National standards slammed

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 25/07/2014

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Manawatu's education leaders have slammed the latest release of national standards data, saying the system measuring school pupils' progress continues to be ambiguous, muddled and meaningless.

A number crunch released yesterday shows children in the Manawatu-Whanganui region were keeping up with the Government's "national standard" last year in reading, but were just below the country's average in writing and maths.

In reading, 78.6 per cent of children were achieving at or above the national standard, 69.5 per cent in writing and 73.2 per cent in maths - the country's average is 78 in reading, 71 in writing and 75 in maths.

School principals, a union and an academic expert warn the statistics are unsound, with calls for the system to be scrapped.

However, Education Minister Hekia Parata said the results showed the Government's moves were making "a real difference" in educational achievement.

The standards came into effect for year 1 to 8 schools in 2010, giving national expectations of student knowledge, progress and achievement.

Schools were required to publish their results in 2012, sparking controversy and a backlash from the education sector - concerns which continue among school leaders in Manawatu.

Ashhurst School principal Nick Reed said schools were focused on improving their students' success, not how they ranked.

"There are so many variables between schools it would be an insult to call the standards national."

Bunnythorpe School principal Doug Drysdale said the results didn't reflect schools' quality, and achievement levels should be assessed from performances outside literacy and numeracy and include science, social studies, health and physical education.

"Unfortunately, not all children come to us achieving at their expected level of performance, but we take them from where they are and move them forward, which is the big thing to look for and it's this movement which to me determines the quality of teaching."

Ross Intermediate principal Wayne Codyre said: "Any analysis of the data is misleading and flawed and an irresponsible release to the public."

NZEI Te Riu Roa Manawatu branch president Liam Rutherford said the data was "disingenuous and invalid" because of variations in overall teacher judgments and moderation methods.

Massey University's Institute of Education Professor John O'Neill said there was no educational value in the data and the policy was based on "misrepresentation and a myth".

"It is still a league table, for all intents and purposes.

"Even the ministry's own commissioned research shows that there is and continues to be huge variability in teachers' interpretation of the standards, so multiply that by school and by region and you end up with what farmers spread on paddocks."

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Parata said parents and schools never used to have such specific information and were using it to make sure children got what they needed.

- Manawatu Standard

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