Many of us who have read it are very concerned about the Education Ministry’s Statement of Intent.
The foreword is an exercise in deduction as, like all of the Minister’s communications, it’s hard to get past the waffle and jargon in order to see what is actually meant.
But this is vitally important that educators and parents DO read and understand it, because this document outlines what the Minister is intending to do next to our education system.
When I first read the Statement, I was torn between horror at what is implied in it and amusement at the circumlocution and waffle. In fact, I immediately wrote my own parody of the Statement, using about 50% of Hekia’s own words and adding my own spin.
It amused me, briefly.
But that amusement didn’t last long.
In actual fact, the Statement of Intent is very concerning.
Catherine Delahunty picks it apart today in this article, and asks some very salient questions about the Ministry’s intent, in particular regarding Early Childhood Education (ECE).
For those of you that don’t know, the Ministry’s Early learning Information System (ELI) is “an electronic monitoring system that requires ECE centres to record children’s enrolment and attendance.”
Delahunty points out that the Education Ministry says it will use its Early Learning Information System:
“to help identify particular trends and the effectiveness of children’s learning…”
Delahunty then asks,
“What on earth do they want 3 and 4 year olds to ‘learn’ and more particularly, what are they planning to measure about the effectiveness of that learning?
There has for a while now been real worries in the ECE sector that National may want preschool kids learning their ’3 R’s’ too. This appears to be a strong signal that we could have National Standards for pre-schoolers.”
I agree, it does appear to signal the Ministry is moving towards measuring the academic achievements of preschoolers.
This is worrying.
There are HUGE concerns from the ECE sector and from parents regarding the push towards standardising learning (and, heaven forbid, testing) for preschoolers.
It’s bad enough that the focus on data and on national and arbitrary standards is being entrenched in primary schools, but to it is even worse to be forcing formal learning on 2,3, or 4 year olds. The move is not supported by the research and in totally unnecessary in terms of good learning.
Ask yourself, why the focus on data and on national and arbitrary standards – what does it achieve?
Has it raised student achievement elsewhere?
The answer is no. But it has created a very lucrative market in testing materials and it has allowed for performance pay for teachers, neither of which benefit the students. Quite the opposite, in fact.
“We know that quality parent-led and teacher-led ECE based on a holistic curriculum is the best for small children”
Similar sentiments were echoed by Chris Hipkins (Labour) and Tracey Martin (NZ First) at the Tick For Kids ECE forum in Wellington last week.
The focus on reading and writing, and the obsession with pass marks, is narrowing our education system and crippling both teachers and students.
It is not a positive move.
It will not improve educational outcomes.
It is not supported as good practice by research.
So just what is the motive for doing it?
Sources and further reading:
The Ministry of Education’s Statement of Intent 2013 – 2018 (which sets out the key elements of how the Ministry will contribute to the delivery of Government’s priorities for education.)
Here is the longer and more in depth story of the test the kindy kids had to take, blogged here.
The kids are five years old, and it’s a Californian kindy. Even aside from how wrong testing kids at this age is or how ridiculous it is to test them this way – where how they do the test is a barrier to showing what they know – and the fact that the tests were not administered the same for all classes, thereby undermining the argument that they are indeed standardised …. the big question is this: is administering any test in a way that stresses teachers, parents AND students really and truly necessary? Of course it isn’t.
This is not education, this is data collection. It does not serve learners – it serves the companies that make the tests and the administrators and politicians that promote them. They should all be totally and utterly ashamed of themselves.
“”Today my kindergarten took a test called the Common Core MAP.
We had been told to set up each child with their own account on their numbered Chromebook. The Teacher on Special Assignment came around and spent about an hour in each class doing this in the previous weeks.
We didn’t know exactly when the test would be given, just that some time on Thursday or Friday, the proctors would come and test. I set out morning work for my kids today but before the bell rang, the proctor arrived. I quickly swept off the tables and she said we’d begin right away. I went out to pick up my class.
While the proctor set up the computers (disregarding what we had done — that hour the TOSA spent in each class was unnecessary), I went through the usual morning routine. Parents who happened to be in the room scrambled to unpack the headphones, which had arrived in the office that morning, and distribute the computers. We started a half hour later. The kids were excited to be using the computers. That didn’t last for long.
The test is adaptive. When a child answers a question, the next batch of questions is slightly harder or easier depending on the correctness of their answer. The math and language arts sections each had 57 questions.
The kids didn’t understand that to hear the directions, you needed to click the speaker icon. We slipped around the room explaining.
Answers were selected by drop and drag with a trackpad, no mouse was available. A proctor in one room said that if a child indicated their answer, an adult could help. Other proctors didn’t allow this. I had trouble dragging and dropping myself on the little trackpads.
Kids in one class took five hours to finish. Kids were crying in 4 of 5 classes. There were multiple computer crashes (“okay, you just sit right there while we fix it! Don’t talk to anyone!”).
There were kids sitting for half hour with volume off on headsets but not saying anything.
Kids accidentally swapped tangled headsets and didn’t seem to notice that what they heard had nothing to do with what they saw on the screen.
Kids had to solve 8+6 when the answer choices were 0-9 and had to DRAG AND DROP first a 1 then a 4 to form a 14.
There were questions where it was only necessary to click an answer but the objects were movable (for no reason).
There were kids tapping on their neighbor’s computers in frustration.
To go to the next question, one clicks “next” in lower right-hand corner…..which is also where the pop-up menu comes up to take you to other programs or shut down, so there were many instances of shut-downs and kids winding up in a completely different program.
Is this what we want for our youngest children?””
So, New Zealand, this is where the madness will lead us if we let the reformers carry on their merry path of obsession with DATA DATA DATA collection at any cost.
Testing children to find out where they are at is necessary – teachers test all the time – we always have done. The teacher should do it routinely and without stress as a normal part of learning, so that both teacher and student can see what needs to be learned next. The abomination outlined above is something else entirely.
When you next hear about some supposedly essential reforms or changes to our education system, ask yourself who is pushing the changes, who stands to benefit financially before assuming they are for the good of the kids. Often, they are for the benefit of business. Just ask Pearson, or Gates, or Murdoch. Or Banks.
Don’t let your child become a data point in a business plan.
Teachers in the USA – join BATs in fighting these reforms.
Teachers in New Zealand – join the Kiwi BATs to raise your teacher voice.
Be very, very clear on this, New Zealand parents – this is where National Standards, charter schools, performance pay and all of the other Global Education Reforms (GERM) lead. It is no accidental path. Stay quiet if this is what you think is right – if this is what you want. But if it’s not, then you really do need to start learning what is happening and start speaking out.
UPDATED WITH MORE INFORMATION HERE (22/3/14)
This from a fellow teacher in California.
“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. Multiple computer crashes (“okay, you just sit right there while we fix it! Don’t talk to anyone!”). Kids sitting for half hour with volume off on headsets but not saying anything. Kids accidentally swapping tangled headsets and not even noticing what they heard had nothing to do with what they saw on the screen. Kids having to solve 8+6 when the answer choices are 0-9 and having to DRAG AND DROP first a 1 then a 4 to form a 14. Some questions where it was only necessary to click an answer but the objects were movable (for no reason). No verbal explanation that you must click the little speaker square to hear the instructions. To go to the next question, one clicks “next” in lower right-hand corner…..which is also where the pop-up menu comes up to take you to other programs or shut down, so many shut-downs or kids winding up in a completely different program.
If this is not what you want for your kids and grandkids, you’d better start making some noise. Ten years ago we would’ve thought this would be literally impossible.”
Teachers in the USA – you may want to join BATs in fighting these reforms.
Teachers in New Zealand you may wish to join the Kiwi BATs to raise your teacher voice.
NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Ministry of Education have reached a proposed settlement on a new kindergarten collective agreement that would see teachers retain parity with their primary colleagues and a new allowance for head teachers.
Last week’s sudden turnaround came after months of the ministry insisting that kindergarten teachers could have parity or the allowance, but not both.
NZEI President Judith Nowotarski said it was the commitment and engagement of almost 1500 kindergarten teachers that made the difference.
“We held a Green Day of Action across the country and rallied outside the Minister’s office last Friday. I think the Government could see that teachers were 100 per cent supportive of our bargaining position and were not willing to back down on this.
“Head teachers earn just a fraction more than other teachers, despite the increasing demands of the role. We have been asking for 10 years for head teachers to receive a small additional allowance, and teachers were not willing to back down on this again. Teachers were certainly not prepared to surrender the primary teacher parity that they fought so hard to gain.”