When Measuring Kids is More Important than Educating Them.
By Mārama Stewart, Principal of Waiouru School
A response to Ian McKelvie’s article “Measuring Kids’ Progress, or Not”, Ruapehu Bulletin – 15 May 2018
One of the perks of being a Member of Parliament, is that for some miraculous reason, most of the drivel you write for the media tends to become gospel. Furthermore, this ‘expertise’ doesn’t seem to require any qualifications or experience working in the profession you are commenting upon. As our local MP, ‘apparently’ you know it all. ‘Apparently’ you know even more than the 47 000 principals, teachers, and support staff that make up the membership of the Teachers’ Union (the New Zealand Educational Institute – NZEI).
I’ve been a bit busy lately and I’m afraid I didn’t get the chance to read our little local paper that week, well not until one of our teachers pointed out this article during our research project’s lead teachers conference.
You see we had been talking about the relief we are all feeling now that “Labour had dropped National Standards”. Gone was this ‘imperfect’ system which has been having a detrimental effect on all young New Zealanders over the last ten years. Then we see this article, Mr McKelvie’s opinion piece, Mr McKelvie’s comedy of errors.
We were seriously wondering if we had missed a calendar month or two and it was actually April 1st! His entire first paragraph seemed to come straight from Opposite Day – that day is actually celebrated on January 25th, so it could be that! Which one of our 47 000 Teacher Union Members did he actually speak with to form this opinion? Maybe he couldn’t find us, as a point of note for the future – you can find us with your children and grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, your best friend’s sons and daughters, and the kids down the road at your local in schools.
Our school is on Ruapehu Road in Waiouru if you want to come visit Mr McKelvie. At our school we will tell you that National Standards did not provide a “universal platform … to track a child’s progress”. Mr McKelvie, National Standards were not “universal”. They were not “easy” to use and did not “determine how a child was getting on at school”. They did not show progress or identify “when intervention was required or alternatively, when a child showed exceptional ability and needed extension”. Mr McKelvie, they did none of the things you asserted in your poorly informed opinion piece.
But then again, how would we know? We are not politicians who can magically turn opinion into fact. Why would we know that Mr McKelvie was wrong? Well probably because we the that have actually read the growing body of research and evidence that emphatically states that the National Standards were not good for our tamariki. In fact this school is has been part of a rigorous research project which shows that
Unfortunately for the 47 000 members of the Teachers Union, explaining why the National Standards system did not work does not fit neatly into a 60 second sound bite in the news, or an easily consumed half a dozen paragraphs in the local newspaper. You actually can not simplify Education into neat and tidy ‘standards’ that children will meet at specific points in time. It is a lifelong developmental journey which must encompass the whole child, their whanau, their culture and their place in their community.
But don’t just take my word for it, don’t ever just take what you read in the newspaper as gospel. Demand evidence that what you are reading is factually correct and come from experience, research, and evidence. So here is my evidence that Mr McKelvie is wrong. This is an extract from the Key Findings from the report “NZCER National Standards Report – National Standards in their Seventh Year” by Linda Bonne of the New Zealand Council for Educational Research.
Concern was evident about the negative effects on those students whose performance is labelled as ‘below’ or ‘well below’ a Standard and whose progress is not visible in terms of current reporting practices. To a lesser degree, there was also concern about students who perform well above a Standard not having their high achievement acknowledged, using the existing terminology of simply being ‘above’ a Standard.
National Standards seemed to have little to offer students with additional learning needs. Concern about the negative effects of labelling these students’ performance—often as ‘below’ or ‘well below’ National Standards over the long term—was particularly clear. Few agreed that National Standards help with the inclusion of students with additional learning needs. Some principals and trustees were concerned that including National Standards data for students with additional learning needs in their overall school data lowered their results, leading people to think the school was not performing as well as it was.
“Education is not a tool to be used to play petty politics”. It’s far too important to ignore the research, the evidence, and the 47 000 voices working everyday with our tamariki. To do that will have a detrimental effect on young New Zealanders as they chart the course of their future.