South Canterbury principals say national standards are just one part of judging a school's achievement, and some go as far as saying the standards are not valid.
In the controversial standards, launched in 2010, reading, writing and mathematics skills of each student are measured by four levels - above, at, below or well below - the standards.
Fairfax Media has been able to collate data from 27 South Canterbury schools and about 1000 nationwide in a project it has been working on for several months.
South Canterbury principals were invited to comment and these were the responses:
Timaru Christian School principal Bethany Rentoul:
“Students [have] different skills and abilities . . . and it is our job to ensure they are met at their level and moved forward, not just in core curriculum but in their social, emotional and spiritual development also. We use national standards as just one of many assessment tools, as do all schools, and believe parents are smart enough to look at the bigger picture and not rely on one set of statistics to determine the quality of an education.”
Waimataitai School principal Jane Culhane:
"The standards continue to be a broad brush and flawed measure of student and school achievement. The standards are flawed because they are being interpreted in so many different ways by teachers, schools, advisers and the Education Ministry. They are not a valid and reliable measure of a child's progress, nor a school's success or progress.
"A school's benefit can be measured by the child's and family's experience at and with the school. This experience will be different for each child and family because each brings their own individual difference and background.
"We do not all begin school at the same starting point, nor do we all learn, progress and respond in the same way."
Geraldine Primary School principal Lindsay Robertson:
"There is no story here, as the data for each school is so different and the levels are not comparable in any way, shape or form. Programmes provided for different learning groups also vary, and this information would only confuse rather than help."
Arowhenua Maori School principal Toni O'Neill:
"We had significant movement of students from many different schools due to the earthquake last year. Individual progress made is the most reliable measure of achievement and this is reported to parents."
Morven School principal Vivian Raj:
"Morven School is a small rural school with a large number of families working on dairy farms. This means a large number of children leave or arrive at school on changeover day in June. Our student numbers fluctuate and it is difficult to predict learning needs for a whole year. We have many students who have attended between four and eight schools already in their short educational ascent.
"Our classes are small so that children receive a higher proportion of individual attention, with our board of trustees funding extra teachers to work with students not achieving at the national standards.
"Our families do have the confidence and opportunity to talk with teachers personally involved in their child's education, who are able to explain how and why their learning and skills progress.
"National standards are only one part of the multi-faceted and deeply personal interaction between students and their daily learning environment."
Highfield School principal Shayne Gallagher:
"Highfield School prides itself on the teaching and learning programmes we provide for a range of learning needs. We look at where children are at, where we want them to be and develop pathways of learning that best meet this goal.
"There has been considerable improvement of our achievement data over the past four years. This is because we are reflective of our teaching practice and have the ability to provide programmes that cater for student needs. Each year we look at and raise the expected level of achievement. We have undertaken a great deal of professional development.
"Comparisons . . . are not in the best interest of learning as national standards data is not a valid measure of growth. It is vital that schools, parents and communities look not only at attainment, but also at the progress made by all children. National standards data presented in tables would not show progress that children have made over the past 12 months; be that below, at or above the national standard. For those children who aren't achieving we have always provided support through improved class practice and if necessary provide extra support through focused learning groups.
"We believe we have worked hard within our school and with external experts to understand and moderate data that best reflects the learning of our children. We use a variety of assessment strategies and tools; we do not rely on a single assessment tool."
Beaconsfield School principal Wayne Facer:
"Our reading programmes are successful because we've worked hard in establishing consistency of delivery within classrooms. If a child's doing well in one class they might go up to another class. There's a more focused approach with each level. [With national standards] we haven't seen any of the professional development they promised."
- © Fairfax NZ News
Should the Star Trust GM be able to attend Timaru's meeting on synthetic cannabis?Related story: 'Legal, but it's not safe'