National Standards – Resistance is not futile

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NO to National StandardsSo far this week I have had to counsel three different parents who were distressed after hearing their child is not “at standard” according to National Standards.  I also heard recently that a friend’s child was above standard in reading.  Not surprising in itself – that’s what National Standards are for.  Except in each case the child had only been at school just over a term.

These are 5 year olds.

Ministry advises that “The National Standards are signposts of expected progress and achievement that apply after a student has been at school for one, two, or three years. From year 4, the standards apply to the year level (year 4, 5, 6, 7, 8).”  So how can a child be deemed above, at or below standard when they have clocked up around one term of schooling?

DODGY BENCHMARKS

Children learn like they grow, in bursts.  In fact, no, that’s not altogether true, because when a child grows they don’t tend to shrink – but when learning children do go backwards as well as forwards.  That’s normal learning.  So judging normal average children to be behind at writing, reading or maths so early in their schooling strikes me as utterly bizarre.

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It’s not as if National Standards are reliable.  It’s now stuff of legend that even John Key admitted the data was shonky. Less well known is that last year Ministry unilaterally moved all writing levels down after they had been supplied by schools.  Not after reassessing them with teachers, you understand – no – Ministry just thought they looked too high and moved them down.  Huh?!

It hardly inspires faith, does it?

CLARITY & TRANSPARENCY?

But back to the distressed parents.  In each case the parent could not explain to me what exactly the issue with their child’s learning was.  One was beyond upset, worrying that her child was “failing” – and that she was failing her child.  She isn’t.

Ministry says that National Standards help you to:

  • Understand clearly what reading, writing and maths skills are expected at each stage of your child’s schooling.

  • Understand how well your child is doing and what your school is doing to help your child progress, including receiving plain-English reports.

  • Ask questions and have discussions with teachers that will help your child’s learning.

  • Improve your understanding of and confidence in your school and the wider education system.

In these cases and many others that have come my way, it is safe to say National Standards is not helping with any of those things.  What they are helping with is confusing parents and, in may cases, scaring them witless to-boot.  It seems that National Standards are not achieving their aim of inspiring “confidence in your school and the wider education system”.

RAISING ACHIEVEMENT?

Those in favour of National Standards argue that  “Providing high quality data that helps us all to understand and support a student’s learning is one of the ways the Government is working to raise student achievement and ensure this happens.”

If that’s so true, why do charter schools and private schools not have to use National Standards?  Particularly in the case of charters,the whole argument for these schools has been that they are for students who are underachieving, in which case you would think that if NS was so incredibly useful then charters would have to use them, too.

It’s all rather confusing.

OPTING OUT

resistance is not futileMeanwhile, more and more parents are saying no to National Standards.  Any mention of opting out brings a flurry of readers, questions and support.  Each new opt out report seems to spur others to follow suit.

Many do not see the benefit of comparing any child’s learning with others or against an arbitrary benchmark that has little to no merit. They know, too, that National Standards have the potential to do harm.  So they are saying no.

One thing is for sure, if these dodgy and divisive standards are ever to be done away with, parents need to speak up. Teachers, BOTs and principals have found their hands tied, but parents are not bound in the same way.

Parents’ voices count. We saw that with the technology teachers debacle, where protests lead to the Minister backtracking at a rate of knots and a fast change of policy.

When it comes to effecting change to unpopular education, resistance is not futile.  Not if it’s parents doing the resisting.

 

 

99 COMMENTS

  1. We homeschool our children specifically to avoid this sort of nonsense but for about a year our eldest child went to primary school and we got to try out National Standards. As someone who is very aware of where my children are at I can safely say that national standards are the most uninformative instrument ever devised when it comes to learning about a child’s progress.

    It seems to be that the more they try to centralise a system the more useless it becomes. My advice to parents everywhere is to burn the standards that are sent out to you and go and talk with your teacher about how your child is doing. You’ll get a much more nuanced response than the standard answers that NS gives you.

    And if you really want to take charge of your child’s life I’d suggest parents everywhere stop putting their faith in authority figures and rely on their own knowledge of their children which is far more detailed and nuanced than any other source of information.

    By authority figures I mean teachers as well but I don’t mean to deride teachers. The vast majority do the best job they can but the simple arithmetic of one teacher per 30 children means they can’t possibly know your child as well as you do. At the very least you should be working with the teacher to get a full picture of how you’re kids are doing.

  2. I would also question the professionalism of a teacher who would label a child’s reading ‘below standard’ after one term. It would be the easiest thing in the world to say ‘at standard’ and then keep an eye on the child. The chances are the child will have caught up after another term or two.

    Just because there are National Standards does not mean teachers have to follow slavishly. Learning and teaching are not exact sciences and at age five a little bit of ‘standard bending’ would hardly be detectable.

    Sadly the modern teaching profession whilst well qualified and vocal, is sadly lacking in common sense.

    • I fear you will find that an ambitious and assertive ‘take my staff with me positively’ principal will be closely looking at stats of each class to make sure there is the correct spread of grades.. The teachers may well not have wanted to assess children at such an early age, and it may well be the principal’s decision that it happened in the first place. Openly opposing a principal is not generally seen as a wise career-building policy by most teachers.

      • “the correct spread of grades”
        **shudder**
        I fear you are right, and therein lies another danger – the pressure to fudge the figures.

      • It is not a matter of opposition; it is fudging the results and daring someone to prove otherwise. History has numerous examples of “turning a blind eye” to achieve the desired result.

        I have worked with numerous ambitious managers. I just agree with them and then do things my way and let them take the credit. I can recall the good teachers from my school who had their own way of teaching. You could always tell the ones who taught by what they had been taught at teachers’ training college. They were generally useless. Kids are too important to be sticking to the rules.

        • Do you also question the professionalism of doctors who say silly things? Or scientists? Or are teachers, you know, sort of Different in this regard?

          • Only when they threaten his right wing policies. And isn’t he so marvellously innovative and clever? Had he been a teacher, he would have glided his way through the system to be Minister of Education by the age of 24.

        • Ben –

          You could always tell the ones who taught by what they had been taught at teachers’ training college. They were generally useless.

          And yet… here you are, typing away and reading and writing almost as well as us Lefties…?

          Care to explain?

          Kids are too important to be sticking to the rules.

          I’m sure a few juvenile delinquents believe that as well when they knock over a Dairy to steal ciggies and lollies…

          You could always tell the ones who taught by what they had been taught at teachers’ training college.

          So, you don’t want your children taught by trained teachers?

          Would you also prefer your children to be attended by un-qualified “doctors” who never went to medical school?!

          What is it with this teacher-bashing mania from some of you right-wing weirdos?

          Honestly, Ben, do you actually think through what you’re advocating?!

          Hmmmm, maybe the education system did fail at least one child, eh? Back to Comprehension Classes for you, I think…

          • Yep. Once or twice I myself fudged things for a positive outcome, Ben, but never when marking exams for a universally fair assessment system.

            You want us to twist our assessment system for subjective bias like yours? How utterly unprofessional .. and right wing?

        • Ben says:
          June 14, 2014 at 3:15 pm

          It is not a matter of opposition; it is fudging the results and daring someone to prove otherwise. History has numerous examples of “turning a blind eye” to achieve the desired result.

          Like… Judith Collins and Oravida? John Banks and his Electoral returns?

          Oh, please, do go on, Ben.

          Anything else we can “turn a blind eye” to? Bank robberies? Corporate swindles? I guess the possibilities are endless when one has such a “flexible moral compass”?

    • While there will be some teachers that have misunderstood National Standards, it’s worth bearing in mind that teachers must follow school policy, and often don’t have the freedom to do what they know is right. I know many a teacher that is in agony doing reports this time around because of pressure from above to do things they totally do not agree with or support.

    • Probably not much to do with common sense, many teachers are doing their best to sabotage this system. They’re scared of having their work performance scrutinised and so are hiding behind their union.

      • Plain dumb, Andrew. Teaching unions have endorsed work appraisal under fair conditions, But that would not suit your spin agenda, would it?

        ‘Scared and hiding..’ Ever tried really teaching a class Andrew? Not just an easy 2-week seminar but, 5 or 6 classes of 30 kids who will give you a honeymoon period of about 3 weeks, and after that you get the real demands – from most of them all at once.

        Teachers are not ‘scared and hiding’, but struggling to cope and help as many as possible.

        With backstabbing people around. Now who might they be, Andrew?

        Oh, by the way Andrew, the classes I teach include a number of rough teenagers 13 -18 years old. I am outside the National Standards thing because I am a Secondary School teacher.

        I am not impressed with your contributions, Andrew. I fully support NZEI in their opposition to so-called National Standards.

      • Andrew says:
        June 14, 2014 at 5:02 pm

        Probably not much to do with common sense, many teachers are doing their best to sabotage this system. They’re scared of having their work performance scrutinised and so are hiding behind their union.

        Did you come to that gormless conclusion yourself, Andrew, or are you simply parrotting ACT’s rightwing bullshit?

        How do you know that “many teachers are doing their best to sabotage this system”? Do you have evidence, or are you simply displaying paranoia for all to see?

      • Generalisation doesn’t help further this debate.
        As a parent of two primary school aged children in the day to day of national standards. I see teachers bogged down in paper work. The majority of teachers I have come across have been committed to their job and more than helpful. The one who was crap got the boot. So performance is scrutinised in my experience. Andrew what first hand experience or statistical data do you have to base your opinion ?

    • Ben – “Sadly the modern teaching profession whilst well qualified and vocal, is sadly lacking in common sense.”

      Really? And you’re comfortable having “the modern teaching profession whilst well qualified and vocal, is sadly lacking in common sense” teaching your children?

      Lordy, how do you sleep at nights?!

    • Ben – “Just because there are National Standards does not mean teachers have to follow slavishly.”

      Eh?

      So how slavishly can they be used? 10% slavishly? 25%? 50%? 77% slavishly? Maybe only 99% slavishly?

      One thing though – how do teachers decide which bits to use and which not to use?

      • Teachers are damned if they follow the letter of the law and damned if they don’t.

        My concern is that NS are now seeping down to new entrants, and it won’t be long before they are pushed into pre-school as well. And all the time this is happening, there is a cut in special needs budgets and no improvement in professional development provision. So teachers can “weight the pig” and gather the data, but heaven forbid they ask for better ingredients or to change the diet. It’s a farce.

    • Huh? Since it is a mathematical impossibility for all to be above average, I am assuming you mean all children should be above a certain benchmark of achievement. But even that is not possible as children are little humans with a wide variety of abilities. There always will be a spread.

      • Humour alert. Garrison Keillor always describes his fictional hometown of Lake Wobegon (Minnesota) as.. “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

          • Andrew suffers from the delusion that he knows more and is cleverer than left wing idealists. I would like to see some originality next time.

            • Which is why it’s hilarious that he’s quoting Garrison Keillor show, as it’s a satire of small minded right wing WASP america.

              I’m sure for his next trick he’ll reference blackadder goes forth or MASH as a arguments for war mongering.

  3. If that’s so true, why do charter schools and private schools not have to use National Standards?

    I would suggest that the data driven education system we have thanks to National Standards has nothing to do with student achievement.

    Charters are not included because measuring their student achievement would lead students and charter schools being ranked by the media and dubbed failures (see current public school system). We would know EXACTLY which schools were working and which weren’t.

    And we couldn’t have charter school being measured like this, could we…

    • Sorry Mike, but that’s just let wing party line. Charter schools are set up to cater for a demographic who are failing in the mainstream system. Overseas experience shows these schools can and do work for that demographic. The left have a problem with successes that operate outside their comfort zone, but Charter schools have been and will be very successful.

      • What total rot! Charter schools are private companies sucking at the taxpayer’s trough. If they were so bloody marvelous as you think, why do they need subsidisation by the government? Why don’t they set up shop like any other business and attract investors like any other business???? Why rely on the taxpayer?? If they are so superior, they shouldn’t need taxpayer funding!!!

        You corporate socialists want the government out of our lives except when it comes time for subsidisation of your particular pet projects! Then it’s hand out time and whining galore wah wah wah!!!

        What rank hypocrisy!!

        • “If they were so bloody marvelous as you think, why do they need subsidisation by the government?”

          They don’t. Which is why they aren’t. Charter schools are no different to other private education or health care providers. The Govt is paying them to deliver a service. Simple. And so far they appear to be doing a damn good job.

          • IV, how do you judge they are doing such a good job?

            Give how much you love National Standards, I would assume you’d checked theirs…. except charters don’t have do use National Standards.

            Oh what’s that… is that the sound of your arguments unravelling again?

              • Now my question to you Dianne, is why are you so threatened by Charter Schools? What is it about choice and success you do despise?

                • Demanding answers to your questions?!

                  Feeling a bit overly-entitled, Anonymous ACT Supporter Intrinsicvalue?

                  It’s not just about “choice and success” as you so naively put it.

                  It’s about subsidising private enterprise using tax-payers money.You can come up with all the self-serving justifications for subsidising charter schools – but in the end it boils down to a private firm expecting taxpayers money to operate.

                  I thought we did away with SMPs for farmers?

                  Now this supposedly free enterprise, hands-off government is doling out cash to businesses?!

                  Talk about hypocrisy, you right-wingers have it in spades.

                  What next? Subsidiers for aluminium smelters and movie companies? Oh, wait…

                  I’d like to set up a business as well, mate. Let’s see the taxpayer cough up for my projects as well.

                  • “It’s about subsidising private enterprise using tax-payers money. ”

                    No, it’s about contracting services from the private sector. It’s actually quite common Frank. It’s used the healthcare, eldercare, construction, roading, education and numerous other sectors.

                    • Not at all. You are comparing apples with oranges.

                      Education services of this nature need not be purchased. Unlike roading companies, we have plenty of schools. They are funded – or should be – to do the job.

                      With healthcare, we are only using private services because the public system is so grossly underfunded by this government.

                      This is a subsidy, for private businesses, despite you attempting to paint it as something else.

                • Well, what a surprise, Anonymous ACT Supporter Intrinsicvalue?

                  That “report” you linked to was authored by Nina Rees and Andrew Broy. Or, as it stated at the conclusion of the article;

                  “Nina Rees is president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Andrew Broy is president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.”

                  Biased much?

                  Because I’ll tell you this for free, sunshine, those two wouldn’t be presenting a report that was negative on Charter schools, would they?

                  If Charter Schools were, as you suggest, so much better, then why (as Priss asked above) do they require state subsidies?

                  They should be able to succeed on their own, right?

                  The answer is because they are parasitic on society. They cannot survive because they are more expensive to run and demand more resources.

                  Perhaps if State schools received the same funding levels, outcomes might be different eh?

                  It must annoy your free market ideology to support taxpayer subsidies for what are essentially private companies.

                  By the way, purchasing services from private health providers is necessary only because the public system has been so badly drained of funding.

                  That kind of shoots down that inane argument.

                  • Is there any element of the study that you can show to be in error, or do you just have a myopic hatred of the authors?

                  • “They should be able to succeed on their own, right? ”

                    What exactly do you mean by that? Do you mean charge private sector fees? Then how would low income groups access their services Frank? Think on that one.

                    • Intrinsicvalue says:
                      June 17, 2014 at 10:41 pm

                      “They should be able to succeed on their own, right? ”

                      What exactly do you mean by that? Do you mean charge private sector fees? Then how would low income groups access their services Frank? Think on that one.

                      No need. It’s a spurious argument.

                      You could justify the State buying everyone a mercedes, just because “low income groups access” would otherwise be restricted.

                      I’m sure that is not what you are advocating. (Not unless it’s a pet project from your ACT party.)

                      When did you go all marxist on us?! 😀

                      But thankyou.

                      You’ve just advocated cheap, State housing for all low-income New Zealanders.

                      And make my Merc silver, please.

                • IV I have answered you before, but here we are again. Charter schools have been an unmitigated disaster in America, bar nothing. You can find all the evidence and more you could possible want here:
                  http://dianeravitch.net
                  Read properly, then, if you dare, come back and try again.

      • Anonymous ACT Supporter Intrinsicvalue; you side-stepped Mike’s very valid point; ”

        If that’s so true, why do charter schools and private schools not have to use National Standards?

        Is that because you can’t answer it?

  4. […] afternoon I returned home from a day at school report writing to read the latest Daily Blog instalment from by best twitter friend who I’ve never met (BTFWINM) Dianne K…. Her post makes many salient points about National’s Standards. I will let you read those for […]

  5. National standards have had what look slike a rocky start – but you have to take the long view.
    National standards have had what looks like a rocky start – but you have to take the long view.

    When 40% of the population are not able to answer the one and two word answers that are required to complete the test for a forklift license then its pretty obvious that there is something wrong in the education system.
    Its also well established that the reading/writing etc ability of children is well established within a couple of years of starting school (because if they are behind then, they will never catch up. I know two secondary school teachers who teach science and maths – and get kids in year nine that have reading ages 3 and 4 years behind. They cant catch up from that far back and they continue to fall behind through the school)

    So the government in my mind are to be congratulated for trying something that sets a nation wide standard that not just tests the students – but also the teachers. Yes it seems at the moment that it’s a mess. But the government had to introduce it in such a way that it didn’t look like it was testing teachers – which is really the only thing that the NZEI is interested in. They don’t really give a rats arse about the progress of students. If they did then they would have said –“look we think this programme isn’t as good as it could be and weve got some ideas that we would like to incorporate”. But what they actually said was “it wont work and we wont co-operate so bugger off”

    I think the government is playing a game – and it goes like this. They will wait until the outcry about the loopholes and the deficiencies of the system are really loud, then they will say “well we obviously need to improve it so we will tighten it up” – and they will.
    They also have the problem of schools – especially primary schools – being a hotbed of Politically Correct activity. So for many years now parents haven’t been used to being told that little Johnny isn’t the Einstein in waiting that they thought he was and in fact hes a complete brainless moron. It might hurt, but in the long run it’s the best pathway. No sense in wasting money on a university course when in fact he should take on a building apprenticeship (where he will be more successful than most of the Bachelor graduates). I suspect that there is a fair quota of this in your story Dianne.

    For over 25 years the government (of both colours) have put more money into programmes that the NZEI & PPTA wanted – more teachers, more professional training, etc, etc. Its made ABSOLUTELY no difference to the failing tail. So – time to try something else, and that something will be something that the NZEI especially doesn’t like.

    When 40% of the population are not able to answer the one and two word answers that are required to complete the test for a forklift license then its pretty obvious that there is something wrong in the education system.
    Its also well established that the reading/writing etc ability of children is well establshed within a couple of years of starting school (because if they are behind then, they will never catch up. I know two secondary school teachers who teach science and maths – and get kids in year nine that have reading ages 3 and 4 years behind. They cant catch up from that far back and they continue to fall behind through the school)

    • Thank you, Barry. You obviously don’t understand the issues very well, do you? Parrotting National/ACT’s official line does not make it true.

      When 40% of the population are not able to answer the one and two word answers that are required to complete the test for a forklift license then its pretty obvious that there is something wrong in the education system.

      Really? Did you make up that nonsense yourself? Or did you get your friends in National/ACT to help you write it? I’m assuming that 40% of National/ACT members are not able to read and write?

      • For a person who claims that 40% of our population are barely literate, you should know that The noun is ‘licence’ and the verb is license’. If you are actually literate, look at what you wrote. Here you are complaining about literacy when you fail to practise it yourself. (FYI, practise, practice, licence and license, advice and advise all have the same grammatical distinction.)
        I do not normally criticise others’ minor spelling errors, but you have the bald-faced cheek to claim that 40% are so terribly illiterate that they cannot answer one and two-word answers..

        Hmmm

    • More effort is needed in the the early years. More RTLB teachers and support staff would be of far greater help to these kids who are struggling.
      The government cuts in these areas are what needs to be addressed.
      Walk a week in a teachers shoes

      • Exactly, Fiona. Teachers work well with what they have. But professional training re. learning difficulties is rare (in teacher training and afterwords), and even once a child is diagnosed as having a difficulty there is little to no funding available to get them good support. Even children with quite serious difficulties have a problem getting funding from Ministry, so there’s no hope with something like dyslexia or mild spectrum disorders.

        This is not a problem with teaching but with the funding and the system as a whole. This is EXACTLY why teachers are aghast at the Investing in Educational Success (IES) farce, where funding has been TAKEN from special needs and other areas to fund roles we do not feel will best improve things for students.

        The whole system is on the wrong track, especially for primary school children, and teachers really want it to improve.

  6. Good for a laugh, Barry – but repeating your entire 2nd paragraph at the end of your message both insults your readers and makes them suspect that maybe you know nothing about teacher unions. And the Government has never given in and ‘thrown money’ at education – Govt. has usually disguised cost-cutting measures as ‘improvements’.

  7. Dianne you are on the wrong side of parental opinion on this one. As a parent of teenage children I want to know how my children a doing against a reasonable national standard, and thankfully we are moving towards that. I also want the schools my children go to to be able to hold dodgy teachers (of which there are too many) to account for failure, something that until recently seems to have been impossible.

    • Intrinsicvalue says:
      June 15, 2014 at 7:37 pm

      Dianne you are on the wrong side of parental opinion on this one.

      No. Only in your dreams.

      National Standards won’t tell you how well or not your child is doing. It will only give you an “Above Standards” or “Below Standards”.

      Current reporting “cards” should already be giving you an insight into how your children are doing. Do you not read them?

      Do you not go to Teacher-Parent meetings?

      Do you not talk with your children’s teachers(s)?

      National Standards will not replace the value of direct contact with teachers in your children’s school(s). It is a lazy way for parents to be given dubious, simplistic information.

      Your hyping of National Standards is not based on rational thought or what might be good for your children

      It is based on neo-liberal dogma.

      You may wish to consider that your belief in an ideological system at the expense of real learning and outcomes is misplaced.

      • Yep, I attend all of the parent teacher meetings, where the incompetent teachers talk about anything other than my own children. I attended one with a social studies teacher two years ago where he spent the entire 5 minutes talking about how badly behaved the class was, and despite repeated prompting refused to discuss my son at all. I want to know how my children are doing and I want to benchmark them against other kids. NS gives me that.

            • Can the cheek, mate.

              Because very little of what you’re asserting makes any sense.

              If things were as “dire” as you make out, it beggars belief that you did nothing about it.

              You could have shifted him/her to another school. You could have taken things further.

              That you chose to do nothing except now place your faith in an as yet untested system is just unfathomable.

              Heck, even back in the 1960s they have speech therapists for kids with speech impediments, like lisping.

              So very little of what you’re saying makes any credible sense.

  8. “for many years now parents haven’t been used to being told that little Johnny isn’t the Einstein in waiting that they thought he was and in fact hes a complete brainless moron.”

    What a revolting thing to say. Thank goodness you are not in the classroom!

    Most reports were clear enough, and either way they are no clearer now just because National Standards levels are included. If the goal was to inform parents better, it’s failed miserably.

  9. Just a couple of points.
    1. National Standards are not standardised and they are not National. They are, if we are to be honest, Nationals rushed and ill thought out ‘standards’, devised to pull the wool over the unsuspecting public as they trotted out a manufactured crises in education (the one in five failing crises the public have bought hook line and sinker – if you recall) in an effort to win an election, and start the privatisation and neo liberal education agenda. What a fine job they have done. Reading some of these comments leads me to believe quite a few have believed the crises to be true.

    2. If and this is important, the govt was serious about collecting data to inform policy and ensure funding was spent where it needed to go, it would ask for the right data. Nat stds don’t give us any clue as to the real state of achievement – if it did the govt would would be seriously in trouble with the public as it’s inadequacies would be revealed. Let me elaborate. If it was serious about collecting data it would ask me to provide the following; of those ‘below’, how many are esol (English as second language) and of those how many are nz born because often they are not secure in either first or second language, special needs, Behaviour issues and how many require emotional support (mental health is a high issue not funded at all). But we are not asked this. If we were the data would look quite different and the govt would be shown to not be providing for these students. So they don’t ask.

    It is very easy to sit at home and cast stones in the direction of teachers, principals and the unions. I would caution those who do to take a deep breath and ask yourself, what’s the real agenda here? Nothing is as simple as ‘kids are failing it’s the teachers fault’ or ‘kids are failing we don’t invest enough’. Perhaps if we stopped and had a proper discussion on what public education should look like in nz and came up with a clear vision that had commonalities, we wouldn’t be so easily led by mistepresentations and political rhetoric.

    Surely it’s not that hard to believe an educator just wants what’s best for their students. There is no other agenda. Heck, you wouldn’t expect doctors to be guided in best practice by the general public or politics. Why would you believe the politicians now? Defies logic. They are the only ones with an agenda that is NOT in students best interests. I never understand how our fellow kiwis fail to ask themselves that, and fall for the govt agenda each time. I live in hope that the public will awaken.

  10. As a teacher I feel and know that National Standards has dulled the learning in general. The curriculum has been narrowed. The reporting back to parents is a farce.

    Previously I was able to report back to parents detailing exactly where they were in relation to their own chronological age for reading and spelling and against the curriculum levels for all other subjects (maths – all strands, not just number, science, writing, oral language, social science, art, PE, health, technology, dance, music, drama, te reo Maori) and to the values and expectations we have as a school on our developing learners.

    I was able to report back through parent-teacher interviews, sometimes student-led conferences (great way to see what the child actually does know), achievement books (which had every test as well as samples of the child’s learning in all curriculum areas), as well as reports which covered ALL areas of the curriculum mentioned in the paragraph above.

    Now I report back to parents on Reading, Writing, Numeracy, Key Competencies and a general comment.

    Which way do you think tells parents more?

    What if you have parents that don’t come and talk to the teachers, attend the interviews and conferences or even just pop in to check out the class walls and the child’s books despite having numerous invitations and an open door policy?

    What breaks my hear the most are the labels we are putting on kids because their brains don’t function the way National Standards say they should.

    What about the kids that are in classes, that despite all the help that the classroom teacher, RTLBs, RTLits, teacher aides and parents could possibly give are still up to 2 or 3 or even 5 years behind where they should be? Can I tell you that some of these kids have been officially, by doctors and physiologists, diagnosed as globally delayed, yet there is NO money that can be attached to them because the government has declared their needs are not big enough. What happens to those kids once they leave the supportive environments of primary schools into high schools? They try, but they don’t get money either; these kids find it too hard to struggle and they get into trouble; then they get booted out of school well before they are 16. Now whose fault is that?

    So how does a kid at primary school who is like that feels when report after report they are labelled as below the standard or not meeting the standard? Rather than waiting till they get to high school to lose the plot with school it happens at primary school. Whose fault is that?

    Sir Richard Branson, dyslexic, Virgin Airlines and Record company founder; Albert Einstein, famous scientist, dyslexic; Jim Carrey, Orlando Bloom, Whoopi Goldberg – just three of many famous actors with dyslexia; Cher & John Lennon – just two of many famous musicians with dyslexia; F Scott Fitzgerald and Hans Christian Anderson – again two of many authors with dyslexia; Picasso and De Vinci – just two of many artists with dyslexia; Sir Peter Leitch, the Mad Butcher & business icon, has dyslexia; Walt Disney and Stephen Spielberg have dyslexia; Mohamed Ali has dyslexia.

    How National Standards will discourage a child with dyslexia when in fact we should be showing them the mentors that have struggled their struggle and have been successful!!

    Autistic kids struggle to get funding if they are high functioning, but then struggle in the mainstream. If National Standards had been applied to these following people, would they still have achieved what they have: Ladyhawke (NZ singer), Susan Boyle (Britain’s Got Talent wildcard), Stanley Kubrick (film maker), and Daryl Hannah (actress).

    Stop and think about how labelling a child could actually prevent them from achieving their full potential.

    We already knew who wasn’t achieving, who wasn’t meeting the expected level or chronological age – what we WERE missing was sufficient people, resources and money to give these kids the helping hand they need – and National Standards HAS NOT given us is the need people, resources and money to give these kids the helping hand they need.

    All we are doing is weighing the pig over and over. We are not given any resources to fatten the pig with though.

  11. @Melanie
    You are not wrong that NS has led to a narrowing of the curriculum, as teachers feel the pressure to focus only on literacy and numeracy. However, it is the leadership of the school that protects the integrity of the curriculum and reporting. Not always easy when legally schools are required to report against NS and this is checked upon by ERO. But there are ways to minimize the language used, and there is no reason to not to continue to report as you mentioned you used to. A maths otj (overall teacher judgement) is on all aspects of maths, not just numeracy – a common misconception. Three way conferences and full end of year reports are still able to be used, unfortunately the pressure to focus on NS has meant some schools no longer do full reporting.

    Take heart, and remember what you went into education for, and know that what you do makes a difference.

  12. Melanie, your post reflects everything that is wrong with teaching in NZ.

    My son is dyslexic. He is now 17. For virtually his entire primary schooling we were told he was bright but ‘lazy’. A ‘typical boy’ they told us. We asked how he was doing compared to his peers. ‘Oh that doesn’t matter’ we were told. We asked if it was possible he had a learning difficulty. ‘Oh no’ we were told, ‘he’s just lazy’. In his final year at primary school within a week of the start of term 1 we had a phone call from his teacher who wanted to meet with us. “There is no doubt this is a very smart boy, but he has a learning difficulty” she said. And he does. And from the moment he was ‘labelled’ with that we have been able to get him help.

    I don’t want parents given the soft soap, I want them told the truth. I want parents to have access to valid comparisons for how their child is performing. National Standards will provide that, even if it takes time.

    I don’t want any other parent to suffer the incompetent teachers that our son was exposed to. I want teachers accountable, and if they don’t perform they should be sacked. No ifs, no buts, no maybes.

    • IV, you really are a one man comedy routine. You argue against what myself and others are saying, and in the process you illustrate exactly why what we are saying is right.

      How would National Standards have actually helped your child? Give me something concrete?

      The teacher would still be in the same position of not having had training in the issue, and she would still in the same position of having no access to funding to support your child, and all that would change is that you would have a report saying your child is Below Standard in reading and/or writing. This would not help the child improve or help the child’s esteem or help the teacher help the child. It is merely a label. Kinder than your suggested label of “brainless moron”, but equally unhelpful.

      What needs to change is for there to be good quality professional development in special needs AND funding for children who need support. The label means nothing without those things, and under this government those things have gotten worse, not better.

      • “How would National Standards have actually helped your child? Give me something concrete? ”

        Dianne it’s sad that you resort to ad-hominem in your response, it reveals a lack of intellectual rigour on your part. That aside, I’ll tell you precisely how NS would have helped my son. They would have told us he was falling behind his peers, unlike the platitudinous feedback we got from the system at the time. Our concerns arose because of our own private observation, confirmed by a quality and dedicated teacher and our own private testing. NS would have enabled us to identify the problem much earlier.

        Now, my turn…your opposition to NS is purely ideological. It is not based on any interest in educational outcomes, only on patch preservation.

          • Yes, Dianne I do. And if you were less defensive and more willing to consider the opinion of an actual parent, you might read better for comprehension. You asked me to explain how NZ would have helped my child. I did.

            • Again, Anonynmous ACT Supporter Intrinsicvalue, you side-stepped Dianne’s point.

              If anyone is defensive here, it’s not her, it’s you. She’s not making “ad hominem attacks” at all. Dianne is trying to reason with you.

              As others have pointed out, why didn’t you use the current School Report system that every child receives on a regular basis? Did you not read what your child took home?

              If you took no notice of that, then I submit to you that National Standards won’t help you much. (Except to advocate for a system on purely ideological grounds.)

              • It is clearly a long time since you had children in the school system, Frank, particularly primary level. The reports are next to useless, the teachers defensive, and the systems designed to cover, not expose, incompetent teachers.

                And Frank it isn’t me who called Dianne a ‘one man comedy routine’, which for a self avowed ‘educator’ is thoroughly unprofessional, but perhaps typically defensive of the teaching profession.

                • Intrinsicvalue says:
                  June 17, 2014 at 10:51 pm

                  It is clearly a long time since you had children in the school system, Frank, particularly primary level. The reports are next to useless, the teachers defensive, and the systems designed to cover, not expose, incompetent teachers.

                  Please explain;

                  1. Why the reports are “useless”?

                  2. Why the teachers are “defensive”?

                  3. How the system “covers” incompetent teachers?

                  4. Why National Standards would be any better considering they can be rorted just as much as any other system?

                  You must have something more concrete to go on rather than just scatter-gun criticisms?

    • Intrinsicvalue says:
      June 16, 2014 at 8:59 am

      Melanie, your post reflects everything that is wrong with teaching in NZ.

      My son is dyslexic. He is now 17. For virtually his entire primary schooling we were told he was bright but ‘lazy’…

      It is not clear how National Standards would help a student with dyslexia.

      There are already programmes in place to address students who require extra support. The real problem is a lack of funding.

      Being told he was “lazy” in your story tells us nothing.

      National Standards would not help your son. It would simply have labelled him “above Standards” or “below Standards”. Are you really so short-sighted that you believe otherwise?!

      Perhaps, Anonymous ACT Supporter Intrinsicvalue, if you spent less time “rah-rahing” neo-liberal policies, and more time lookiing at the real shortfalls in education funding, you might actually get somewhere.

      • “National Standards would not help your son. It would simply have labelled him “above Standards” or “below Standards”. ”

        Which we would then have acted on, which is precisely the value of NS. As it is we were told nothing about how he fared against a wider peer group. Thank you for continuing to ask this question.

        • Are you seriously telling us, Intrinsicvalue, that you had no idea your childs was dyslexic?

          And in what way do you think National Standards would have identified that condition – considering it is not designed to diagnose learning difficulties? It might just as well be registering laziness for all you know?! Or boredom?

          As for School reports – they are not “useless”, unless you have not be taking notice of them?!

          You place a lot of faith in a system you know little about and which is relatively new to this country.

          • “Are you seriously telling us, Intrinsicvalue, that you had no idea your childs was dyslexic?”

            Yes. You see dyslexics don’t all present the way we see them in movies Frank. Not like the T-Shirt “Dyslexics rule KO?”

            “And in what way do you think National Standards would have identified that condition ”

            I didn’t claim that. NS would have identified and confirmed that there WAS a problem, and that our son wasn’t simply lazy.

            “As for School reports – they are not “useless”, unless you have not be taking notice of them?!”

            You’re out of touch Frank. Primary level reports were next to useless when my children went through primary school. They gave us some feedback, but were largely platitudinous statements of denial.

            “You place a lot of faith in a system you know little about and which is relatively new to this country.”

            I know a lot more than someone with no children in the system Frank. And if you think NS are ‘relatively new’ in NZ, I seriously wonder if you paid much attention when you were at school.

    • Intrinsicvalue says:
      June 16, 2014 at 8:59 am

      […]

      I don’t want parents given the soft soap, I want them told the truth. I want parents to have access to valid comparisons for how their child is performing. National Standards will provide that, even if it takes time.

      National Standards will not achieve that. In fact, it will most likely provide the opposite. And if – as Ben suggested in his
      June 14, 2014 3:15 pm post above – that stats are “fudged” to provade better outcomes, then we’re all in trouble.

      You made the point of your dyslexic child.

      I raise the issue of a young lad, highly Aspergis, who I can assure you would have been failed by National Standards.

      His requirements were one-on-one teacher-student contact and supervision. Not some weird, ambigious “Standards” measuring system.

      I’m surprised that someone apparently as intelligent as you can’t see that, Intrinsicvalue? Or is your belief system outweighing your common sense?

      We need teachers. We need funding. We need additional support for those students who require it. We need stability in education.

      National Standards offers nothing to meet any of those needs.

      • Answered above to Dianne. NS would most definitely have helped us, because they would have highlighted those areas where my sons dyslexia were presenting. The system failed him, and only by our own private intervention, and some very good teachers amongst the s##t ones, has he recovered.

    • IntrinsicValue, why didn’t you get your child assessed by the NASC or your local DHB??

      One of my children had learning difficulties and we received support with a teacher-aid assisting his learning.

      It seems to me that if you’re looking for answers with National Standards, you’re looking in the wrong place.

      • Simple. We believed incompetent teachers who said our son was bright but lazy. He was our first child. We were naieve. Never again.

    • Hang on. Your kid had dyslexia and you think National Standards would have picked it up???

      Why didn’t you act when you got his first school reports that he was having reading difficulties???

      • Because they didn’t. He reads fine. Go do more research on dyslexia before questioning my parenting.

        • Just so I understand, IV, if your child reads just fine then how did his dyslexia present? (I am asking so I understand and so I can learn more, not a trick question.)

          I have said before and I will say again, one of the problems we have is teachers are not trained in these things. I had one day of training to cover ALL disabilities and special needs, from blindness to cerebral palsy to dyslexia. It was rubbish. So yes, teachers need and WANT more training so we can help children more effectively.

          Sadly, the budgets for training and for support for students have been cut back.

          Just blaming teachers for a lack of knowledge does not get the situation improved.

          • His dyslexia presented through maths and spelling.

            He is actually proficient at maths when confronted with numeric equations and problems, but when these problems are converted to text (e.g. ‘a train is going up a hill at 30km an hour’ etc) he is unable to interpret that. I repeat, his reading comprehension is fine, his conversion is not.

            His spelling was beyond even complex spell checkers, until he was taken under the wing of a wonderful tutor. He is now able to at least make himself understood, and he has access to reader/writers as required.

            Why did the school system not pick these things up until an observant teacher in his final year of primary school? Who knows. I do blame teachers who told us over and over he was doing fine, when he clearly wasn’t.

            • If you seriously think that National Standards will pick up something as complex as dyslexia, then you seriously deluding yourself.

              That is not what NS is designed to achieve. In fact, it will simply label your child as “under achieving” without offering any constructive cause or solutions.

              That part is left up to parents, teachers, educationalists, etc.

              I think your adherence to ACT’s dodgy policies is clouding your judgement.

              • I didn’t say it will pick up dyslexia, but it will pick up, or confirm, that there is a problem. In my sons case, the system denied him that.

                I have no ideological commitment to Charter Schools, I simply like the idea of choice, particularly for children who don’t sit comfortably in the mainstream system. I also happen to like the idea that there is educational opportunities outside of the mainstream. It is healthy competition to the stale group-think that so often inhabits particularly the public school system.

                • Intrinsicvalue says:
                  June 17, 2014 at 10:22 pm

                  I didn’t say it will pick up dyslexia, but it will pick up, or confirm, that there is a problem. In my sons case, the system denied him that.

                  How will it pick it up? Is National Standfards a diagnostic tool? What other learning difficulties is it designed to pick up? Aspergers? ADHD? Oppositional Defiance Disorder?

                  • “How will it pick it up? Is National Standfards a diagnostic tool?”

                    No, it is a measurement tool. It will communicate that a student is performing below his peers nationwide, and therefore provide parents with the prompting to ensure there are not other issue that are inhibiting that students learning.

              • I’m neither arrogant nor defensive. I’m challenging opposition to Charter Schools that has no foundation other than in ideological bias, and using sound personal experience to do so.

              • “In fact, it will simply label your child as “under achieving” without offering any constructive cause or solutions. ”

                As opposed to being labelled ‘lazy’?

                Actually the label ‘under-achieving’ would have been very useful. It would have been something to work with. It would have led us to an earlier assessment, and an earlier start to finding a solution.

                Outside of NS the feedback to parents is totally inadequate. It is sanitised to the point of uselessness, and teachers are terrified of telling a parent their child is falling behind.

                The moment our son was ‘labelled’ we felt liberated, we began to seek advice and help,and he has not looked back.

                • Intrinsicvalue says:
                  June 17, 2014 at 10:31 pm

                  […]

                  Outside of NS the feedback to parents is totally inadequate. It is sanitised to the point of uselessness, and teachers are terrified of telling a parent their child is falling behind.

                  So you’re seriously telling us, that no child has been marked down in their school reports?

                  Are you saying they were “sanitised” to such a point that that everyone passed with “A’s” (or, “B-pluses” at least), and no-one was marked down with “C’s” and “D’s”?!

                  And you’re seriously telling us, that no one spoke up about this?

                  Then tell us, Intrinsicvalue, answer me this: if school reports were so “santised” and no one “under achieved” – then what is the point of National Standards and where did the so-called “long tail” of under-achievers” come from?!>!

                  If no-one under-achieved, then everyone succeeded and there is no need for National Standards because no problem, according to you, exists.

                  And the so-called “long tail” of under-achievers can’t exist, because school reports were so “santised” and no one “under achieved” .

                  • Your confusing two issues Frank (perhaps because of how long you have been away from the school system), one being what we were told, the other being what was actually happening. We weren’t told our son was underachieving, certainly not in any terms that prompted us to take action. Yet he was. It’s the PC approach to teaching; no-one fails, everyone’s a winner etc etc. Of the real world is very, very different. NS will give us real world comparisons. Teachers can no longer produce fluffy reports full of platitudes and edu-speak. Plain language, a clear understanding of where our children sit in relation to their peers nationwide. A parents dream.

                    • NS will give us real world comparisons.

                      NS may give you “real world comparisons” (whatever that means), but it will not, I repeat, serve as a diagnostic tool for conditions such as dyslexia.

                      You are living in vain hope that it will be anything but a device to label children.

                      It seems curious you don’t appear to understand this.

                      Teachers can no longer produce fluffy reports full of platitudes and edu-speak.

                      Funny, I’ve never seen “fluffy reports full of platitudes and edu-speak” and this has never been a problem until the issue of National Standards was raised.

                      In effect, a “solutiuon” created to solve a non-problem.

                      To be more precise, an ACT-inspired “solution”.

        • Intrinsicvalue says:
          June 17, 2014 at 11:44 am

          Because they didn’t. He reads fine. Go do more research on dyslexia before questioning my parenting.

          I took your advice;

          “Dyslexia is a term used to describe a range of persistent difficulties with reading and writing, and often including spelling, numeracy or musical notation. Students with dyslexia do not make expected progress in these areas in spite of good teaching and the type of extra support that would be helpful for most other children. ”

          – Ministry of Education, http://www.minedu.govt.nz/parents/allages/usefulinformation/dyslexia.aspx

          Perhaps if you less arrogant and defensive, you’d know this.

          Unless you’re making up the whole scenario to push your ideological/faith-based beliefs?

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