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)
He continues, “I’m actually amazed at how well we are doing. Northland leads NZ on every negative socioeconomic indicator available, yet despite this, despite the simple fact that resourcing for Special Education, behaviour, truancy, health, and wrap around support for families is totally inadequate, teachers and principals in Northland continue to teach to an extremely high level of expertise and dedication.
“Principals up here for many years, have told the Ministry, that whether the Ministry/Minister believes we have the necessary help based on their paper shuffling in Wellington, it is totally inadequate to cover the glaring needs of our children. Now instead of recognising we were correct, instead of providing the help we need, the Minister continues to refuse to acknowledge this and offers more talk as the solution! Northland again short changed!
“As a principal, I spend most of my days as a principal, screaming and fighting the agencies set up to help these children, who are themselves hamstrung by the resourcing levels set for Northland.
“It is soul destroying. Schools up here are dealing on a daily basis, with children who regularly throw furniture around, abuse teachers verbally, hit out at others, threaten, have no lunches, come from homes where drugs are rife etc. We know none of this is the kids fault, but it is impossible to get adequate help for them. Lots of assessment but little “dooey”!
“The Ministry itself has research that is kept quiet that clearly shows that absenteeism is the biggest factor in school success.
“The Minister continues to trumpet how she has improved learning in NZ, based upon what is widely recognised as based on shonky National Standards Data.
What is her answer? To send in more advice! More talking! More assessment.
“I know words are powerful, but we don’t need this. What we need is less talk, and more realistic resourcing to support to cover the needs of the children in Northland!”