The Week in Education

Good morning class.

There’s been a lot of talk this week in the lead up to the publication of national standards data here in New Zealand. Teachers in the UK and the US are probably wondering why we are going down this path since it hasn’t really worked in boosting them up the OECD rankings.

Fairfax Media through their stuff.co.nz website launched the School Report webpage. This horrified many in the education sector – especially since Prime Minister John Key had labelled the first round of data ‘ropey’ a few weeks back. Principals, teachers and commentators are saying the data can’t be trusted because it is unmoderated – meaning that no two schools are necessarily assessing students in the same way. Keith Ng also gave the NZ Herald and Fairfax a lesson in data analysis courtesy of an NCEA level 1 textbook.

Many have pointed out that the information really doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know about outcomes for Maori and Pasifika, boys, and students special needs. But as Dr Bryce Edwards pointed out on his political round-up on Friday, if “…the results actually show that this ‘tail’ is largely the result of growing deprivation and inequality then it may be poorly performing politicians rather than bad teachers and schools in the firing line.”

The last word for goes to our governess the Rt Hon. Hekia Parata, Education Minster, who popped up ahead of the government publishing the data on Friday suggesting national standards data could, “…have a role in assessing the performance of teachers.” This will concern those who believe there is an ulterior motive behind the government bring in national standards.

OTHER READING

Here are some other things popped up during the week.

  1. Dr John Hattie (often quoted out of context by the National-led government on bigger class sizes) has a talk with Finnish education expert Pasi Sahlberg about the system in Finland. I found this most interested – mostly because the system over there has a ‘big picture’ focus on equity starting in early childhood and going through primary school. Teacher quality is also important. They do this by having highly trained teachers that are seen by everyone to be as skilled as doctors and engineers. Watch the conversation or read the transcript here.
  2. Why Do People Hate Teaching Unions? Because They Hate Teachers. Cory Robin gives some insight into how teachers are viewed by some media commentators (and parents and students) in the United States. He points out back in his childhood world teachers were seen as people who’d opted out of the capitalist game and weren’t doing what they do for money, therefore they were less worthy of anyone who produced something concrete.
  3. The Autism & Oughtism blog featured a post on how her child (who is on the autism spectrum) was reported as being ‘well below’ on the national standards and how the special school he attends had 100% of children at this level against the standard. It’s a compelling read. She talks about the ‘privacy breach’ of the standards being made public and that initially the government had said special schools wouldn’t be included in the published data. Another point she makes is the school hadn’t told her directly at any point that her son was ‘well below’ the standard. This just proves how important it is that teachers and schools have regular communication with parents. Education is high stakes stuff, particularly in these times of whole websites of data available to everybody.

That’s what took my fancy this week. If you’ve got anything to add, or say, then feel free to. I’m trying to be a bit more regular on the blog from now. Next week I might look into the socio-economic links to educational achievement.

Have a good week.

Boon.

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