Herald on school data

August 10th, 2012 at 2:05 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

According to Waikato University education professor Martin Thrupp, schools will use tricks to portray themselves in the best possible light in results that will be published next month. He is probably right. The opportunity for varnishing has been apparent since the Government decided late in the piece to allow schools to set their own goals and measure their pupils against them. That was a major mistake which has resulted in information from primary and intermediate schools that the Education Minister describes as “variable” and the Prime Minister as “ropey”. It is not, however, as Professor Thrupp believes, a reason to withhold the data.

Most parents want their children in schools where they have the best chance of achieving well. Whatever its flaws, the information to be provided on the Government’s Education Counts website will be keenly read and of some use. The site will not rank schools in league-table fashion, but will show achievement data in regions and how individual schools are performing against National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics in each region and nationally.

I’ve said this before – the answer to poor data, is better data – not some sort of totalitarian supression of public information.

Almost all data has flaws. GDP data is often revised in later quarters. Does that mean we should ban GDP data?

GDP is measured slightly differently by other countries. Should of GDP growth be banned?

Opinion polls can have different methodologies. Should all polls be banned?

Unemployment data is based on a survey of 30,000 households and has a some quality issues with it. Let’s ban releasing unemployment data shall we?

NCEA results are not consistent data, due to internal assessment. Some say NCEA data should also be supressed by the state.

I’ve highlighted how some universities rort their PBRF data. But the answer to that was improving the PBRF data, not banning publication of the information.

Let us not treat parents as moronic simpletons who can not be trusted to make decisions about their children’s education. Parents, like all of us, will take the national standards data as one of many inputs into their decision.

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18 Responses to “Herald on school data”

  1. trout (865 comments) says:

    Thrupp again; riding his anti National Standards, anti Parent choice, anti government, pro lefty teacher union propaganda, hobby horse. Why does the MSM give such people air time – is it just because they work at a University?

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  2. virtualmark (1,423 comments) says:

    Let us not treat parents as moronic simpletons who can not be trusted to make decisions about their children’s education. Parents, like all of us, will take the national standards data as one of many inputs into their decision.

    And – in a message perhaps best aimed at the media – let us also not treat the teachers unions as the last protector and defender of educational standards and purity.

    The teachers unions are purely focused on securing better pay and conditions, and less scrutiny, of teachers. They are purely an advocate for the teacher within the educational system, not for the pupils.

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  3. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Patience everyone – patience.

    Parata has got the unions (who control the teachers) all screwed.

    The tables will be full of all sorts of stuff – some will be good, some will be crap. As Parata said the other day “The ministry will release the information just as the schools have prepared it” in other words if they want to screw themselves up thats their problem. If they want to present themselves well, then good on them.

    So the unions and teachers will wail and moan about the screwy nature of the tables and insist on common reporting be setup – which is exactly as the government want – but rather than have a fight for it -theyve decided to let the teachers make a mess of it and then theyll be able to say “See – look , the teachers cant do anything right and we are going to fix it – now common reporting standards—–”

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  4. krazykiwi (9,188 comments) says:

    I’ve said this before – the answer to poor data, is better data

    Better data is part of it. The balance is gving parents choice. They know what’s best for their kids. Despite unions, academics, governments and consultants constantly telling us otherwise.

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  5. Mark (1,303 comments) says:

    Here we go again. First you are correct the answer to poor data is good data and that means fixing the fuck-up that currently tries to pass for national standards. Your comparison of NCEA to National standards to NCEA does not stand scrutiny as NCEA is independently moderated which is a huge leap forward to the National standards model. If the government want parents to rely on league tables which clearly they do or why bother then they should get the data right before releasing it in comparative form. Or are you saying it is OK to provide potentially misleading information so long at is the Government that does it and not the private sector?

    I have no real issue with league tables and I support the concept of National Standards but what we have is a fucking shambles. The first step is to fix national standards and properly moderate the implementation tso the data is comparable. Then you can have league tables if that’s what pushes your buttons.

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  6. BeaB (1,960 comments) says:

    I think primary teachers have done themselves no favours.

    They have portrayed themselves as frightened, incompetent, secretive, unreliable and even dishonest.
    Why on earth can’t they just come out and say “we don’t like this policy but we will do our level best as professionals to make it work for the good of the children and the country”.

    This habitual opposition to absolutely everything undermines their status in the eyes of the community when they deserve much better. The unions have a lot to answer for.

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  7. YesWeDid (1,003 comments) says:

    GIGO

    If my children’s school is to be assessed & that information to be reported is it too much to ask that the information is accurate and meaningful?

    Because (for those of us with young children) getting this right is kind of important.

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  8. BeaB (1,960 comments) says:

    Mark
    National Standards are so watered down because of the intransigent opposition of the primary school unions. Perhaps when they realise their nonsense is going to be made public they will work very hard to make their data as valid as possible.
    After all, they are all using the same standardised nationally- normed tests so it can’t be hard to do. I think once the first results are published they will be determined not to show themselves in such a poor light again.

    I was shocked to see their union poodle Professor Thrupp saying they will actually falsify their data.

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  9. Rightandleft (574 comments) says:

    Mark has it right. There’s no real problem with league tables or national standards, but the current system is just too poorly managed to use the data from it. The most important data, once proper national standards are implemented, will be value-added by comparison to other schools of the same decile. The decile system already acts as a de facto league table, but one not based on any achievement data, good or bad, at all. Pretty much anything based on some hard data would be an improvement. The data and league tables shouldn’t be published until a moderation scheme or a national testing scheme linked to national standards is worked out though. I agree that many schools would fudge their results if they’re not moderated.

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  10. BeaB (1,960 comments) says:

    None of this data will ever be absolutely accurate (what simple faith people still have in the mystical difference between getting 60% or 65%) but it will give us a fair idea of two important aspects of a school – how well are they doing for the kids they have and how much improvement is there each year?
    For most parents the info will merely reinforce what they already know from all the other evidence including that of their own eyes.
    And, as with secondary schools, most families will continue to attend their nearest schools except for over-anxious parents who agonise endlessly over everything to do with their kids and those who will always want to pay for the specious charms of private schools.
    Overlooked in all this is that the data will give loyal parents further useful ammunition to pressure schools into improving because even a good school can be comfortably cruising.

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  11. greenjacket (348 comments) says:

    BeaB:”Overlooked in all this is that the data will give loyal parents further useful ammunition to pressure schools into improving because even a good school can be comfortably cruising.”
    Amen.
    My kids go to the local (State) school – on the whole, the school is pretty good, but I really look forwards to having some performance data so I can hold the school accountable and make sure it is improving.
    But the fact that teachers’ unions are trying to falsify data suggests that a national system is needed to ensure that there is common reporting and data is credible.

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  12. Rightandleft (574 comments) says:

    greenjacket, No one is saying the teachers unions are going to try to falsify data. They have no incentive to do any such thing. They represent the teachers in all the schools, so one getting better ranking than another doesn’t help or hurt the union. It is the school principals and boards of trustees who would be falsifying the data. They are the ones who risk having their schools loose students because of bad grades. It is the principals who have already been caught out manipulating their zones to improve their standing. The education unions most against the data being released aren’t the teacher ones, they’re the primary and intermediate principals’ unions.

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  13. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Righandleft – well said. There is a difference between a teacher union and confused fringe group.

    In any case, why are you Neolibs interested in this debate – aren’t your kids at private schools?

    I didn’t think you would want them socialising with the poor and brown.

    As for Parata – I would have thought even you Neolibs had given up on her. Has to be the worst minister in 30 years.

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  14. Tom Jackson (2,263 comments) says:

    I’m consistently amazed that posters on an avowed conservative blog would support a piece of bureaucratic lunacy that would have made Stalin proud. This will end much like the time the communist farms shipped the same 50 bushels of wheat around various farms behind the backs of the party bean counters. The ever reliable Adam Curtis has a nice documentary about the idiocies eventuating in the UK by adoption of similar schemes (the community vibrancy index was my favourite).

    Crude, quantitative schemes like this encourage people to game the system. How many readers of this blog have not engaged in creative accounting to minimise their tax liabilities? I know people that work for the IRD. Apparently, it is amazing how many seemingly wealthy people end up year after year earning a smidge under the amount needed for a full whack of WFF. What makes you think that the schools won’t do the same and that the government will have any better luck corralling them than it does the estimated 3-4 million tax cheats that live in NZ.

    Most teachers I have met are ignorant, entitled swine, but they have a point here.

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  15. Than (376 comments) says:

    Tom, surely the correct response to people gaming the system is to refine the system? We don’t just say “people try and avoid taxes, so let’s not have any”. We adjust the tax system to make it harder to avoid. The same applies here – the best response to a crude and gameable scheme is to refine it into a more sophisticated scheme, where “gaming the system” amounts to producing the desired outcomes.

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  16. Fairfacts Media (370 comments) says:

    So let’s get this right, the teaching unions oppose league tables and the publishing of data because they believe parents are too stupid to make correct decisions based upon them.
    But who made the parents too thick to do this?
    But the teaching unions!

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  17. Paulus (2,304 comments) says:

    Do you really think that the teachers and their bosses the Unions really care whether the data they input really matters to their parents – as children get older and move on another set of parents appear to be stultified with crap data.

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  18. Tom Jackson (2,263 comments) says:

    “Tom, surely the correct response to people gaming the system is to refine the system? We don’t just say “people try and avoid taxes, so let’s not have any”. We adjust the tax system to make it harder to avoid”

    Which tends to be done in the tax system by simplifying the rules (i.e. making it a cruder instrument). Problem is that you can’t do that to school data without making the results too crude to be useful. in general, the more complicated a set of rules is, the easier it is to game. Thus, attempts to have a less exploitable education measure will tend to make it less informative.

    Underlying this is the fact that school data that would actually be useful is only useful to experts who understand how to accommodate the uncertainties. A measure crude enough to be understood by the public would not be particularly informative for the same reason.

    The whole thing is a waste of time. Anyone who cares about school quality already knows which schools are crap, and people have a pretty good idea of which teachers work for their kids.

    This is supposed to be a conservative blog, yet it is promoting a massive government boondoggle which will perform the magnificent task of telling people something they already know better for themselves.

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