National numeracy and literacy standards due to be implemented by the beginning of next year will relegate schools to teaching a 19th century curriculum and will serve only to lengthen the tail of New Zealand's under achievement, according to Nelson principals.
The reluctance to embrace national standards, earmarked for the inclusion in school curriculums by next year, was widespread across most of the 120 Nelson teachers and principals who attended a meeting organised by the Ministry of Education yesterday.
The ministry is holding forums with educators across the country to seek feedback on the standards which would see every student in New Zealand measured against standards at each level of primary and intermediate school.
Tahunanui School principal Paul Drummond thought the standards would mean schools would have to teach a curriculum out of touch with the needs of today's students.
"I don't believe you can stand there and say this is supposed to bring in a 21st century curriculum," Mr Drummond told ministry representatives. "It will do the exact opposite. The twin towers of numeracy and literacy will mean schools fall into a 19th-century model of education."
Ministry deputy secretary for special education Nick Pole said that generally New Zealand had high levels of achievement on world standards but had "a long tail of under achievement" which was concerning. The standards would help alleviate this.
Hampden St School principal Don Mclean had his doubts.
"If we measure a kid's height it doesn't make them taller, so how is measuring kids nationally going to make them achieve more?"
Mr Mclean said schools had their own ways of measuring students which worked well and national measurements were not needed. "If you think that the tail-end is going to go away because of these [standards] then you're dreaming."
Brooklyn School teacher Kelvin Woodley said he had concerns about students who would struggle to meet the standards.
"How long is it going to take to bring those students up to these standards? If they are constantly performing below them how do we keep them motivated? What counselling is there going to be to support them?"
Mr Pole said the ministry had put aside $35 million to help such students.
However, Appleby School deputy principal Alana King said that by her calculations it allocated only $10 to each student in the country.
Nelson Intermediate principal Hugh Gully said the standards would take money out of where it was needed to help the under-achievers.
Nelson Central School principal Paul Potaka said he felt like he was being sold a "timeshare" because he was being asked to make decisions on an issue his school had not been given time to fully investigate.
Ministry literacy and development officer Jill Forgie said the consultation with educators was vital to ensure the standards worked. "Are there questions? Of course there are. Is there a need for more work? Of course there is. That is what we are here for."
What are national standards?
Standards of academic achievement in reading, writing and mathematics against which every pupil aged five to 12 will be measured.
What will parents see?
"Plain language" reporting on their child's progress against the national standards, including graphs showing pupils well above, just above, just below or well below standard.
Why are schools worried?
Many schools already have ways of measuring their students and feel that these already work. Many schools say more resources should be put into helping under-achievers rather than implementing standards that would affect all students. The standards are being implemented on a tight time frame, with schools expected to have them in place for the start of next year. Some schools believe the standards will corrupt the work they are doing on developing a new national curriculum.
- The Nelson Mail
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