School League Tables

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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