This is my annual reminder that whilst schools are bound by law to provide National Standards information to the Education Ministry, we as parents are not obliged to receive that information ourselves.
Here’s my 2017 letter to my child’s school (edited to remove identifying information)…
We are incredibly pleased with the education our child is getting at your School. We’re thrilled with his teacher’s work to settle him and others into their new classroom, and honestly could not speak more highly of his experiences there so far.
The School has always supported us in our wish to not receive National Standards information for our child, and I very much hope this will continue in 2017.
As in previous years, we ask that our child’s National Standards levels are not conveyed to us or to him in any way whatsoever, in writing, orally or on display in school. We accept that his National Standards data must be provided to Ministry – we are aware that schools are legally obliged to do so as outlined in NAG2a – we simply do not wish to know those levels ourselves.
We do not wish to add to the workload of our child’s teacher or any other member of staff, and are happy for any National Standards portions of his reports to be simply left blank as they have in all previous reports.
We’re happy to discuss this with you if you wish,
If you do not want to receive unreliable and unhelpful National Standards data, I suggest you join the growing resistance and opt out.
There are many reasons teachers fight standardised testing: they are not a good use of learning time, they lead to teaching to the test, results are not always reliable, and they cost a fortune.
But even beyond that, the craziness of the whole standardised testing system can be no better explained than by Bob Braun’s latest blog post about the Pearson company’s dubious behaviour.
Bob considers Pearson’s insistence that in monitoring students’ online activity it is working only in the interests of test security (i.e. to prevent cheating), and he shares this with us. But is that the full picture, asks Bob?
“Here is what the State of New Jersey and Pearson agreed encompassed the idea of security and its possible breach–it’s codified in the testing manual developed by the state and sent out to all the districts:
“Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication.””
Let me run that by you again… students are not even allowed to talk about a test afterwards. To anyone.
“How did the test go, dear?”
“I can’t tell you, mum, or I’ll have Pearson contacting the Department of Education to send the principal down here”
“But did it go okay, dear?”
“I can neither confirm nor deny the test went okay, mum, please stop asking”
“Do you think you passed?”
“MUM! Are you trying to get me suspended? … I’m taking the fifth.”
Read more over at Bob Braun’s Ledger.
Kiwis, thank your lucky stars we do not have this madness here … and please help us keep it that way by supporting teachers,unions and fighting the monstrosity that is the TPPA.
Trying to get to the bottom of what, if anything, students sign to promise non-disclosure of Pearson’s exam content, I was pointed towards this form…
I have so many questions, such as does a parent signing this legally bind their child to the agreement? And what if a parent is not able to read and comprehend that contract? Do parents really understand fully what they are signing? Does every student/parent get a copy of the PTE Test Taker handbook to peruse? … and so on.
But what I want to ask most of all is this…
And who ensures that data is safe?
What we know so far:
Pearson monitors students’ and others’ social media for mention of Pearson, its tests, etc.
It then finds a student has Tweeted about a PARCC test they had just completed.
The Tweet didn’t have a photo of the test.
The student had not signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
Pearson work out what school the student goes to.
Pearson alert the education department about the ‘priority 1 item breach’, asking it to be dealt with.
The education department contact the testing coordinator at the student’s school.
The information passed on says the Tweet was done during the test and had a photo attached: It did not.
The student was contacted and deleted the Tweet.
The student’s parent was talked to.
The parent was very concerned to find their child’s social media had been monitored this way.
Bob Braun wrote a piece about the affair.
Bob’s blog suffers a Denial of Service (DoS) attack by unknown hacktivist/s.
People discuss Pearson’s use of Tracx to “monitor and listen” to what people are saying about them on social media.
Tracx gets their Pearson page taken down.
Pearson put out a press release saying they behaved perfectly responsibly….
Sources and further reading:
Tracx and Pearson (This is a cached copy, in case it’s still down)
Bob Braun on Twitter
Bob Braun on Facebook
There’s a growing outrage after reports today that Pearson Publishing have been spying on students. It is also reported that Pearson is working with some US education departments to censure students who have discussed tests on social media after taking them. Pearson apparently likes to call this ‘listening and monitoring‘.
I have some questions:
No doubt more will unfold on this.
US parents, if your child is harassed regarding test-taking, opting out, or anything relating to tests, you may wish to file a civil rights complaint.
Kiwi parents and teachers, if you are are thinking this doesn’t affect you, remember two things:
* all Kiwi kids have a National Student Number from the day they enter the education system, and
* the TPPA will allow companies to sue countries that they feel infringe on their trade…
Welcome to the loony world of Education Reform.
Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good test. Especially the PROBE reading test – all those quirky squiggles we have to do, not too erroneous for the student, and bingo, a reading age and pointers towards strengths and weaknesses. Hurrah.
Same with maths – administer a test or two and lo and behold you have the student’s maths stage.
And in New Zealand primary schools we are still very lucky to be able to test one on one with our students in a relaxed way. We can discuss their test and their results right there and, should we wish, set to work on the goals immediately. It’s very useful.
I’m not so keen on the National Standards bit, but the tests themselves if done sensibly and well are actually really helpful.
I’ll tell you why: Because politicians worldwide have gone test-crazy and it has not a jot to do with improving education.
Nicky Morgan, UK Education Secretary, yesterday announced a “war” on illiteracy and innumeracy. Yes, a war. Because apparently teachers aren’t trying to teach these things anyway, despite the many hurdles, so it needs threats and a war cry to get anything done…
Or, it could be that there’s an election looming and she’s talking through her hat. There’s always that.
Either way, Ms Morgan has found a magical and ingenious way to change the fate of these illiterate and innumerate kids! Are you ready for this – you need to be seated (possibly with Rescue Remedy to hand, or wine) …. Ms Morgan insists that by age 11 all children must get 100% in a times tables test.
No wiggle room.
Yep, time tables will solve everything apparently, but only if every kid gets every single one right.
Special needs student? Learning in another language? Battered? Hungry? Disengaged? Drugged up? Got dyscalculia? Tough, it’s 100% or you’ve failed. Well, way to go, Ms Morgan, you clearly know something about pedagogy and about learning that escaped Piaget, Ken Robinson and most of the teaching profession.
I should mention at this point that Ms Morgan couldn’t answer the cube root of 125 when asked recently, and today refused to answer basic multiplication questions posed by journalists. Hmmm… was it that tricky 7×8 that got her, I wonder?
And if the students in a school don’t ALL get 100%, what then? Well then the school will be forcibly turned into an Academy, of course – yes, you guessed it, if in doubt, privatise.
All this despite Academies in England getting terrible exam results compared with non-Academy schools.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Almost like the test is set impossibly high to facilitate forced privatisation… Gasp!
And then we have the USA.
You know education reforms have gone cloud cuckoo land when 6 year olds are being given standardised tests sat in rows at computers, having to manage the computer, the mouse, follow the written instructions and all in silence. No one-on-one friendly teacher testing in a calm way for these kids – or teachers.
And then the results are sent off to a testing company. They aren’t there to discuss or to inform the student or teacher about strengths or weaknesses. How can that possibly be considered a good way to run an education system?
And if you don’t think that’s bad enough, consider the special educational needs students and ill students forced to take these tests. Or the dying student. Yes, you read that right:
Last year, Ethan, who was born with brain damage, has cerebral palsy and is blind, was forced to take a version of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test over the space of two weeks last year because the state of Florida required that every student take one.
Now his mom has to prove that Ethan, now in a morphine coma, is in no condition to take another test this year.
And Ethan’s not the only one:
“Fourth-grader Joey Furlong was lying on a hospital bed, hooked up to various monitors for pre-brain surgery screening, when a teacher waltzed through the door holding a New York State standardized test”
Or the 6 year old US kindy student who was:
“…denied a bathroom break in her kindergarten class and was forced to sit in her diarrhea during a test session at school.”
Yes, the global education reforms march steadily on, creating a crisis via rhetoric and ridiculous tests so they can justify privatising schools. And all the time there are children, parents and teachers in the mix who are being very badly served and who are fighting tooth and nail for some sense to come to the plate.
Is in any wonder I’m feeling testy.
More and more parents are opting their children out of state-wide testing in the USA.
Well done, Natalie’s dad – I like your style.
Thank you to Natalie for permission to use this image.
More and more people are telling their schools they do not want to know their child’s National Standards levels.
This one is the latest:
We are incredibly pleased with xxxxxxx School and the excellent work done to settle our boy, xxxxx, and others into Year 1. We are thrilled with the work [his teacher] does in room xxx and the effect her teaching has on xxxxx’s learning and behaviour. We are kept very well informed of xxxxx’s achievements and goals, which helps us to support and reinforce his learning. Information we share regarding key competencies also helps us all focus together developing skills such as teamwork, application, risk-taking, creativity and personal control. We honestly could not wish for more or speak more highly of xxxxx’s experience or of [his teacher].
However, we do have one looming issue, and that is National Standards. We do not support National Standards. We do not see the benefit of comparing any child’s learning with others or against an arbitrary benchmark that has little to no merit. We know, moreover, that National Standards have the potential to do harm in many ways. Therefore, we do not wish for any of xxxxx’s National Standards information to be passed to us or to xxxxx in any way whatsoever, in writing or orally at any point.
We are not asking the school not to assess xxxxx against National Standards, nor are we asking for his levels not to be provided to Ministry – we are aware that schools are legally obliged to do these things, as outlined in NAG2a. We simply do not wish to know those levels and do not want [our child] to know them, either.
Information such as that reported to us at the parent/teacher interview – reading level, what maths concepts he has grasped, the words he can spell, and so on – gives us a good and clear picture of where xxxxx is at with his learning, and this type of information is sufficient.
We do not wish to add to [his teacher] or any other staff’s workload, and are happy for any National Standards portions of xxxxx’s reports to be simply left blank.
Again, we cannot thank you and your staff enough for creating such a positive and excellent learning environment where our child is very clearly thriving.
The resistance has begun, one family at a time.
See also: https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/dear-principal-we-are-opting-out-of-national-standards/
This great article on the Cheeky Kids blog sums up my own feelings and those of many I speak with regarding current education policy and, in particular, National Standards.
As the author says, Hekia Parata so often says she is doing this or that because parents want it – yet many don’t. And we are not consulted or listened to.
The whole article is well worth reading (in fact, if I were you I would bookmark the page and also follow the Facebook page, as they are very good), but best of all is the letter she has sent to her child’s principal – a letter I think many of you may wish to use or adapt for yourselves.
Letter To Our School Principal:
“We are very supportive of the work *** primary and in particular **’s classroom teacher does to meet the individual learning needs of **. We value, as parents, feedback received regarding **’s current learning levels and suggestions for her next steps in her learning progression. However, we do not value having ** placed next to other peers her own age in a comparative format to determine whether she is making progress satisfactory to an arbitrary standard. The National Standards, in their current form, do not factor into account the many facets of our daughter’s ability to learn, her strengths and weaknesses, along with her far more valuable talents such as measures of her creativity, problem-solving, risk-taking and social skills. It does also not measure her true happiness and engagement in the learning process. It is these skills that, as parents, we value most importantly, and not where she fits next to other children her own age, or whether or not she is meeting a ‘standard’.
Because of this, we now request that future reporting to us regarding ** learning progress be devoid of any reference to the National Standards. Furthermore, we request that feedback given to ** regarding her progress, either verbally or in written format, also make no reference to the National Standards. We welcome any correspondence from the classroom teacher that gives us information regarding her current learning levels, and suggestions for her next steps. We also do not want to add to the already enormous workload classroom teachers are under and are quite happy to simply have current reporting templates left blank in the areas mentioned.
Once again, we appreciate all the work the staff, including the classroom teacher, do for our daughter’s learning. She is enjoying all the opportunities afforded to her by attending ** Primary School”.
Read the whole article here: http://cheekykids.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/making-a-stand-not-what-we-wanted-for-our-children/
See also: https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/another-family-says-no-to-national-standards/
STANDARDIZED Lies, Money, & Civil Rights: How Testing Is Ruining Public Education.
This documentary focuses on the proliferation, business,and inadequacies of state-mandated testing in our public schools.
It focuses on America but is every bit as pertinent to what is happening in New Zealand; we may not be as far down the track as the USA , but we are on the same path.
Whenever a new education policy is announced, I would ask you to come back to this: follow the money.
Who stands to benefit? Because with testing now a multi TRILLION $$$ industry worldwide, you can bet your bottom dollar it isn’t students or parents that are the main concern.
The doco will be out later in the year, but here is a sneak peek.
I am a mother. My banshee is 5. He just started school. He was excited – I was excited – school is fabulous. We both knew he would have a ball, learning new things, meeting new friends, having super experiences – and indeed he is. He loves it.
Thankfully has no idea of the GERMy things infecting his happy world of learning:
He has been allocated a National Student Number to track him throughout his education. His results, standards, and lord knows what else is being stored against this number. I can’t opt him out of this – trust me I have asked. He and every child in or entering the system as of the 2014 school year has an NSN, and god only knows what they are recording about him.
The data can be passed on by government to anyone they deem suitable. See that little bit there on the Ministry page that says the “National Student Number (NSN) is a unique identifier that can be used by authorised users for .. research purposes.” Yes, about that..
Because given this government’s record with our private data, and given its record on favouring business over academics, I have to say I worry. In the USA, student data is given to private companies and the likes of The Gates Foundation without any permission sought from or given by parents. And Mr Gates has his own agenda.
But it’s okay, because “The Education Act 1989 includes an offence provision, with a penalty up to a maximum of $15,000, for a conviction of misuse of the National Student Number (NSN).” Oh that’s fine then – a hefty fine like that is sure to scare off your average education reformer billionaire.
So, should we worry? Well, hell yes.
Of student data collection, Diane Ravitch said “If anyone thinks for one New York minute that the purpose of creating this database is simply for the good of teachers and students then that person is credulous in the extreme.”
My child and yours are now a government commodity.
Soon, he will be deemed well above, above, at or below standard for numeracy, reading and writing. Those labels will be added to the above data set. They are not there for him or for his teacher (who is marvellous, I might add). They are there for politicians. Make no bones about that.
And what joy for those students in small communities where they are easily identifiable, who find themselves highlighted in the national press as failing. What a treat when a student’s results are displayed in the classroom for all to see.
That must be a real inspiration for them.
Because nothing motivates someone to improve more than telling them they are below standard and then sharing that information far and wide.
Sooner or later, there will be pressure for the banshee to get up to speed with anything he is “behind” with. I don’t mean encouragement – I mean pressure. The majority of teachers will resist political pressure and carry on teaching to his interests and strengths, moving him forward appropriately from where he is to the next level. But when the message teachers are getting is that all that matters is National Standards levels, eventually pressures come to bear:
“So a couple of weeks ago when his new teacher told me he had to stay in at lunchtime to complete his writing, I was shocked. I understand he is a dreamy and imaginative child, and that he needs supervision to complete tasks sometimes (which drives me mad), but I have no idea how any teacher EVER thinks it’s ok to keep a five year old in at lunchtime. Really, what kind of system thinks punishment is a motivator?” Source
These are children, not robots. They learn like they grow – in fits and bursts, not on an easily measured path. Of course their learning needs to be tracked – in fact teachers always have tested in-class and tracked growth, so that students and teachers know what the next goals will be. But to be pushed to learn at a certain speed, as if all kids should hit targets at the same time, is not sound practice.
Sadly, National Standards is encouraging just that, and this is the type of thing we will see more and more of: Whether his teacher or school tries to mitigate it or not, education establishments are under pressure to hit politically-motivated targets, and this will inevitably filter down. Most schools do a great job of not letting students see the pressures on the school to hoop jump, but if things carry on the way they are going, teachers may not find it so easy to keep that pressure out of the classroom, even for new entrants.
The USA is years down this data-obsessed, privatisation-motivated path of lunacy, and this is what successive reforms have reduced them to:
“My kindergarteners had their standardized computerized test today. There were over 100 questions. Answers were selected by drop and drag with a trackpad, no mouse is available. One class took five hours to finish. Kids crying in 4 of 5 classes.” Source
How long until this is the fate of Kiwi kids?
You might be thinking “Oh, well, it sounds dodgy, but you can always opt out of the National Student Number and/or National Standards if you dislike them so much.”
Well, you would think so, eh? The child being mine, and all.
But no, you cannot opt out.
Just let me say that again – you, the parent, or you the student cannot opt out of having a National Student Number and having your data collected and stored and shared around by the government with whoever they see fit without your permission.
You the parent or you the student cannot refuse to be part of National Standards.
So, next time government tell you all of these changes are about parental choice, ask them about your choice to opt out. Where did that go? **
Possibly the same place it went for these US children who were pulled out of classrooms by CPS investigators for individual interviews about this month’s test boycott — without teacher or parental permission.
Intimidating children? Ignoring parents? This is where 20 years of reforms has got the USA. New Zealand is only a few years down the line of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), but already we are seeing the same disregard for what parents want.
I ask again, where is my choice to opt out?
People – many for the first time – are joining the dots and seeing that it’s not a few little things here and there but a concerted plan to change the face of our education system to an increasingly privatised one.
A crisis is being manufactured that just does not exist.
You want to now who’s pulling the global strings behind the GERM? You could start by reading this to see Bill Gates’ part in it all.
Whanau and Educationalists want to improve our education system. It’s good but it could be better, and they recognise that. They do not want it to stand still.
Students and teachers have much in common: they do their best work when supported, encouraged and know that what they are doing is of value. And neither achieves their best when pressured, bullied and given unsound hoops to jump through, like monkeys at a tea party.
So, when next Hekia Parata tells you that what she is doing is in the interests of the children, ask yourself this:
Is it really for the children?
Who else stands to benefit?
** NOTE: “”Differences from state schools:
Private schools are not required to follow the Government’s National Education Guidelines. This means that they do not have to follow the New Zealand Curriculum or comply with the National Standards’ requirements.”” http://www.ero.govt.nz/Review-Process/For-Schools-and-Kura-Kaupapa-Maori/Reviews-of-Private-Independent-Schools – which rather begs the question of why not, if they are meant to be sooooo darned useful?