National Standards Review

This morning I attended a talk by Lester Flockton at which we got to hear his take on how he sees National Standards in New Zealand. My view of them is filtered through doom tinted glasses so anything I might add can be taken from that point of view. These are my views and are to be taken in no way as a reflection on the views of staff or BoT at my school. My reflections are in italics. This is what I took from Lester’s talk. I don’t usually blog about contentious issues but I wanted to share what I heard from someone who knows more about it than most. Here is what I heard…

National Standards have their foundations in politics not education so how can you discuss them with reason or logic. It was a political decision to start the National Standards process.

We need to be strong to say what we think– will I actually post my notes as a blog post but people already know via Twitter what I think. Press had been asked to leave before the Principal’s meeting started so how different is my blog post from a post in a newspaper, apart from lack of readership of this blog. We have a culture of compliance in NZ- we need to THINK of implications for National Standards- its possible/probable impact on teaching and learning.

Here are some of the slides that Lester used in his presentation. To see them in a decent size hover over them and click fullscreen.

Pamphlets about National Standards were posted out to parents before Christmas. Interestingly no one in the room had received a pamphlet in the mail – they were posted and not given to teachers to hand out- no wonder! The pamphlets were filled with political rhetoric in talk back radio language like

  • 20% of students are failing (Lester says 10-15% of children are struggling for a variety of reasons). Every country has a large tail- to make a difference to those struggling kids there are needs to be a whole package of assistance that they need to become successful- a test without real resources to support the family/whanau is unlikely to be successful.
  • Identify struggling children early- like we don’t know already which children are struggling.
  • We need one national test to rule them all- thankfully but also fatefully National Standards don’t deliver one test to rule them all- each school/teacher puts their own slant on the standard.
  • National Standards are needed so children can be compared one school against another. Lester says that the Standards are already impacting with schools advertising for staff to raise standards. Schools should be collaborative not competitive.
  • Parents are tired of politically correct sugar coated reports. Plain language reporting- it was changed from plain English as by saying English it was not politically correct! LOL)

League tables- inevitable in the long run- John Hattie is going to be in working party to develop them. He says he wants to make them safe- only comparing like decile schools. Lester says NEMP data is much more dependable and reliable. Schools will be pitched against schools! Common data sources- you won’t find them with National Standards there really isn’t moderation between schools- league tables based on surface features- because they more easily measured. It will breed a whole new batch of data driven tests.

Revision of NAGs in November 2009- blue sheet. Lester handed out NAG revision handout. Now no need to assess AOs. Schools asked to report to MoE on demographic analysis and trends, weakness, and what they are intending to do about it.

If you have a good reporting process keep it but add on as an appendage to your normal reporting schedule in term one and term four. Bring data on from the end of the previous year- beware of children’s fading over the school holidays. Beware of last year’s teachers who are soft or too hard so you appear over hard with kids moving between average or below for example- if a child was assessed as average last year and you put them at below beware of the parental wrath– Beware teacher workload.

MoE timeline- BoTs report on trends and what schols intend to do to achieve those targets. There will be enormous variance across teachers and schools as on what is above/below standard. There needs to be ongoing moderation between teachers and across schools.

Looking carefully at the characteristics of the reading and writing standards- same word games as the Achievement Objectives- the characteristics of year five and six are the same- it will be up to teachers to make those judgments and actually put it in plain language.

The people who put the standards together weren’t teachers and were done behind closed doors without teacher practitioners being involved. Why trial something that is rubbish anyway? Overseas any improvement has come at the expense  of a balanced, broad curriculum. Is this what we want- to follow failed overseas systems?

Trending to a data driven system. Children are not data.

Learning is messy.

So there you go! What do you think. What have you got to add?

One thought on “National Standards Review

  1. Sounds like you had an interesting afternoon. You may find Stuart Middleton’s address to Learning at School a useful addition to your thinking around this when the video comes out.

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