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National testing, prescribed lessons, rote learning … the future of NZ?

raise hellThe USA is just waking up to the realisation that national testing, prescribed lessons, and other GERM infested ideology is not the right way to educate children.

Strangely, just as the tide is starting to turn there, Australia is GERMing away at full tilt, and New Zealand is eagerly following behind, panting like a lapdog.

So, if you want to know what our future will look like if we sit passively by, read this:

The students’ task is to make sure the district doesn’t look bad.

This is how bad it can and has become.

It doesn’t matter if there is a violent thunder storm rolling about over the top of the school, fascinating the kids. We can’t talk or read or write about that. It’s Wednesday and the Pacing Guide says we should be learning about Mali.

It doesn’t matter that James has just come back from a holiday in Mexico and saw a parade on the Day of the Dead. He has photos, and a head full of questions. But it’s Monday and the Pacing Guide says we need to work hard on understanding the water cycle.

It doesn’t matter that Timmy still doesn’t understand the multiplication of fractions. He has to move on or he won’t have covered the rest of the topics by the end of the nine weeks. He can come back after school, at the weekend, in the summer … to plug the gaps in his understanding. We know that the building of mathematical understanding is a cumulative process and a misunderstanding now will undermine everything that comes next, but we just have to move on.

Yes, this is how bad it gets.”

Read the rest of the article here.

These horrors are sneaking up on New Zealand, too.  Be aware of them lest they crawl in right under your noses.

The advent of National Standards is just the beginning…



How Bad Can It Get?

How Bad Can It Get?.

Let’s get something very clear here and now.

The role of the kids is to pass the tests so the schools are accredited and the district isn’t penalized.

The students’ task is to make sure the district doesn’t look bad.

This is how bad it can and has become.”

When children become source data and teachers feel pushed to teach to the test, it’s all gone to hell in a hand basket.  Read more …

via How Bad Can It Get?.

Nice Easy Solutions

I got a message via SOSNZ’s Facebook page today saying that the page was too biased and ran the risk Imageof becoming a place where people just shouted “Yeah, stuff ’em!” at the politicians rather than constructively debating.

I wrote back to the gentleman concerned (let’s call him Bernard) with these thoughts:

Dear Bernard, I totally agree that debate is needed and I really do encourage you to challenge what I say, share and comment on – I am learning as much as anyone and in no way think I have the answers. If yu look through, a ‘fan’ called Simon Vincent (who I do not know) joined and shared some alternative thoughts and I welcomed them. Please think about staying and sharing other thoughts than mine – that’s how you, I and others will be able to debate and think and learn. Dianne

Happy that I’d hopefully encouraged Bernard to come in the main page and debate with folk, I went off for my annual shower and teeth scrub.

While I was in the shower trying not to notice it needed a good clean, something that Bernard had said came back to me and started going through and through my mind.  He had accused the page of encouraging the notion that there are easy solutions, and quoted Mencken as saying

For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong“.

It began to occur to me that the quote actually suited my argument more than it suited his.

My very  reason for starting the page and this blog is to argue that there is NO easy solution, no simple way to improve things, and that by just shoving a standardized test in there or closing a school and opening another in its place with a different funding/governance model, you will not suddenly make children amazing students and shoot them into place as world class thinkers.  There are other things to consider – many many complex things.

  • poverty
  • children not eating well
  • whether children get help and support at home with basic skills and more
  • teacher retention
  • curriculum overload
  • how we group our students into classes
  • testing
  • and lordie knows what else…

Add to that the fact that how we humans learn is not easy or straightforward.  And there is not just one way.  Or even two, three or four.  Because people have myriad ways of thinking, learning, settling to tasks, and of being stimulated and encouraged.

It stands to reason, therefore, that how we educate is not easily streamlined or made perfect.

Bernard and I are agreed that there is no silver bullet.  I maintain that shoving in a standardised test, removing teachers from the classroom, adding paperwork and buzzwords, and simply swapping to another type of school is not necessarily the answer and owes as much (or more) to vote grabbing and political spin that it does to actually aiming to make genuine movement forward.

There is no easy answer.

But one thing I am quite positive about is this: to help find some things that may help, we need to debate and discuss and learn.  Come join in.


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