The Government introduced National Standards for one purpose – to appease those parents who wanted to know that their child was achieving. There is nothing wrong about knowing if your child is achieving, but you actually need to think about a much bigger picture!
As a parent you will fit into one of the following two categories:
But don’t worry, if your child is attending a good school then despite having to complete copious amounts of paperwork to comply with National Standards your school will be keeping the other records they have always kept (and god forbid they are ever forced to stop), which informs them about the PROGRESS of your child.
Firstly let’s look at a school where the children come from homes where they have been read to since they were babies and where literacy and verbal communication has played a large part of their lives, plus they’ve been to kindergarten and/or other socialising environments before coming to school.
A graph of National Standards for 100 of these children could probably look like this:
After 2 years at school (7 years old) the odd few have caught up and all 100 children have reached and continue to show their achievement to the National Standard.
But what about if the reporting included by how much children were progressing above National Standards? ie how much the children were being extended?
Parents could be informed like this:
Even better information and if your school is giving you this type of data then they should be commended. But National Standards do not require them to do this. They do it because they are excellent educationalists and want every child to progress and do their best at all times.
Using the above diagram, it would be quite natural for parents to want their children to be in the red block and raises the question whether National Standards needs to be higher for them!
Let’s now look at 100 of the children who aren’t so fortunate.
They probably don’t have many books at home, or parents who can read to them and English is not necessarily a first language for their parents. These children might even have moved around to live with various different people in the first five years of their life.
A graph of National Standards for these children could look like this:
Notice that it takes years to bring the 100 children up to achieving the National Standard and some may sadly never make it, especially if they continue a pattern of continuing to move and change schools.
The schools working with these children have an enormous challenge to meet National Standards. Testing and measuring against the National Standard, particularly in the early years is something they certainly do not need to do. They know only too well that their children would not achieve the arbitrary target.
National Standards has done nothing to help them, in fact quite the opposite. They now have huge additional workloads which detract from what they want to do, which is to progress these children much faster than those in other schools. How can the time required to report against National Standards possibly be justified to these schools?
In my mind these schools need the highest level of commendation. Not only have they been forced to take on the extra workload created by National Standards, they are still committed educational professionals who use their integrity and focus everything on the children’s
Sadly though the Government does not commend them, because they do not believe in PROGRESS they are only interested in achieving National Standards.
There was an example of the Education Review Office (ERO) criticising a school for saying their students have met expectations (a positive statement which is encouraging and reflects an achieving progress level). The school was instructed to change the wording to say that the students have failed to meet National Standards.
What a very sad and demoralising state of affairs.
But let’s not blame poor ERO, they are driven by Government policies so National Standards really do say more about the Government’s understanding of education. Do we really not understand why the committed professionals working in our schools were totally against the initiative?
Yes we need some form of school reporting but it should be based on PROGRESS. So long as a child is progressing to the best they can possibly be that is all that can be expected of them and what must be expected of ALL schools!
Written by a parent, BOT member (1989-1999), school advisor (1989-2007) and concerned future grandparent and member of the public (2014)
The NZEI-commissioned poll of 400 people found that 38% of those polled reported being less likely to vote National because of its handling of education. Another 19% were more likely to vote National and it made no difference for 43% of voters.
NZEI Te Riu Roa President Judith Nowotarski said that 95% of those polled agreed with the statement: “Investment in education is an investment in our children’s future – public education must be and remain the first priority of any New Zealand Government.”
The poll showed strong levels of concern (41%) about the Government imposing a business model on education.
“New Zealanders have made it very clear that education is their number one priority, but this government seems more focussed on silencing teachers and pushing through policy without consulting those who will have to implement it,” she said.
“This poll shows that when it comes to education, this government has lost not just the confidence of the teaching profession, but the wider public as well. In the poll, 42% of voters rated the government listening to teachers, principals and school boards as a top concern.”
The government’s $359 million Investing in Educational Success policy, which was dumped on the sector without warning in January, is becoming increasingly unpopular. Based on research of what parents and teachers believe should be priorities, NZEI will be releasing an alternative plan for prioritising investment in education before next Thursday’s Budget.
In the lead-up to the 2014 Budget, less than 6% of people think the government’s plan to establish new leadership roles for some principals and teachers is a good use of increased education funding, according to a new poll.
The poll, commissioned by NZEI Te Riu Roa, surveyed a cross-section of New Zealanders last month and found little support for prioritising the $359 million Investing in Educational Success policy, which has also been widely panned by teachers.
Respondents were somewhat supportive of the package (56%), but when asked what were the most important areas of education in which to spend extra money, the components of the policy were bottom of the list by a wide margin (paying $40,000 to executive principals to oversee a group of schools – 1%; paying $50,000 to experienced principals to turn around struggling schools – 6%; paying $10,000 to experienced teachers to work with teachers in other schools two days a week – 3%).
The poll showed that the public was more interested in
NZEI President Judith Nowotarski said the poll showed that teachers were not alone in believing putting the money into frontline teachers and support would be a far more effective way to lift student success.
“The government dreamed up this policy with the idea that it would somehow benefit students. It’s a great pity they didn’t bother to consult anyone who knows anything about what students need for educational success,” she said.
Parents are starting to ask questions about the lack of consultation in the spending of this significant amount of money.
An Auckland mother has set up an online petition asking the government to consult teachers, principals, boards of trustees and parents before implementing the policy.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
NZEI National President Judith Nowotarski: ph 027 475 4140
Communications Officers: Debra Harrington ph 027 268 3291,
Melissa Schwalger 027 276 7131
“Thank you for the letter re the NUT industrial action on the 26th March. Please do not feel the need to apologise for any inconvenience, as we fully appreciate the reasons why the teaching staff are striking to defend quality education and their terms and conditions. As parents we understood the two issues are completely connected and have no problem at all fully supporting the action of the teachers recognising the excellent work they do all year around.
We appreciate as well, the dilemma of some staff being in the ATL union and on a personal level we would urge them to join the NUT too so they can fully participate in the industrial action, but that is of course their choice. However as parents we are not prepared to undermine the sacrifice that other teaching staff are making in their stand on the 26th at Ashmead and elsewhere. Additionally we are not satisfied that a partially opened school is fully health and safety compliant. We are therefore putting our children first before any political pressures from the town hall to keep any unsafe school open with inadequate staffing numbers.
Besides we believe for our children that the day of action will in itself be a fantastic educational opportunity to see their teachers, their mentors, engaged in an inter generational act of solidarity that protects the principles of free education and the living standards of all teaching staff.
When our children ask why this is all happening we will happily explain to them. That’s why our kids will all grow up being socially aware, politically conscious human beings and appreciate their collective power to change things for the better in society. After all that’s what a good education should be for too shouldn’t it?
[names witheld]” Source
I know so many parents in New Zealand would offer that same support, as they too have had enough of what’s going on in the name of reform.
It’s great to see so many people from all walks of life discussing education and how we can best make improvements. Even better that so much of the discussion is calm and reasoned.
Not everyone agrees with each other – that’s impossible – but it is brilliant that we are talking about it.
It is so important people share their ideas, thoughts and concerns, and be honest about them so that a true and honest dialogue begins with parents and teachers at the heart of it, alongside academics, politicians, iwi, and in fact everyone in the country.
Every voice matters.
I’m serious. Not one of us knows it all. I don’t have the answers – neither do you. But together we can share what we know, synthesise the ideas, and begin to unpick what might work best to further improve our schools.
It’s important, though, that we are clear on the goals we wish to achieve. My own would be to improve public education for all children and to keep education free and equitable. (Equitable doesn’t mean same for everyone, it just means fair for everyone).
I realise my goals may not be your goals. This is why any discussion must focus on our goals first, to gain clarity, consensus and direction.
Half the problems come when the parties involved either haven’t thought in any detail about what they truly are aiming for.
Some of the issues occur when they have thought about it choose not to be honest about what they want or why.
That’s not good enough.
To get anywhere, we all must be honest and then stand by what we believe, whilst listening to and considering fairly the other points of view.
It is totally fine to disagree. It is fine to debate and challenge and reconsider things – in fact, not much of any value happens without doing that. But we must be prepared to take on new evidence and reconsider our stance.
And we absolutely must be honest. Saying one thing while believing another will help no-one.
Worse still is saying one thing while doing another.
It all starts with openness and honesty and listening.
Only then can we get an truly inclusive, wide-ranging dialogue going.
Now why not do some thinking and sharing of your own, by joining in the discussions here:
Our education system ain’t broke, yet, by Brigid McCaffery (Stuff Nation)
Stop Playing Politics With Education, by Stephen McCartney (Stuff Nation)
Trust teachers to teach your children, by Mike Boon (Stuff Nation)
Education No Political Football, by Tracy Livingstone (Stuff Nation)
Get politics out of our schools, by Judy Johannessen (Stuff Nation)
The site allows you to input your letter and details, tick the newspaper you want, and hit send. Easy.
The page allows you to search for MPs by party and name, and is easy to use.
– type your letter in a word processor, spell checker it, proof read a final time and then paste the text of your letter back over to the web page ready to send. (The web page doesn’t spell check your letter.)
– if you want to write to more than one newspaper and stand a good chance of being published, bear in mind that newspapers usually want exclusive letters (i.e. not the same letter sent to multiple newspapers). It pays to rewrite/re-edit your letter for each newspaper, so that you have more chance of them being published.
– speak to the issues not about the people involved.
Also, you may wish to:
– Share this page and encourage others to do their bit. No matter where you are in the debate, all voices are essential for a healthy discussion.
– Share your letter with others to inspire them
Thank you for doing your bit. Every voice counts.
Oh, and one more thing, please be sure to…
Judging by the huge response to the questions Why are Kiwi teachers not up in arms?, it’s clear that many people want to do something. Want to be heard. And rightly so. It seems that many feel helpless and are not sure what they can do. But never underestimate the power of even one more voice.
This is what YOU can do:
Talk to others, share articles, blog posts (like this), memes, and so on. Share on your own blog pages, on Facebook, on Twitter, in groups and forums. Most people will scoot past, for sure, but there is always the chance one or two people will start to pay attention. Every voice counts.
All action is valuable – do your bit.
JOIN THE KIWI BATS (BADASS TEACHERS ASSOCIATION)
If you think the education reforms hitting the Kiwi public school system are not in the best interest of students, come and join us, whether you are a teacher or not, in a union or not, whatever your political persuasion, and make your voice heard. We all need to speak together, and we will make sure our collective voices are heard in simple but effective ways. https://www.facebook.com/groups/KiwiBATS/
MAKE SURE THE UNIONS ARE ACTING FOR YOU
If you are in the primary sector, make sure you go to your Paid Union Meetings (PUMS) that take place between 24th March and 4th April. A full list of when and where they are is here. Attend, find out what is going on, ask questions, make your own views heard, and discuss the issues with others. The unions can only speak for you if you let them know what you want of them.
BE HEARD IN YOUR COMMUNITY
Write to your local MPs, newspapers and school Boards of Trustees (BOTs) and make your voice heard. A list of MP and newspaper addresses to get you started can be found right here.
Parents, you in particular in are in a good position to make a difference – you have a lot of sway – your voices count, and count a lot.
RUN FOR OFFICE
Hey, go for gold. Just imagine what you could do if you were on a board or in the Beehive.
Below is a letter from two New Zealand teachers speaking out on behalf of many feeling this way about National Standards:
We are two teachers who have been teaching for about 21 years each but we have never had to deal with anything as heart-breaking as reporting to parents about their child’s achievement in relation to national standards. We feel we have been ‘bullied’ into implementing these standards, have not been consulted during any part of the process and labelled as uncaring and unprofessional when sharing our concerns.
Here is the reality of National Standards for us.
The first parent of a child in one of our classes who attended the three way interviews held at one of our schools recently was almost tearful when she asked, “Is my child special needs, because nothing that I know about him suggests that he is?” I then explained to her that the top part of our school report is the part that the government wants us to use to tell you about your child’s learning. I told her it’s about national standards and three words that are meant to tell you how your child getting on at school: “At the standard”, “below the standard” or “above the standard”.
I then said, let’s talk about the second part of the report, which tells you about what your child knows and can do,the great progress he has made and his next steps for learning. This part will also tell you about his confidence, his assertiveness and his huge enthusiasm for learning. It will tell you about how he relates to others, how he manages himself, the ways he thinks to help him learn and the ways he participates and contributes at school. Then her child spoke confidently and proudly to her about the learning stories in his portfolio. This parent was relieved, informed and proud of the huge progress her son had made towards achieving his goals. She said to me “You’ve just talked about my son.”
This continued, as I had to explain to the parents of kind, thoughtful, creative risk taking students that their child was below the expected level for their age according to the National Standards. I had to say to the parents of children who share their learning with others, challenge each other and themselves, set their own goals and work hard to achieve them, that their child was below the standard, but that was what the government wanted me to tell them.
For all of the children we have taught over the twenty five years who have left secondary school and gone on to be successful employers and employees, the way they experienced their schooling did not include anything remotely like national standards. The experience for them was a combination of seeing the relevance of their learning for them by teachers making this explicit, their teachers having high expectation around what they would achieve based on them as an individual, and developing a relationship with their teachers based on the teacher having a genuine desire for each student to reach their potential.
We have since discovered that this is the findings of some research undertaken by Russell Bishop and others as part of the Kotahitanga project which reveals important information regarding factors that improve the achievement of Maori students, in particular, but all students as well.
So to the parents who are being told those three words in whatever form, please do not accept that they tell you anything you need or want to know about your child as a learner and let the government know that.
Even if you are hearing the words ‘At the standard or above the standard’ what does this tell you about your child as a learner? We think that it tells you nothing as we don’t believe that the standards are an accurate measure of achievement. For example, one of our 11year old daughters who reads at a 12-13 year level with good comprehension skills is reading “at the standard” for her age. We already use a wide range of assessment tools effectively to be able to set goals for individual students and to measure progress. We believe that this is just one of the features that makes our education system recognised worldwide.
In our experience no student is ever motivated by the knowledge that they at failing i.e. below the standard. In fact it usually has the opposite effect. We have grave concerns that the stigma attached to being labelled a failure for a large number of learners will not only affect individuals but will have far reaching consequences. We fear that we are teaching a generation of children who will carry the label ‘failure’ into adulthood.
Parents Opting Out
As a mother, I want to opt my child out of National Standards testing. I am not the only one.
I also intend want to refuse to have any data on my child entered into the PaCT system where it will be held by government and stored in the cloud. Given the government’s record on IT systems, I have no faith it would be safe. I also have no faith it would not be shared with agencies I disapprove of.
So, experts, where do parents stand legally on those two issues?
I would not want to put my child’s teacher in a difficult position, nor the school, so need to know exactly what my rights are.
If you can help or advise me, please comment below.
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…
Instinctively, people like the idea of being able to see results, measure things, to compare. We like to know where we stand. We like to know who’s doing well and who might need a kick in the pants. That’s human nature – we’re all about categorising and judging. That’s not unreasonable.
But those instinctive behaviours fall down when we don’t understand what we are measuring, why we are measuring, how we are measuring, or what the measurements will be constructively used for.
Simply weighing the pig does not make it more tasty.
So here’s the problem. Most parents want to know how their kids are doing and whether the school they are at is giving them the best possible education. National Standards capitalise on that desire and promise to keep parents more fully informed. But is that really true? Do National Standards really help Mrs Jo Bloggs know more about how wee Joseph Bloggs is doing?
Not a bit of it.
In order to know how Joseph is doing, Mrs Bloggs needs to talk to his teacher, keep an eye on anything she thinks he is not grasping or is talented at so that she can tell the teacher and make sure it’s been noted and catered for, she needs to check his school books and look for improvement, she needs to encourage him to think and question and learn outside of school, she needs to scrutinise his school report and ask questions of anything that isn’t clear or doesn’t make sense. She should read with him, cook with him, let him build and play and explore and experiment.
In other words, the best way for Mrs Bloggs to ensure wee Joseph is doing okay and is getting a decent education is to be involved.
If Mrs Bloggs expects data on a National Standards website to inform her about her own child’s learning, she will be sadly disappointed, not to mention a year out of date.
Mrs Bloggs also might want to ponder how National Standards will help her or Joseph if he has special needs, or English as a Second Language, or has a history of challenging behaviour. Because truth be known, those are the children who often find it hard to get into a school when the schools are so scared of being judged by test scores that they avoid the more challenging children who are likely to score low on the tests.
Because National Standards do not tell you anything about how far a child has progressed, they merely give a snapshot of that child now. According to National Standards, if your child is 12 and was reading at age 7 a year ago and is now reading at age 9.5, they are failing. They are not average or above average, so the fabulous gain they have made is made to look like a failure.
How will Joseph feel about that, when it’s published for the world to see?
If Joseph is a talented sportsman, artist, musician, leader, environmentalist, mechanic or IT guru it will not matter to National Standards. Maths and English, that’s all that counts. Sure, Joseph wants to read and write well, and wants to be able to do his maths, but I’m thinking maybe he and Mrs Bloggs won’t want his talents to be over-ridden or enthusiasm quashed if his maths and English results are lower than they would like. Focusing so heavily on two areas starts to make the rest of the curriculum look unimportant. And that’s simply not the case.
Joseph will be very disappointed when his music classes stop or his art lessons have shoddy equipment, or the school cannot fund entry to the regional sports championships this year, and he won’t understand or care that the money’s been diverted to pay for extra coaching for maths and English for borderline students. All he will know is that his talent is being left on the kerbside.
Joseph’s sister, Josephine is rather good at maths, as it happens. In fact she is above average and really has a talent for it. Well National Standards means a teacher is more likely to disproportionately use his or her time to teach (or even coach) those children who are borderline so that they meet the average score – after all jobs are on the line and the school might look bad in the tables, leading to a falling role and to concern in the community. Josephine’s glad her friends are being helped, but kind of feels maybe she should be being stretched too., and her spark is dimming as no-one has time to fan the flames with her.
So, Mrs Bloggs can see her children are average and above average in National Standards. She can see the children in the school are generally average according to National Standards. What has that told her about her children? What has it told her about the leaps their classmates might have made? And what about the children who didn’t move forward much at all but were already average – is that okay?
Mrs Bloggs is starting to think maybe, just maybe, National Standards are good only for one thing – making sensationalist headlines in newspapers. Meanwhile, she is off to read with her children, and talk to their teachers about how they are doing, and maybe look into their school books each day to see what they are up to. Mrs Bloggs thinks that is the best way to judge how well her children, their teachers and their schools are doing.
It seems she and her government think that the parents are all fools who don’t understand, well, anything, bless them…
…and the teachers just want to be paid heaps to do beggar all and have half the year off, all the while moaning moaning moaning, and all because they are mostly rubbish and don’t want to be found out.
Okay, good to know we’re all held in such high esteem.
Some people, those who knew a little about student:teacher ratios, instantly became concerned when the budget was announced, noting that the new ratios would mean larger class sizes and cuts in some subjects altogether.
They became further concerned when wee calculations on the back of envelopes showed that Ms Parata’s promises of minor losses were just not right.
So they started to ask questions.
More and more people asked whether the Government had indeed got their figures wrong – very wrong. They became concerned when they heard the questions and queries, and saw the avoidance tactics that took the place of clear answers.
– Did they actually check things like this carefully and understand outcomes before agreeing new policy?
– Or… was it that they knew the outcomes but had put such a huge level of spin on the facts that they’d become worthy of Walter Mitty.
In other words, people began to ask, was Government incompetent or lying?
Do I need to go on?
Salisbury School needs your support! The Ministry of Education is currently consulting on the role of residential special schools, and as part of this review Salisbury School could be closed by the end of the year.
Submissions are due by 5pm Friday 15 June.
If you want to see Salisbury stay open, please click here to find out how you can help. They only need a couple of sentences, and your name and phone number.
And if you are a Salisbury School past student or parent please send the school an email, or phone Carolyn on 03 544 8119, and tell them how Salisbury School has helped you.
SALISBURY PARENTS’ THOUGHTS ON THE SERVICE THERE
“…Salisbury School’s parents say the review is rushed and the research the decision is based on irrelevant. Kelly Woods’ daughter Jessie, 14, started at the school this year, but her transformation has been “amazing”. Normally anxious and quiet, Jessie now has best friends for the first time in her life and is the class counsellor.
“She is showering on her own, using a knife and fork, she is brushing her own teeth, she’s dressing herself and her handwriting has improved. I know these don’t sound big but they are huge to us,” Woods said.
See entire article here
Helen McDonnell, Salisbury School board of trustees chair, said “…the school saved money down the track as graduates had the confidence to find jobs. Her 15-year-old daughter attended the school for two years.
“For us, it was a real turning point that we wanted to equip our daughter with skills for life. I couldn’t see that happening in the mainstream school setting.”
She had tried using wrap-around services for her daughter in the past, but it left the family exhausted, she said.”
Salisbury provides comprehensive support programmes for female students who are struggling in mainstream schools nationwide – those who need significant curriculum adaptation due to an underlying intellectual impairment and whose educational, social and emotional needs, are not being met in their current environment.
AND IT’S NOT JUST SALISBURY SCHOOL…
In West Auckland, cuts in services for special needs (learning and behaviour) have left Principals furious about possible changes to the education system regarding Supplementary Learning Support (SLS) teachers. They fear that kids who are already struggling in class will drop back even further.
Deputy principal of Massey’s St Paul’s School, Judy Pudney, says the service is invaluable.
“I had a student who came to us in year 4. He could only name three letters and tell you what the sound was. When you’ve got a class of 28, it was a big ask for any teacher to get him up to speed because they just don’t have time to devote to him. He’s been doing SLS for a year and a half now and he’s now reading at a level eight because he’s had one-on-one,” she says.
Read more here.
CUTS – A SHORT-TERM, SHORT-SIGHTED FISCAL SOLUTION
Short term monetary savings by closing services to special schools and services just do not make sense. The children still need help, still need to be taught and supported, and either the services need to be provided well and by qualified and specialised staff elsewhere or the children will not meet their potential and will need greater support in later life. There is no saving here. And the people who lose out are the children and their families.
Read up, ask around, find out more …
I’m not sure the government realised how incensed people would be about planned changes to school funding in this last budget. I am guessing government thought there would be a little ooohing and ahhhing and muttering, then it would all die down. In reality, it seems the cuts have been the final straw for many, and pressure is mounting for them to reverse them.
The mainstream media are keeping up the pressure too, with a number of articles in The NZ Herald, on the news and so on questioning the logic of the proposals. These interviews on Breakfast this morning with NZEI president and two head teachers are worth watching and explain the overall issues well.
Why are people angry? Because it seems that our education system – one that is well respected throughout the world – is being repeatedly undermined whilst at the same time plans to privatise parts of the public education system are being shoe horned in.
And class sizes is not the only issue facing our schools right now. At the same time as this is happening, we have the government proposing to or in the process of :
It’s just bizarre! It’s often wildly contradictory. And it’s not even based on sound research.
So why all these changes? Who benefits from these changes? Students? Parents? Teachers? Support staff?
What do you think?