Otago children top 'tables'

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2014

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Otago children lead the country in reading, maths, and writing achievement, and all but West Coast pupils are above the national average in the South Island.

Education Minister Hekia Parata released the public achievement information yesterday, showing that about three-quarters of the 400,000 children tested throughout the country were at or above National Standards in 2013.

But the data continues to be seen as controversial "league tables" among the Opposition and education leaders, after it sparked a backlash when schools were required to start publishing their Year 1 to 8 achievement results in 2012.

Of 2007 primary and intermediate schools reporting on standards nationwide last year, 78 per cent of pupils were at or above the National Standard in reading, 75 per cent in maths, and 71 per cent in writing. This was a 1 to 2 per cent improvement from 2011.

Canterbury was slightly above the overall national figure, with 80.1 per cent achieving at or above in reading, 76.7 per cent in maths, and 73 per cent in writing.

Otago achieved the best nationally with 83 per cent, 78.9 per cent , and 76.4 per cent respectively. West Coast pupils were about 3 per cent below the national average in maths and writing.

Fifteen of the 16 regions had increases in achievement against National Standards from 2011 to 2013, including gains for Maori students in 14 of the 16 areas.

Canterbury Primary Principals' Association president Rob Callaghan was concerned individual schools could be judged on their data available online, essentially comparing schools with different factors like decile.

Parts of the West Coast and Northland had "extreme levels of poverty", which affected educational outcomes. Places such as Otago had "far greater affluence" where student achievement was expected to be better.

"I still believe that the National Standards system is flawed."

Labour is campaigning to scrap the standards, with education spokesman Chris Hipkins saying the data was severely limited and inconsistent.

Parata said there were still challenges for teachers, but the results were "pretty fantastic".

"[National Standards] is a process of continuous improvement in the same way that NCEA has been. Every year gets better."

Parents and schools could use it to ensure "kids get what they need when they need it".

There were two schools still not reporting, and about 90 not included due to data not adding up. Parata had not noticed opposition among schools. "It is generally very constructive."

Labour saying it would scrap the standards was "disrespectful" to all the work done by teachers and schools, and they had not come up with a better option, she said.

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New Zealand Educational Institute president Judith Nowotarski said the data was still "unreliable and meaningless", and teachers only used it because they had no choice.

There was a strong link between socio-economic background and achievement, but the "league table" would not help lift that.

- The Press

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