Education leader fears 'ghetto' schools

JONATHAN CARSON AND MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 10/08/2012

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A Waikato education leader says parents choosing schools based on National Standards data will create "ghetto" and "magnet" schools, further widening the gap between achievers and those falling behind.

Education Minister Hekia Parata this week announced that schools' literacy and numeracy achievement levels will be published on the ministry's Education Counts website in September.

She said it would allow parents to see how their child's school was performing.

Waikato Principals' Association chairman John Coulam said making the data public would lead to parents basing their school selection on "misleading" information.

Schools performing well in the areas that National Standards measure - reading, writing and mathematics - would be in high demand, while schools slipping behind would be shunned, he said.

"Some schools will become magnet schools - popular schools for students who are achieving, and other schools will become schools where there will be a bigger tail.

"It could potentially create ghetto-type schools."

He said Waikato principals "reluctantly" provided the information to the ministry, but strongly opposed it being released.

"We don't see any benefit in it at all, to be quite honest. It will be a sad day for New Zealand education, I'm absolutely sure of it."

New Zealand Educational Institute president Ian Leckie agreed the data could unfairly create winner and loser schools.

"It will be especially tough on those schools that have a significant number of students who do not meet the narrow National Standards benchmark. These schools are often in the poorer suburbs and teach the very children [Ms Parata] claims to target."

Waikato University education professor Roger Moltzen said parents had a right to access information on school performance, but Education Review Office (ERO) reports already provided that in greater detail.

"The teaching-learning process is very complex, and once you reduce it and report on it in a very simplistic way you don't capture that complexity and all the subtle nuances and variables that influence how learning takes place.

"The ERO reports do a much better job in capturing that. They consider the whole school context."

Ms Parata said the Government would not arrange schools into a league table, but the website would show schools' overall performance against the standards in each region, and nationally.

She was in Waikato last night for a private meeting with board of trustee heads from the wider Hamilton area.

Ms Parata fielded questions ranging from the use of unregistered teachers in charter schools to how publishing a school's performance would help lift student achievement.

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"This idea that National Standards is a pernicious attack on the education system and the only point is to create league tables to rank and punish schools is just not true - there is no interest in doing that," she said.

She admitted the reporting process was not perfect.

"And it won't be perfect next year, but we have to commit to a gradual improvement of the data and of what we do with it." She said parents were "very keen" to understand the information and how it applied to their children.

- Waikato Times

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