PPTA slams misuse of decile rating system
Parents' misuse of decile ratings has inflamed racial and social class stigma in schools, sparking a call for a major overhaul of the funding system, a new report claims.
The Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) paper, produced for the union's annual conference next month, outlines several criticisms of the decile system.
It recommends a new model in which each school is funded based on an individual socio-economic profile, rather than a decile number.
The report claims that the decile system no longer meets its original purpose of allocating more funding to create an "equal playing field" for students from poorer families.
It also found that deciles were being misused by parents as a measure of a school's quality and a way to compare academic performance.
"The belief of parents that high decile means better education exacerbates the divide between the ‘haves' and the ‘have nots' in our education system.
"Some schools deliberately seek to influence their intake so that their decile is raised and the school is seen as more successful," the report says
The "destructive competition" between schools also paved the way for "white flight" - the exodus of Pakeha/European students from low decile schools.
The report said the number of Pakeha/European students at decile 1 secondary schools dropped from 60,000 to 30,000 between 2000 and 2010.
"Misuse of school decile has created both racial and class stigma for low-decile schools."
The report, written by PPTA Waikato treasurer Norman Austin, recommends major changes to the decile system to give a "truer picture of the real needs" in schools.
The PPTA wants to replace the single decile figure with a more detailed socio-economic profile of each school using a wide range of data.
"Each school would be resourced on the basis of its particular socio-economic profile," the report says.
"This would lead to a more rational basis for comparisons of schools . . . and move from a single number which misses the complexities of schools."
Under the current system, schools are assigned a decile rating based on the household information of a random sample of students.
The report claims that the system is too narrow and does not measure the average wealth of the school community: "Two schools in the same decile may have significant differences in the socio-economic mix of their students.
"A large school in the middle decile may have just as many students requiring special assistance as a small lower decile school."
Education Minister Hekia Parata has not launched a review of the decile system, despite reports saying she had, a spokeswoman said.
"All she did was just ask the ministry to look at what could happen in terms of looking at deciles, but there's no review," she said.
"There's no work that's been done on it yet."
Waikato principals' Association president John Coulam said he supported a review, but did not think the current system needed fixing.
"I don't know if it is broken, but it's been around for a long time," he said. "If there is a better system, we should be open to it."
However, he said there was not a "bottomless bucket" of money for education and any redistribution of funds would create "winners and losers".
New Zealand Principals' Federation president Phil Harding said the misuse of the decile system has done widespread damage.
"It's become a proxy for quality, which it isn't."
He supported the PPTA's alternative model, but wanted to know more about how it would work.
"I guess the PPTA's model is trying to reflect the complexity of an individual school rather than making assumptions and I support that," he said.
What is a decile?
A school's decile indicates how many students are from low socio-economic communities. Decile 1 schools are the 10 per cent of schools with the highest proportion of students from low socio-economic communities, whereas decile 10 schools are the 10 per cent with the lowest proportion of such students.
How is a decile calculated?
Each school provides a random sample of student addresses and these are used to determine from which areas each school is drawing its students. Census information, including household income, occupation, educational qualifications and income support, is used to calculate the decile.
The Ministry of Education then places schools into 10 equal groups. What is the funding difference between deciles? Decile ratings account for about 13 per cent of all operational funding.
The decile funding examples below are based on a secondary school with a roll of 1000.
Decile 1: $979,884.69
Decile 2: $699,354.69
Decile 3: $435,034.69
Decile 4: $266,984.69
Decile 8: $107,354.69
Decile 9: $85,324.69
Decile 10: $52,734.69--
- © Fairfax NZ News
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