Not sure where to start really as some good things may just yet come out of National Standards if the whole thing is not rushed through and thought is given to the long term consequences and ramifications of National Testing. Unfortunately attending the ‘consultation’ meeting yesterday left me with more questions than answers. I wanted to blog my thoughts right there and then but didn’t want to appear to be a nerdy swat. The atmosphere was warmer than the hall we were in- and that’s saying something. Good Lord- one of the coldest mornings we have had and we are all sat in a huge school hall with NO heating what so ever. By the end of the morning I had lost contact with my toes.
Below is my takeaway from the meeting. I probably got it wrong in places but it is not my job to be a reporter. One thing I do know that at least I will quote myself correctly when I publish- unlike this chappie from the Nelson Evening Mail– apart from getting my name wrong he got what I said wrong as well. My question was ( and I quote ‘cos I wrote it down before I asked it ) “If a child is identified to be at risk as a consequence of National Testing what will be done to support that child above what is already been done now”. That answer was that the Ministry has put aside $35m for National Testing. I replied that I didn’t think that would be enough. Don McClean asked more eloquently than me,
“If we measure a kid’s height it doesn’t make them taller, so how is measuring kids nationally going to make them achieve more?”
To write my thoughts I have added my questions/thoughts in CAPITAL LETTERS in a Wes Fryer sort of way in order to separate them from the messages I took from the presentation.
The learned people engaged in reading the Ministry spiel made sure that they stuck to the script so that everyone who came to the meetings throughout the country would hear the same message. Anne Tolley, our Minister of Education started off virtually with a video. In the video she said that formative assessment informs our teaching.
OH SO I GOT IT WRONG. NATIONAL TESTING IS INTENDED TO BE A FORM OF FORMATIVE TESTING!
HOW WILL NATIONAL TESTING RAISE ACHIEVEMENT?
The MOE people reitereated that National Testing is not about publishing league tables and it was all about noble ideals of developing partnerships between school/whanau/community. IT MAY NOT BE THE INTENTION BUT I FEAR THAT LEAGUE TABLES MAY WELL BE THE END RESULT.
The National Standards will connect with NZCEA Level Two and work backwards to what children will need to know in order to be successful participants in society. Benchmarks will be set at the end of each year level. Year 1, 2 and 3 will be reported at the end of a complete year at school and thereafter at the end of the school year.
IF NATIONAL TESTING AND PARENT REPORTING HAPPENS AT THE END OF THE YEAR HOW WILL NEXT STEPS OF FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT BE ACTIONABLE?
ESOL and Special Education children will be exempt from the testing regimin. WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO AREN”T SPECIAL NEEDS AS SUCH BUT ARE STILL WORKING AT LEVEL ONE OF THE CURRICULUM? WILL THEY BE EXEMPT? EVEN COMPLETING PAT TESTS IN YEAR FOUR IS A DODGY PROPOSITION?
If I got my listening right it is expected that 75% of Year Six children will achieve the standard and only 50-60% of Year 7/8. SO WHAT HAPPENS TO THE 25% OF CHILDREN WHO WERE SUCCESSFUL WHO NOW SUDDENLY AREN”T?
The mathematics part of the testing is not necessarily based on NUMPA learning but on the ‘big ideas’ in each learning area of maths. LOOKING AT THE ACTUAL TEST SAMPLE IT APPEARS THAT ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS ARE HAND MARKED BY THE TEACHER AS ARE THE LITERACY SAMPLES. WORKLOAD?
I did like that the literacy samples be marked OBJ- On the teacher’s Balanced Judgement. GREAT BUT WHAT SORT OF MODERATION WILL BE IN PLACE TO ENSURE THAT DIFFERENT TEACHERS IN THE SAME SCHOOL AND ACROSS SCHOOLS WILL BE JUDGING AGAINST THE SAME MODERATED CRITERIA?
I did like the use of the term ‘readability level’ of text as opposed to a reading age. I have long held to the belief that it is readability that is more of use in grading a text than reading age that implies that having on its own a high reading age, is more important than a deeper understanding of the reading material in itself. THE LITERACY SECTION OF THE NATIONAL STANDARDS WAS ADDRESSED BY JILL FORGIE AND I THOUGHT SHE SPOKE SOME SENSE. I HOPE SHE IS BEING LISTENED TO.
ANOTHER COUPLE OF QUESTIONS CAME TO MY MIND AS WE WERE TALKING….
WHAT STEPS CAN BE TAKEN TO PROTECT INFORMATION FROM THE ZEALOUS PRESS IN PUTTING THEIR OWN SLANT ON RESULTS? The response to that one was that principal’s should draft their own press releases. MY RESPONSE TO THAT ONE IS TO LOOK AT THE WRITE UP IN TODAY”S PAPER– I WAS MIS-QUOTED AND DIDN”T EVEN REALISE THAT THE PRESS WAS REPORTING THE EVENT!
WHAT EVIDENCE BASE IS THERE TO SET THE STANDARDS AS THEY INTEND TO DO???
I HAVE A FEELING THAT THESE TARGETS ARE ASPIRATIONAL ONES WE WOULD LIKE TO ACHIEVE. THE MATHS STANDARDS WERE WRITTEN I THINK BY MATHEMATICIANS- A RARE BREED APART FROM ORDINARY FOLK. DO WE NEED TO BE MORE REALISTIC IF THE GOAL IS NOT TO PUNISH GOOD SCHOOLS BUT TO RAISE THE LONG TAIL OF UNDER-PERFORMING SCHOOLS? WE ARE ALL GOING TO BE LUMPED TOGETHER.
HOW DO WE REPORT TO CHILDREN THAT THEY ARE BELOW, BELOW, BELOW STANDARD. I AGREE WE HAVE TO HAVE HONEST REPORTING BUT FOR SOME KIDS THIS SORT OF REPORTING COULD BE CATASTROPHIC. I WAS TOLD AT SCHOOL THAT I WOULD NEVER PASS SCHOOL CERTIFICATE MATHS- SO WHAT WAS THE POINT OF TRYING? I AM STILL TRYING TO GET OVER IT!
WE WERE TOLD THAT OUR FEEDBACK WAS VALUED AND WANTED BUT FEEDBACK IS DUE ON JUNE 30th- NEXT TUESDAY- ONE WEEK IN WHICH TO SHARE THE LEARNING WITH OTHERS NOT ABLE TO ATTEND THE MEETING. NOT LONG TO GIVE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK ON SUCH AN IMPORTANT CHANGE IN NEW ZEALAND’S EDUCATION GIVEN THE EFFORTS BEING MADE TO IMPLEMENT THE NEW CURRICULUM.
I MAY HAVE GOT THE WHOLE THING WRONG. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO WADE IN THE MURKY WATERS AND HELP CLARIFY MY THINKING ON THIS.
GIVE THE MINISTRY YOUR FEEDBACK BEFORE NEXT TUESDAY!!!!
Other articles you may like to read
There’s even a National Standards Ning started by the NZEI http://www.nationalstandards.org.nz/
Greg Carroll has some views also that are worth reading here.
Don’t know who Subversive ICT blogger is but he/she makes some good points also.
“The point is that kids come in a variety of sizes and having a standard “height” for 6-year-olds is absurd. Someone will always come up short – not meet the standard. There will always be a distribution of height, weight – or achievement. Go find your Plunket book. If you set a standard “height”, all those short kids get hurt and resentful, and their parents fret, when it’s just normal for some people to be shorter (or just grow slower).”
Derek Wenmoth expresses himself on National Standards here.
Herald Newspaper Article written in March on Anne Tolley’s election promises.
Isaac Day‘s Reflection on National Standards.
MOE National Standards Forum Comments
I am adding more links here as I come across them.
If you know of any other places people can go to find out more then please add them in the comments and I will link from this main page.