Friday, July 01, 2011

National Standards: The government is listening – but only to people who say what it wants to hear

Today, more than 300 schools handed their charters to the Ministry of Education without National Standards information because they believe setting targets for student achievement using National Standards will produce unreliable information. They were supported by the NZEI. All 300 must be processed within 25 working days, as per section 63A of the Education Act 1989.

Coincidentally, there seems to be a bit of a scrap between the NZEI and the government's National Standard’s Advisory group - a group set up to give the sector a voice and provide feedback to the government on the implementation of National Standards.

The group released its latest report after this month's meeting - and included many recommendations.

One was that “the Minister should be invited to approve the launch of a carefully managed process of review of the standards themselves alongside the current monitoring and evaluation of implementation”.

The NZEI responded that while the education sector was saying that the standards were flawed, it was significant that the National Standards Advisory Group was saying that they need to be reviewed.

Not so, responded Professor Gary Hawke, who heads the group. He said that rather than an admission that the standards needed to be reviewed because they were flawed, they were more about beginning to explore “ how continual improvement might be extended to the way the Standards are stated”.

So it’s all about the language - how how certain teachers express how things are done.

Rather than talking to schools that are representative of the sector, the group appears to be only listening to certain schools - called “ leading schools” - who undertake National Standards-speak. These schools claim National Standards is successful, as teachers say they are able to “diagnose where gains in student achievement are available”. The advisory group can then provide palatable advice to the Minister.

Meanwhile the NZEI would rather express things in language other than National Standards and so the two groups are talking past each other.

The schools’ Boards of Trustees and teachers just want the best for their students whatever the Ministry tells them to do. But in correspondence with the Ministry, many are couching language in National Standards terms for fear of reprisal.

Meanwhile in the classroom, most are doing what they have always done, because they recognise that National Standards – however carefully managed - makes no difference to student achievement.

But you won't hear that advice from the advisory group.




Blogger Mister Ornery said...

One wonders how Anne Tolley herself received an education, given that she seems to talk more than listen.

Seriously, these National Standards raise more questions in my mind than they provide answers. If they are meant to create generations of citizens who will blindly follow because a government says that this is the way to go, then they may succeed. If, however, their objective is to instill in students an ability to think critically and in depth, then they must surely fail.

July 4, 2011 at 10:32 AM  

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