Does NZEI want to ban calorie labels?

June 30th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young at NZ Herald reports:

Almost 59 per cent of DigiPoll respondents approve of publishing of the material, either by the Ministry of Education or the media or both. But 36.4 per cent believe comparisons between schools are unfair.

That’s a useful finding, but is also somewhat beside the point. Even if the majority did not support , that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t happen. The majority do not get to decide what information the minority are allowed to have. We live in a free and open society where all government data can be accessed by citizens, except for a few exceptions such as security issues.

But NZEI president Ian Leckie confirmed last night he had written to schools advising them not to release the information to the news media under the Official Information Act.

“It is unreliable information, it potentially disadvantages the education system.”

Any country that used league tables had gone backwards, he said.

He likened ranking schools by league tables to ranking the value of food by calories.

Now let us take that comparison. Let’s say it is true. That it is just as silly to rank schools by league tables as it is to rank food by their calories, rather than taste and protein also.

Now what Leckie is effectively saying that the Government should ban the publication of calorie values on all food. He is saying that because some people will make inappropriate food decisions based on the calorie values, then everyone must be denied information on the calorie value of different foods.

Now that is insanely stupid right? Of course it is. But that is the exact argument he is making with school assessment data. He is saying that no parent should ever be allowed to know a school’s assessment data, because some parents may make inappropriate decisions on them.

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48 Responses to “Does NZEI want to ban calorie labels?”

  1. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    What is insanely stupid is pretending that national standard provide a useful performance measure or that publishing results will provide a meaningful comparison between schools.

    [DPF: Actually I think results showing the difference in performance between kids entering and kids leaving a school, moderated by decile will be very useful data]

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  2. Mr_Blobby (173 comments) says:

    Here we go again a rash of educationalist who don’t want to be held accountable. Everything is measureable ask any efficiency expert. But according to the education sector not them. What have they got to hide?

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  3. Mr_Blobby (173 comments) says:

    Milkenmild who cares it has to be better than what we have at the moment.

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  4. FarmGeek (5 comments) says:

    Mr_Blobby, New Zealand ranks 4th, 7th and 4th in the world for Reading, Maths and Science respectively. What problem are we trying to solve again? http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/dec/07/world-education-rankings-maths-science-reading

    [DPF: The 20% tail. An average is just that]

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  5. Doug (410 comments) says:

    FarmGeek

    As long as exams keep getting easier standards will be maintained.

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  6. Than (472 comments) says:

    mikenmild, if that is the case then the constructive response from the NZEI would be to work with the government to improve the standards and league tables (because parents overwhelmingly do want them) and to educate parents about their limitations.

    But they haven’t chosen to be constructive. They have chosen to be obstructive and confrontational, to the point of breaking the law.

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  7. hmmokrightitis (1,590 comments) says:

    farmgeek, agree, and I take your point.

    But some kids are failing and being left behind, right? Are you saying we should be happy with what we have, and not try harder?

    Do you want to tell those kids who aren’t making it that thats OK? That being 7th, cos you said so, is good enough? You got kids? I do, and I know that I want them to constantly strive to be better, and yes, that means competition, not fucking socialist warm fuzzies where we are all winners. Sorry, real world laughs at shit like that.

    Real world likes winners who work for it. Not people who have a trophy for coming 7th and a certificate for being average.

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  8. FarmGeek (5 comments) says:

    hmmokrightitis, my point was there is no major crisis that needs fixing. Sure, we should focus our attention on the kids that need help, but imposing national standards on every kid in every school will diminish the quality of education for all, not improve it. (Have you seen the focus on teaching-to-the-test in the US?) Meanwhile, the kids that really need help will still be no better off.

    If you can point to a country that has improved their educational outcomes through national standards, I’ll change my mind. And yes, I’m a parent.

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  9. hmmokrightitis (1,590 comments) says:

    Im heading out the door for Saturday night entertainment now, but my response is simple: for every ‘study’ you show, I can show you one that supports further developing kids and setting standards of attainment, and measuring success. As Than said, the teacher unions have a chance here to not only do the right thing for kids, but to also gain the moral high ground they have vacated. Why not ask to be involved to make it better, rather than calling for illegal action?

    Why not show kids how they can be a positive part of change, rather than be a bunch of whiny, whinging jobs worth tossers?

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  10. Manolo (13,746 comments) says:

    NZEI is a den of Labour supporters with an agenda to execute. These sub-standard teachers will do whatever is necessary to hamper the government.

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  11. MikeG (425 comments) says:

    “That it is just as silly to rank schools by league tables…”

    Really? A league table BY DEFINITION is a ranking! So, using DPF’s logic, it is also silly to rank NRL teams by the league table?

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  12. F E Smith (3,305 comments) says:

    What is insanely stupid is pretending that national standard provide a useful performance measure or that publishing results will provide a meaningful comparison between schools.

    That is irrelevant.  The information belongs to the NZ Government, and therefore should be available to the people of NZ.  If they want to create league tables out of it then that is their problem, not the schools.  Unless it is a security matter, the Government should not be withholding information simply because of the use it suspects people will put it to.

    Or do you think that the Government should only release information that is in the public interest?

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  13. nasska (11,478 comments) says:

    Perhaps we could hark back to the old adage of he who pays the piper calls the tune. The Government taxes everyone in NZ to provide for childrens’ education. The parents represent the consumers. The cloth cap whingers who fondly adopt the label of “educational professionals” are providing a service in return for wages/salary.

    No other group of employees in NZ get to tell their employer what they will do or how they will do it.

    Who the Hell do these wankers think they are?

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

    Does the NZEI want to ban calorie labels?

    I don’t know, but I imagine that if calorie content were a matter of the food manufacturer’s opinion and people were inclined to value food more highly the higher on the basis of calorie content, it might.

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  15. KH (695 comments) says:

    DPFs explanation nails it again.

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

    The information belongs to the NZ Government, and therefore should be available to the people of NZ.

    Indeed. Of course, a govt that wasn’t crap would also be making clear to the people of NZ that the information is completely fucking useless for the establishment of a schools league table – but this govt is crap.

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  17. Oskar (34 comments) says:

    Farmgeek at 4.24 says that being 4th, 7th and 4th in the world for Reading, Maths and Science respectively is OK and asks what problem we are trying to solve.

    How about this:
    “One in five students is leaving school without qualifications. Some struggle so badly they cannot fill out the unemployment benefit form.”

    Or this from the same article
    “2006 survey found 43 per cent of adults with some sort of literacy issue, and half the population with numeracy difficulties.”

    Here is the article in question – http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7159927/Writing-on-the-wall-for-illiterate-Kiwis

    I have seen myself potential employees who cannot write, cannot spell and cannot do basic maths – and so cannot get a job that fits their expectations. And these are university graduates.

    Yes the NZ education system does do well – for a percentage of the population. But has been noted there is a long tail for whom it does not do well and for a good portion of the rest it does not provide them with the basic skills needed for a modern society.

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  18. F E Smith (3,305 comments) says:

    Milt,

    I disagree. The Government should simply release the data. If the education sector unions want to tell NZers that the data is crap, then those unions are perfectly entitled and able to do so.

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

    DPF is just getting ridiculous. Absolutely fucking ridiculous. Is he that desperate for traffic? Are his stats falling off, hence the need for the continuous stream of dog whistles? With this level of specious argument, will people start to see through all this bullshit?

    We have serious issues to resolve in this country and this is what the so-called leading blogger dishes up? FFS.

    Ian Leckie was not advocating the banning of calorie counts. He was making the entirely valid point that the calorie counts on labels can be very misleading for what they exclude, like transfats. But individuals can make their own choices, which don’t adversely impact on a generation of children.

    League tables from NS will do just that.

    There are entirely valid reasons for not enabling league tables to be made up out of crap data. But those valid reasons will get drowned in the right wing deluge of well funded propaganda. That’s a fact. It’s obvious that the government is well aware that NS are crap, but since the default setting of the right is to destroy all that is best about society, that suits them just fine!

    And the tail thing is mainly a beat up. The tail is one of the shortest in the PISA surveys, even though we have one of the highest levels of inequality in the OECD. And the solution to the tail lies with successive governments who have cynically allowed inequality to grow as an electoral strategy.

    As I said yesterday, if the government wanted credible league tables, they can do and fund it. But that is not the aim. And there is no doubt the base dissemination of misleading information by the right wing is winning the argument amongst the voters, but the same voters are ignored when it comes to asset sales in a depressed economy.

    FES

    You would say that, of course.

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  20. F E Smith (3,305 comments) says:

    Luc,

    of course I would say that. I don’t believe that the Government should save us from ourselves.

    On the rest of your rant, well, this is DPF’s site. He can post what he wants on it and take whatever position that he wants. If you don’t like that, nobody is forcing you to read it.

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  21. Than (472 comments) says:

    Luc, I have tried to find objective data on standards and league tables. Everything I have found was heavily corrupted by ideology (from both left and right). But notably missing from all right-leaning and even the majority of left-leaning research was evidence that pupils were actually hindered by them.

    There is little evidence they help. But there is even less evidence they hurt, and parents want them. So, what is the harm?

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  22. MT_Tinman (3,184 comments) says:

    Talking to an MOE person yesterday about this the main and notable comment was that she couldn’t wait to get the information to enable her to know which schools (and which teachers) needed the most help.

    One other notable comment was that NZ, because of it’s systems is the only country who has average (read “bad”) teachers spread throughout it’s schools with very few schools having more than their share of bad teachers – although a few have many very good teachers.

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  23. marcw (247 comments) says:

    @ Farmgeek

    So, according to NZEI, rankings have no meaning and are unreliable and cause countries to go backwards. Then what exactly does this statement from you mean?

    “New Zealand ranks 4th, 7th and 4th in the world for Reading, Maths and Science respectively.”

    How would you deduce this information?

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  24. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Someone wipe little lucs botty, hes had an accident.

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  25. kowtow (8,439 comments) says:

    Lucy

    You’re the desperate one;

    And rude ti your host too, As they say in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people ,Shalom……arsehole

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  26. Puzzled in Ekatahuna (344 comments) says:

    What is Labour’s position on league tables?
    Or the Greens?

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  27. Red Sam (122 comments) says:

    Can you please enlighten your readers to where Mrs Parata gets this 20% tale of underachievement figure from again?

    Her latest sound bite is that she wants five out of five achieving. While a wonderful aspiration, and a goal one would hope for every teacher, is this ever possible?

    League tables and National Standards do little to recognise that not every child learns at the same rate year by year. For example, a child is measured below National Standard, for example in writing, at the end of Years 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, but with increased support at both home and school, greater understanding and connections made between writing and reading, the child is measured at Standard by Years 6 & 7. Using National Standards (subjective depending on the teacher’s judgement) and league tables (pitting state school against state school) reduces and dumbs student learning down to meaningless and flimsy data.

    If a school’s data is junk data, then what sort of quality public education system is that? New Zealand taxpayers have invested millions and millions of dollars in our public education system, especially since 1877. Do you truly believe that National Standards and league tables will increase the so-called 20% tale of underachievement. How will one year teacher training seriously increase underachievement in primary schools, just because the teacher has an undergraduate degree? Holly Hek.

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  28. Red Sam (122 comments) says:

    “Do you truly believe that National Standards and league tables will increase the so-called 20% tale of underachievement.”

    This should read “reduce the so-called 20% tale of underachievement.”

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  29. Red Sam (122 comments) says:

    “These sub-standard teachers will do whatever is necessary to hamper the government.”

    NZEI is from memory 46,000 members strong. Are you saying that every teacher who is a member of NZEI, including myself, is sub-standard? That’s nice of you, Manolo.

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  30. Mark (1,488 comments) says:

    Here we go again. Farrar cheer leading league tables knowing that the data is poor. I at a complete loss to understand what benefit there is to my child’s education from the production of league tables that are based on data that the government has conceded is poor and inconsistent.

    What is to be gained. Your argument yesterday that it is a right is a free and open society to produce these tables knowing the data is flawed is utter idiocy. You have been so blinded by the ideology that you have not considered the ramifications on schools. Teachers and children.

    I am not for or against league tables if they are based on properly moderated data that is consistent and would be comparing apples with apples but the Tolley standards do not go close to that.
    This is not about kids improvent. It is about the National parties fight with teachers and is just another tactic in that battle.

    if the goverent are so hell bent on league tables why do they not first focus on fixing the problems with National standards so there is some reliability in the data.

    Is it because it is acting like the punch drunk boxer. It was hit with a sever blow to its credibility over class sizes policy by teachers, parents and school trustees that it is simply swinging at anything without first thinking.

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  31. swan (665 comments) says:

    Mark,

    “Your argument yesterday that it is a right is a free and open society to produce these tables knowing the data is flawed is utter idiocy”

    It is a right to have access to government information under the OIA. Are you against the concept of the OIA? Is the OIA utter idiocy?

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

    I disagree. The Government should simply release the data.

    And yet the govt refused to do so. The Min of Ed advised the media to direct their OAI requests to the individual schools. If DPF is so concerned at the prospect of schools actively refusing to fulfill their OIA duties, how much more outraged he should be that his buddies in the govt are doing the same.

    if the goverent are so hell bent on league tables why do they not first focus on fixing the problems with National standards so there is some reliability in the data.

    That’s pretty straightforward. For one thing it would involve lots of work, for another it would do nothing to help them exploit the fears of middle class parents worried about whether their kids are going to a “good” school or not, and last but not least they want a showdown with the NZEI, not a helpful and productive working relationship.

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  33. Mellie (39 comments) says:

    The real losers from League Tables will be poor children and low decile schools. Just this week we have found out that most Auckland High Schools were drawing up their admission zones to exclude poor areas of housing. Why? Because NCEA results have been in table form for some years.

    If League Tables are forced on primary schools you will find exactly the same thing starting to happen the higher the stakes are raised. Look out for children with special needs, the poor and children with English as a second language missing out to make it easy for middle class parents to quickly look at a table of ‘simplistic data’ (I use that term loosely) rather than taking the time to investigate a school’s ERO reports or actually going into the school when making educational decisions.

    This is the real consequence of League Tables.

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  34. Mark (1,488 comments) says:

    Mark,

    “Your argument yesterday that it is a right is a free and open society to produce these tables knowing the data is flawed is utter idiocy”

    It is a right to have access to government information under the OIA. Are you against the concept of the OIA? Is the OIA utter idiocy?

    no and I dont condone the NZEI stance at all and if you read my comment I suggest that you cannot see anywhere we I have suggested that I support withholding information under the OIA. but that does not excuse the stupidity of Parata Key and Farrar promoting meaningless league tables based on data they have admitted is inconsistent and flawed. you explain to me what benefit is derived to any child’s education in doing that. This has become a farce where the government are using league tables to fight the NZEI not to in any way help kids.

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  35. Mark (1,488 comments) says:

    MT_Tinman (1,824) Says:
    June 30th, 2012 at 7:13 pm
    Talking to an MOE person yesterday about this the main and notable comment was that she couldn’t wait to get the information to enable her to know which schools (and which teachers) needed the most help.

    One other notable comment was that NZ, because of it’s systems is the only country who has average (read “bad”) teachers spread throughout it’s schools with very few schools having more than their share of bad teachers – although a few have many very good teachers.

    Tim Man despite your comment being a bit hard to follow on what statistical data do you base the comment that NZ has all these bad teachers. The same data Farrar is going to use for league tables. Yet despite all these terrible teachers NZ ranks in the very top echelon of the PISA tables for reading, Maths and writing. I suggest you go to the MoE website and look at school leavers with the equivalent of at least school certificate. This figure has improved every year from 2005 to 2010 from the high 70% range to almost 90%. UE passes and NCEA Level 2 passes have also increased each and every year over that period but that data does not suit Nationals argument.

    Everyone aims to improve our educational achievement, so one in their right mind would argue against that but you don’t achieve improvement in any industry by not engaging with the front line staff as National are trying to do. They will never achieve anything in education policy until they have some meaningful engagement with teachers. Bashing them at every opportunity is not the smartest way to do that. If I ran my business like National are trying to run education policy it would be fucked in months. I get off my arse and go and talk to my front line staff, I listen to what they have to say and how we can make improvements, and I do that because it makes sense to do so.

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  36. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    But few here will concede that engagement with the teaching profession would be the best way to improve an already excellent system. Because the vast majority of teaching professionals belong to a union they must be, by definition, only interested in extorting money and protecting incompetent members.
    This is par for the course for National though. On the plus side, because this National government is surpassing even its predecessors in the do-nothing stakes, we should not expect any significant changes.

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  37. Paulus (2,626 comments) says:

    Must be school holiday’s again, again.
    We are seeing these so called teachers blogging in their own time, rather than in school time.

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  38. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    David Farrar – Still banging on inanely about teachers and unions.

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  39. bka (135 comments) says:

    The situation I think Ian Leckie is imagining is as if food manufacturers only ever had calories on the label, nothing else.
    In that case it might be worthwhile for the govt to ban calorie labels, or mandate further information going on labels, or else legal remedies like the Fair Trading Act or Consumer Guarantees Act might come into it.
    The cases are not the same because there is probably other information about on schools, but I think the fear is that it will get swamped by a few easily digestible numbers.
    On the one hand one can call for the teachers to be constructive around league tables and just concentrate on getting other balancing information out there if it is needed to put them in context, but what is the govt commitment to that when their policy is geared to the standards?

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  40. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Besides, what did your mate Matthew Hooton say about the OIA? Let me see, that information requests could basically be treated with contempt? Nah a Tory wouldn’t have said that…

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  41. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    > how much more outraged he should be that his buddies in the govt are doing the same.

    Well, exactly. And National did exactly that when they were last in government…OIA requests were treated with contempt.

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  42. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    “As a Beehive staffer in the 1990s, I regularly ‘suggested’ that departments delay the release of information that could embarrass the government. My personal best was 12 months, an 11-month breach of the law.”

    Remind me again, David, who made that comment?

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  43. wreck1080 (3,905 comments) says:

    I bet govt workers with access to this information use it to determine the best school for their own kids.

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  44. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Yeah, you should see all the other secret information we get to use for personal benefit too.

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  45. OneTrack (3,089 comments) says:

    Mark (659) “if the goverent are so hell bent on league tables why do they not first focus on fixing the problems with National standards so there is some reliability in the data.”

    If the teachers were real professionals, they would be working with the ministry to achieve exactly that.

    Instead they are throwing a Glorified tanty because things might “change” (from the cruisey unaccountable jobs they do at the moment. “trust us, we are educational experts. We know what we are doing.).

    Unfortunately the emperor lost his clothes some time ago. It’s time to join the real world where you have prove you are adding value instead of just saying you are wonderful, and telling the public to just ignore those issues such as when your kid moves school and you find she is really well behind her peers even though the previous school said “she’s doing fine”.

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  46. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    And you know teachers are not working with the ministry how exactly?

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  47. Mark (1,488 comments) says:

    OneTrack you are so blinded by the fact that teachers are unionised you cannot see the obvious standing in front of you. The problem with the system of National standards is that it is not a national standard. Schools can pick from a range of tests to use then it relies on unmoderated teacher judgement. So for someone in your mind set the very people that get under your skin are providing the so called standards on a completely unmoderated basis.

    It is on this so called standard that Key is desperate for league tables to be built.

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  48. scrubone (3,099 comments) says:

    “Remind me again, David, who made that comment?”

    Matthew Hooten, in the context of discussing the failure of the police to prosecute goverment and election law breaches.

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