Fight bad info with good info

February 8th, 2010 at 3:51 pm by David Farrar

I’ve often said in the debate about that the solution is not to ban the media from obtaining school achievement data under the Official Information Act, or even more ridiculously not having the Government even collate the data itself.

The solution is to provide good and useful information, to counter any league tables done in a simplistic fashion by the media. You fight bad information with good information 0- not by banning all information about primary school achievement.

The Herald reported at the weekend:

The education expert who first advised the Government on school standards is about to start work on plans for a national league table system, which he hopes will satisfy parents and teachers.

Professor , who was called to Wellington last month by Prime Minister John Key to explain his concerns about in primary schools, said the Government’s “wait and see” approach to league tables wasn’t good enough.

He did not support league tables, but the introduction of national standards in reading, writing and maths made them inevitable, so it was important to work out a fair solution.

He planned to work with other researchers to produce an independent paper on school league tables this year, suggesting what information parents could reasonably expect.

Professor Hattie, of Auckland University, said results could be shown in context, such as how a school compared with others in its decile. For instance, he helped Metro magazine devise fairer comparisons between NCEA results in its annual survey of Auckland secondary schools.

Superb. This is exactly the right answer. What I would do is plug all the data into a database that will allow people to get decile comparisons and the like.

Last year, the top school on test results alone was the $16,000-a-year private girls’ college St Cuthbert’s, but the best school on improved student achievement was decile 4 Mt Roskill Grammar.

And that is the data which would be really interesting. We’ll see what level pupils are at when they first enter primary school. What I want to know is which schools start with a majority of kids below the national standards for their age, but by the time they leave that school they are above the national standards. Because they are the schools who make the biggest difference.

Principals Federation president Ernie Buutveld said Professor Hattie’s idea was worth exploring and he believed many teachers and principals would like to be involved.

Much better attitude than trying to ban publication or refuse to even let the Government have data on how schools are doing.

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10 Responses to “Fight bad info with good info”

  1. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    >What I would do is plug all the data into a database that will allow people to get decile comparisons and the like.

    What I wouldn’t do would be to give the data to NIWA, who would arbitrarily change it so that it matched their computerised predictions of student performance and then throw away the original data.

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  2. mavxp (483 comments) says:

    If done right we should eventually be able to drill the data down to classroom level and pay performance bonuses to teachers who consistently provide improvements.

    It can also enhance teachers CV’s enabling them to be promoted based on performance rather than years of service. Or move schools to take up senior roles where performance is poor so the skills can be transferred between schools.

    Of course not all schools are equal. Some have very dysfunctional kids to deal with, and others have by comparison very focused kids with well instilled work ethics. This too needs to be taken into consideration. Ranking by decile perhaps helps too.

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  3. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    In the same way that public servants in the PSA get an extra $1,000/year (after tax) for being a union member it would make sense to encourage “thinking” teachers to stand up and be measured by offering them cash incentives to have an individual contract with performance incentives.

    I’m sure the unions will be stupid enough to say it’s OK to pay people a premium for joining the union but not OK to pay them a premium for not being in the union.

    Tilting the playing field is OK when it works for their membership numbers but not when it works against them.

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  4. whalehunter (479 comments) says:

    do we automatically think that the lower decile schools would look bad? not fair? but….

    higher decile schools may have more pupils doing standards above their age group, that could make them look more avg.

    some schools lower decile schools have lots of pupils not even doing some standards. so…

    private and intergrated schools may look worse because they are encouraging more younger pupils into higher levels.

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  5. fatman43us (166 comments) says:

    Hattie reminds me of race horse betting – five bob each way. He really needs to decide whether he wants to hunt with the teachers or the Government. And Key needs to tell him so!

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  6. Psycho Milt (2,412 comments) says:

    Much better attitude…

    Yeah, it’s amazing how much better attitude you get when you don’t treat professionals like recalcitrant serfs. But I guess it would be asking way too much to expect Key and Tolley to be able to figure this out by themselves – maybe Key could summon Hattie to Wellington to give him some basic tips on how to deal with people? Looks like he needs them.

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  7. reid (16,442 comments) says:

    If done right we should eventually be able to drill the data down to classroom level and pay performance bonuses to teachers who consistently provide improvements.

    maxvp, you’ve got about as much chance of that as you have of getting rid of the many managers in the corporate sector who are total tossers and only in it to massage their own childishly insecure egos and thereby do not benefit but rather damage their employers who are either too blind or uninterested to tell the difference between a goodie and a baddie.

    National Standards is a v blunt instrument, but it’s nevertheless better than nothing at all, but at least its better than nothing at all.

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  8. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    and we could get all the MoE staff and teachers to stop blogging their dissent about national standards all day and get back to work.

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  9. Alan Wilkinson (1,878 comments) says:

    Isn’t it pitiful how the stunningly, blindingly obvious gets ignored by the MSM until they can find “an expert” to say it?

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  10. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    The essential thing for a league table is that the statisitical error in the ranks is included.

    St Cuthberts may be ranked 1 and South Auckland High School ranked 20 but if their average scores were 50.5 and 49.5 then there is no meaningfull differences in the two schools. But a diffrences in 20 ranks (and even in 1 rank) implies that there is some meaningfull difference between the schools.

    Giving just one number implies it’s a fact rather than a fiction.

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