Dom Post on National Standards

February 3rd, 2010 at 11:56 am by David Farrar

Today’s Dom Post editorial:

International research shows that New Zealand pupils at year 5 level – the old standard three – read better on average than their international peers.

Education Ministry figures show that more than a quarter of teenagers leave school without the minimum qualifications necessary to undertake an apprenticeship.

One statistic is a credit to teachers, the other a blight on their reputations.

NZ compares, on average, well internationally. Our top students are a match for the top anywhere in the world. But our bottom 20% do far far worse, than the bottom 20% of other countries. The left go on a lot about income inequality – well it would be nice to hear the same concern for education inequality – the gap between our best and worst is one of the biggest in the OECD.

Those conclusions are backed up by an Education Review Office survey of 212 schools last year which found that 70 per cent of teachers teaching first-year and second-year pupils were doing a good job, but 30 per cent had little or no idea of the importance of getting their pupils off to a good start with reading and writing. What’s more, the review office said, those teachers had only a rudimentary grasp of how to teach reading and writing, set “inappropriately low expectations” and passed up opportunities to motivate, engage and extend children.

And the purpose of is not to demonise teachers who are not performing as well as they should. It is to help identify both students and teachers who need assistance.

The new standards should not be regarded as the goal of the education system, but the minimum set of skills with which children should be equipped.

Exactly. The standards are a minimum. They are not a substitute for a comprehensive education.

The existing system is failing a significant number of pupils. It needs an overhaul.

The Government is to be congratulated for acting to provide parents, teachers, schools and education authorities with more useful information. The teachers’ union should stop standing in the way of progress.

Sadly that will not happen so long as the leadership treats itself as the provisional wing of the Labour Party.

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48 Responses to “Dom Post on National Standards”

  1. Le Grande Fromage (145 comments) says:

    I dont know what these union people are making such a fuss about. Being a proven failed teacher seems to be a pre requisite to becoming a Labour MP and they earn enough money to neccesitate dodging tax by hiding it in trusts. Much better than a primary school teachers salary.

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  2. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    We can’t get by on being as average as everyone else, we need to be better. international standards include some real curve blowing failures that we do not need to be a part of.

    100% basic literacy should be a given but we’re far from it.

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  3. Bobs Your Uncle (5 comments) says:

    I am one of the success stories of the education system. I left high school with a reading age of an eight year old. To this day it effects me as there a gaps. Basic skills which I have never been able to pickup.

    If you had a company where 30% of your work force was below standard and 20% of the output was faulty it would go out of business.

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  4. slightlyrighty (2,496 comments) says:

    Welcome Bob!

    Great point. Imagine the outcry of our health system only had a 80% success rate!

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  5. Johnboy (14,973 comments) says:

    When are we going to drop the pretence and state what we all know that most of our low achievement percentage in education and other life skills bear a striking correlation to our ethnic ratios and that none of the many PC initiatives to alter this have worked. Dumbing down the educational standards so no one fails certainly isn’t helping.

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  6. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    ” And the purpose of national standards is not to demonise teachers who are not performing as well as they should.”

    Maybe not, but if anyone ever deserved demonising it would be these bastards. Thirty per cent of them thick as pig shit and filling kids heads with Progressive doctrine rather than educating them.

    Were any Goebbellian educationalists hung at Nuremberg??? They should have been. What happened in Germany, and what is happening in Nth Korea and Cuba today, should be accepted as a clear and unforgettable message that in any truly democratic society, politics and education should always be separated.

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  7. mickysavage (786 comments) says:

    Key and the Dominion editor have not read the ERO report. What it actually said was the following:

    “the overall quality of the teaching of reading in Years 1 and 2 was either high or good quality in 69 percent of the schools. There was a considerable difference in the quality of the teaching of reading in nearly a third of the remaining schools. In 21 percent of schools the quality of the reading programme was adequate, and in the remaining 10 percent it was limited.”

    So the standard in 90% was adequate to high.

    The 30% figure was a gloss put on the analysis by the ERO and has been regurgitated ad nauseum by others.

    Perhaps they need some remedial reading help.

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  8. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    You keep shooting for mediocrity mickey. For most of us thats just code for failure.

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  9. Bob R (1,336 comments) says:

    “Education Ministry figures show that more than a quarter of teenagers leave school without the minimum qualifications necessary to undertake an apprenticeship.”

    This isn’t solely the fault of teachers. This suggests hopeless parents. A policy which required long term WINZ recipients to receive a 3 monthly birth control shot as a condition of ongoing support makes sense for a number of reasons, and this is one of them. Otherwise NZ will end up with an ‘Idiocracy’ type situation in 100 years.

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  10. Swampy (273 comments) says:

    Tolley is the wrong person to be leading this policy. Why isn’t Allan Peachey involved in it. Read Colin Espiner’s blog then tell me that you are still sure it can succeed.

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  11. tvb (4,202 comments) says:

    The public information campaign is a modest start. Anne Tolley needs to go around the country and send her officials far and wide to explain this to the public. A television campaign would help as well. The Union has declared war on the Government and plans to frustrate the implementation of the policy. The Government needs therefore to put the full resources of the State against the Union and crush them ONCE it has public opinion firmly on side. The Government is not there yet. I suggest they set up an ad-hoc cabinet committee to deal with this. In other words the Government needs to front foot this and not allow the Union to fill any “dead air” with their pronouncements. This is about who has control over education policy – the Government or the Union.

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  12. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    ” Read Colin Espiner’s blog ”

    Pffft… this is a serious subject. No silly jokes please.

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  13. bchapman (649 comments) says:

    Nice point Swampy, Peachey is one of the best informed educationalists in NZ. He understands how things work on the ground. He might also be useful in getting the Principals on side. Maybe then we will then stop hearing trite, generalised, unsubstantiated, unreasearched opinion that seems to eminate from the mouths of Key and Tolley.

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  14. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    Great point. Imagine the outcry of our health system only had a 80% success rate!

    Or if Airline Pilots only landed safely 80% of the time.

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  15. Pete George (22,809 comments) says:

    The existing system is failing a significant number of pupils. It needs an overhaul.

    Bob is right, it is parents that are failing their kids. The existing system isn’t always overcoming the bad start their parent’s give them. Some may be due to less than adequate teaching.

    The health system always fails, eventually.

    It’s nothing similar to single events like landing a plane. It’s more like how many people who start flying lessons become airline pilots.

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  16. grumpyoldhori (2,410 comments) says:

    Yep, far too many Maori parents are poor at taking an interest or do not care what happens to their kids and education
    Now we can wring our hands or do something about it.
    Me, I want far more Dilworth type scools where the kids can go when they are seven, so they grow up learning that school work comes first, not bloody last.
    Could we break the cycle, not sure, but it has to be a bloody sight cheaper than building prisons.
    Oh, those would be boarding schools of course.

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  17. Pete George (22,809 comments) says:

    ” Read Colin Espiner’s blog ”

    I hope Key does.

    After the bulldozer has run out of diesel the teachers will still be going, their union will still be going, the trustees and other parents will still be going, the kids will still be going to school and many of them will still be failing.

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  18. slightlyrighty (2,496 comments) says:

    Well Pete, the purpose of pilot training is to train pilots and for those who can’t cut the mustard to be identified.

    Not all of us can become pilots. But learning to read or write is far different. The fact that 20% of our children leave school unable to read or write to a level satisfactory enough to economically survive in the modern world is a travesty.

    Everyone who starts school should leave it being able to read and write. If they cannot, every effort should be made to help them. It is not enough for our children to be merely better than they were last week and I am sick and tired of an education system that is scared of demanding excellence from it’s participants.

    Let’s challenge our children and help them to be the best they can, and let’s leave the culture of mediocrity behind us.

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  19. david (2,539 comments) says:

    The really interesting thing about this Brouhaha is that someone is trying to do something that may be the start of what might make a difference. Note the qualifiers. Now I will shout … SOMEONE IS ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING … wha hey.

    And the first reaction from those with vested interests in the status quo? Solemn pronouncements about:

    ….. how teachers only exist to strive for positive outcomes for their darling children

    ……. how it needs to be piloted first

    ….. how it won’t make a difference

    ….. how parents (shock horror) are too dumb to work out what it means

    ….. how the establishment knows best

    and the real kicker:

    …. how teachers are so stupid that they can’t understand it, won’t improve and will only game the system by teaching to the standard.

    If the teachers are that stupid that they can’t understand a minimum achievable ability to read and do maths, the system is totally and irrevocably stuffed and there needs to be a monumental cleanout of these unteachable teachers who (by the admission of their own union) are seat warmers who can’t and won’t accept that numeracy and literacy are the foundations on which every bloody other thing is based. Yes even Tino Rangitiratanga, English country dancing,Te Reo and basket weaving.

    I am thinking that this will be a defining issue for this Government and is one that could conceivably change the face of New Zealand down the track. Key made no secret of education being one of the single most important issues facing his Government and I’m betting that he will dig in on it.

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  20. Pete George (22,809 comments) says:

    I agree slightlyrighty.

    There will always be underperforming teachers, and an ongoing effort should be made to raise their standard. They can’t all just be sacked as some suggest, the gaps couldn’t be filled overnight, and with most it will be more effective working on raising their standard rather than starting another batch which will inevitable include more underperformers.

    And there will always be underperforming or non-performing kids. Without encouragement at home to learn and improve it is an uphill battle with some of them. National Standards may help identify a few more, but they won’t fix the problem. Especially without more co-operation from both sides.

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  21. Scott (1,707 comments) says:

    Totally agree slightlyrighty — this should be seen as an opportunity to identify problem areas in education and correct them. We need to work hard to make sure that everyone who leaves school can read and write to at least a minimum standard. I think DPF is spot on — the teachers unions need to stop acting like the educational wing of the Labor Party. I believe National is spot on with this policy and I reckon the vast majority of parents would support it.

    By the way what has happened to karma? Getting feedback on our comments was useful. I hope DPF decides to bring back karma — as soon as possible?

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  22. Matt Long (89 comments) says:

    Pete.

    Step one. Set a Standard.
    Step two. Identify who is not achieving the standard.
    Step three. Identify why individuals are not achieving the standard.
    Step four. Targeted intervention to help those individuals meet the standard.

    How do you propose to institute steps three and four without step two?

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  23. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    If our aim was teach people to make excuses for failure we can claim total success by the look of some of these comments.

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  24. lastmanstanding (1,204 comments) says:

    Why is it so hard to set education standards. As one who comes from a industry background and also a professional education background it seems to me its not a case of CANT Its a case of WONT.

    Hands up how many work in a situation where they have to meet standards for their job their profession their trade organisation.

    See its not that difficult really

    Unless you dont have the will capacity or capability. Now thats another problem That a FOXTROT OSCAR problem.

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  25. Johnboy (14,973 comments) says:

    “They can’t all just be sacked as some suggest, the gaps couldn’t be filled overnight,”

    Says who? Sack the whole bloody lot and offer them re-employment under a new contract. Those who wish to stop eating or take up other employment at Macca’s or Pak’n’save won’t be much of a loss.

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  26. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    How do you propose to institute steps three and four without step two?

    [Sarcasm]
    The word of their Union rep should be enough
    [/Sarcasm]

    Either that or maybe group hugs over a good cup of tea.

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  27. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    Could we break the cycle, not sure, but it has to be a bloody sight cheaper than building prisons.

    Rope is probably cheaper, with the added benefit that it can be recycled.

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  28. Pete George (22,809 comments) says:

    How do you propose to institute steps three and four without step two?

    Most teachers should already know which kids can’t read, write and count. How much setting of standards and testing should it take to make sure they know who are the 20% who are failing?

    National Standards seems to be an ideological sideshow. Much bullshit about bugger all.

    At the end of the first term of each year every teacher should be able to point out all kids who need special attention.

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  29. john.bt (170 comments) says:

    After Tolley sorts out the primary sector she could look at secondary where the kids can get NCEA credits for picking up rubbish or answering the phone.

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  30. Paul Williams (876 comments) says:

    There’s a genuinely disturbing hatred of teachers explicit in many comments here. It’s no wonder teachers and others think the intent of the National Standard is less about improving performance and more servicing latent malevolence towards the profession.

    It stands to reason, not all teachers are great, not all lawyers, doctors, stockbrokers or plumbers are either. However, the National Standards appear unlikely to contribute to improvements in teaching, not least of all because as has been said repetitively, they’ll simply report existing data differently. Worse still, teachers, now fearful that they’ll be exclusively blamed for any and every kids’ performance failure will refocus their efforts to teach solely to the assessment. As a parent, I’d be despairing.

    Key’s made a mess of this, he’s appointed a Minister incapable of finding a meaningful way to satisfy an election commitment without undermining confidence in her key asset; teachers. Her position is unrecoverable. The question is when, not if, she’ll be moved on to other portfolios.

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  31. david (2,539 comments) says:

    Paul, distrust of teachers is an event of their own making. There is an accumulation of years of bullshit going back a couple of generations that is only now being expressed because there is a vehicle for doing so.

    The education sector led the NCEA intrroduction (which took years and years) and there is still a huge belief that it was part of a general dumbing down of quality teaching. We see the product of the system (its clients if you wish) appearing in court and on TV daily – illiterate, unable to string several words together coherently, let alone enough sentences to form a paragraph and we wonder at the system that produces this well-named “underclass”.

    We are assured by the teaching profession that they know what is wrong yet nothing is done about putting it right. We are told that teachers already know who is underperforming in school and yet the performance stats decline year upon year. Parents are fobbed off with bullshit answers and politicians are told they don’t know what they are talking about but still there atre no constructive solutions offered from within the “profession”

    And every one of us had some briliant teachers when we were at school, we has many average ones and we had some abominable ones. In most cases the abominable ones were still theer years after we identified them. We don’t believe that it should be that difficult to put the finger on them. Continuing to produce 20% of our kids as functionally illiterate at school leaving is not an option. The system is the result of the profession doing its best, it is failing, give someone else a shot.

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  32. slightlyrighty (2,496 comments) says:

    Pete.

    Every teacher should be able to point to which children are failing, and yet every year 20% of those leaving the education system are the product of repeated failure over a 10-12 year period.

    Paul,

    I have no malice towards teachers per se. I do have a level of antipathy for union organisations who claim to speak for all teachers when they clearly do not. Despite what some think, National Standards is not about improving performance. It is a standard by which performance is measured. Measurement without a standard measure is useless.

    Good teachers have nothing to fear from this. Bad teachers on the other hand……..

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  33. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    The OECD identified that the gap between the good and poor student performers is average in the OECD, not spectacularly high as many would have you believe.

    And the fix recommended by the OECD is to increase our appallingly low government spend on children in general – less than half the OECD average. Combined with low family incomes (by OECD standards), the result is embarrassingly high rates of child poverty.

    Successive governments (and Helen Clark’s was a huge disappointment to me (such that they lost my vote and will struggle to ever get it back) are the ones that should be held accountable for this disgrace, not the teachers who are performing sterling work in the face of this adversity.

    ERO estimated (from a x-section of schools, not a comprehensive study) 10% of teachers need more training, yet one of National’s first moves in education was to remove the school advisors – that is, those employed to help teachers who need it.

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  34. slightlyrighty (2,496 comments) says:

    Luc.

    There is $28 million set aside for Professional development for teachers, $35 million set aside for targeted assistance within schools and $75 million for those dealing with difficult students.

    This is what this government is doing, in it’s first term.

    As to employing advisors to help teachers, would it hot have been better to employ teachers who are competent enough not to need such assistance?

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  35. lastmanstanding (1,204 comments) says:

    Paul and other The teachers unions not individual teachers have bought it on themselves over the past 3 or more decades

    How By their condescending know it all arrogant attitude towards one of their customers Parents.

    Rather than working with parents the unions have disengaged from their customers to the extent that rightly the customers who pay the teachers salaries are now mightly pissed off.

    Frankly the unions need to be broken as they have a 19th Century entrenched view of the world that wont change.

    Teachers should be employed on individual contracts with bonus clauses and rates set for achievement.

    Before the bleeding hearts start bleating Yes it can be done There is nothing except a late of will to do so.

    Get over it the future of our society lies in the hands of todays children Its too damn important to leave it to those shrills and shrews that are the teachers Unions

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  36. Paul Williams (876 comments) says:

    @david, I think you’re conflating too many issues to justify a conclusion. Rather than go through each one of your points, can I just ask why you think school performance is in decline? That’s not a view supported by the data.

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  37. Red Sam (122 comments) says:

    “The left go on a lot about income inequality – well it would be nice to hear the same concern for education inequality”

    You’d have to have your head completely in the sand if you didn’t recognise that there is a correlation between income and educational inequality. Look at the decile rating of schools to see where struggling students live in this country. Of course there are exceptions, but it’s quite clear that socio-economic factors impact on academic achievement.

    Have National Standards type regimes in Canada and the USA made a difference?

    Why should New Zealand have National Standards for every primary-aged child, evey year, when the majority of students are doing very well in numeracy and literacy? Our schools already use a variety of assessment tools and processes that reliably show which children are struggling. National Standards are not needed to do this.

    Furthermore, National Standards will not necessarily equate with quality teaching of mathematics (literacy) and numeracy.

    [DPF: 20% of students leave primary school unable to effectively read and write. You think this is fine. I do not. Standards do not fix thsi problem, but they are a necessary first step to clearly identifying who is not meeting the minimum levels needed, and then devoting additional attention and resources to them]

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  38. GPT1 (2,088 comments) says:

    Some of the arguments are hiliarious. The principles union was complaining that the standards could become de facto measures of teachers. Like teachers might become accountable, like the rest of us (with jobs)? Radical.

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  39. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    Slightlyrighty; And no-one will turn down the extra funding, but my point is that the government is trying to hive off its own responsibilities to teachers. Teachers are not social workers, and the problems of the underachievers originate from outside the classroom. This is not to say there is not room for improvement, but surely it is better to work with teachers, not against them. As I recall, all the teachers asked for was consultation (not imperious direction masquerading as such) and comprehensive trials.

    It’s interesting how the discussion has now descended to an outright attack on teachers, which is pretty much National’s default setting. Its allegation of teacher misrepresentation is simply propaganda designed to hide its own duplicity – including the parading of false information.

    We started this debate with “It’s all about the kids!” and now “It’s all about those villainous teachers!”

    That tells you how compelling the government case really is – not. I’m heartened to see that the Herald comments are running overwhelmingly against the government, so it remains to be seen how this all pans out.

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  40. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    GPT1 – what you will find is that all the “bad teachers” are in lower decile schools. What a surprise.

    Meanwhile, the gap in achievement will continue to grow as governments refuse to face the true facts and causes.

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  41. tvb (4,202 comments) says:

    The Government is sending its MPs out to hold public meetings. We cannot have a situation when yet again the teachers’ unions are seen once again to have frustrated Government policy no matter how meritorious. BUT it is essential the Government get public opinion firmly on its side. And then it can move to drive the Union out of Education policy and be seen to have succeeded. The Education sector is absolutely rank with the Unions and its supporters treating Government policy with contempt and seek to frustrate things as much as they can.

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  42. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    Paul Williams
    Key’s made a mess of this, he’s appointed a Minister incapable of finding a meaningful way to satisfy an election commitment without undermining confidence in her key asset; teachers.

    They aren’t a National asset they are a Labour asset.
    Let’s be truthful here shall we?

    If they were up to the job we wouldn’t have bullshit child centric interviews and 20% failing the basics, as the teachers unions undermine the government we voted into parliament, to support their preferred party who gives them what they need for their members.

    Don’t tell me that the teachers unions and Labour want what’s best for our kids, I’ll kotch all over my keyboard.

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  43. fatman43us (166 comments) says:

    Can someone who knows tell me whether it is still possible in this country to deregister a Union, and if so when National might consider this course for the Teachers of both persuasions.

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  44. Paul Williams (876 comments) says:

    MikeNZ, as clever as your point may be, I fear you’re missing the major issue.

    A Minister of Education who alienates teachers so completely, as Tolley appears to have, is unlikely to ever be successful. This is hardly a new or insightful observation. Whether you like it or not, the profession and their professional body are vital stakeholders and the rush to implement this promise has been incredibly poorly managed.

    Perhaps a more experienced Minister might have been a better appointment?

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  45. ross (1,454 comments) says:

    > And the purpose of national standards is not to demonise teachers who are not performing as well

    Really? So why have you demonsed teachers and continue to do so? It’s as if parents have no responsibility for the behaviour and academic performance of their kids. And the idea that we’re all the same with all the same skills and attributes is nonsense. I’ve asked this before and I’ll ask it again: if this policy turns out to be a disaster, as seems likely, will the Minister resign? I think we all know the answer.

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  46. Paul Williams (876 comments) says:

    [DPF: 20% of students leave primary school unable to effectively read and write. You think this is fine. I do not. Standards do not fix thsi problem, but they are a necessary first step to clearly identifying who is not meeting the minimum levels needed, and then devoting additional attention and resources to them]

    No David, that’s a strawman. Not all oponents of Tolley’s National Standards oppose any and all standards, nor do they think it’s impossible to achieve better outcomes for these students. To argue otherwise is silly and misleading.

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  47. SHG (362 comments) says:

    The debate on national standards and league tables has taken an interesting turn in Australia since the launch of http://www.myschool.edu.au/ – the Australian schools comparison site. Much to the chagrin of the “WE WON’T STAND FOR THIS” unionists, the league tables have started a debate not on “does $LOW-RANKING-PUBLIC-SCHOOL suck” but rather “why does $SUPER-RICH-PRIVATE-SCHOOL not rate super-highly?”

    The teachers that are having their feet held to the fire are the teachers at rich private schools, totally the opposite of what the union lobby warned everyone would happen.

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  48. bchapman (649 comments) says:

    If 30% of teachers are substandard the question needs to be asked “What does Tolley intend to do about it?”.

    So far I have seen no action at all. Who are they? Where do they teach? In what areas are they deficient?

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