Problems blamed on teachers
The human factor is being blamed for skewing national standards data, as the system for measuring school pupils' progress continues to frustrate Palmerston North principals.
Three years since the regime was brought in, a new Ministry of Education-commissioned report, released this week, shows that results may be misleading and unclear.
The independent study of more than 95 schools, hundreds of teachers and thousands of pupils nationwide has cast doubt on the national standards results for reading, writing and maths.
It points the finger at overall teacher judgments (OTJ), saying they lack dependability.
"There is no way to ascertain the accuracy of any individual OTJ or to estimate the proportion of accurate [judgments]," it said.
"It is also likely that the inconsistency in teachers' ratings is a result of the relatively broad nature of the national standards scale and the current lack of tools available to support national standards judgments."
Question marks around how teachers are making judgments mean any data showing improving achievement could be incorrect.
College Street Normal School principal Ross Kennedy said teacher judgments were very subjective and varied hugely throughout the entire education sector.
This led to disparity in the data and confusion among the community, St Peter's College principal David Olivier said. In some situations, it had led to parents pitting schools against one another.
"This is what a lot of principals have been saying since the word go. We had no problem introducing national standards - we saw it as a means for gauging where our students were at any given point in time, and to help us put together goals and strategies to help students achieve, but the problems come out of the OTJs."
The problems could have been avoided if more time was put into testing and trialling the system before it was rolled out in 2010, Cloverlea School principal Kevin Payne said.
"It's been left to schools to do their own development and work on it, and it's going to take time."
Moderation also caused headaches for schools, Palmerston North Intermediate Normal principal David Jopson said.
"There is no robust judgment within schools and between schools, and that's where the data tends not to be as accurate as it could be."
There was hope that the hiccups would be ironed out with time, as was the case with NCEA, he said.
Education expert and Massey University senior lecturer Dr Jenny Poskitt said that as schools continued to use the standards, teachers would gain experience and become more consistent in their judgments.
But they needed better resourcing, and methods to make the results more objective had to be considered, she said.
Education Minister Hekia Parata said the report showed that there had been progress since the standards' implementation.
"However, the report's findings also show where we need to do more work. This includes supporting schools to better report to parents, and supporting teachers to better use the standards."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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