Listener on National Standards

October 18th, 2010 at 3:59 pm by David Farrar

The Listener’s editorial:

Hands up those who agree with this proposal. Not only should there be in schools, but the government should pay schools bonuses of up to $100,000 if they demonstrate improvements in the literacy and numeracy achievement standards of their pupils.

It’s no surprise, perhaps, that teacher unions have denounced the plans and immediately threatened to boycott the tests, talking of their concerns about “damaging league tables”.

What is a surprise is that all this is happening in Australia.

How is it, one might ask, that in New Zealand the introduction of national standards in primary schools has been denounced by teacher unions as nothing more than right-wing ideology while across the Tasman, the minister driving this “education revolution” is none other than the Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard? In her bid to improve school standards, Gillard has already muscled aside one of Australia’s most powerful left-wing outfits – the Australian Education Union – to ensure all school results are published on the My School website. This with the express purpose of identifying poorly performing schools.

Indeed. National Standards are just common sense. They require no change to current testing or assessment. They just require one additional step – to moderate the school data onto a national standard and add on one extra page to the school report with the national standard data also.

Frankly they are no big thing, and the opposition from entrenched interests is actually about league tables, not national standards.

Talking of her passion and commitment to ensuring every child has access to good schooling regardless of their background, Gillard spoke at the launch of the website earlier this year of the danger of schools quietly underperforming. “No one ever knows and no one ever does anything about it,” she said. “But children only get one chance at school.”

In New Zealand, where many principals are now promising to step up their campaign against national standards, it was Pita Sharples who this week talked of under-performing schools. A lot of schools, said Sharples, fail to monitor the achievements of Maori students, fail to use the professional support offered to them to help raise standards and fail to involve Maori families in the education of Maori students.

Absolutely. Despite what is said, we do not know well enough which students are failing and which schools are failing.

Contrast his statements with that of primary teachers union spokesperson, NZEI president Frances Nelson, who recently claimed that the Education Minister Anne Tolley had distorted data to “manufacture a crisis in education”. There is indeed a crisis but it is not of Tolley’s creation. The facts speak for themselves: 15,000 New Zealand students end up leaving school without NCEA level two and 7900 without level one.

Although our top performers are among the best in the OECD, it is the long tail of underachievement that causes alarm.

This is what the NZEI says is not a problem. 15,000 students every year leaving school without even NCEA Level 2.

This is not an imaginary crisis. In this country, almost 50% of Maori students and 35% of Pasifika students leave school without level two NCEA. In all, 29% of the students who will be leaving school at the end of next month will leave without this qualification. It is the minimum qualification that any young New Zealander needs to succeed in further study or skilled employment.

And this is the status quo the education unions defend.

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38 Responses to “Listener on National Standards”

  1. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    Unions – they put the “L” into “education”

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  2. MT_Tinman (2,985 comments) says:

    I have no worries about a solid percentage of people leaving school without qualification, there is always going to be a need for MacDonalds counter-jumpers, check-out chicks, shearers, ditch diggers, fencers etc..

    The problem is ensuring it is the right people going into these jobs and ensuring ALL leavers can read.

    Only with fixed standards applied nationally can this be guaranteed.

    Of course it might also lead to good teachers with a record of success being able to demand a premium wage but that would be terrible wouldn’t it?

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  3. YesWeDid (1,029 comments) says:

    When did Anne Tolley start writing editorials for the Listener?

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  4. Crumble (61 comments) says:

    A point you make is that they be moderated. This is a great idea, unfortunately not part of the National Standards. The “National” Standards that the govt passed into law after 6 weeks in power and said they should be implemented within a year, are not in fact national. They are school standards that require no outside moderation. You can not compare a school in Bluff to a school in Kataia.

    John Hattie, the architect of the National Standards, has said that they will barely, if at all improve student achievement.

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  5. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    YesWeDid,

    Many years after your Dear Leader started signing [others'] artworks

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  6. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    Crumble,

    It is fair to say that the National Standards will be every bit as effective as the people who implement them.

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  7. gravedodger (1,510 comments) says:

    Who wrote that for The Listener, somewhat radical eh.
    MT_Tinman, a bit harsh on Shearers, I had many rural based students who made good holiday money to assist their studies costs, shearing and they were good buggers to boot. Shearing is a rote job and even the male brain can process unrelated information while the body works.
    I had one, Colin King, shear a couple of seasons for me in the 70s and that was before he broke the golden shears model by winning the open from a Righthand stand and it was after that the Golden shears committee relented and put in lefthand facilities. there have been some pretty smart cookies on the board at the “shears” over the years.

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  8. Crumble (61 comments) says:

    @bhudson but like anything, if the system is flawed to start with it will not produce the results that you want.

    National Standards have been touted to be the thing to “save’ the education system in New Zealand, which is the 4th best in the OECD, but the 3 countries ahead of us don’t use anything like that and countries that are below us like Australia, the US, the UK do. So why is the govt imported educational policy from countries that are below us?

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  9. RightNow (6,648 comments) says:

    It’s nice not to care either way. My kids aren’t in any danger of failing, and it seems that the desire for other kids to have better outcomes is only ever seen as monstrous by certain people (unless it’s their tribe making the rules).
    I actually thought that the results from national standards were meant to be used to help government identify where additional resources should be focused. But heck, if the teachers don’t want it, let’s save the money and not do it. Really – who cares?

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  10. commonsenserules (1 comment) says:

    Good to see the teachers – the education role models leading the good fight with upto date communications skills – the ones they teach in class. MMMM I wonder why education is off track. Teachers unions have never had a commonsense approach – I am still waiting to see what they are so afraid of. They hold the kids in their class rooms to account with a system that as a parent is screwed – they certainly don’t promote success – they take the good grades of kids who get a slightly lower grade

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  11. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    Crumble,

    As noted in the article:

    “Although our top performers are among the best in the OECD, it is the long tail of under achievement that causes alarm.”

    I believe Prof. Hattie backed this up – He also noted that NS won’t help to improve those already at the top but who are still under their personal potential. That would seem to be a valid statement, but then you would also expect most of these students would already have the self-motivation to push themselves further. More a case of the teachers, schools & system supprting them in that.

    The “tail” is a problem though. And it is long. And it affects a greater proportion of our minorities. NS (phase 1) will help to indentify & quantify those problem areas and underperforming students. That then enables the teachers, schools, parents, student and govt to actually target solutions to address the specific problems. It is particulalry beneficial for parents that the NS reporting is in plain english – so they are more able to engage & understand the issues and help their children and their teachers in addressing their individual challenges.

    NS (phase 1) is not the solution in itself. I think people would be better to reserve judgement until thse solutions are proposed in subsequent phases(s).

    This requires the teachers, principals, BoTs and parents getting behind this phase 1 and actively trying to improve outcomes for our children, instead of resisiting (futilely I might add.)

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  12. Jimbob (640 comments) says:

    If the Listener has an editorial like this, then I would say the teachers’ unions are losing support from within the left.

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  13. toad (3,669 comments) says:

    FFS, won’t you guys ever get it.

    The opposition to Tolley’s National Standards is not to the concept. It is to the implementation of a standards regime that has not been trialed, is fundamentally unsound, and will label kids as failures when they are not.

    Even Tolley herself admits that the standards are “aspirational” rather than normative.

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  14. dave (985 comments) says:

    …. and add on one extra page to the school report with the national standard data also
    Once again DPF, Nope. No extra page is required. Also, you`d be surprised how may principals are against National standards, but also do not think they`ll lead to league tables. So league tables are not always factor in opposition.

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  15. jackp (668 comments) says:

    Wow, toad, that is the biggest line of bullshit I have ever heard but coming from you, I am getting use to it.

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  16. dave (985 comments) says:

    While, as DPF correctly states, the system of National Standards requires no change to current testing or assessment, these standards are not ‘national’ standards at all. Rather, they are subjective and individual benchmarks for where a specific child is placed, at a specific school, based upon a specific teacher’s professional judgment of that child, determined after the teacher has used his or her own personal selection of available assessments and indicators.

    That is why teachers, in assessing work against the National Standards, get results like this.

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  17. dave (985 comments) says:

    while, as DPF correctly states, the system of National Standards requires no change to current testing or assessment, these standards are not ‘national’ standards at all. Rather, they are subjective and individual benchmarks for where a specific child is placed, at a specific school, based upon a specific teacher’s professional judgment of that child, determined after the teacher has used his or her own personal selection of available assessments and indicators.

    That is why teachers, in assessing work against the National Standards, get results like this.

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  18. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    toad,

    No. You would seem to be the one who doesn’t get it. To argue it is not the concept but the implementation that is protested is disingenuous to say the least.

    They are not protesting how they are implemented (what most people would interpret “its not about the concept, its about the implementation” to mean) – they are protesting that they are being implemented at all.

    To say that is not about the concept is banal. I have not heard of a single instance where the teachers’ or principals’ unions have agreed to actually discuss refining the how. They are opposed to them Full Stop

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  19. dave (985 comments) says:

    bhudson – the NZPF is protesting how this policy is implemented, as well as the policy design. So are the unions like NZEI

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  20. dave (985 comments) says:

    also, while, as DPF correctly states, the system of National Standards requires no change to current testing or assessment, these standards are not ‘national’ standards at all. Rather, they are subjective and individual benchmarks for where a specific child is placed, at a specific school, based upon a specific teacher’s professional judgment of that child, determined after the teacher has used his or her own personal selection of available assessments and indicators.

    That is why teachers, in assessing work against the National Standards, get results like this.

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  21. Right of way is Way of Right (1,129 comments) says:

    Toad, what the hell is wrong with being aspirational anyhow??

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  22. Inventory2 (10,097 comments) says:

    Right of way is Way of Right said

    Toad, what the hell is wrong with being aspirational anyhow??

    Aspirational is a foreign concept to the Greens RoW; it means that you have to take responsibility for things and you have to stand on your own to feet, not be supported by the state.

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  23. BeaB (2,057 comments) says:

    Of course you can compare a school in Bluff with a school in Kaitaia. How many kids can read at their chronological age? How many kids know their times tables? How many kids can write a sentence? etc etc
    Unless you are suggesting there would be more Maori kids up north (tho lots in Bluff) in which case we then start all the excuses for only being able to teach white girls.

    It’s just as well our doctors don’t insist on treating just the healthy people.

    And Toad – that’s the pathetic old whine – it’s not what they did, it’s the way they did it. Sob.

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  24. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    dave,

    That is equally banal. You state they are opposed to both concept (design) and the implementation. You could try to claim that design if different to concept, except that we both know that if these groups got an opportunity to ‘redesign’ it would be a very different concept indeed.

    They are opposed to National Standards full stop. To claim otherwise is being overly liberal with the truth.

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  25. wat dabney (3,655 comments) says:

    “National Standards are just common sense.”

    Only where the state has a monopoly. And even then the incentive is simply for teachers to “teach to the test” (and that’s putting it politely.)

    The solution is the voucher system and all private schools. That’s what National should be implementing: choice for parents, decent education for children and good value for the taxpayers.

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  26. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    bhudson, October 18th, 2010 at 5:56 pm.

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    and will label kids as failures when they are not

    No toad, it will identify the students who require additional assistance in the requirements they are falling behind in so they don’t fall through the cracks completely…

    Or maybe you want them to fall behind and into a life of Poverty/Welfare. Means more Green voters for you eh toad?

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  27. Viking2 (11,125 comments) says:

    Now wat, that’s heresy even on this blog.

    ACT Party Policy.

    Bug Bruv will be along to give you your’s and Rodneys pedigree any moment.

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  28. wat dabney (3,655 comments) says:

    Hasn’t everyone watched The Wire, for goodness sake!

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  29. big bruv (13,227 comments) says:

    Toad

    When will YOU get it?

    If the Nat’s have a mandate for anything it is National Standards, the parents want change, they voted for change and they do not give a flying fuck what you, the Greens or the communist bastards running our teachers union want.

    You Toad are defending the indefensible, our education system is an abysmal failure yet you see nothing wrong with it (apart from forcing all of our kids to learn the irrelevant Maori language)

    As others have pointed out (and I will continue to do so) you are telling bare faced lies (nothing new for a Green), the teachers union and many of the teachers have no interest in trialling National Standards at all, any “trial” would be a sham and the teachers and he unions would ensure it fails.

    The Nat’s have the support of the parents Toad, I hope that Neville and co decide to lock the teachers out over the Xmas break, lets see the teachers inconvenienced for a change, Neville should give the bastards an ultimatum, they either get on board or they are sacked…simple as that.

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  30. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    I’m looking at the report to students (parents) of my son’s exam from the Australian Maths at the University of NSW.
    He got 33 out of 40 being in the top 1% of NZ with a high distinction.
    The report shows that in Number & Arithmetic, Algebra & Patterns, Measures & Units, Space & Geometry, Chance & Data he is at the top of the cohort or above it. In one strand he is just off the chart.

    All the data is under his personal no on their web site (since year 4) so a school or department could extrapolate trends and results in a Stanine or cohort too.
    I’m told the information that goes back to the participating school is even more comprehensive dependent on the number (%) participating.

    The problem is it is voluntary and parents pay $7.50 per exam which in our case includes both Englishes, Science and Maths each year.

    I can think of no better way to spend our hard earned dollars than in every kid in the country from year 4 doing this exam and both the English ones every year.

    This is a system that is working, how hard is this? Why is it not already in place?
    To my mind it is the mark of a professional and committed person or group that would have this as the basis of a system surely?

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  31. jackp (668 comments) says:

    MikeNZ, that’s is great, wow, keep up the good work. When my step son was in intermediate we got a note form his music teacher, it read: “Your son is doing average work in music, keep up the good work!.” I had to read a few times to understand it. I still don’t understand it and he has left high school!

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  32. k.jones (210 comments) says:

    “And this is the status quo the education unions defend.”

    Ummm really? I dont think even those nasty union types have said this DPF?

    Stop your supposed “outrage” for maori and pacific underachievement as a justification for “the worst public policy implementation for a long time” (K Jones) and check http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/…/Podcast-Professor-Russell-Bishop.

    your never too old to stop learning right?

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  33. k.jones (210 comments) says:

    “And this is the status quo the education unions defend.”

    Ummm really? I dont think even those nasty union teachers have said this DPF? Have they?

    This phoney “outrage” over maori and pacifica underachievement to justify shambolic policy implementation is wafer thin. Instead, check http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/…/Podcast-Professor-Russell-Bishop – he knows his shit.

    You’re never to old to keep learning – right righties?

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  34. Maggie (674 comments) says:

    Where on earth does the Listener get the notion that NZ teachers and the Australian PM should agree on everything?

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  35. tvb (4,199 comments) says:

    The teachers are backing themselves into a corner. I hope the Government is preparing the ground for a 1 month lockout over the summer break from mid december. No holiday pay no pay nothing. And if there is no progress on accepting in full the Government’s very reasonable pay offer then the lockout should be extended.

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  36. wreck1080 (3,726 comments) says:

    A parent at our local primary school was told by her sons teacher that he was doing well last year. However, this year when he began the new year it was apparent that he had not been taught to the level of other kids in his class and needed remedial catch up lessons.

    So, how can a child be doing ‘well’ in one year, then the next is behind the other kids? The parent was appalled as they were under then impression all was OK.

    We’ve received national standard reports for my 7 year old son. They are just great. It shows the level where the child should be at the end of year 3, and the childs current level.

    I believe the teachers give the kids some spelling/mathematics lists , and also test their reading comprehension skills.

    I’m pretty sure this system is well suited for boys too, who are more interested in playtime than school time. Maybe, that is why there is so much resistance against national standards? The powerful lesbian lobby is trying to crush male achievement. Or, is that just a conspiracy theory?

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  37. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    Why has the teachers unions if they are the professionals they state they are not instigated national standards in the last decade?
    They have the information, they have the tests and as I showed in the last post there has been an exam marked outside the existing system that could be used and assessed against too.

    Again why has the ppta and nzei not have an existing system for assessment and research?

    I think the issue is complex but one facet is very clear.
    The Unions are just that, Unions and as such they are primarily interested in protecting their members and their working environment.
    That doesn’t mean the best deal for the others in that environment, namely the kids.

    The unions trade on the so called professional status they claim.
    This is disinformation as they aren’t a professional organisation like the doctors colleges but a Union as already posted previously by someone else.

    The teacher s unions need to be treated as unions with a financial and political agenda not as professionals.

    by all means lets have a professional body for teachers but the risk of tainting the message with politics must be closely watched for.

    the ppta and nzei have no leg to stand on, national standards should already be known and reported on. that they aren’t shows the teachers and their unions aren’t the professionals they claim to be and they should be treated as such.

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  38. Russell Brown (403 comments) says:

    I would note that the Listener’s editorial is colossally wrong in its depiction of the Australian system — which is already moving markedly away from both league tables, and a reliance on the standard tests to assess school performance — but there’s probably no point.

    Basically, the government there has listened to its critics and made changes. That is not happening here.

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