Schools' standards released

JOHN HARTEVELT AND CLIO FRANCIS
Last updated 05:00 22/09/2012

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Controversial national standards results from more than 1000 New Zealand schools have today been revealed.

After months of resistance, obstruction and stalling tactics from unions and hundreds of schools, Fairfax has obtained and analysed nationwide results and published them on a new section of its stuff.co.nz website, School Report.

This is the first time national standards results have been made public - a move that has infuriated teachers' union the New Zealand Educational Institute, which says it will hurt the self-confidence of schools considered “not up to standard”.

Many principals and academic experts say the data is unreliable and should not be used to compare performances between schools.

But Education Minister Hekia Parata said the standards were "in good shape".

"National standards gives us an opportunity to dig deeper and finer grained in to information at a learner level," Ms Parata said.

"It's both about progress and the reporting back to parents of that."

She drew parallels with New Zealand's successful Olympics campaign.

"I obviously am not a top athlete but, you know, they collect consistent data about their performance and feedback and how they need to adjust in ever-finer adjustments to get to that level of exceptional achievement," she said.

"Similarly, in schooling, national standards is about collecting data consistently, understanding how it can be used and applying it."

The School Report site launched today was not a league table.

It does not rank schools according to their results.

But nationwide analysis of the results obtained by Fairfax appears to confirm long-standing trends in the education system and lines up with an official snap-shot released yesterday.

Kiwi children were struggling the most with writing, in which 32 per cent were below or well below the standard. In maths, 28.4 per cent were below or well below, and in reading the figure was 23.7 per cent.

It also emerged that Maori and Pasifika children were over-represented among those below and well below the standards in reading, writing and maths. And boys trailed girls across the board.

Just over 2000 schools were required to report their national standards data - hundreds ignored Fairfax's request for data last month, despite instructions from both the ombudsman and the Education Ministry. Some provided data that was unusable.

NZEI national president Ian Leckie said children being told their school was "not up to standard" would undermine self-confidence and decrease their motivation.

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"For families and communities, national standards league tables or other forms of public comparisons simply reinforce people's prejudices about communities and leads to increased educational inequity, Mr Leckie said.

Labour Party leader David Shearer said the Government wanted to use national standards to rank all schools by using league tables.

"The problem is that ranking will be based on shonky figures because data is collected differently from school to school and the results are not moderated. The results going in, therefore, can be quite different and comparisons cannot be fairly made."

The data handling carried out by Fairfax was checked and approved by international research company Ipsos.

Fairfax has removed some of the data supplied by schools, for privacy reasons.

On the School Report site, each school has its own information page, including demographic data, funding details and a link to the school's ERO report.

BY THE NUMBERS

23.7 per cent: Reading below or well below the standard.

32 per cent: Writing below or well below the standard.

27.6 per cent: Maths below or well below the standard.

BOYS v GIRLS

72 per cent: Boys at or above the reading standard.

80 per cent: Girls at or above the reading standard.

61 per cent: Boys at or above the writing standard.

75 per cent: Girls at or above the writing standard.

72 per cent: Boys at or above the maths standard.

73 per cent: Girls at or above the maths standard.

Source: Education Minister Hekia Parata

SOUTHLAND TIMES TO PUBLISH

National standards are an issue that has divided a nation: some argue they are a useful tool in helping schools and parents determine where help is needed; others believe they will be an inaccurate reflection of the performance of a school.

On Monday southern parents will have an opportunity to make up their own minds when The Southland Times publishes details of southern schools' national standards results.

Not every school responded to our request for national standards data, but most did.

That means most parents and caregivers will be able to see, at a glance, how their child's school is performing in helping children to meet those standards.

Tiny schools have not been included in the data because publishing the results would affect the privacy of those students.

We will also have a wrap of the region's performance, looking at Southland, Central Otago, Queenstown Lakes District and the Clutha District, with comment and response from various education-sector representatives and stakeholders.

This is in addition to the huge amount of information that will be available for parents and caregivers on our website, southlandtimes.co.nz, and also the Fairfax national website stuff.co.nz.

- Fairfax Media

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