Hekia Parata does not believe in decile ratings for schools because, she says, they become an excuse for failure.
The Education Minister was invited to speak to a Kapiti Coast District Council meeting last week.
Decile ratings were designed to measure the average socio-economic status of households in each school's catchment in order to determine the level of funding and support it should receive from the Education Ministry.
However, they have also proved a reliable predictor of educational attainment - the poorer the families in the catchment, the worse any school's pupils perform.
"The logic in that is that schools are irrelevant," Ms Parata told the councillors.
"First we have to acknowledge that New Zealand has a top education system but we have challenges," she said.
New Zealand's average educational attainment level had recently been ranked seventh of 65 countries.
"A number of those [six] countries were behind New Zealand five years ago, so standing still is falling behind," she said.
"You can infer from that that our education is absolutely magnificent at dealing to the majority."
However, one in every five children did not attain acceptable standards of numeracy and literacy, she said.
"Our government is pretty focused on getting five out of five."
Some of the keys to that were getting more children into early childhood education and high standards of new entrant teaching, Ms Parata said.
"We know from research that kids who start behind do often stay behind."
Another key area was addressing the comparatively poor performance of Maori and Pacific Island students, she said.
"Maori and Pasifika trail everyone else."
When they were discounted from statistics, New Zealand jumped to top spot, Ms Parata said.
"We need to get more kids into early childhood education and early learning opportunities."
High quality new entrant teachers were also a must, she said.
The government was aiming to get 85 per cent of children to the national standards it has set for reading, writing and numeracy in the next five years.
"In Kapiti you are above the national average but below 85 per cent," she said.
- Kapiti Observer
Should Kapiti have international airport?Related story: (See story)