Government goalposts 'could dishearten' pupils

Case study: Titahi Bay Intermediate

ELLE HUNT
Last updated 05:00 22/09/2012
Titahi Bay Intermediate School
Craig Simcox

Titahi Bay Intermediate School principal Dairne Kaimoana. The school worries National Standards data will damage children's self esteem.

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Staff at Titahi Bay Intermediate in Porirua fear struggling students will become disheartened by the school's relatively low National Standards scores.

Eighty-four per cent pupils at the decile 2 school were assessed as below or well below the standard in writing, and 75 per cent below or well below in reading.

Maths is the school's strongest subject, with 30 per cent achieving at or above the standard - leaving 70 per cent below or well below it.

Deputy principal Taliaina Itamura acknowledged that many pupils were struggling, but stressed that teachers were doing the best we can'' to apply National Standards, despite receiving little to no support from the Ministry of Education.

"A lot of our kids are not at the standards. It's not because they can't get there, it's because the goalpost is a bit far for them," she said.

"There's no support in place, so as a staff we're just trying to work through it the best we can."

Principal Diarne Kaimoana said assessing pupils against National Standards could be disheartening for them.

"We use the words 'working towards the standard'. It's not about wrapping them in cotton wool - imagine the poor kids that have been told they're 'well below', throughout their entire lives. What's that going to do to their self-esteem?"

Itamura said she made sure her pupils were aware of what was expected.

"I talk to them about it: these are the standards, this is where you're supposed to be, this is where you are now.

"I think it's good for them to know so that they can get on board and be like, 'hey, we've got some work to do' - so it's not just you on your own.

"Sharing that information has made them more aware and more concerned about where they should be going."

But, she said, at intermediate level, teachers had limited time to make a difference. "We have them for two years. We do the best that we can to get them through."

Kaimoana said three of her six staff were new to both the school and the profession as of this year.

"We're all learning, but their knowledge is a little bit more limited than ours, because they haven't had as much experience with assessment."

This inexperience, coupled with inadequate training and support from the Ministry of Education, had meant the school had found it hard to implement National Standards.

Kaimoana said when the scheme was first introduced, she and Itamura received a total of one-and-a-half-days' training.

"We got one full day of 'training' around reading and writing, and then a half-day for the maths.

"There was meant to be more, but that's all we got - a workshop in a whole room of people."

They were then expected to pass on what they had learned to the rest of the staff.

Kaimoana said neither she, nor any other teacher, had received training since. "So it was really limited. That's the support you've got."

Both agreed that the National Standards were a useful tool.

"It gives us a guideline as to where our kids should be at," said Itamura - but that it should not be used for assessment, as it did not allow for individual children's capacities or reflect progress made over the year.

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Itamura noted that the standards did not offer a path for those struggling to reach the standard.

"We know a lot of our kids aren't at that stage, so what happens to them? Do they just get written off?"

Kaimoana said National Standards were too inflexible.

"We know where our kids are at: what they're able to do, and what are their next learning steps at home and at school.

"It's quite devastating, sometimes, to grade them against National Standards when you know they're doing well."

TITAHI BAY INTERMEDIATE: BY THE NUMBERS

Reading
Well below: 42 per cent
Below: 33 per cent
At: 24 per cent
Above: 1 per cent

Writing
Well below: 62.60 per cent
Below: 21.40 per cent
At: 16 per cent
Above: 0 per cent

Mathematics
Well below: 26 per cent
Below: 44 per cent
At: 13 per cent
Above: 17 per cent

- The Dominion Post

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