The NZ Principal’s Federation has declined the offer of going on a working group to identify ways the national standards can be improved, and instead has launched a public campaign against them. What I love is how weak their campaign page is. Here are their five main complaints:
- Won’t tell you the whole story about how your child and school are doing
- Will harm, not help, children and schools
- Will confuse, not inform parents
- Won’t fix poverty, unemployment, crime and all the other factors that feed underachievement in our schools
- Will be demoralising and demotivating for the students who need help most
No 1 is a silly irrelevancy. Of course they won’t tell the only story. They are not meant to. They are not to replace school reports – they are simply an extra page that must be included.
No 2 is an ideological assertion. The fact is that schools which are identified as having students who are not at national standard levels, will in fact attract some extra modest funding.
No 3 is outrageous. Legions of parents complain about current school reports. An extra page showing whether or not their child is below, at or above the national standard for that age is bloody useful – and parents have overwhelmingly said they would like this info.
And with No 4 it won’t stop climate change either. So what.
No 5 is ridicolous hyperbole. It’s like saying you can never tell anyone they failed an exam in case it demoralises them. Any teacher worth their salt can communicate results in a sensitive manner, and regardless how cruel is it to have kids who are failing to never be told they are failing and going to leave school unable to functionally read or write unless something is done.
The sad thing is that the NZPF are not really against national standards per se. They are against league tables. If the Govt outlawed league tables, their opposition would disappear overnight. So their campaign is intellectually very dishonest.
UPDATE: A very pertinent comment is worth highlighting:
My daughter has dyslexia and auditory processing disorder, both diagnosed in Year 5. In Year 5 she was three years behind in reading. At the start of Year 6 she was four years behind in writing. Yet for the first four years of her schooling her teachers told me she was doing fine, she didn’t need any support and was “not the worst in the class”. Meetings with teachers and school management got me nowhere. It was only when I paid $500 for an educational psychologist’s report to prove to the school that she wasn’t “doing fine” that they admitted she had difficulties and gave her some support.
One year later she is now two years AHEAD in reading and only one year behind in writing. (In addition to support at school I pay for individual dyslexia tuition.) According to NZEI the schools already know which kids are “failing” and National Standards won’t help to identify them. Either my daughter’s teachers didn’t know, or they lied to me when I asked them.
According to NZPF I will be confused to be told the truth about my daughter. I wish my daughter’s teachers had told me about her difficulties much earlier, and without being prompted by an expensive educational psychologist’s report. Then I could have arranged dyslexia tuition earlier.
According to NZPF telling my daughter she is “failing” will demoralise and demotivate her. I have found the reverse to be true – in the past she used to talk about “the smart kids”. Now that she knows there is a reason that schoolwork is more difficult for her, her self-esteem has improved enormously.
This happens to far too many families – they are not told there is a problem until it is almost too late.