said: ‘Exemplars and asttle have never been a standrd (sic) – except in schools with no idea.’ Are you sure you know what you’re talking about?
Debating during moderation is healthy. It stops any bias a teacher may have for a particular child. It’s showing that the teachers are not run by their ego, they are willing to ask for the opinions of their colleagues, and adjust as necessary. I welcome getting together with other teachers to look at comparable work.
Hi, can you explain how National Standards impact on children’s learning? I don’t consider them at all when planning my class. They are used for reporting back to parents and to know, honestly, where a child should be (and is currently).
Dan don’t ever apply for a job at my school.
These questions are covered by these terms:
narrowing the curriculum
high stakes assessment
affecting the kids at the top and bottom through a standards focus
extra pointless work
They are used for a whole lot more than what you so simply see and will be used for much much more – performance pay, closing schools, bulk funding.
Schools will be labelled too – decile 1 schools will, short of a few exceptions be at the bottom of the heap- how will they get top teachers when the school is listed bottom of the local league tables.
They are, you clueless dick, not simply for reporting to parents as you so glibly state – at there very best the could be used formatively – again look it up!
Don’t think Dan is a teacher. But at least its a change from the pro NS who only talk about obedience/compliance rather than the implications of implementations.
I am a teacher. I am a primary teacher with an awesome class of years 5-8 in Wellington.
Just to clarify.
Let’s look at your points:
1. Labeling kids
Have we not always done this? We always talk about children being above or below. We have always known where they are through the testing we do, such as PATs, STAR, asTTle, e-asttle, probe, numeracy project (gloss, IKAN etc)…
If you were concerned because a child wasn’t learning as well as you thought they could, what did you do in the past?? It blows my mind that now that National Standards are in place, we’re suddenly ‘labeling’ children.
2. Narrowing the curriculum
How? With better reading, writing and maths skills, children are more likely to embrace the rest of the curriculum with enthusiasm and confidence. Teachers are not expected to cut the curriculum and only concentrate on those three areas.
3. High stakes assessment
What? There is no more assessment than there ever was. I think you are getting confused with national standard examples overseas. Our National Standards is not a test.
4. Affecting the kids at the top and bottom through a standards focus
Good! We’ll be expected to tell parents if their children are above or below the standard and how we are supporting them. How is that a bad thing?
5. Extra pointless work
As in? For us? Reporting twice a year (mid year how child is progressing, end of year full report on all curriculum areas) For the kids? What, to make sure they’re learning? How is that a problem?
What you are stating, with the pay performance, closing schools, bulk funding, it’s not happened! And if it did, we would all raise up, I’m sure. But, at the moment, National Standards are a great tool. And you are letting down your children and your community for not embracing them.
Well said Ben. And I guess there is a flaw with NCEA in that requires constant testing which can lead to a total focus on the test rather than breadth of learning.
By the way most teachers know that the so-called failing 20% is largely made up of kids with English as a second language, children living in poverty, and those who lack parental support. In Finland there is also a surprising diversity of nationality with many speaking Finnish as a second language- but they flourish! Wonder why???
Perhaps it’s because, until national standards, it wasn’t a big deal for certain teachers if a child was behind but you could explain why.
A child living in poverty/without parent support/English as second language/ insert excuse here usually still has the potential to achieve. Why was it okay in the past for teachers to lower the expectation for these children? Why has no-one gotten up-in-arms about this? Why is it now, when we are expected to work our arses off to raise achievement, even with those children you know will be hard work, that people are getting vocal?
Teachers have been getting up in arms over this.
And putting in lots of hard work trying to educate these kids.
Long before NACT standards.
The 35 million, if spent on extending, already successful, programs such as remedial reading would have helped a lot more, than spending it on testing to tell Teachers what they already know.
Teachers and education researchers know that lots of summative assessment works against effective education.
Speak for yourself dan. I have never seen a teacher with low expectations of children in my ten years of teaching – not one. Your arse should be being worked off whether there are these ridiculous standards or not. The reality, you moron, is that all the stuff that you list as excuses are real things! They affect achievement! you can’t pretend that they don’t. Over the last two weeks I have done more social work that principaling. NS won’t change this in anyway. But doing something to reduce all those things you call excuses would lift achievement almost immediately.
Then you, fabregas4, are very lucky.
Nobody is pretending that a child isn’t affected by their background. If you read my comment, you would have seen I was pointing out that most children have the potential to achieve, no matter what their background or home life is. And, if this is true (and I’m taking it that you believe it’s true?), then why can we not expect them to achieve, despite whether they have illiterate parents or whether their parents are the CEO of telecom?
I’m giving extreme examples, but to clarify the point:
Most children have the potential to achieve NCEA.
Poverty and family backgrounds should be considered, of course, but should not be a reason for a school having lower standards to a school in a higher decile.
If a child is not at standard at any time, the teacher should be doing all they can to get that child to standard, rather than saying they are ‘at the expected level’ for their own community.
Pre-National Standards, a school created their own expected standards. This should have been done in accordance with exemplars and other tools for assessment, but, all too often, was based on the community limitations.
If all teachers were doing this before National Standards, perhaps it wouldn’t have been implemented.
Just FYI, Finland has several native languages. About 5% of Finns have Swedish as their first language, and there are also speakers of the indigenous Sami language.
The main purpose of formal education is to programme children in the ways of the industrialism and to provide them with sufficient knowldege and skill to be useful to the indusrial-military-financial empire whilst preventing them from acquiring the knowledge and skill that wouild make them a threat to the industrial-military-financial empire (i.e. knowldge of the fractional reserve banking scam, knowledge of how corporations took over the wolrd etc).
Despte all the barriers that the empire puts up, some children do have an innate ability to learn and achieve some degree of success within the system. Many have their inqusitiveness and desire to learn beaten out of the at a very early age by regimentation and a general lack of resources, and end up just turning up for shcool because they have to, drifting throigh the system until the are released.
In NZ the main requirement of the empire at this point of time is for low-paid hotel workers, cleaners, shop assistants, shelf-stackers, truck drivers etc. plus a few people to work in industrial farming and process agricultural products.
A dumbed-down populace is less likely to revolt. Hence all the dumbing down we have witnessed over the decades, culminating in youngsters who leave school with few if any practical skills and more or less completely detached from reality, but capable of text-messaging at ‘light speed’.
According to the NZ Curriculum, the purpose of formal education is for young people to be:
who will be creative, energetic, and enterprising
who will seize the opportunities offered by new knowledge and technologies to secure a sustainable social, cultural, economic, and environmental future for our country
who will work to create an Aotearoa New Zealand in which Māori and Pākehā recognise each other as full Treaty partners, and in which all cultures are valued for the contributions they bring
who, in their school years, will continue to develop the values, knowledge, and competencies that will enable them to live full and satisfying lives
who will be confident, connected, actively involved, and lifelong learners.
(See http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Curriculum-documents/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum/Vision )
I bet you believe man hasn’t walked on the moon, either, eh?
Dan, Dan, Dan – Curriculum Good, NS- bad. NS has a negative affect on curriculum. Just how much creativity, say in the performing arts will schools do when NS results portray them as failing schools? It will be all literacy and numeracy – getting kids to the very arbitrary standard. Dan give up teaching it is too hard for you to work out and your ability to think is seriously limited.
NS bad; Curriculum also bad.
Curriculum is a construct that reflects political aspirations. NZ has lost elements of governance and mandate of education to the international economic model – PISA is a good example of the homogenising of education globally with a focus on literacy / numeracy and IT. The NZCF is a battleground of neolibs and conservatives – so we get lofty aspirations about the knowledge economy alongside a willingness to let the poor fail as they don’t possess the cultural /social capital to climb the ladder…
While your comments re NS are spot on, I think it’s also worthy to cast a critical eye over the curriculum as well.
Fair enough, National Curriculum are always a political construct – but i’d far rather have the current one than the seven tomes of yesteryear.
Have you not heard of integrating topics? Why not, if a child is failing in writing and you are doing arts, get them to write a play and act it out? Or draw a picture and write about it?
If a child is failing maths, why not have children create a song or dance to learn their times tables? Create a children’s book with a story for counting?
How hard is this, really?? You suggest I give up teaching, but it seems like you’re the one that’s burnt out.
You sound like a great teacher Dan, keep up the good work.
Thanks, Brett! =)
As usual this type of thread is bereft of Chris72, QSF, Higherstandard, etc.
Another case of the tories knowing their friends have stuffed up the system, refusing to criticise their work and failing to even acknowledge this by their cowardly absence.
In a nutshell:
Low student / teacher ratios.
Well trained competitively selected teachers with manageable workloads.
A minimum of bureaucratic interference, standardized tests etc kept to a minimum.
But even with a social system and a student support programme to be envied they still have problems, especially literacy, and the difficulties encountered by the indigenous Sami sound awfully familiar.
I was lucky enough to compare first-hand the education systems of New Zealand and Finland as a student: I did an exchange to Finland in 1995 (their schools were good then, too). The difference blew my mind: In highschool in Finland I studied philosophy, art and art history (at 16), a level of mathematics which I did not see again until my second year at university, developmental psychology… I also started learning Russian, and I could only pick that up because it was a new offering at my school; Finnish kids learn at least two languages other than their own (they do their mother tongue, which is Finnish or Swedish, and the other language plus at least one non-Finnish language). Phys-ed was actually fun, even for a lunkus like me. Lunch was provided, and students were trusted to come and go as they pleased, according to their timetables.
After that, moving back to school in New Zealand, where I had to ask for special dispensation to take up a 6th subject (Finnish kids matriculate in at least 10 subjects, and study many more before that) and the teachers watched over us 7th formers like the place was a prison was a bit difficult.
Sounds Refreshing Placebogirl. No bells screaming at you? How about wagging school? I interviewed an American College girl a few years ago who said that the worst thing that could happen to her would be to be so sick that she might miss school. For me here I hoped that I would be sick or fake sick to avoid school.
Sounds good in Finland. Wonder how they would respond if a Political decision was made to introduce National Standards?
There is no such thing as wagging in a Finnish high school–as in the very concept doesn’t make sense. Middle school finishes when you’re about 15, at that point you can go to trade school, if academics aren’t your thing, or high school if they are. At high school there are six terms in a year, and your timetable changes with each of them. You have gaps throughout the day (kind of like uni, but with more contact hours). You attend class if you want, or not, but it is up to you to do the work to pass your tests.
Interestingly, and in stark comparison to this brouhaha all students address teachers by their first names in Finland, and it doesn’t seem to lead to a problem with respect.