League tables 'can be misleading'

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 09/07/2012

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League tables are more likely to mislead than inform parents, an education expert says.

There is little evidence to suggest parents needed league tables to know how well schools are performing, Otago University's College of Education senior lecturer Darrell Latham says.

The tables will measure the performance of schools against National Standards, which assess children's performance in reading, writing and mathematics.

Despite strong opposition from the education sector, Prime Minister John Key confirmed last week league tables would be released in September.

Latham said the argument for league tables was fragile and there was already an abundance of information available to assist parents to make decisions about the quality of their child's school.

Education Review Office reports provided more in-depth and balanced information than league tables ever would, he said.

"It is wrong for Key to suggest that schools are not accountable and that league tables will sharpen them up.

"It's a smoke screen and the political argument for league tables is very weak indeed."

Latham was also worried New Zealand's broad curriculum would be narrowed because teachers would "teach to the test" to ensure their school got a good pass mark. "There will be drilling to pass the exam." New Zealand had an internationally recognised education system and, while there was always room for improvement, the Government should fund innovative education policies rather than focus on league tables, he said.

Paparoa Street School principal and New Zealand Principals' Federation vice-president Philip Harding said last week the education of New Zealand's most gifted children would be at risk if league tables were introduced.

Harding said if schools were publicly judged solely on their National Standards pass rate, they would put more emphasis on getting low-achieving pupils up to the standard rather than pushing their top pupils.

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