Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cartoon from the Listener (11/2/10)

Consider this - you may have read the one page fact sheet where Lester Flockton has listed the Minister of Education's claim and The Truth about National Standards (as interpreted himself). I have a lot of respect for this very experienced educator - he was a teacher for 23 years then assisted in establishing the National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP and of which he is currently the co-director). This Research Unit at the University of Otago provides information on how primary students are performing across all areas of the curriculum and identifying areas where work needs to be done to lift their performance. This work has confirmed him as one of the country’s leading authorities on the primary school curriculum. He was a key part of developing the revised curriculum which was thoroughly researched, and then trialled and implemented in schools over 3 years. 2010 is the first official year of the revised curriculum. So when someone like this speaks up about a government educational initiative then it pays to listen.

Besides the fact sheet that went home today late last year he and three other professors from around the country wrote an open letter to Anne Tolley voicing there concerns over the National Standards that had been developed without any of the same rigour. Last night he led the public meeting that was held in Dunedin to discuss the National Standards. I include the links to this and another article from todays ODT that was in the Opinion Page by Elspeth McLean.

'Myths' used to push standards plan

An earlier article from late last year:

Tolley claim 'distorted'

An article on Maori Party co-leader and Associate Education Minister Pita Sharples on the 1st February showed his concerns that national education standards will harm some schools.

Then - as with any debate - there is the opposite opinion which is perhaps highlighted in the latest Listener's editorial. Contained in the latest issue in the 'Politics' section an article on 'School Rebels' - the 80 schools who are openly refusing to implement the new National Standards policy. I have linked to the article but you'll have to subscribe or buy the latest Listener to read the whole thing.

The problem with this issue now is that it is difficult to see past the politics and smoke screens that are being thrown out there. For our parents of our students you know that we report to you on your child's achievement as measured against the 'standards' current assessment tools use. These include a range of tests such as PAT's (you'll remember those!) STAR (reading) writing exemplars, numeracy levels and AsTTLe - Assessment Tools for teaching and learning (all norm referened). Your school uses a variety of these to measure and insure that your children are achieving at a level that they should be, and, if not, putting in place measures and support to improve this. So - what is the problem then with these national standards?

Put simply the point is that Teachers already measure children’s progress against clearly defined standards. The difference is that the current standards are not pegged to a particular moment in a child’s schooling eg after exactly 1 year at school.

National Standards, by comparison, assume that all children start school with the same ability and potential, and continue throughout their school years to learn in a steady, unwavering curve of improved achievement. Though they may follow a different path the national standard states that they should be at the same signpost. By drawing a narrow line between success and failure National Standards could act as a brake on the brightest and condemn low achievers to toil through their school years. In our reporting to you, you already see where your child is at as measured against our benchmarks which actually align, if not are higher then the stated National Standard. While they won't change the high quality education your children get at our school they won't add anything to it either.

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