OPINION: By Lorraine Kerr, New Zealand School Trustees Association president.
The New Zealand School Trustees Association [NZTSA] believes the debate over National Standards has gone on far too long.
We support the rights of parents to know how well their school is meeting their children's needs. That means making information available to them in a way that is useful and genuinely informative. We are not convinced that National Standards data is the best, or indeed the only relevant way of doing this. It needs to be taken in the context of "what are my child's strengths and weaknesses, and what is the school doing about them?" and "what are the school's strengths and weaknesses, and what is the school doing about them?".
We are not in favour of data censorship except to the extent it is necessary to protect the personal information of individuals.
What would NZSTA like to see done differently with the publication of National Standards data?
Data is not information. Data is some of the raw material we create information from. To create useful information it's not enough simply to dump the data somewhere, we need to explain what it is showing us (and what it's not showing us). This is what any governing board, including boards of trustees, expects from their management and it is what every stakeholder, including parents, have a right to expect from their governing board.
We would like our communities to be getting much better information about the other things their school does that put their assessment information in context. ERO [the Education Review Office] has provided a useful list of indicators for effective schools. Any reporting on school quality or ranking should be done across the full range of ERO's indicators.
Do boards find the National Standards data useful?
Yes, an increasing number of primary school boards definitely do. There are two levels that the National Standards data is used at, and by far the most important and relevant for boards is that it provides classroom teachers with good quality information on each individual student's ''learning journey'' and what the next steps are for that student.
How useful any assessment information teachers collect is to a board depends very much on the professionalism and skill of their principal and teaching staff in using the assessment tools. They need to be used in a constructive way that gives teachers useful information about when they are really getting through to their students, when they need to be trying something different, or when they need to be asking their board to provide more resources in a certain area or for a particular group of students.
Do boards expect their schools to be judged on the National Standards results now and in the future?
Boards expect their schools to be judged on ALL the relevant information about what they provide for their students, including their safety and wellbeing at school, their ability to successfully create the lives they want when they move on from the school, the values they learn, and the connections that the school helps them to develop between their formal study and their life in the wider community. Boards also expect to be given a fair go when they identify things that the school can do better, and create a plan to improve it.
We have become very good at letting the education of our children become a political battleground instead of a common cause. It's time we dropped the confrontational game-playing and got on with working together on making our schools the most exciting, interesting and inspiring part of every New Zealand kids' life. We have plenty of work to do to achieve that. We all want it - so let's focus on working together to achieve it.