Hard data for education

The Herald reported:

New Zealand’s system has been treading water and its students will lose out in the global race for the best jobs unless change is embraced, a visiting expert warns.

has been dubbed “the world’s schoolmaster” by international media – and he advises a shake-up of New Zealand’s system.

The German scientist and statistician is a pioneer of using hard data to analyse what was traditionally thought of as a “soft” subject, previously dominated by tradition, theories and ideology.

The change in approach helped him become one of the world’s most influential education experts.

It’s depressing that some parties and unions spend so much energy fighting against the Government and parents having some standard data. There is huge power in data. Even more depressing that they are now boycotting a tool that will help improve moderation and consistency.

A parent questionnaire which ran with the PISA test was used to see what factors were most important in terms of test results.

It found that parents showing a consistent interest in a child’s education is the most important factor in raising his or her achievement.

“It is not the hours of homework that you spend with your children, it is not about the degree that you have,” Mr Schleicher says. “It is simple things – when parents ask them every day at the dinner table, ‘How was school? What went well? Did you have any difficulties?”‘

Good advice.

New Zealand must deploy its best teachers to the most challenging classrooms, Mr Schleicher says. Data clearly show the highest performing countries prioritise and target the quality of teaching.

Overseas examples include Shanghai, which topped the 2009 results, where vice-principals at successful schools can only become principals if they show they can turn around one of the lowest-performing schools.

What a great idea.

Mr Schleicher supports data as a way for educators to identify success and failure.

The standards are descriptions of what students should be able to do in reading, writing and mathematics as they progress through levels 1 to 8, the primary and intermediate years.

Their introduction has been controversial, with opponents saying they will lead to “league tables” of schools, and give parents the false impression that a school can be judged by its results alone. “I can see the challenges,” Mr Schleicher says.

“But in the dark all schools look the same, and all students look the same.

“Unless you have some light to illuminate the differences, there is very little you can do about it.”

Absolutely. Some data is better than no data.

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