More on league tables

October 15th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Firstly the unions are back to squabbling with the Minister, and it is unsure how sifnificant the agreement trumpeted yesterday is. I have asked the Minister’s Office whether or not the actions planned to make it difficult for media to report includes any changes to the Official Information Act.

So long as the is unchanged, I don’t see how one can stop people compiling whatever tables they want. Hell, I might even help set up a wiki where parents can report the data for their local schools :-)

So for me I don’t care too much what the Govt does, so long as they do not touch the OIA.

But on the subject of the education unions loathing for any sort of comparison of school achievement, I have to quote this wonderful note placed on Facebook yesterday by :

I totally support the teacher unions right to protest against being able to rank schools according to how well they perform. This cuts across the hunt for mediocrity which is so important to some in NZ .How dare some parents who want to know how good an education their children are getting.!! And as for the media having access to the information !Bloody hell what would Stalin have thought about that?

I would like to see this move taken further however.
I would start with Fair-Go, Target and the Consumers Institute and that dreadful Consumer magazine that tells us which products and companies and service providers are dodgy or unreliable. Who needs that useless information?

Magazines that reviewed and ( gasp) rated cars ,electronic goods, and new technology need to be ditched as does LINZ which tells us which suburbs are considered desirable. Imagine what would happen if that information got out? Wine, beer and restaurant reviews and rankings, what a waste of effort .Do we really need to know how good a wine is before we drink it? Doesn’t that take the fun away. The same goes for those silly websites travelers use to check out accommodation. A bed is a bed no matter whether its 1 or 5 star, you still fall asleep.
Next on the bonfire would be rankings of investment returns for Kiwisaver and other super schemes. People who can find out who is performing well poorly will only go and move their money and we don’t want that do we. Best we protect those who are not up to the job just like we do with teachers and schools.

NZ will obviously need to pull out of any agencies such as the UN ,WHO,OECD,ILO etc that rates how we compare with other countries on a wide range of indices. That material would be dangerous in the hands of taxpayers wouldn’t it ?

The media need to have a jolly good look at the way they report sport as well. Do we really need league tables for rugby, football netball etc? Surely it’s the taking part that matters. Who really cares about “Top 4 finishes” and semi-finals? It’s all too elitist .I can imagine the TAB may struggle paying out bets when all horses are deemed to have crossed the line together but they will cope .

Last and not least we need to ensure that some of the dangerous new Apps available on i-phones overseas are permanently banned .They allow phones to scan barcodes and customers can find out how one retailer’s price compares with others around the country. That would cause mayhem and only encourage consumer choice. Who needs that in NZ?

I have huge respect for the hard and often unrewarding job that teachers do. However the blinkered view that the teacher unions have that says neither individual teacher or school performance can be measured can only ever be detrimental to our future .They need to move into the real world .

Bravo.

A good editorial from The Press also.

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22 Responses to “More on league tables”

  1. village idiot (748 comments) says:

    edit: The Minister is back to squabbling with the unions.

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  2. Philonz (91 comments) says:

    The problem with league tables is that they become the goal themselves. Schools will soon find ways to teach to the test (whatever the test might be) and focus only on the students they know will be more likely to achieve well. Those that are struggling will be left to struggle and those that easilly achieve will be taught to achieve well on the tests to bring the schools score up.

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  3. Nookin (3,037 comments) says:

    We can do away with credit rating companies as well. Finance companies are all the same aren’t they?

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  4. BlackMoss (62 comments) says:

    I may be well off the ball, but I thought anybody would still be able to find information about an individual school, and that just the idea of a league table was off the table. Like with secondary schools currently anyone can find out the grades for a given year group of an individual school and even compare it directly with another one.

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  5. Nookin (3,037 comments) says:

    The big problem I have with any form of empirical grading, such as by reference to a national standard, is that it really gives little indication of individual achievement. A school may well be proud of having a significant number of students in the top 30 percentile. However, if most of those students should have been in the top 10 percentile, has that school been successful? Equally, a school may have a number of children at the other end of the scale but who have made significant personal advances. Which is the most successful school? My concern is that some schools pitch to the middle ground without really extending anybody. Sadly, I think we are a long way away from getting individual education programs for each student. Until that happens, there will be a tendency to move towards the point of least resistance as suggested by Philonz

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  6. bruceh (102 comments) says:

    Minister Tolley appears totally captured by the system she is responsible for and to date seems incapable of doing anything other than managing the status quo – a status quo which is deeply failing our most vulnerable, as it did under Labour. Shame on National’s lack of vision and guts to lead and to care. I don’t know what on earth National thought it was elected to achieve other than a change of faces and who gets to ride the BMW’s.

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  7. Philonz (91 comments) says:

    Spot on Nookin! A measure of which school has the smartest kids is not the same thing as a measure of the most successful school.

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  8. democracymum (660 comments) says:

    My children are now at private secondary school where (mercifully) they are now receiving a quality education.
    However if I had to mark the schools my children attended whilst at primary school NONE of them would have received so much as a pass mark.

    IMHO THE STANDARD OF EDUCATION IN NZ SCHOOLS is nothing short of appalling.
    These were high decile schools, in good neighbourhoods.

    FORGET league tables, I want a website where the failings of these schools can be aired for all to see!

    Substandard teachers, who can’t teach the basics and have no passion for the vocation
    Poor school management
    Inadequate assessment
    Completely inadequate resourcing (especially around IT)
    ..and don’t even get me started on fundraising – the real reason children go to school

    I hope the Minister of Education, kicks some educational butt in this portfolio.
    It’s nonething short of a national disgrace.

    The best education my daughter ever received was via her laptop in a digital classroom from a teacher in the South Island. (Alpha Education.) She learnt more in one week from this exceptional online teacher than she did in the rest of her time at Primary School put together.

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  9. Herman Poole (297 comments) says:

    The problem with league tables is that they become the goal themselves. Schools will soon find ways to teach to the test (whatever the test might be) and focus only on the students they know will be more likely to achieve well. Those that are struggling will be left to struggle and those that easily achieve will be taught to achieve well on the tests to bring the schools score up.

    This is an issue with the test, not the results of the test. Any half decent test should require the student to go in with a broad understanding of the subject, ready to answer. If you are ‘teaching to the test’ for a physics exam, it should mean you are teaching physics, and that is exactly what is wanted.

    If a league table presents an average for a school, they will get more bang for their buck getting the 40%ers up to 60% rather than the 90%ers up to 95%.

    However, if most of those students should have been in the top 10 percentile, has that school been successful? Equally, a school may have a number of children at the other end of the scale but who have made significant personal advances. Which is the most successful school?

    If you are smart enough to realise this, then so is everyone else. Have some respect for the public, the most common sense evaluation of a school will hold out in the end.

    Why can’t the PPTA or whoever pre-empt any other league tables by creating their own, according to the principles they believe are most important. They could create a ranking, or information portal, that shows where students were when they entered a school and where they were by the time they left. If they put forward a compelling case, there is no reason that they cannot own the leading public evaluation of schools, they have every advantage.

    A measure of which school has the smartest kids is not the same thing as a measure of the most successful school.

    The information that there are more or less smart kids at a school, regardless of the reason for that, is a legitimate piece of information to make a decision on. Just like how fat friends are contagious, mixing with smart people is contagious also, even if the teachers are no better. And on the other hand, a below average student may be best served by going to a school with a majority of others at a similar level in case that school is more attuned to their needs. I may or may not agree with either of those conclusions, but the point is, the information has legitimate value.

    Other than issues of personal or national safety, there is no dangerous information.

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  10. CharlieBrown (910 comments) says:

    Don’t forget to ban performance reviews for employees… time for one big collective contract for all.

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  11. Captain Crab (351 comments) says:

    @Charlie
    Yes, Compulsory Unionism would fix that
    @Nookin
    I suspect the Credit Rating coys will be all gone shortly anyway. So much of the sub prime paper was rated AAA. Massive fail and the law suits are coming.

    A question: why is a union dictating to our govt? Just amazing.

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  12. kiki (425 comments) says:

    Now is the time for ACT and the Maori party to step up. They have the same policy on education pity their most pressing concerns are dogs on leashes and rugby broadcasts.

    This government is so gutless all they do is follow the advice that was served to the previous government.

    Have they been out of power for so long that they are afraid of losing it? If only John Key would get away from the mirror long enough to be a leader and stop managing these stupid issues like the rugby.

    Ironic that Roger Douglas is back on the right side but now surrounded by cowards and visionlesscrats

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  13. annie (537 comments) says:

    Why did the Minister agree to restricting information flow? Is this poor negotiation or system capture, as Bruceh suggests?

    Either way such significant compromise is unnecessary – I think the public are sufficiently fed up with the teacher unions to back the govt should it decide to stand on its hind legs.

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  14. Southern Raider (1,588 comments) says:

    Why is Tolley in that position any way. She doesn’t have a single clue about running a school or sorting out the Unions.

    Key needs to get some balls, stick it up the Unions and give the job to Peachy.

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  15. Manolo (13,386 comments) says:

    “Key needs to get some balls, stick it up the Unions and give the job to Peachy.”

    Sure, a pig just flew past my window a minute ago.

    Key is too busy pandering to Maori and fiddling around to do that. Anyway, he prefers to surround himself with incompetents like Smith, Coleman, Wilkinson, etc., so he can look “decisive”. All in vain, since Key’s appeasing nature betrays him every time.

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  16. John Ansell (861 comments) says:

    I’m sitting in a hotel room in Sydney drawing up plans for a new political brand.

    I know from a lifetime in advertising that the name, imagery and philosophy has the potential to inspire large numbers of honest citizens who believe in the basic principle of giving excellent service and being fairly rewarded.

    (The only question is how many such people still exist in New Zealand.)

    Its core value is honesty. Its core communication principle is simplicity.

    Its messages have the power to drive the Labour criminals and the National socialists from the political landscape.

    Its time has come.

    I should have it nutted out by Monday when I’m back from this conference.

    Who’s interested?

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  17. village idiot (748 comments) says:

    John – though you’ve begged and pleaded, threatened and cajouled, I’m going to have to say ‘No’ to accepting the leadership of your doubtless fine party.

    I’m just too busy.

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  18. Clint Heine (1,563 comments) says:

    Always interested in new ideas John.

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  19. CharlieBrown (910 comments) says:

    John – Providing that the party is based around sound economic principals and minimal government intervention I’d be interested to listen. I used to support ACT but it seems the only person with good principals there is Roger Douglas. If ACT was truelly an economic liberal party it would withdraw support from National unless they start to address some of the inadequacies we currently have like education, health, over the top regulations, employment laws, ACC, relationship property law, social welfare. At the moment national is “tinkering around the edges” or giving it a “new look” without changing any substance. It would be a smart move as I doubt National can last a full term with the maori party unless it wants to lose alot of votes from its conservative voters.

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  20. John Ansell (861 comments) says:

    CharlieBrown: it certainly is. ACT, as it stands, is a brilliant wholesaler of ideas. What I have in mind would be a retailer.

    villageidiot: I didn’t say it was a party, I said it was a brand. But it could be both. And don’t worry, you would appear to have the perfect credentials to run any of the existing parties.

    Clint Heine: I appreciate your open mind. That’s all I’m looking for at this stage.

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  21. Camryn (550 comments) says:

    I can’t help but notice that many of the arguments against league tables are actually arguments against certain types of data that may feed into them on the basis that they don’t measure real quality of education (e.g. measure ‘teach to test’ instead of education and measure existing levels of smarts not the improvement that has been achieved).

    Surely the solution to overly simplistic league tables is *better* league tables, not *no* league tables. If the whingers put their effort into designing good measures that incent the right things instead of just not having any measures then we’d be gold. The solution to an imperfect idea is to improve the idea, not oppose it (especially if the imperfect idea if probably still better than nothing).

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  22. Camryn (550 comments) says:

    John – I’m interested. I mull over similar ideas on a regular basis. Let me know what I can do to help.

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