5 min read

It's not about the teaching and learning.

It's not about the teaching and learning.

Most successful school systems grant greater autonomy to individual schools to design curricula and establish assessment policies, but these school systems do not necessarily allow schools to compete for enrolment.

In countries where schools have greater autonomy over what is taught and how students are assessed, students tend to perform better.

Within countries where schools are held to account for their results through posting achievement data publicly, schools that enjoy greater autonomy in resource allocation tend to do better than those with less autonomy. however, in countries where there are no such accountability arrangements, the reverse is true.

Countries that create a more competitive environment in which many schools compete for students do not systematically produce better results.

PISA 2009 Executive Summary

So what is this government actually trying to fix, solve or overhaul with this weeks rather flippant comment about the need for league tables from John Key.

I'm still not convinced we've got enough of an education issue in our educational system to warrant the absolute overhaul of core parts that Key and co seem to believe is necessary.

Yes - we have bad schools.
And yes we have poor teachers.

But we do have existing processes to identify/support/assist/remove them from the system. Schools have appraisal and performance systems, we have ERO, the Teachers Council hears complaints.

And the old fashioned way in which a parent comes to see a teacher about their child can work pretty well.

Do all these reforms mean these processes are broken?

There is a sense in all of these policies, an arrogance that comes from a position of "we know best" that really wears me down. Every education policy out of this government comes, seemingly as an afterthought, with a comment that the policies are about "raising achievement for all learners through quality teaching"

It's said as if those in the education sector are actively working to lower achievement and to degrade the quality of teaching.

I agree that may appear to be a little like I'm feeling sorry for myself as a teacher. But it's alright - I'm not expecting a Hallmark card and a freshly roasted coffee every morning. I'm not even that bothered about receiving some teacher of the month award.

Just a measure of understanding of what our role in this society thing is. A recognition of that role. A celebration of that role, as appropriate. It's not the greatest role on the planet. We don't hold the future ransom between 9am and 3pm. We're not expecting the adoration of the masses.

But we do know, and are aware of the issues that face our students, and by extension our community. We sit and work with them every day... we are striving to make our classrooms, our schools, our profession better.

Please, just let us do our jobs, instead of making us spend the majority of our time justifying our jobs and roles with increasingly inane and nonsensical amounts of paperwork.

The spin of course, from the Prime Minister's comment - is that this initiative is the Ministry of Education taking responsibility for the data, so that media don't skew the data, and that parents get a clear message.

Despite the Ministry, as far as I'm aware - never having published a standard data entry format for schools to submit their national standards data in. Standards data is included in school charters, which are public documents, but most will have been sent to the Ministry as paper, or possible a PDF.

How exactly are these to be analysed and then presented as a coherent statement for the benefit of these desperate parents that John Key refers too.

I guess these league tables are to be generated by some poor bugger inside the MoE who's sifting through 1500 paper-based charters, trying to align a big pile of words with some sort of quantifiably valid measure - and then turn it into an table that can be printed on the front page of the local newspaper.

They would be quicker to just use the decile ratings, and let people form their own biased assumptions about what makes a good school "good". While totally invalid, as a measure of a schools education quality or the ability and quality of the teachers in that school - the decile ratings cater to people's assumptions and understandings of society.

But if we're not going to do that, because it's not valid data, so we'll use National Standards data.

Measures of reading, writing and maths.
Not measures of progress.
Measures of achievement.
"Aspirational" achievement.

Which is kind of like where we want the students to be in a perfect world, that exists somewhere in the future of this great land of ours. A measure that's based on an individual teachers' ability to use a range of tools at their disposal.

A measure that is not moderated beyond the other teachers in that same school. A measure that may be totally different if another teacher down the road used similar tools to make their judgement on the same student. ...

But for argument's sake - let's assume it's valid data to make our tables.

One is assuming this poor overworked public servant is also having to match up this data with the other set of standards that were developed for Maori-medium schools.

Because not only are the National Standards, neither nationalised or standardised, they built a whole different set of standards for the tax-payer funded Maori immersion schools.

Which is a little odd, as the long tail of under-achievement is mainly Pasifika and Maori students, and one would imagine if you wanted valid data to measure that tail against the rest of the student population.... you'd use the same standard. Right?

I can only presume that if the government was really honest, they'd have developed a different set of standards for private schools.

What do you mean national standards don't apply to private schools?

But I digress.

Seriously though, the taxpayer is paying for this. How is this even considered a worthwhile exercise?

When you haven't even accurately framed the question the data gathering exercise is meant to answer?

One might almost think some cunning policy wonk, who's never stepped foot in a classroom as teacher, planned this cockup of paper shuffling.

Planned it so so they could fund, build and present an online database for collecting data, that all schools must use to input their data.

A database that could be centrally hosted as schools are getting UFB. All this as part of a benevolent government initiative, that will "raise teaching and learning outcomes" and ... oh look, here's $400million dollars to build a Network for Learning - that can deliver that database easily to all schools, and we can combine that with e-Asttle to assess all students.

Then naturally we can save money on teacher quality coz any muggins can punch a keypad, and we can save money on teacher quantity, coz we've got a great deal with Microsoft to give everyone a Surface tablet.

Voila - instant on-always-on-certifably-accurate-justification-of-expenditure-driven-Nationalised Testing.

That will "raise teaching and learning outcomes".

Except it won't.

But you knew that didn't you.

Because none of this is about teaching and learning.

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jakecaptive/2924964056/

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