I am all for helping struggling schools. So the idea of Change Principals seems okay, even positive. What concerns me a little, however, is who decides what constitutes a failing school and what the Ministry says these principals will be recruited to do.
Is it to improve children’s love for learning?
Is it to foster lifelong learning?
Is it to engage the community in the children’s learning?
Well who knows – None of those things are mentioned.
Just how is student achievement to be defined, I wonder?
Wait, it says on the MoE web site that the principals “will be particularly focused on lifting student achievement”. Achievement … is that some sort of measured thing, some kind of score-based doohicker? It rings a bell… tip of my tongue … wait… almost there…
Okay. So they are going to improve schools by improving their National Standards scores.
Is now a good time to mention that the NS data from the first two years was so shonky that even the PM admitted they weren’t up to much?
Or to mention that this year results for whole subjects were moved down, en bloc, despite the levels returned by schools? No?
Maybe instead I could mention the RAINS report from the University of Waikato, that showed a narrowing of the curriculum in order to focus on the areas NS looks at…
Well look, let’s be positive – we all want schools to do the best they can for their students, and there are indeed always going to be some schools that need help and guidance. That much is not a bad idea.
But there is scope here for political bullying such as that we have already seen around National Standards, with principals and boards harangued by Ministry. It’s essential that any move to improve a school is done as a cooperative thing, not forced on a community or done by someone with a big stick to wave, but how can we be sure that’s not going to happen?
And to focus improvement only on higher scores in standards that are unreliable is very dicey.
I note that nowhere in John Key’s speech today nor on the MoE web site about the new roles is there any mention at all of the effects of home life, of poverty, or unemployment and despondency on student achievement, and consequently there is nothing to address those issues. It’s as if someone would like us to buy into the idea that somehow schools stand alone in a bubble and can magically erase all other social problems. This is of course, another farcical notion.
But the message is clear, no matter who sends them in, or why, we are to accept the caped crusaders – and as long as they push up scores, everything will be good in the world…