Yes, it’s that time again, when the OECD releases the PISA test results and Education Ministers everywhere frantically start to spin the information to justify whatever plans they already had. Statisticians in government departments everywhere lurch across desks in darkened rooms, poring over the data, eagerly cherry picking the bits that serve their Minister’s purpose. Such fun!
Then there are those dedicated researchers who put out articles quick-smart explaining why PISA is flawed and unreliable. They explain in great detail the ins and outs of data collection and test setting and statistical analysis and, despite our best efforts, maybe one in a thousand of us can follow what they are saying. But we read anyway and nod sagely. Because there are graphs and there is data, so it must be good stuff.
The media, of course, enter into some kind of Nirvana, gleefully whipping up a hoohah about countries “slipping down” or “surging up” the tables. Heaven forbid a country has the temerity to stay in the same place – how’s a journo meant to get a headline out of that kind of carry on?
Of course, in all of this madness, we could take the Yong Zhao route and denounce PISA altogether – say no to the sausage factory. But that doesn’t sell papers or make for rousing Ministerial pronouncements, or even attract blog readers, so, yeah nah.
Instead, yet again, we will be treated to the PISA circus, like it or not, so please remember to engage your critical thinking skills.
This talk was part of a Wellington forum that took place on 20th July 2016, sponsored by NZEI Te Riu Roa.
One of the first five schools, that started up in February 2014, has had huge problems. Te Kura Hourua ke Whangaruru, a bilingual secondary school for years 9-13, has a dropping school roll, up to a third of students absent on any one day, poor planning, serious internal issues, and fighting and drug problems with students.
A Ministry-appointed facilitator was appointed, working there almost daily for hours at a time, and he stepped back only “after a local Child, Youth and Family manager was seconded to the job of executive principal.” Source
Radio NZ’s Morning Report piece can be listened to here. (approx 5 minutes long)
So far, the school has cost up to 500% what it costs to fund a state school pupil. Needless to say, principals and teachers at state schools are furious that they are struggling to get help for students equally needy, when money is being wasted on the charter school experiment.
There has been concern from many quarters regarding charter schools. The Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) has questioned the “secretive, undemocratic, expensive and ideological experiment”, PPTA have said that charters are “based on an extremist ideology which has no basis in evidence”, NZEI have expressed amazement at the experiment, saying “it beggars belief that any government of any persuasion would want to undermine a quality public education system in this way”. Leading academics from both New Zealand and overseas have also spoken out against the charter school experiment.
This is not an experiment we can afford to continue. Any school currently running that is found to be doing a good job should, as Labour, Greens, NZ First and Mana have suggested, be given the option to join the state system as appropriate. Those failing should be closed down.
The focus MUST be on improving the lot of all students in need, on helping all schools get the best resources to help those students, on making sure the whole support system is bolstered and supported so that it can properly serve all schools and their students.
Any system that serves to support only some students whilst ignoring the majority, is a system New Zealand doesn’t need.
Sources and further reading:
Jamie Whyte discussed charter schools this morning in his leader’s interview on Radio NZ. It makes fascinating listening (from 17 minutes on).
“PISA shock” is the term that has been coined for the sense of political crisis and knee-jerk policy reaction that typically occurs when a country drops in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s international education rankings.
Almost 100 education experts, including several of us from New Zealand, recently sent an open letter to the OECD’s chief education spokesperson, Andreas Schleicher, pointing out that the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings have become more of a problem than a solution.
In many ways the concern of New Zealand educators is also around the wider influence of the OECD education programme on New Zealand educational politics and policy – perhaps as much “OECD hangover” as “PISA shock”.
New Zealand’s government led by prime minister John Key often draws on the authority of the OECD to endorse its policy direction, using both PISA findings and the related arguments of Schleicher. New Zealand’s minister of education Hekia Parata regularly quotes Schleicher, saying, “Without data, you are just another person with an opinion.”
But Schleicher is not close enough to the New Zealand context to correct any misuse of the OECD’s results by the Key government, and this causes problems. One example has involved the impact of poverty on student achievement.
Shortly after the latest PISA results came out in 2013, Parata started to say that New Zealand’s PISA results showed that socio-economic status accounted for only 18% of student achievement. This was surprising, to say the least, when a powerful relationship between social class and student achievement has been a theme of international research in the sociology of education for more than 50 years.
Further investigation revealed that the 18% claim was based only on PISA’s narrow definition of family socio-economic influence. Using PISA’s wider criteria that include neighbourhood and school socio-economic factors, about 78% of New Zealand’s latest results became explained by socio-economic conditions. But it is worth noting that some academics, such as Harvey Goldstein at Bristol, point out that PISA is not a long-term study, and so can’t estimate factors like this.
But downplaying the impact of poverty in order to emphasise the responsibility of teachers to raise achievement has been a regular strategy of the Key government. And when faced with the corrected figure by opposition parties in parliament in January, the prime minister still fell back on the authority of Schleicher to argue for the greater importance of teachers and schools.
Adding insult to injury, Schleicher himself started arguing that “poverty isn’t destiny” and arrived in New Zealand for the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in March stressing the power of high expectations in the face of social contexts.
Some of the points Schleicher has been making might be useful if the arguments were employed carefully. Unfortunately, in the national politics of New Zealand – and probably in many other countries – any such subtleties are quickly lost. Instead the OECD/Schleicher arguments become fertile ground for the politics of blaming teachers for the underperformance of students from poor backgrounds.
The OECD hangover in New Zealand goes far beyond PISA. In January, the Key government’s latest school policy proposal called “Investing in Educational Success” was announced. This is intended to introduce a number of new teaching and leadership roles into New Zealand’s schools, providing extra payments for carrying out the required roles as part of a NZ$359m (£184.4m) investment plan.
By February, a four-minute video of Schleicher endorsing the policy had appeared on Parata’s National Party website. This was concerning as although the OECD tries to be non-partisan, here was Schleicher, featuring on a party-political website and endorsing the governing coalition’s announcement of new education spending in an election year.
Watching the highly scripted video clip it also becomes apparent that Schleicher was willing to endorse the new policy without entering into the controversies it would cause in New Zealand.
He leaves out how the policy was announced by the Key government after a cabinet decision, without prior consultation and only subsequent input into the detail rather than the thrust of the policy. Not mentioned are worrying shifts in the power relations between the New Zealand government and teachers and between New Zealand teachers themselves that are likely to be caused by the policy.
Also not mentioned is the involvement and reinforcement of other New Zealand education policies that have been causing concern such as the new National Standards for primary schools, as well as many practical considerations. Instead, Schleicher discusses the policy only in an abstract, non-contextualised way. As the Quality Public Education Coalition pressure group said, his endorsement evokes the “best of all worlds”.
With Schleicher’s endorsement of the policy there can be no claim of misinterpretation by the Key government. It is more that Schleicher is not being careful enough about how the OECD’s support would be used in a local setting.
Our open letter concluded by suggesting the OECD had become the “global arbiter of the means and ends of education around the world”. In New Zealand, the OECD risks becoming known as a stick to beat educators with. Its reputation is unlikely to improve until it starts genuinely listening and acting on local concerns.
Over 100 academics last week wrote to Andreas Schleicher at the OECD asking that PISA tests be halted. The Guardian, along with many others, ran articles on this – and the Guardian’s article elicited a response from Schleicher, in which he says
“There is nothing that suggests that Pisa, or other educational comparisons, have caused a “shift to short-term fixes” in education policy. On the contrary, by opening up a perspective to a wider range of policy options that arise from international comparisons, Pisa has provided many opportunities for more strategic policy design. It has also created important opportunities for policy-makers and other stakeholders to collaborate across borders. The annual International Summit of the Teaching Profession, where ministers meet with union leaders to discuss ways to raise the status of the teaching profession, is an example. Not least, while it is undoubtedly true that some reforms take time to bear fruit, a number of countries have in fact shown that rapid progress can be made in the short term, eg Poland, Germany and others making observable steady progress every three years…”
Harvey Goldstein responded to that letter and, as The Guardian didn’t print it, he has given me permission to share it here:
To: Editor, The Guardian
Andreas Schleicher (letters May 8) claims that, as a result of educational policy changes induced by PISA comparisons, ” a number of countries have in fact shown that rapid progress can be made in the short term”. What he means, of course, is that by concentrating efforts on performing well on the PISA tests these countries have managed to climb up the PISA rankings. This is, however, precisely the point made in the letter to him from a number of academics, including myself, to which he is responding. What we were objecting to was the way in which the relentless cycle of global testing impoverishes educational systems by promoting educational uniformity via concentration on performing well on globally standardised tests.
In fact, as Dr Schleicher well knows but refuses to acknowledge, PISA results in themselves are unable to tell us why particular countries do well or badly, and the results are typically interpreted by policymakers in order to justify their own existing predilections for curriculum reform. As we suggested in our letter, this is a good time for OECD to reflect on its PISA (and similar) programmes by suspending the next round of testing and instituting a global debate that involves all stakeholders.
Read more on PISA here:
“We are deeply concerned that measuring a great diversity of educational traditions and cultures using a single, narrow, biased yardstick could, in the end, do irreparable harm to our schools and our students.“
Dear Dr Schleicher,
We write to you in your capacity as OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) director of the Programme of International Student Assessment (Pisa). Now in its 13th year, Pisa is known around the world as an instrument to rank OECD and non-OECD countries (60-plus at last count) according to a measure of academic achievement of 15-year-old students in mathematics, science, and reading. Administered every three years, Pisa results are anxiously awaited by governments, education ministers, and the editorial boards of newspapers, and are cited authoritatively in countless policy reports. They have begun to deeply influence educational practices in many countries. As a result of Pisa, countries are overhauling their education systems in the hopes of improving their rankings. Lack of progress on Pisa has led to declarations of crisis and “Pisa shock” in many countries, followed by calls for resignations, and far-reaching reforms according to Pisa precepts.
We are frankly concerned about the negative consequences of the Pisa rankings. These are some of our concerns:
While standardised testing has been used in many nations for decades (despite serious reservations about its validity and reliability), Pisa has contributed to an escalation in such testing and a dramatically increased reliance on quantitative measures. For example, in the US, Pisa has been invoked as a major justification for the recent “Race to the Top” programme, which has increased the use of standardised testing for student-, teacher-, and administrator evaluations, which rank and label students, as well as teachers and administrators according to the results of tests widely known to be imperfect (see, for example, Finland’s unexplained decline from the top of the Pisa table).
In education policy, Pisa, with its three-year assessment cycle, has caused a shift of attention to short-term fixes designed to help a country quickly climb the rankings, despite research showing that enduring changes in education practice take decades, not a few years, to come to fruition. For example, we know that the status of teachers and the prestige of teaching as a profession have a strong influence on the quality of instruction, but that status varies strongly across cultures and is not easily influenced by short-term policy.
By emphasising a narrow range of measurable aspects of education, Pisa takes attention away from the less measurable or immeasurable educational objectives like physical, moral, civic and artistic development, thereby dangerously narrowing our collective imagination regarding what education is and ought to be about.
As an organisation of economic development, OECD is naturally biased in favour of the economic role of public [state] schools. But preparing young men and women for gainful employment is not the only, and not even the main goal of public education, which has to prepare students for participation in democratic self-government, moral action and a life of personal development, growth and wellbeing.
Unlike United Nations (UN) organisations such as UNESCO or UNICEF that have clear and legitimate mandates to improve education and the lives of children around the world, OECD has no such mandate. Nor are there, at present, mechanisms of effective democratic participation in its education decision-making process.
To carry out Pisa and a host of follow-up services, OECD has embraced “public-private partnerships” and entered into alliances with multi-national for-profit companies, which stand to gain financially from any deficits—real or perceived—unearthed by Pisa. Some of these companies provide educational services to American schools and school districts on a massive, for-profit basis, while also pursuing plans to develop for-profit elementary education in Africa, where OECD is now planning to introduce the Pisa programme.
Finally, and most importantly: the new Pisa regime, with its continuous cycle of global testing, harms our children and impoverishes our classrooms, as it inevitably involves more and longer batteries of multiple-choice testing, more scripted “vendor”-made lessons, and less autonomy for teachers. In this way Pisa has further increased the already high stress level in schools, which endangers the wellbeing of students and teachers.
These developments are in overt conflict with widely accepted principles of good educational and democratic practice:
No reform of any consequence should be based on a single narrow measure of quality.
No reform of any consequence should ignore the important role of non-educational factors, among which a nation’s socio-economic inequality is paramount. In many countries, including the US, inequality has dramatically increased over the past 15 years, explaining the widening educational gap between rich and poor which education reforms, no matter how sophisticated, are unlikely to redress.
An organisation like OECD, as any organisation that deeply affects the life of our communities, should be open to democratic accountability by members of those communities.
We are writing not only to point out deficits and problems. We would also like to offer constructive ideas and suggestions that may help to alleviate the above mentioned concerns. While in no way complete, they illustrate how learning could be improved without the above mentioned negative effects:
1 Develop alternatives to league tables: explore more meaningful and less easily sensationalised ways of reporting assessment outcomes. For example, comparing developing countries, where 15-year-olds are regularly drafted into child labour, with first-world countries makes neither educational nor political sense and opens OECD up for charges of educational colonialism.
2 Make room for participation by the full range of relevant constituents and scholarship: to date, the groups with greatest influence on what and how international learning is assessed are psychometricians, statisticians, and economists. They certainly deserve a seat at the table, but so do many other groups: parents, educators, administrators, community leaders, students, as well as scholars from disciplines like anthropology, sociology, history, philosophy, linguistics, as well as the arts and humanities. What and how we assess the education of 15-year-old students should be subject to discussions involving all these groups at local, national, and international levels.
3 Include national and international organisations in the formulation of assessment methods and standards whose mission goes beyond the economic aspect of public education and which are concerned with the health, human development, wellbeing and happiness of students and teachers. This would include the above mentioned United Nations organisations, as well as teacher, parent, and administrator associations, to name a few.
4 Publish the direct and indirect costs of administering Pisa so that taxpayers in member countries can gauge alternative uses of the millions of dollars spent on these tests and determine if they want to continue their participation in it.
5 Welcome oversight by independent international monitoring teams which can observe the administration of Pisa from the conception to the execution, so that questions about test format and statistical and scoring procedures can be weighed fairly against charges of bias or unfair comparisons.
6 Provide detailed accounts regarding the role of private, for-profit companies in the preparation, execution, and follow-up to the tri-annual Pisa assessments to avoid the appearance or reality of conflicts of interest.
7 Slow down the testing juggernaut. To gain time to discuss the issues mentioned here at local, national, and international levels, consider skipping the next Pisa cycle. This would give time to incorporate the collective learning that will result from the suggested deliberations in a new and improved assessment model.
We assume that OECD’s Pisa experts are motivated by a sincere desire to improve education. But we fail to understand how your organisation has become the global arbiter of the means and ends of education around the world. OECD’s narrow focus on standardised testing risks turning learning into drudgery and killing the joy of learning. As Pisa has led many governments into an international competition for higher test scores, OECD has assumed the power to shape education policy around the world, with no debate about the necessity or limitations of OECD’s goals. We are deeply concerned that measuring a great diversity of educational traditions and cultures using a single, narrow, biased yardstick could, in the end, do irreparable harm to our schools and our students.
Andrews, Paul Professor of Mathematics Education, Stockholm University
Atkinson, Lori New York State Allies for Public Education
Ball, Stephen J Karl Mannheim Professor of Sociology of Education, Institute of Education, University of London
Barber, Melissa Parents Against High Stakes Testing
Beckett, Lori Winifred Mercier Professor of Teacher Education, Leeds Metropolitan University
Berardi, Jillaine Linden Avenue Middle School, Assistant Principal
Berliner, David Regents Professor of Education at Arizona State University
Bloom, Elizabeth EdD Associate Professor of Education, Hartwick College
Boudet, Danielle Oneonta Area for Public Education
Boland, Neil Senior lecturer, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand
Burris, Carol Principal and former Teacher of the Year
Cauthen, Nancy PhD Change the Stakes, NYS Allies for Public Education
Cerrone, Chris Testing Hurts Kids; NYS Allies for Public Education
Ciaran, Sugrue Professor, Head of School, School of Education, University College Dublin
Deutermann, Jeanette Founder Long Island Opt Out, Co-founder NYS Allies for Public Education
Devine, Nesta Associate Professor, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand
Dodge, Arnie Chair, Department of Educational Leadership, Long Island University
Dodge, Judith Author, Educational Consultant
Farley, Tim Principal, Ichabod Crane School; New York State Allies for Public Education
Fellicello, Stacia Principal, Chambers Elementary School
Fleming, Mary Lecturer, School of Education, National University of Ireland, Galway
Fransson, Göran Associate Professor of Education, University of Gävle, Sweden
Giroux, Henry Professor of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University
Glass, Gene Senior Researcher, National Education Policy Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Glynn, Kevin Educator, co-founder of Lace to the Top
Goldstein, Harvey Professor of Social Statistics, University of Bristol
Gorlewski, David Director, Educational Leadership Doctoral Program, D’Youville College
Gorlewski, Julie PhD, Assistant Professor, State University of New York at New Paltz
Gowie, Cheryl Professor of Education, Siena College
Greene, Kiersten Assistant Professor of Literacy, State University of New York at New Paltz
Haimson, Leonie Parent Advocate and Director of “Class Size Matters”
Heinz, Manuela Director of Teaching Practice, School of Education, National University of Ireland Galway
Hughes, Michelle Principal, High Meadows Independent School
Jury, Mark Chair, Education Department, Siena College
Kahn, Hudson Valley Against Common Core
Kayden, Michelle Linden Avenue Middle School Red Hook, New York
Kempf, Arlo Program Coordinator of School and Society, OISE, University of Toronto
Kilfoyle, Marla NBCT, General Manager of BATs
Labaree, David Professor of Education, Stanford University
Leonardatos, Harry Principal, high school, Clarkstown, New York
MacBeath, John Professor Emeritus, Director of Leadership for Learning, University of Cambridge
McLaren, Peter Distinguished Professor, Chapman University
McNair, Jessica Co-founder Opt-Out CNY, parent member NYS Allies for Public Education
Meyer, Heinz-Dieter Associate Professor, Education Governance & Policy, State University of New York (Albany)
Meyer, Tom Associate Professor of Secondary Education, State University of New York at New Paltz
Millham, Rosemary PhD Science Coordinator, Master Teacher Campus Director, SUNY New Paltz
Millham, Rosemary Science Coordinator/Assistant Professor, Master Teacher Campus Director, State University of New York, New Paltz
Oliveira Andreotti Vanessa Canada Research Chair in Race, Inequality, and Global Change, University of British Columbia
Sperry, Carol Emerita, Millersville University, Pennsylvania
Mitchell, Ken Lower Hudson Valley Superintendents Council
Mucher, Stephen Director, Bard Master of Arts in Teaching Program, Los Angeles
Tuck, Eve Assistant Professor, Coordinator of Native American Studies, State University of New York at New Paltz
Naison, Mark Professor of African American Studies and History, Fordham University; Co-Founder, Badass Teachers Association
Nielsen, Kris Author, Children of the Core
Noddings, Nel Professor (emerita) Philosophy of Education, Stanford University
Noguera, Pedro Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education, New York University
Nunez, Isabel Associate Professor, Concordia University, Chicago
Pallas, Aaron Arthur I Gates Professor of Sociology and Education, Columbia University
Peters, Michael Professor, University of Waikato, Honorary Fellow, Royal Society New Zealand
Pugh, Nigel Principal, Richard R Green High School of Teaching, New York City
Ravitch, Diane Research Professor, New York University
Rivera-Wilson Jerusalem Senior Faculty Associate and Director of Clinical Training and Field Experiences, University at Albany
Roberts, Peter Professor, School of Educational Studies and Leadership, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Rougle, Eija Instructor, State University of New York, Albany
Rudley, Lisa Director: Education Policy-Autism Action Network
Saltzman, Janet Science Chair, Physics Teacher, Red Hook High School
Schniedewind, Nancy Professor of Education, State University of New York, New Paltz
Silverberg, Ruth Associate Professor, College of Staten Island, City University of New York
Sperry, Carol Professor of Education, Emerita, Millersville University
St. John, Edward Algo D. Henderson Collegiate Professor, University of Michigan
Suzuki, Daiyu Teachers College at Columbia University
Swaffield, Sue Senior Lecturer, Educational Leadership and School Improvement, University of Cambridge
Tanis, Bianca Parent Member: ReThinking Testing
Thomas, Paul Associate Professor of Education, Furman University
Thrupp, Martin Professor of Education, University of Waikato, New Zealand
Tobin, KT Founding member, ReThinking Testing
Tomlinson, Sally Emeritus Professor, Goldsmiths College, University of London; Senior Research Fellow, Department of Education, Oxford University
Tuck, Eve Coordinator of Native American Studies, State University of New York at New Paltz
VanSlyke-Briggs Kjersti Associate Professor, State University of New York, Oneonta
Wilson, Elaine Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
Wrigley, Terry Honorary senior research fellow, University of Ballarat, Australia
Zahedi, Katie Principal, Linden Ave Middle School, Red Hook, New York
Zhao, Yong Professor of Education, Presidential Chair, University of Oregon
Diane Ravitch notes:
In my recent book, Reign of Error, I quote extensively from a brilliant article by Keith Baker, called “Are International Tests Worth Anything?,” which was published by Phi Delta Kappan in October 2007. Baker, who worked for many years as a researcher at the U.S. Department of Education, had the ingenious idea to investigate what happened to the 12 nations that took the First International Mathematics test in 1964.
He looked at the per capita gross domestic product of those nations and found that “the higher a nation’s test score 40 years ago, the worse its economic performance on this measure of national wealth–the opposite of what the Chicken Littles raising the alarm over the poor test scores of U.S. children claimed would happen.”
He found no relationship between a nation’s economic productivity and its test scores.
Nor did the test scores bear any relationship to quality of life or democratic institutions.
Read the rest here: My View of the PISA Scores.
Fair enough, I understand that – I am passionate too, and immediately want to know what the results do or do not tell us about how NZ is doing, educationally.
But surely it’s a time to read, reflect, research, and discuss the findings and the study itself, and try to eke out something meaningful form it, rather than just jump in and score Brownie points?
The goal is to see where we can improve things for our learners, after all.
Below are the Ministry’s main take away points from the study, copied verbatim from their web site.
I am going to refrain from commenting or adding my own observations or thoughts for now, as I would rather people read them with an open mind and ask questions of them.
Here goes – get your thinking caps on:
In New Zealand, over 5,000 students (4,291 for core PISA subjects, 958 for financial literacy) from 177 schools took part in the study, in July 2012.
I’d love to hear others’ observations, in the comments below or on the Facebook page.
The big drop in New Zealand’s student achievement in recent years is a direct result of a failure of this government’s education, economic and social policies, says NZEI Te Riu Roa National President Judith Nowotarski.
Mrs Nowotarski says the results are a clear wake up call to the government.
She says the Minister of Education has overseen one of the biggest drops in our student ranking in recent years.
The OECD PISA results, measuring 15 year old student achievement in science, maths and reading, shows that since 2008 New Zealand has had one of the fastest-growing rates of inequity as well as a corresponding decrease in student performance.
“Across the board New Zealand’s performance has dropped on all the scores and this is something that the government should be ashamed of. It shows its policies are nothing short of disastrous.”
“For five years the government has been obsessed with collecting unnecessary and irrelevant data when it should have been focussed on making a difference for students.
“The Minister is being misleading when she claims that this decline is a long-running trend. By far the biggest drop in achievement has occurred since 2009.
“This government’s obsession with data combined with no solutions for failing education policies has been a disaster for many New Zealand children. Instead of working with teachers and schools to improve education, the government has been hell-bent on dismantling our public education system.
“Countries that have a higher level of equity also have better achievement outcomes for all students. Eighteen percent of New Zealand children now live in poverty and the student achievement gap reflects the impact that poverty has on students’ learning.
“All the findings are saying the same thing. It’s now time for the government to start to look at what really works in education.
“We need the government to work with teachers and schools to restore our education system to its previous top performing level instead of having one of the fastest levels of decline in the OECD.”
Because truly they just don’t seem to want to listen to or learn a thing.
Take this week’s news…
The University of Waikato’s Professor of Education, Martin Thrupp, and his team release a calm, well-reasoned report into the effects of National Standards on teaching and learning and offers recommendations on what can be done to improve the situation.
This is not the wild raving spouting of a politician, not even the ranting of an infuriated blogger. This is a Professor. Of Education. He kinda knows what he’s talking about.
Lalalalalala Not Listening
Wait, isn’t she the Education Minister? Isn’t it part of her job to read research and know what’s what? Hey I’m just a mother, and I’ve found the time to read it. Wouldn’t you think it’d be prudent for an Education Minister to use facts and information, and to critique research properly rather than dismiss things out of hand?
Well your answer there would be in how she chose to describe the research in a Radio New Zealand interview. She called it “the Thrupp NZEI research”. That’s no accident.
By brushing aside the University of Waikato and leaving out the title Professor, Parata leads the lay person to believe Thrupp is part of the NZEI and talking from a union point of view rather than that of an expert in education.
Why? Because she is not interested in discussing the points made in the report, rather she wants people to dismiss it out of hand and not face the questions it raises about negative impacts of National Standards. She has an agenda and no research on earth is going to move her.
How can we improve our education system when this petty game-playing is the focus of the Minister and others?
It’s been the same story with the up-coming release of the latest PISA data, in which New Zealand is predicted to slip back in the rankings. Hekia Parata is immediately out there in cahoots with the Herald using this as a reason to promote PaCT. I won’t get into the ins and outs of PaCT here, more important is to consider why Parata chose not to address the more pertinent issue of whether NZ’s PISA scores are holding firm.
It’s an important difference. Are we doing worse or not?
Assuming for now that PISA rankings are a reliable indicator of the state of a nation’s education system, then what would matter is whether our scores on the test are holding steady, improving or declining. If New Zealand’s scores are holding steady or improving, then dropping down in the ranking means other countries have improved ahead of us in the tests, it does not mean we are getting worse.
At this point it is important to note which countries are thought to have moved ahead of us: Singapore and Hong Kong.
Both of these countries push a narrow curriculum and have a strong societal push for children to do well in tests. But just because you produce a nation of good test takers doesn’t mean you produce students who will contribute to the economy, nor does it mean they will have the ability to adapt should the economic climate or industry focuses change. It’s a very narrow view of success and not one I’m sure sits comfortably with the Kiwi ethos for life and living.
There’s another thing to consider with pushing children to be great test takers, and that is the effect on their health.
Hong Kong has reported “heavy study loads and pressure from parents to succeed contribute factors to youth suicide, particularly in the run-up to spring and summer exams.” Singapore has also reported rising suicide rates amongst the young, with one ten year old killing herself because she felt her grades were not good enough. A visiting academic reported that “Due to rigorous study schedules and pressure to succeed academically, the suicide rate is lofty for high school and college students.”
So is getting the highest test scores all that matters?
What truly matters is whether New Zealand children are getting a good education that meets their needs for life. Tests only tell us so much – they are not the be-all and end-all. And education should not be a political football, it’s not something to use as a way to make money, it’s not there to gain points in an election. Or it shouldn’t be.
We must get over this obsession with merely measuring and reporting test scores.
We have to meaningfully consider and discus expert finding.
We should visit more schools doing brilliantly and research what is happening there that works.
We need time and resources and good mechanisms to share and promote the best working practices far more widely.
We must adapt teacher training to keep up with best practice and latest pedagogy.
We should work together to further improve the public education system for the benefit of all students.
Like a dog with a bone, Hekia is at it again:
Ms Parata said socio-economic status or decile was “not destiny”. There were many examples of schools and students from low-decile areas achieving strong results. (1)
“Educationally, the evidence is that students can make good progress based on the quality of teaching they get, not on their socio-economic background.” (1)
Yes, Mrs Parata, some do achieve well despite their socio-economic background, but many more don’t. Why are you not addressing that issue?
I get that some teachers are better than others, that some schools are better than others, but it is galling that this government keep making out like poverty has no part in student achievement and opportunity.
To refuse to consider that part of the problem is that schools are not funded equally. To deny that students’ home lives have a huge influence on their education.
Nope, again Hekia trots out a platitude or two that shore up the belief that we need do nothing to rectify the poverty of our people and, for bonus points, blames any problem on teachers.
It’s hogwash and gets us nowhere.
And it’s shameful for a Minister to act this way.
Sources and further reading:
(1) Schools divided along wealth lines, By Nicholas Jones, The New Zealand Herald, retrieved 11.23AM Tuesday Jul 9, 2013
Who achieves what in secondary schooling? Executive summary (162.67KB, 7 pages)
The results, presented by researchers Liz Gordon and Brian Easton today, reveal the simplistic nature of the claim and the complex issues being ignored every time it is made.
PPTA president Angela Roberts said the overlapping issues of ethnicity, gender and socio-economic status were ignored when simplistic figures such ‘1 in 5’ or ‘20% of students are failing’ were bandied about.
“The message of there being a crisis in schooling is being used to drive through radical policies, but there is not a crisis. There are challenges and we need to deal with these by recognising the complexity of the issues,” she said.
The government’s practice of separating out a single factor – such as ethnicity – and comparing one sub-group to other whole populations was “statistically grossly misleading” and failed to recognise many of the factors contributing to underachievement, Roberts said.
The closest to the politically popular 20% figure the researchers were able to find was that 14.3% of students failed to achieve proficiency level 2 on PISA reading – and a closer examination of this group showed that 74% were male and that socio-economic factors such as parental income and the number of books in the home were clearly contributing issues.
“Constantly focussing on ethnicity as a single factor fails to recognise these overlapping issues,” Roberts said.
A companion report by Easton also contains data that suggests the constant labelling of ‘underachiever’ has had an impact on how students identify themselves ethnically.
Roberts hoped the research would enable the government to take a more sophisticated and nuanced approach to educational achievement and recognise the dangers of over-simplification.
“We hope that politicians and editorial writers will stop throwing around figures like ‘1 in 5’ and ‘national disgrace’ when in reality the issues are much more complicated.”
For links to the full reports and summaries, go here.
Finland is a country with an education system that scores highly on PISA tests, but has no high stakes testing programs [e.g. NAPLAN,NCLB,NS] of its own.
It does not believe in the kinds of blanket testing carried out in GERM countries such as Australia, New Zealand, U.K. and U.S.A., all parts of the Global Education Reform Movement.
With little interest and no stake in the outcomes, Finland offers to undertake PISA tests just for fun.
The term GERM was constructed by Pasi Sahlberg of Finland, who has a mission to share the schooling accomplishments of Finland with world educational leaders who are prepared to think about what they are doing to their children. Australia is not included in that category; we Aussies don’t like to strain ourselves too much thinking about the things that really happen to kids at school.
Sahlberg’s book, Finnish Lessons, and his advice have been totally ignored by Australian politico-testucators and given the ‘silence treatment’ by the Australian press. No reason has ever been provided for giving such a prestigious educator the short shift. Anyhow, who cares?
In PISA scores, Finland is ‘up there’ with Singapore, Japan and South Korea for very different reasons.”
Read more here at The Treehorn Express…
So here it is – the first draft of my submission, and I welcome thoughts, corrections, additional evidence, and any other teachery red pen type things you want to throw at it…
“I strongly oppose the Education Amendment Bill.
New Zealand has one of the best performing education systems in the world . We consistently show as a well-performing country in the OECD’s PISA studies with high test scores for our 15 year olds in Maths, Reading and Science. In 2009 we were 7th for Maths and Science, and 13th for Reading. [i] New Zealand is a well performing nation. Partnership (charter) schools have not lead to higher achievement in other countries. Those countries with charter schools have not only failed to hold their own but have moved down the PISA rankings. Stanford University’s CREDO report states that whilst 17% of students did better in a charter school than their peers in public schools, 37% did worse, and the rest did about the same. [ii] This is not an adequate level of improvement to warrant the level of disruption and change – indeed for the almost 40% of children who did worse than if they had stayed in public schools it is a disaster.
The argument that New Zealand parents want more choice is not one that is borne out by my research and I have yet to find any government research that supports that assumption either. We are very lucky in New Zealand to already have a wide variety of schooling option open to our children: Special Character schools, Steiner Schools, home schooling, private schools, bilingual schools, correspondence school, Te kura kaupapa Maori, State integrated schools, special schools, Health Units, and teen parent units, single sex schools, day schools, boarding schools and more. [iii] One might also ask, if choice is truly a selling point for parents, why England’s Free Schools are failing to attract the numbers of students they expected, with some closing down and others not even opening despite millions of pounds being spent setting them up. [iv] Furthermore, students in the USA have been left without any school place at all after charter schools have closed with just a few days’ notice, leaving them with not only no choice but no school place at all.[v] I do not believe choice is a true factor – instead I believe that partnership (charter) schools are being promoted as such merely to sell an ideological concept to parents.
The Bill allows unregistered and even untrained ‘teachers’ to work in these schools, and without even the process of being checked and found suitable for Limited Authority to Teach (LAT) status. This is an unacceptable drop in standards, and not something I or many parents want for our children. Even the Ministry of Education has recognised that this is a bad move,[vi] and yet it is still included in the Act. It seems incredible that on the one hand government is calling for teachers to be more highly qualified and on the other hand allowing people with no training or teaching background to be in charge of our children’s education. Classroom management skills, pedagogical knowledge and research-based planning and evaluation are not something you can just bypass or even learn as you go. Teaching is a profession and should be recognised and treated as such. Our children deserve no less.
The New Zealand National Curriculum is recognised as a world-class document and is something that teachers have embraces whole heartedly. It is not acceptable to allow Partnership (charter) schools to set their own curriculum outside of this very flexible and well thought out document. Indeed there is no need for that measure, as the curriculum gives plenty of scope for creativity and innovation whilst ensuring that core learning objectives are covered.
Furthermore, allowing public schools to be run for profit is a folly of the highest order. The folly is multiplied tenfold by the fact that schools will not be accountable under the Ombudsman Act or the Official Information Act. This misuse of tax-payers’ money is unacceptable.[vii] The charter school’s funding and management model has led to a number of frauds in overseas schools, the fudging of data, funding of self-congratulatory ‘research’ to bolster standing, and a number of other very disturbing practices. [viii][ix] Whilst I recognise that these have not happened in all charter schools, I feel we should not even be opening up our education system or our fiscal purse to such possibilities when the potential gains are so minimal.
Charter schools overseas have also had a poor record regarding inclusion of special needs students,[x] as well as very high attrition rates for (non-white) students.[xi] [xii] There is nothing anywhere that outlines how the Ministry of Education intends to address those issues. This is of great concern, especially as Partnership (charter) schools are touted as being aimed at least in the first instance at lower-achieving students and poorer communities.
The New Zealand social groups that consistently under-achieve do so for the most part due to socio-economic factors rather than the quality of their education.
Partnership (charter) schools will do little or nothing to change that.”