Testing times for schools

01:19, Sep 01 2009

Schools are threatening to fudge test results and find the easiest tests possible to boost results and undermine the introduction of the Government's controversial national standards.

Hundreds of primary school principals nationwide have threatened to boycott the Government's flagship policy unless changes are made to limit public access to schools' performance data.

Under the policy, pupils from Years 1 to 8 will be assessed in numeracy and literacy against national academic standards, with the data publicly available under the Official Information Act.

But some principals worried about the data being misinterpreted have spoken out on an Education Ministry website forum.

Paul Heffernan, principal of Auckland's Laingholm Primary School, wrote on the forum: "We are going to teach the easiest test we can find. We are going to re-teach and re-teach baby. We will even fudge the results big time. My school is going to be top school on the league table so that my community will know I run a brilliant school. Parents will flock to my door. To hell with anything creative. And don't say this won't happen. It sure did with NCEA."

Waikato school principals said today they were unlikely to fudge test results themselves but they were in no doubt that it would happen. Frankton Primary School principal Judy Dixon said the Government was naive if it thought test-fudging wouldn't happen if league tables ranking the results were introduced.

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"We've got research to show this will happen. I believe in standards but there's a better way of doing it."

Mrs Dixon said she feared New Zealand's "wonderful curriculum" would be lost in the national standards, to be introduced in 2010.

"The strength of our education system is teaching children according to their ability. It's the teacher's judgment that should be held accountable, not the test score.

"With some children there's much better information than just a test score."

She said the policy would create a clash between ability-based learning and age-based standards.

Southwell School principal Royce Helm said it would be unethical to fudge test results but he hoped that "everybody is sensible" with the performance data.

He said the worry was that parents would interpret the results differently, without getting the full picture.

"We certainly see some of that with secondary schools. We have to be careful about what the information actually represents."

Mr Helm said he would prefer there was no league tables.

"The key question is value added: what is the school adding to the children? Where are they at when they arrive and where are they at when they leave the school."

Leamington School principal Mike Malcolm said Education Minister Anne Tolley last week told the Waikato Principals' Association it was not the Government's intention to create league tables.

Instead Mrs Tolley pointed the finger at media saying the concern was how news organisations accessing the performance data would interpret them.

Mr Malcolm said he didn't believe Waikato primary schools would fudge results because it would compromise their biggest virtue honesty.

However, he said it wasn't about the results schools achieved, it was about the progress children were making.

Mrs Tolley said the majority of the sector was working constructively with officials to lift pupils' achievement levels.

"Parents have made it clear that they support national standards."

Waikato Times