The National Party were very clear before the last election that they would launch a 'literacy and numeracy crusade'. I have no problem with that.
The National Party were very clear before the last election that they would implement a 'national standards' policy. I have no problem with that.
It was all very open, written in the manifesto and there for voters to give their tick to if they liked it. And a majority did. I like democracy.
The National Party are now the elected government of New Zealand. State schools are schools of the state. We must follow the laws enacted by the elected government. I have no problem with that.
What drives me nuts is the inability of the Minister of Education to give any answer to any question about how the mere existence of national standards will improve standards of achievement. The only answer I can find is that "1 in 5 children leave school without required literacy and numeracy skills". She parrots this one-liner out at every opportunity. There is no other depth to her reasoning. I am really keen to hear more from her. I like debate and enjoy listening to all sides of an argument.
I want my minister to speak, clarify and explain, beyond just saying that "1 in 5 children leave school without required literacy and numeracy skills".
What does 1 in 5 actually mean?
1 in 5 means 20%.
This is a bell curve. It shows the national expectation of performance of children in New Zealand in one of the standardised tests which we use at our school (and which we have used for years). The national statistical expectation on the curve is in brackets. The Waimairi School numbers are without brackets. Children in the 1,2 or 3 stanine band are the kids the Minister of Education claims are the shocking 1 in 5.
Yes, of course there are 1 in 5 failing nationally. In any population 20% (or 1 in 5) are going to be at this end of a bell curve. That is the very nature of a natural spread of ability across the population.
Minister, it is not shocking that 1 in 5 fail, it is a statistical reality. In this illustrated PAT graph the expectation is in fact 23% (the 4% + 19%) failing.
What sort of principal would just accept that 1 in 5 children in his or her school failing in this way? Not many of us and certainly not me.
The way that we have addressed the 1 in 5 in our school over the last two years has been through the Literacy Professional Development Project (LPDP). They have been named, they have been put into focus groups in classrooms and the teachers have been taught how to try, try and try again with an ever changing approach to teaching to move these kids away from being at risk.
And it has worked. Year on year we are helping these children be the best they can be. We don't take 1 in 5 as the status quo. We aim to make it better. We have data to show this approach is working. We are one of the schools that Trevor Mallard is talking about in this video clip.
So back to the main question. How will the mere existence national standards help the 1 in 5?
We already know who they are. We work our behinds off to shift them upwards. What will another way of being measured do for these kids?
The distribution of children across the schools of New Zealand does not follow a nice neat bell curve. Many schools have a disproportionate number of the '1 in 5' as their student majority. If league tables on student performance are published as a result of national standards how can any meaningful judgement about the quality of education at those schools ever be made? I hope it never happens.
1 in 5 is part of life but the uneven distribution of the 1 in 5 across a city’s, or the nation’s schools makes a for very uneven playing field. Every suburb in every town does not look like a bell curve. Certain schools have certain parts of the curve as their main pupil base.
I am not part of the tedious NZEI protest bus tour. I am not part of the Principals' Federation campaign. I am just wanting the Minister of Education, my boss, to speak to me intelligently and tell me something I don't already know.
Yes 1 in 5 fail, I got that bit. Now tell me how national standards will help kids achieve and help teachers make sure that they do.