First Do No Harm – League tables fail the test

The media over the weekend was interesting reading for some but for other people whose schools were ranked as below standard it was depressing and debilitating and lacking respect for their children, teachers and parents. There are several major problems with the publication of the data which was described by the Prime Minister as “ropey”. There is the issue of ranking schools based on the first year of un-moderated data and then there is the data itself as a narrow and confused way to measure children’s progress. There is also the meme of ‘failing teachers and failing schools’ which the Government is using to undermine the state education system. All of this is taking place in a highly politicized context. The USA leader of the KIPP Charter schools is touring our country this week promoting a model which emerged from the underfunding of state education in USA and which after 20 years has not revolutionised their achievement.

When I saw the ‘report cards’ in the papers my thoughts went straight to a school I have visited regularly where a large percentage of the children are from migrant and refugee families. Many of these children were raised in places like Afghanistan, Samoa, and Somalia. They are not only learning in a second language they are learning in a second culture. The parents whom I have met at prize givings and fund raisers are passionate about education and believe in active support for this state school. The teachers are dedicated and creative and get good ERO reports. There is very little money in the community for anything extra and programmes like fruit in schools are vital.

According to the league tables this school is ranked low. But I know that is a distortion of the great progress the students are making in this school. It is a harmful label for this school and other schools to rank them against wealthy communities where English is the first language. Parents do need clear reporting and a good relationship with their child’s teacher. They need a conversation often about how they help their child strengthen their skills. The ERO report and the open door are the best ways to assess the school and the progress of children. But if competition is your mantra and privatisation is your goal then the nuanced relationships between schools and parents, and between learning at your own pace and being supported by a broad curriculum is too rational.

We need to address inequality, poverty, child hunger, transience, and cultural bias in education. We do need small classes, professional development and a broad curriculum. Teachers welcome programmes like ‘Ka Hikitia’ and ‘Te Kotahitanga’ to help them give their best to Māori and Pasifika students. Globally we need to look at great educational models like Finland, not failed test and ranking based systems which haven’t worked in England and USA. But most of all we should do no harm to our children by ranking their efforts and their schools.

67 thoughts on “First Do No Harm – League tables fail the test

  1. Teachers Uniions are desperate to stop parents knowing how schools perform.

    The release of standards shows one reason why. Large schools and large classes had better results than small schools and small classes – exactly the opposite of the lies they’ve been telling parents.

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  2. Actually,Photonz, the highly-ranked small school interviewed in the Dompost on Saturday said the opposite – they attributed their success in part to their small classes.

    Catherine is right – not all children come to school from an equal foundation. Different children need different kinds of support and measuring their progress in this shallow, narrow way is not useful or fair.

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  3. photonz1, your faith in the Standards is so out of proportion for what they represent. National Standards are only an unmoderated assessment of a small fraction of what schools actually do. Be careful of accusing people for lying when you obviously have no appreciation of what makes a good school or what contributes to quality teaching and learning.

    The downward spiral of our education system continues: http://localbodies-bsprout.blogspot.co.nz/2012/09/national-standards-defy-logic.html

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  4. Suz asks”How do you know this Photonz?

    I don’t recall seeing that info. being included”

    It was reported in the herald at the weekend that schools with more children per teacher had around 80% passing NS while those with fewer children per teacher were averaging 70%.

    Interesting that the Unisions have said there is nothing new in the National Standards information.

    So either they knew this previously, and mislead the public about class sizes, or they’re lieing now and we ARE finding out things not picked up by previous testing.

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  5. Interesting also that at our local primary school (middle decile) Maori students perform the same as all other students, which is above the national average, and well above the national Maori average.

    Another local school does nowhere near as well for it’s Maori children, depite having a very similar racial mix, significantly higher decile (8), and having much more spent per child. ($6300 vs $4500 per child for our school).

    Similarly I had a niece in the NI who went from being near top of her year in one school, to being way behind her peer group at her new school. Clases and schools can perform at significantly different levels – but we’re not allowed to know that.

    The head in the sand “we’ll just do our best and see what happens” attitude has to stop.

    Our childrens future is far too important to gamble with, by hiding poorly performing teachers as has been happening forever.

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  6. According to Photonz1, National Standards have had a direct impact on improving learning and increasing classes size will also make a positive difference.

    It is interesting to note that the very MPs in the Government that supports these policies generally send their kids to private schools that promote small classes and our education ranking in international assessments seems to be dropping under a National Government. We used to be in the top 5 and now Hekia Parata says we are seventh http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/7547388/Education-shouldn-t-stand-still-Parata

    Apparently the OECD countries ahead of us according to Ms Parata are Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, China, Finland and Canada. Last time I looked Hong Kong and Shanghai weren’t countries and China and Singapore aren’t in the OECD. http://www.oecd.org/about/membersandpartners/ In which case we are actually sitting 3rd in the OECD using this information.

    I find it interesting that Photonz1 supports a Government whose MPs are obviously hypocrites, if the class size factor is to be believed, and has a Minister of Education who is leading educational change who can’t understand basic research data or know what constitutes a country or which countries make up the OECD.

    Like John Key’s blind faith in John Banks’ honesty, Photonz1 appears to be an earnest believer in National’s education policies (which are also based on “belief” rather than evidence).

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  7. It’s great that Photonz’ school does so well, sad that other state-funded schools do not – but the discussion is about the value of the crude and narrow National Standards and the resulting misleading league table.
    Personal anecdotes prove nothing much, except your kids are lucky enough to have good teachers, or teachers who suit them perhaps, and others apparently not so good.
    Every teacher knows the class that for some reason has great dynamics, is easy to teach – and the following year’s class, the same kind of kids in the same school are much more difficult, have clashes of personality etc. A good teacher can overcome this to a large extent, but it isn’t an exact science and it takes a lot of time and energy. National standards don’t reflect these nuances of individual and group temperament and ability.
    Hard to see what they are good for, really, except lots of extra paperwork.

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  8. NACT spent 60 million to tell us poor kids, disabled kids and brown kids do not do so well. Surprise! surprise!

    60 million could have been kept in the programs that actually helped those kids. You know the ones that are being cut back to pay for NACT standards.

    Plus the 30 million that was given to private schools for, you know, to keep their “unnecessary” small class sizes.

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  9. As Kerry pointed out here, it isn’t as though we didn’t know which schools had difficulties, or which students… we knew all that before the gnatBrainz came along and decided that we needed to test everyone so they could prove nothing different from what we already understood.

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  10. BJ Chip says “As Kerry pointed out here, it isn’t as though we didn’t know which schools had difficulties”

    Nonsense – this sort of information is hidden from parents.

    We are told by teachers to “trust them”, while they keep secret from parents any information about schools and teachers who are failing.

    We had a really useless teacher a couple of years ago who we couldn’t get rid of because the union was protecting her. Her class pretty much wasted a year and fell way behind their peers. The same had happened the previous year.

    It was only a growing number of complaints from parents about how she ill treated children that eventually got her sacked.

    The unions may pretend to be concerned about our childrens education. Nothing could have been further from the truth in this case.

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  11. School ERO reports are conducted by teachers unions and kept secret from parents. Quack.

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  12. What a load of crap.
    For a start the Union does not protect incompetent Teachers, Unlike the lawyers, doctors, directors and accountants Unions, sorry, associations. All that is required is a proper and fair process.
    Sounds like the process worked fine, if she was incompetent. She did get sacked.
    If it did not happen as soon as it should it is because of the “tomorrows schools” idea. Another failed right wing initiative. The old school inspectors sorted out the incompetent, rapidly.

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  13. Soltka summonds all the intellect they can, makes a statement that no one has ever said – then makes an animal noise at it.

    The limit of information that parents get about how well a class or school is performing academically are comments from ERO like “The board’s long-term target to raise students’ reading comprehension levels has not yet been met. There are many literacy support programmes in place.”

    “What a load of crap.” says Kerry, describing his next sentence “For a start the Union does not protect incompetent Teachers, ”

    Yeah right

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/6406871/Sex-drugs-violence-and-thats-the-teachers

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  14. Sprout doesn’t want a system where schools can be measured against each other, and league tables created.

    To back his arguement up, sprout quotes a system where countries are measured against each other, and league tables created.

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  15. Quack into it, soltka! The more Key and his tin-pot Government stuff up (and by God, they’re going gangbusters now!) the more shrill our little photographic friend becomes – “spank the teachers, he intones, whip the unions!” His boiling point is near and soon it’ll be time for us all to enjoy a lovely cup of tea.

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  16. Photonz – My word, you mean that the first hand communication and expressions of our children don’t tell us that something is amiss? Wait on… that example you just gave of the parents complaining… now how did they know to do that? Hidden you say? You must take us for a right lot of fools to think we’d believe the one thing and not connect it to the other.

    Doesn’t work here though. We don’t have your blind spots.

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  17. Bj – so instead of knowing how a school is performing, we’re supposed to enroll our kids anyway, and when we find out it’s not any good, fight for a year or two against the unions to eventually get rid of useless teachers.

    What appallingly low expectations you have for our childrens education.

    But then you backed the staus quo which was schools using a multitude of different systems, and many schools not even bothering to report at all to let parents know how if their children were doing well, or if they needed more help.

    By defending such a stuffed up system, that even allowed schools to bother doing any reporting at all, it’s clear you are fighting for some ideology, or perhaps teachers rights – but certainly not for our childrens education.

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  18. Catherine says “But most of all we should do no harm to our children by ranking their efforts and their schools.”

    Why on earth would anyone believe you are even slightly genuine with this comment, when secondary schools have been ranked for years and we don’t hear so much as a whisper of protest from you about this supposed great evil that is harming our children.

    Dropping National Standards, and going back to what we had previously, would be like dropping NCEA, and letting schools choose from a whole range of different tests from school to school, and not even require them to do any testing if they didn’t want to, or do any reporting of the results if they didn’t want to.

    The system you are defending, is hardly even deserving of the word system.

    We had PAT tests, but in year three PAT tests don’t test maths, reading or writing. In year three they test listening.

    They don’t test in year two either. In year four they start on maths and reading (but not writing?).

    Star tests are for reading, but not maths or writing, and not for year one or two.

    Year Net Observation Surveys are for reading and writing, but not maths, and only for year two – not for earlier or later than that.

    There are also tests at school entry level, but different schools use different types of test for this. and they are different to later testing systems.

    And there are also running records, but these are for reading only, and are usually stopped by year three.

    Or no testing at all.

    And no requirement to report to parents at all – which pretty much all educationalists agree is essential.

    No wonder we have such a huge number of children leaving school without the ability to read, write, or do maths.

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  19. ‘No wonder we have such a huge number of children leaving school without the ability to read, write, or do maths.”

    You do realize, Photonz1, that all children with disabilities are included in the statistics, all the special schools, all the children who have English as a second language, all the children who are dyslexic, all those not considered disabled but are on the continuum for Foetal Aclohol Syndrome http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/110606/'alarming'-rate-of-foetal-alcohol-syndrome , all the transient children who never stay in one school for long and all the children with various degrees of autism. When you take all those children out of the 20% of underachievers than you are left with less than 10% and then a 90% success rate seems quite good.

    And your theory that our children are failing because they aren’t tested enough is as silly as saying plants won’t grow unless you measure them lots. You also claim that comparing countries is the same as comparing schools…really????

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  20. sprout says “And your theory that our children are failing because they aren’t tested enough is as silly as saying plants won’t grow unless you measure them lots. ”

    That’s why no one has said that – ever.

    It’s something you’ve made up yourself, then lied about where it came from.

    If you want a plant analogy that works, NS is like measuring plants so you can make sure there is enough water and fertiliser for them to grow.

    Then once you have that information, you can find out what types of fertilizer, levels of water, and soil types work best for what types and varieties of plants.

    Without measuring, the whole thing becomes guesswork, and many more plants / children fail.

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  21. Given most private schools promote their smaller class sizes and they do well, one can presume larger class sizes are not the reason for greater success.

    So given the same information as photonz, a more rational right winger explains on kiwiblog

    “What would be interesting is to have the results broken down by decile and size. As low decile schools get more funding, they may have a smaller class size.

    But regardless it backs my view that the impact of smaller class sizes is minimal, unless it is a massive difference. In other words a size of 15 will make a big difference compared to 30, but a class of 25 compared to a class of 27 will not.

    It would have been nice of the HoS has told us their definitions of smaller and larger class sizes, so the calculation can be checked. There isn’t enough info in the story to verify it.”

    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2012/09/class_sizes-2.html

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  22. Sprout doesn’t want a system where schools can be measured against each other, and league tables created.

    To back his arguement up, sprout quotes a system where countries are measured against each other, and league tables created.

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  23. Photonz

    You really are one of the most appallingly un-observant people I know.

    Parents and Children do not have a lot of “choice” about the school they are going to attend UNLESS THEY HAVE MONEY FOR A PRIVATE SCHOOL, and how a school is “doing” is a factor for me when I am choosing a neighborhood to live in IF I HAVE THE MONEY TO CHOOSE.

    So maybe there is an issue with your perception of reality here.

    There is also an issue of continuity. The knowledge of how a school is doing is not something secret from the community. Your assumption that I must choose a school (assuming again as you do, that choice exists) with no information except for your precious tests is PERFECTLY incorrect.

    Anyone interested to learn the reputation and quality of a school in a given region was and is able to get that information by talking with other people in that community.

    Now you want us to get that information from the DOE based on these incoherent and extremely limited measures of educational prowess… leaving out important subjects and large chunks of the real world… and you want us to believe that this is going to be more accurate?

    I’m sorry Photonz, but I didn’t just roll off the back of a Turnip truck and my birthday wasn’t yesterday. Your precious party promotes piss poor priorities. The money SHOULD have been spent on the schools that are in fact having difficulty. They aren’t being kept secret. That’s YOUR claim, but there isn’t a shred of evidence to support that.

    The teachers and schools know which schools and teachers have trouble, just as the students and parents do. The only people completely out of the loop, are National’s leadership. Funny how that almost always seems to be the case.

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  24. “You do realize, Photonz1…”
    He may have realised, sprout, but quickly buried that information in the opaque cloud of unknowing that is essential for his continued involvement in any discussion. Had he allowed the details you provide to remain in the light of day, he’d have to change his view, and he can’t have that!

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  25. According to John Taylor Gatto, learning is not really about the school (or teachers) as such, but the students, because all development is mostly based on the students own effort. And apparently this is why funding after a most basic amount doesn’t make any real difference. Learning is not a money problem. This is very believable to me, based on my own experience as a kid in school.

    Bad schools will always be bad because they are full of bad kids. Kids who are cruel, violent and disruptive will always create a high-stress atmosphere for other kids – undermining their ability to focus fully, in a natural way. And it’s totally unfair and even inhumane to force good kids to be force-associated with disturbed kids.

    Let kids choose and regulate their own company and the functional meaning of decile ratings might completely disappear.

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  26. Dropping National Standards would be just like dropping NCEA, as just as many students leave from primary schools as secondary schools and as such there is no need for a specific school leaving qualification. Quack.

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  27. Photo.

    I’ve taught at both a decile 1 and a decile 8 school.

    Guess which had the best exam results?

    Now guess which one had the most hard working committed and effective teachers?
    And which one had the best atmosphere and less regimented/rebellious kids?

    Not the one with the best exam results.

    Don’t need NACT standards to tell us.

    And. The constant summative assessment with NCEA, like school cert before it, detracts from learning. I wouldn’t mind a dollar for every time a student asks, “is this in the test”. Sometimes I feel like screaming, “learning in a subject is much more than being able to write down test answers, it is the understanding and skills you gain”. Constant summative assessment makes for lazy rote learners.

    Even at university I know some students, for example, for a test answer for engineering calculus, rather than trying to master calculus as a problem solving method, learn’t the whole two page solution by heart. A method of passing tests they learn’t to do with NCEA.
    That is typically what happens when simply passing assessments, not learning to think, becomes the goal.

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  28. Kerry Thomas,

    I had a friend who taught computer studies in Figi and he had the same problem. His students all “went for the 100%” rather than understanding. The result, as he claimed, was a high test score but an education that his students quickly ended up forgetting because they did not achieve understanding. (The education you forget is the education you never really learnt in the first place!).

    The point behind it all is critical. How do we measure? What do we measure? How do we know that our tests even measure what they claim to measure? How do we test the tests?

    Like with the IQ test, the only thing we know it really measures is the individuals ability to perform on it. Whether or not the score actually correlates to intelligence is anyone’s guess. In large part, the same can be said of much of academic testing too. Indeed, John Taylor Gatto claims that those test scores are really nothing more than conformity measures, and that American elite universities never take them seriously. Maybe he’s right?

    You can only measure the part of a child’s development which can in fact be measured. If you reduce a child’s development to only that which can be measured, then you run the risk of creating a “well educated moron”. In the name of trying to look so bright does little Johnny just get dumber?

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  29. Designing effective assessments is a whole study in itself.

    However it is strange that those who want kids to be tested every 5 minutes go on management or professional development courses, which they must think are effective, or they wouldn’t pay the thousand dollar costs, where there is often no pass/fail and commonly no “test”.

    Our current fascination with summative testing is more akin to constantly uprooting the plant to measure the growth.
    If our goal was really to increase growth then we could simply apply more fertiliser.
    However the real goals are to pay Teachers less and stop them producing students who question the Government.

    Note that, Finland, the top in the OECD list, only have one formal summative exam on leaving. They were even reluctant to subject their children to the PISA testing required for the OECD list.

    And how much Sweden has dropped since adopting right wing initiatives such as cherter schools.

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  30. Intelligence tests measure, if anything, the depth/connectivity of the neural net available to the individual’s thought processes. Sapient might have a different view if he is lurking (and I’d love to hear from you if you are guy).

    The test is well correlated with people’s ability to succeed at/adapt to many challenges the modern world throws at them. That functional relationship however, has culture specific aspects.

    I don’t agree with Gatto, though he may have a point about current University entrance standards. It was certainly not the case when I trying to find scholarship money. Now an examination of the bank balances of the parents seems more relevant than the abilities or motivations of the students.

    http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/expenses-of-osu-president-run-into-millions-for-tr/nSGkK/

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  31. bjchip,

    You can expect an IQ test to roughly correlate to real-world intelligence when measuring broad groups, in the same way that you could expect an intelligence correlation with any test requiring mental aptitude. And I think those tests have value here.
    But for individual diagnosis I believe they are very limited – especially as it’s impossible to isolate the specific history of a given individuals development. Apparently the guy who invented them had the same view as well. He only intended for them to be used as a crude measure to help identify learning disorders.

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  32. BJ says “The knowledge of how a school is doing is not something secret from the community. ”

    Which is nonsense when until NS there were schools who didn’t even report academic progress to their parents, and schools that DIDN’T EVEN MEASURE academic progress, and others used all sorts of different measures.

    The best information we’ve had to choose a school until now has been vague comments from ERO like “progressing towards goals”, and “some children are achieving above their peers”, or “not yet acheieving targets in all areas” – all of which tell us virtually nothing.

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  33. Kerry says “Note that, Finland, the top in the OECD list, only have one formal summative exam on leaving”

    How do you know they are top of the OECD if none of their children have ever been assessed against a standard?

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  34. Photonz

    Phantasy

    The real world Photonz, is one in which IF a parent cared about his/her child AND had a choice of schools, they could EASILY discover how the schools and teachers were doing. If you are describing the failure of the Department of Education to do its job, because if the parents could know, so could they, that is another issue. There was never a lack of data available.

    The “teaching to the test” problem is realm, it is not useful and it is only one of the results of National’s insane blame of Teachers for the “well known liberal bias” of reality.

    National has always disliked and dismissed the opinions of teachers. Given their childish behaviour on the benches I can readily imagine that most of their MP’s had problems with teachers when they were students.

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  35. “Constant summative assessment makes for lazy rote learners.”

    Strange. Those lazy rote learners have developed computers, gone to the moon, replaced hearts and lungs, expanded the productivity of land and almost all the other progress humankind has made over the last few millenia. For a clear understanding of lazy rote learners go to Asia, where the average approach to school education is at least 2 generations behind New Zealand, and generates results we can only dream of.

    The so called “progress” from teachers and students into adult and child learners has resulted in a reduction in lteracy and numeracy, as well as diminishing international competitiveness. For a simple example, look at the quality of writing and vocabulary by American childrens’ web postings and compare them to our and Australia’s children. In the US a child has to pass a grade befor moving on to more challenging work, here they just have to attend to move up (a ‘year’ not a grade or standard).

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  36. “quality of writing and vocabulary by American childrens’ web postings”.
    “results we can only dream of”.

    Satire??

    When we have Asian Teachers over here trying to find out how we get much better results in depth of thought and creativity than they can, despite. “exam hell”. While getting the same or better results for numeracy and literacy.
    And the lack of knowledge and depth in American education show in almost everything you read from the USA.

    The above comments have to be a joke.

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  37. Kerry
    perhaps you should go and meet some children in an Average school in America. You might also want to look at what the have to do to graduate from high-school (as opposed to just reach the right number of years of attendance).

    As for depth of thought and creativity, have you spoken to average Kiw children recently? Creative thumbing on computer/phone games – yeah, right!

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  38. “Exam Hell”
    wow, having your skills tested to see if your recall ability measures up to a standard! Sounds like real life to me!

    My generation were EXAMined at 11, 13, 16 and (if we stayed on) 18 years. Then, if we went on to University, we have to sit EXAMinations every year and PASS in order to be admitted to a degree. I repeat myself, but IT DIDN’T do us any harm and we managed to live quite successfully.

    We didn’t roam in gangs, terrorising people young and old, we gave our seats to women (especially pregnant women) on busses, we respected the authority of teachers, police and others who watched over society, and we didn’t expect anything just because we were alive. If you seriously want me to believe we live in a better society today you’ve got a lot of convincing to do!

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  39. “American elite universities never take them seriously” Yeah Right!

    Find me an elite university that doesn’t require high GPA & SAT scores, for instance
    http://0.tqn.com/d/collegeapps/1/0/r/M/-/-/Harvard.png
    shows what it took to get into Harvard last year

    Then there’s the GMAT scores to get into post graduate schools in those universities – Harvard’s minimum is 720 (out of 800) or 90% on a 5 hour “sit down in isolation and answer the questions” EXAMination.

    Please check the basics before you misquote searchable facts.

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  40. More head in the sand stuff from BJ -“they could EASILY discover how the schools and teachers were doing. ”

    Many schools hadn’t been reporting academic results, let alone even measuring them – and BJ thinks it was EASY for parent to find out information when many schools diodn’t knwo themselves.

    Having just been through the process of trying to find out this sort of information, it sounds to me like you are completely ignorant about what information is available, and are just making up any nonsense off the top of your head that suits your position.

    BJ says “Given their childish behaviour on the benches ”

    You mean childish name calling like “chicken chicken chicken”?

    Oh that’s right – that was Russel Norman.

    And I note Kerry hasn’t answered how we actually know Finnish children are top if they have never been tested against the same standard everyone else uses.

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  41. I thought this discussion was about the usefulness or otherwise of National Standards.
    It seems to have degenerated into a pointless argument over a whole lot of other stuff.
    My thoughts are: teachers actually do care about students and their progress; they do know and can tell parents how these children are doing on a whole range of things, not just the narrow tests of NS; many children do need more help and support than they are getting but this is not the best way to determine who they are and what they need.
    One’s perspective is always coloured by one’s own experience, whether good or bad.
    I have no real knowledge of how well other educational systems work, so can’t comment on them.

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  42. Have you been in an average NZ school lately?

    The kids have to cover and learn a lot more than we did.

    And. I havn’t been in an average American school but I know a lot of Teachers who are now refugees from the US school system.

    Did all that testing actually help your learning or was it the quality or NZ Teachers, helped along by the system of school inspection.

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  43. Who’s this “we” Dave? “We didn’t roam in gangs, terrorising people young and old, we gave our seats to women (especially pregnant women) on busses, we respected the authority of teachers, police and others who watched over society, and we didn’t expect anything just because we were alive.”
    There is a wonderful quote from a very old Latin writer (not sure who now) which laments about the bad behaviour of youth – 3,000 years ago!
    I’m at least as old as you and yobs have always been with us. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose…

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  44. Rubbish Photo. They do the PISA tests on a random sample the same as everywhere else. Otherwise they do formative testing, just like teachers everywhere, and a single school leaving exam which can cover anything from the entire syllabus.

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  45. Out of the 3.7 MILLION grade-school teachers in the usa (yep, almost as many teachers as there are people in NZ,)

    source http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=28

    I’m sure there are “a lot” who are refugees. Indeed, I too know some (actually two) who didn’t like having their abilities measured by the results of their students and find/found NZ’s lower expectations much easier to live with.

    As for my “learning”. Pretty simple really, we did a year or two of study, and then went into an exam not knowing what we would be examined on, so knowing we had to have learned it all to get a good grade. remembering what we did during the preceeding five-week “module” would have been a doddle compared to that!

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  46. Kerry says “Note that, Finland, the top in the OECD list”

    Wrong.

    Finland is not top in any category. Places like China, which does a lot of standardised testing, has taken top spot in reading, maths and science. Singapore Hong Kong, Taipei and Korea have also passed Finland in various categories.

    And Finland does regular gradings, twice a year, which are reported to parents. Children are required to improve their grading to move up to the next class.

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  47. You realize that those gradings aren’t the result of “standardized tests”?

    Also, I don’t see where Finland has fallen out of the top 6. The competitiveness at the top has been increased, Finland didn’t lose ground so much as it got added competition from a couple of cities, not countries and I would question the wisdom of comparing Chinese methods with anyone else’s as well.

    China
    Education professor Yong Zhao has noted the PISA 2009 did not receive much attention in the Chinese media, and that the high scores in China are due to excessive workload and testing, adding that it’s “no news that the Chinese education system is excellent in preparing outstanding test takers, just like other education systems within the Confucian cultural circle: Singapore, Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong.”[15]</

    I think Photonz, that you are FULLY aware that Finland has an extremely successful education system based on actually educating, not testing the crap out of, their students. Also that NZ has been doing very well on those same ratings.

    It is pretty clear here that the "problem" that National is trying to solve has nothing to do with the performance of our schools, but with the politics of our Teacher's Union.

    Putting a positive spin on such a farrago of errors and ideological prejudices is, as you are finding, pretty difficult.

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  48. One City in China has taken top spot.

    The last rankings done were. 1st Shanghai, Second Korea (which basically excludes those who do not pass, “exam hell” from higher education before they are 15) and 3rd Finland. Source PISA.
    And from other sources NZ is the to in relation top dollars spent per head.

    The UK and USA, which you are suggesting we emulate, are way down the list and dropping.

    And. The Chinese and Koreans are questioning their rote learning teaching for the test style as the students they are turning out are struggling, when thinking and problem solving are required.

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  49. After this “Constant summative assessment makes for lazy rote learners.” There is an error in that post, and the blogware isn’t resetting it for subsequent posts. ??

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  50. A report by the Finnish Ministry of Education into why they do well in PISA tests came up with several reasons –
    – their language is very easy to learn
    – reading is a popular past-time
    – they have a homogenous population with few immigrant groups
    – their curiculum is very closely aligned to what PISA test for
    – their comprehensive schools that go from 7-16 years old.
    – a low drop out rate.
    – they also mention that they do a significant amount of testing, including exams –

    “In addition to the recurrent exams measuring
    students’ curricular attainment, specific normative
    tests are widely in use in the early grades to screen
    students for possible learning difficulties in reading,
    writing and mathematics.”

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  51. Photo. I suggest you look up the difference between formative and summative assessment and their usefulness and purpose.

    And the scope, moderation and use of the Finnish tests compared with NACT standards and “no child left behind”.

    May actually open your eyes a bit.

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  52. BJ says “I think Photonz, that you are FULLY aware that Finland has an extremely successful education system based on actually educating, not testing the crap out of, their students.”

    So in your head testing twice a year is “testing the crap out of …students” but only when it’s National Standards – not if it’s Finish tests (which are also twice a year).

    It just shows you don’t let facts get in the way of your bias.

    As the Finnish Ministry of Education says, many people wrongly believe Finland doesn’t have exams and tests.

    They closely measure progress, and children can only advance to the next class if their grades improve over the year.

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  53. Photo. Are you deliberately obtuse or is it you do not really understand the different roles and effects on learning of differing types and purpose of assessment.
    If you are as ignorant of education as you appear I suggest you shut up and leave talking about it to grownups.

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  54. And, yes I test my classes, and myself, every day when I am teaching. Most Teachers do. Quizzes, quick tests, questions, revision etc. To inform me how they are doing. Over every facet of the subject they are learning.

    There is a difference between testing to inform students and teachers of progress and wasting money on testing on a very narrow range of skills to tell us what we already know. We have seen in Asia and the USA how much that harms learning.

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  55. Photonz

    Did you notice when the Finns start testing? That there is a difference between the teacher’s evaluations in the early years, and a test? There is also a difference between testing teen-aged students and testing at the primary level. You have “standards based testing” reaching down to 8 and 9 year olds. You have this implementation that was never discussed with the teachers. You have a National government using these “results” as an excuse to bash the unions (The Finns are fully unionized)…. I think my assessment, cynical as it was, was EXACTLY correct and that the tests have nothing at all to do with student performance, WHICH WAS NOT BAD TO START WITH!!!

    http://www.businessinsider.com/finland-education-school-2011-12?op=1

    Stop making excuses for the failure of National to actually ask how to do this right. That was THEIR failure, not ours or the teachers, that the teachers were not consulted and the plan was conceived in ignorance of actual best-practice.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Finland

    During the first years of comprehensive school, grading may be limited to verbal assessments rather than formal grades. The start of numerical grading is decided locally. Most commonly, pupils are issued a report card twice a year: at the ends of the autumn and spring terms. There are no high-stakes tests.

    Stop apologizing Photonz. It doesn’t help National and it is neither entertaining nor educational.

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  56. BJ says “You have “standards based testing” reaching down to 8 and 9 year olds. ”

    Which is the opposite of what Ministry of Education says about National Standards –
    “The implementation of National Standards in years 1-8 will not involve the introduction of nationally-standardised testing.”

    Seems like you and Kerry have been argueing against National Standards for political reasons as you obviously have not the slightest idea of how they are assessed.

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  57. My son would take issue with the fundamental truthfulness of the ministry.

    National STANDARDS exist for those grades… so testing is being done and reporting is being done on them.

    …and if it isn’t test across schools the result is a complete farce for those levels as you aren’t comparing like with like.

    Therefore getting all the damage, and spending all the money, and gaining NONE of the benefits you claim. Good work!

    It seems like you have not the slightest idea of what EFFECT this foolishness has created.

    Maybe you think it is and was the best idea since sliced bread Photonz, but it is clear that the Teachers who have to deal with this have a different view… of a shit storm coming down from on high, of money wasted telling them and us what we already knew, and of a campaign by National to undermine their Union.

    They recognize your party for what it is. I recognize it as well. You can’t fool anyone here.

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  58. So much doom and gloom BJ – the end of the world is nigh.

    And one of the biggest complaints to begin with was that National Standards was little different to what a large number of schools were already doing.

    I notice that in you arguement that the Finns don’t test much, you didn’t include the sentences immediately following your quote

    “Grades are given on scale from 4 to 10. In individual exams, but not on school year report or basic education certificate, it is also possible to divide the scale further with ‘½’, which represents a half grade, and ‘+’ and ‘–’, which represent one-fourth a grade better or inferior. For example, the order is “9 < 9+ < 9½ < 10– < 10". The grade '10+' can also be awarded for a perfect performance with extra effort by the student.

    If a comprehensive school pupil receives the grade 4 in one subject at the end of the spring term, they must show by a separate examination at the end of summer term that they have improved in the subject. If the pupil receives multiple failing grades, they may have to retake the year, though it is considered far preferable to provide a struggling student with extra help and tutoring"

    So Finnish pupils are given grades, have tests, and exams. All things that some here are saying are really bad things when we do them here.

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  59. It is obvious, Photo, that you have no comprehension of the difference between formative testing done in Finnish and NZ schools and the narrow focus and misapplication of testing inherent in “no child left behind” and NACT standards.

    In other words, you are not qualified to be in this discussion.

    One is to assist identifying gaps to help learning. The other is a narrow, misapplied, ideological waste of money, used to encourage dysfunctional competition between schools and justify attacks on teachers, which has been tried and failed overseas.

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  60. In your haste to be an apologist for whatever stupid thing the Government does next, you are ignoring the evidence.

    Why on Earth would we want to imitate the US education system. The worlds most expensive, but 28th in the OECD, and dropping, in results.

    What really annoys me is the amount of real difference, we could have made, if that money had been used for our already successful, but underfunded programs, such as reading recovery.
    BUT already proven initiatives do not fit with National ideology of “stuff up our education system to justify privatisation”.

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  61. Kerry – you are funny. Exams in Finland that have to be passed to progress to the next level are now just formative assessment.

    And YOU say people are not qualified to be part of the conversation when you’ve just made a total idiot of yourself.

    You really have your head in the sand over this. Finland tests tiwce a year, just like New Zealand is starting to, and they grade their kids MORE than we do.

    I will guarantee you that the NZ schools who previously did no testing and/or no reporting to parents, are on average performing below those that do.

    It’s a well known fact that regular accurate reporting to parents by schools results in higher academic achievement.

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