School League Tables

June 19th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key has signalled his support for a form of for primary and intermediate schools.

Unions argued that rankings of school performances was inevitable once the controversial national standards policy was introduced in 2010.

Last week it emerged the Education Ministry was working on a report based on data received from schools last month. All schools were required to send in information about the performance of pupils against national standards in literacy and numeracy. It is due to be finished in September.

Mr Key yesterday defended the move as the information could now be discovered under the Official Information Act and media could put together their own rankings. “Some sort of coherent league table makes sense,” he said.

“I’ve always had a view that somehow this information is going to be in the public domain. The question is what form is it going to take and what’s it going to look like. What I don’t want to see is schools actually damaged by the information being presented in the wrong way.”

The ministry has turned down requests to release the information from more than 2000 schools because it is working on its own report.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said a series of meetings would be held with parents and teachers next month to determine what information should be made available.

Mr Key said there must be buy-in from the education sector. “If we … get agreement from the sector, we may well be in a position where we’d provide much more understandable and, actually, relevant information than some league table that is constructed … poorly put together.”

Presenting the data was complex, he said.

“It’s complicated as hell, because it’s not just a matter of who’s at the standard, above the standard or below the standard. It’s the progress that is made during the year, by different subject types, by different age groups.”

Ultimately he wanted parents to be able to access information on a school “and see the progress that they are achieving in lifting literacy and numeracy overall”.

League tables are inevitable in a free and open society. School assessment data is not a state secret. With the tables being inevitable, it seems sensible for the Government to compile the data in a way which is as useful as possible (as highlighted above, rather than have a league table just on percentage at or over the standard.

Yesterday schools called for a review after it emerged the number of Pakeha attending low-decile schools has halved in the past decade – but argued the funding should remain.

I discussed this issue on RNZ Panel yesterday with the head of the Secondary Principals Association. He made the valid point that many parents treat the decile ranking as a proxy for quality, and this is a bad thing as there are some high quality schools with low decile rankings. I suggested that one solution to this is to do what the Gillard Government does in Australia and have a schools database which allows parents to easily compare schools in their area, so that parents have more information than just the decile ranking. He agreed that such a database could be useful.

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38 Responses to “School League Tables”

  1. tvb (4,326 comments) says:

    John Key has changed his tactics on the teachers unions. Now he seems to be hitting them with one issue after another especially if it is popular with parents. The education of children is too important to allow the teachers unions to obstruct everything.

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  2. kino flo (82 comments) says:

    As a parent, cutting woodwork teachers wasn’t popular with me, and neither is some poorly thought-out ranking system of schools. I’ll trust the professionals rather than some politician when it comes to my children’s education.

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  3. Sonny Blount (1,777 comments) says:

    kino flo (71) Says:
    June 19th, 2012 at 11:16 am
    As a parent, cutting woodwork teachers wasn’t popular with me, and neither is some poorly thought-out ranking system of schools. I’ll trust the professionals rather than some politician when it comes to my children’s education.

    I totally agree. Sell all the state schools so that professionals run education rather than Parata or Mallard.

    Anyone who wants them can have woodwork teachers then.

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  4. Regan B (1 comment) says:

    kino flo (71) Says:
    June 19th, 2012 at 11:16 am

    As a parent, cutting woodwork teachers wasn’t popular with me, and neither is some poorly thought-out ranking system of schools. I’ll trust the professionals rather than some politician when it comes to my children’s education.

    This is like trusting the only mechanic in the country that your car needs 20 fancy EXPENSIVE parts.

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  5. Cunningham (837 comments) says:

    Haha kino flo (71) funny you should mention the word ‘professional’. Do you honestly think these militant organisations ever act in a professional way? I am a parent and I believe I have the right to know this information. It is called accountability and anyone outside of education has to deal with it. Why not the education sector? If we have such a ‘world class’ education system as they keep trumpeting out, then what have they got to hide?

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  6. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    I dont understand why the Government puts up with teacher unions trying to control the teaching industry.

    Just imagine if the Army or Air Force decided that they didnt like what the Government wanted and werent going to do what the government wanted, or the diplomatic service didnt carry out the foreign relations programme the government wanted – and openly said so, or the customs people thought that the way customs duty was applied was wrong and that they wouldnt carry out the governments regulations.

    They all get a good swift kick – and some would go to jail.

    So why do they bow to the teachers unions.

    Transparency is the only way to go. And why the media isnt running the same approach to the lack of transparency in teaching that they applied to the TPPA is beyond me.

    I think the biggest problem is that the administration (prinicipals etc) are all ex teachers – and they arent administrators and were never trained as administrators. Consequently they just dont know how to improve things – so they want to do nothing.

    It aint possible.

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  7. 3-coil (1,215 comments) says:

    “I discussed this issue on RNZ Panel yesterday with the head of the Secondary Principals Association. He made the valid point that many parents treat the decile ranking as a proxy for quality…”

    If it was Secondary Principals Association president Patrick Walsh you were discussing it with, who knows what he meant. He was on Close Up last night gibbering that he had “antidotal’ evidence of white flight – presumably the drongo meant “anecdotal” evidence, but he tripped up trying to use words too big for his intellect. If the best the SPA can dredge up as a spokesman is a smug git who makes George W Bush sound eloquent, then all the Principals need to go back to school.

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  8. Michael Mckee (1,091 comments) says:

    As far as our family are concerned this is public monies being dealt with here and there should be open government and therefore transparency.
    All the relevant information should be available to parents as they pay the taxes that are used.

    That some of the information needs to be explained in relation to other factors is the job of the Ministry and principals at the local level.
    Whichever way we look at it a bit of light on the issue will bring transformation, some of it might be painful for some people, particularly parents.

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  9. Sonny Blount (1,777 comments) says:

    The unions need to use their ‘superior’ professional knowledge to produce their own guide to schools for parents. With whatever information they think is relevant.

    Put their money where their mouth is and offer something for the children, parents, good schools, and good teachers.

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  10. Ross12 (1,388 comments) says:

    Good idea Sonny Blount.!!!

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  11. trout (933 comments) says:

    The key to the usefulness of league tables is not the annual numbers but the rate of change. So it is irrelevant whether or not the numbers can be compared school to school because of different methodology. We need to know which schools are lifting their game year on year. Anyway are not the published results of secondary schools (NCEA, Bursar and Scholarship) a form of league table?

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  12. James Stephenson (2,145 comments) says:

    The unions need to use their ‘superior’ professional knowledge to produce their own guide to schools for parents

    I can write it for you now. All the schools are equally excellent in all respects, except that the teachers are underpaid.

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  13. swan (659 comments) says:

    *Its clear that parents cant be trusted to use this sort of information rationally, therefore it must be kept secret*

    This is the argument the teachers put up about decile rankings and league tables. Imagine if a food producer said – “Look, people are irrational when it comes to MSG. There is no evidence of significant harm associated with MSG consumption, but some people avoid it under the mistaken belief that it is toxic or carcinogenic. Therefore it is only appropriate that food ingredients are kept secret.”

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  14. Mark (1,471 comments) says:

    I have no issue with league tables for schools but if you try to use the Tolley standards you will simply be comparing oranges with pears. The Tolley standards are not moderated, not consistent and do not even use the same testing system from school to school so how are league tables going to work?

    Another stroke of genius policy on the hoof by Key. First step get your initial initiatives to work properly before you start hanging other policy platforms off them.

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  15. MikeG (425 comments) says:

    “a schools database which allows parents to easily compare schools in their area”

    Isn’t that what the ERO currently provide?

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  16. Mark (1,471 comments) says:

    Trout what a load of crap. If the testing is inconsistent it is not comparable. As a parent if I am reviewing school A against School B and school B has a lower score because it uses a harder assessment process how am I going to know?

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  17. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Mark is right. The national standards are a complete disaster, which would only be compounded by presenting information from them in tables that would purport to compare schools’ performance. If there is a case for achievement data being presented, surely that would be done best through the existing ERO mechanisms.

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  18. Paulus (2,602 comments) says:

    Since when have the Teachers been a Profession ?
    They have no Professional body only various Teacher’s Unions.

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  19. kowtow (8,186 comments) says:

    Watch the unions work themselves up on this one.

    Bring on the tables.

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  20. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    You think those are not professional associations?

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  21. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Trout and Mark….
    You miss the point. The important thing is to get a system – any system – established. There was no way the unions would agree to anything usefull so Tolley implemented a basic system that used EXISTING test methods that schools already use.

    Now its obvious that the results would incomparable – and soon (when the Ed Dept release the result from last year) we will soon hear wails and moans from all corners of the education industry saying that the whole thing isnt working and that the results cant be compared and that its not fair, etc, etc.

    ………..Which is exactly what the Government wants to hear………….

    …So then they say that if thats the case then we need THE SAME test methods used across all schools so that all you poor bums that feel hard done by can be seen in the clear light of day compared evenly to all other schools……

    I mean – who could complain about that – equal fairness.

    And the government has what it wanted and the unions have been backed into a corner. Just like whats happened with decile ratings – theyre moaning that they are not good enough to be used as a guide —- well what better than league tables………….

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  22. Keeping Stock (10,267 comments) says:

    Kino flo said

    As a parent, cutting woodwork teachers wasn’t popular with me, and neither is some poorly thought-out ranking system of schools. I’ll trust the professionals rather than some politician when it comes to my children’s education.

    By “professionals” do you include teacher unions, who have something of a vested interest in this issue?

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  23. BeaB (2,106 comments) says:

    We’ve had league tables for high schools for years (NCEA results, Metro, Herald etc) and the roof hasn’t fallen in. What are primary schools scared of? Are they really so corrupt that league tables would lead them into cheating and lying and ratting on each other as their leaders are suggesting? If so they shouldn’t be anywhere near our kids.

    Or are they worried we might see why 1 in 5 kids leave EIGHT years of primary unable to read at a high school level?

    The decile ranking tells you one very important thing – the kind of kid your child will be sitting next to in class. Poor communities have multiple problems and they all come into the school. The best teachers in the world can’t make up for the kind of scummy friends your child might end up making. Yes I know high decile kids have problems too but most of us want our children making friends with, and sharing the aspirations of, the middle class.

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  24. artemisia (234 comments) says:

    Two kids in my family were moved from the local low decile primary school a few doors away, to a similar decile level school a car ride away. It was nothing at all to do with the decile level, and the principal and teachers were fine, well above average. It was ALL about the large number of immigrant children at the school. Not their fault, of course, but they took a huge amount of teacher time and the whole school was getting more and more dragged down.

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  25. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Got a source for that claim about reading, BeaB? BTW, perhaps your parenting skills need brushing up if you think your kids will make ‘scummy’ (poor?) friends.

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  26. kiwigunner (230 comments) says:

    This from the Hattie post of a few days ago

    “decisions should be based on peer reviewed research as to what is most effective – not on emotions”.

    I’d like one bit of peer reviewed research that league tables are effective for lifting achievement or providing sound data for primary school choice.

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  27. Sonny Blount (1,777 comments) says:

    kiwigunner (90) Says:
    June 19th, 2012 at 4:15 pm
    This from the Hattie post of a few days ago

    “decisions should be based on peer reviewed research as to what is most effective – not on emotions”.

    I’d like one bit of peer reviewed research that league tables are effective for lifting achievement or providing sound data for primary school choice.

    What is peer-reviewed research kiwigunner?

    What makes it special?

    How does it make decisions for you?

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  28. nasska (11,185 comments) says:

    It could be that the government have discovered a sound, foolproof method of making decisions involving the education portfolio. Toss an idea in the air & listen for the screams of anguish & “think of the children” from the socialist brainwashers in the teaching unions.

    Any reaction exceeding a predetermined decibel reading indicates that the idea is well worth implementing. Anything below can be safely discarded on the presumption that it will dumb down standards & obscure teachers’ performance.

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  29. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Or it could be that the government will eventually learn to work with the professionals in the sector, instead of disregarding them.

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  30. coventry (320 comments) says:

    Have a look at what the Aussies do – http://www.myschool.edu.au/

    As a current primary school board member, would be fantastic to see this level of detail reported. Parents will now get a better understanding of where things are at – both educationally & fiscally.

    As a parent, seeing how your kids are performing against other comparible schools & nationwide.

    I can see why the teachers union are anti-progress, it will clearly identify dead wood within the system.

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  31. nasska (11,185 comments) says:

    mikenmild

    The term “professional” is mainly used to describe one of the three learned professions….. ie. law, theology or medicine. It is a bit of a stretch of the imagination to include a bunch of cloth cap unionists under this umbrella especially since they are as free from a professional body as the Auckland wharfies.

    I would lump them in with the like of the Boilermakers but perhaps they could improve their standing with the general public by affiliating with Matt McCarten’s lot.

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  32. bhudson (4,736 comments) says:

    Or it could be that the government teachers and unions will eventually learn to work with the professionals government in the sector, instead of disregarding them their initiatives.

    There you go mikey. A couple of highly constructive edits to help your message…

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  33. kiwigunner (230 comments) says:

    See above – the quote is not mine but the blog owners. I tend to agree with it. But not just when it suits me to do so.

    There are a wealth of educational researchers and experts out there, many in NZ. You would do well to find one that supports either nationals standards or league table systems.

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  34. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    A parallel discussion to be had around school decile ratings is the one about school funding levels being directly related to decile level.

    A decile ~1-3 school gets a shed load of extra funding (for say ICT, equipment, travel and trips, teacher aid etc) while a ~4-10 school that typically struggles (especially in the ~4-6/7 range) to make ends meet get sweet fuck all.

    If we want to remove decile ratings so that “dumbass parents” (paraphrasing the NZEI and PPTA) don’t use them as a proxy for performance then perhaps we need to also review the equitable nature (or not) of school funding based on decile ratings.

    Just sayin’

    I know this is an issue teachers in the ~4-6/7 decile schools have a beef with as they still get a lot of kids from ratbag families who are high maintenance and disruptive.

    Theres also a grab bag of funding available for Maori and Pacifica heavy schools, should this be put in the pot for general distribution based on need rather than grandads pigmentation.

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  35. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    expat
    I guess that depends whether you think school funding should take account of relative deprivation and/or the ability of the school community to provide extra resources. I have occasionally heard parents from high decile schools complain about the burden of fundraising when extra money is ‘given’ to other schools.

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  36. doggone7 (769 comments) says:

    The comments on here prove a lot about teachers and schools. Mainly that the brief amount of time spent with teachers has not given many citizens the ability to think reasonably, dispassionately and logically to the extent that the prejudices and ignorance of their time not at school can be overcome.
    If it were an Olympic sport, arrogance, as shown by the attitudes about teaching, learning and education, we would win gold.

    A lot of teachers must’ve pissed off a lot of kids to turn out the irrational types we have. Maybe all the losers who think they should have amounted to something better blame teachers for their lack of happiness with their lot. And they certainly don’t trust teachers to teach their unfortunate offspring.

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  37. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    League tables will be a big mess.

    Noone will know if a high ranking school has good teachers or a lax interpretation of the standards.

    And what’s the bet that the rankings will give no indication of the errors involved – most people will think that the top ranked school is better than the 10th ranked school but it’s most likely (if they have the same interpretation of the standards) that there will be little difference between them i.e. if the kids were retested the rankings would change.

    In fact, I woud bet the middle 60% of schools are indistinguishable in the raw data and only look different in the league table because the small differences are exagerated by ranking i.e. the middle of a normal distribution being spread out onto a number line.

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  38. Tom Jackson (2,553 comments) says:

    Just imagine if the Army or Air Force decided that they didnt like what the Government wanted and werent going to do what the government wanted

    Are you high?

    If the government gets on the wrong side of the military, the military always wins.

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