Obligatory post about national standards

It is a tortuous logic for you to use the tragic results of segregation as an argument for the continuation of it. It is necessary to get to the causal basis.

Martin Luther King

Seeing as how Stuff (proudly brought to you by Coca Cola) has built their entire coverage of the National Standards around comparing schools I guess we should play their game.  The Stuff journalists tell us that they, with great nobility, have not ranked schools.  Ranking schools nationally doesn’t matter.  It was creating the local school as an option on a regional shopping list that bothered people.  Everyone wants to send their children to a good school.  Comparing unmoderated data and putting it into a comparison table now lets parents do that.  Call me fussy, but this feels a lot like ranking schools.  Actually, I’m a little over this debate.  What I am interested in is what happens next.

Anyway, the good news is that if you’re living in a nice, mostly homogenous neighbourhood your local school is great.

Island Bay School is killing it.  The teachers there must be great.  It is a decile 10 school, with a school population that is over three quarters NZ/European (and other European).

Newtown School.  What is going on at that school?  How appalling!  It is a decile four school with a school population that is 50% Maori or Pasifika, and 25% NZ/European.

We would think Newtown was a bad school if we were racist.  If we accepted the idea that historical disempowerment is connected to present outcomes in some way then we can understand the results.  Children of the empowered going to schools that reflect the culture of the empowered, from families of the empowered do quite well.  And the opposite is true.

At the moment I am identifying the students in Year 9 who got low results over the year in my learning area.  I want to interview them and make a better programme for them.  All the results are not quite in yet, but the trend is clear: Pasifika students are grossly overrepresented in the bottom quarter.  Two studies I have read tell me why.  One tells me that for low-achieving Pasifika there are often no books at home, no quiet spaces to work, no role-models for educational success.  The other study, an American study, tells me that children have a word bank that mirrors their parents’ word bank, and that word banks tend to be as small or big as the parents’ socio-economic status.  A child from a low socio-economic group can have a 35 million word gap when entering school next to a kid from a high socio-economic family.

Which tells me that the National Standards, in general, inform us where social deprivation lies (as if we didn’t know already), and show the tragic consequences for a child as young as six of growing up inside a system that has over a long period of time placed their family at a disadvantage.

At the moment all of this wrangling is just wrangling.  The key lies ahead.  What the National government does with the data tells us what their actual education policy is.  If it is a pretty complex and long term group of linked up supports for those in our society that are underachieving then this would be fantastic.  If it is being “relaxed” about zoning and charter schools popping up then it is running away from the problems our society faces, and abandoning our most vulnerable students.

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9 thoughts on “Obligatory post about national standards”

  1. Hi,
    You and both know that the answer is the second option, and (dare I say it) we both know why! Incidentally I live in Newtown! And love it! We are all here; black, brown, refugees, migrants, poets, people of theatre, musicians … and/or otherwise unfitting populous for other polite suburbs!

  2. I live between Island Bay and Newtown. My daughter goes to the school in the middle of the two that I highlighed, and that refused to give its results. I both support that Principal’s decision, and think he should move on. What comes next is they key, and parents can legitimately expect clear reporting and a sense of how their children are going.

  3. Dimpost has a very clear post using a graph correlating decile with so called National Standards. What assistance will be given to those “failing” kids? Something really helpful?

  4. My elder daughter (who is nearing completion of her Primary Teacher training) and I mused over these reported statistics in todays Dom Post. She made some interesting observations.
    I noticed the clear correlation between decile and the Well Below percentages under each category. No great shocks here. She is currently completeing her last teaching experience at a diverse local primary school that’s students end up at the high school i currently teach at.
    Some of her observations and experiences have mirrored my own, even though the kids she are working with are at the Year 3 (7-8 years old) level. Some are in fact siblings of students I teach. I can see habits emerging, especially in behaviour and attitudes to learning, that that have obviously started way back as young as Year 3. Quite revealing, quite shocking, and quite possible many of these kids may not actually progress much beyond their primary school standards.

    As you rightly ask JP, what is the key to the future based on the data revealed so far?
    Ask Mr Key what the key is! Collecting the data is one thing, doing something about it is another, other wise it has all been a waste of time and money. At the end of the day this data put together and reported collectively by school is telling us what we probably already suspected anyway. Changing these outcomes is going to truly be a challenge to say the least but something needs to happen.

  5. “NATURAL STANDARDS” – Furhter to my above commnet, my daughter has jsut show me this very enlightening YOuTube clip about “Natural Standards” aka National Standards.

    It’s great – entertaininging, funnay and full of visual metaphors – please have a look at: –


  6. Looking at the results in the newspaper I think it would be interesting to see what is happening at Naenae, a decile one school with excellent results, Natone Park is also doing pretty well, as is Porirua East. As I remember Naenae’s NCEA results were also against the trend.

  7. Yes. I read an article called the 35 Million Word Gap. Pretty sobering. Which might lead you to think teachers can do nothing, but a well-run and very focused school can clearly make a significant and life-changing difference.

  8. I am no teacher, but by commenting on the published results, you are of course treating them as if they are true. I thought that the accepted position of teachers was that the results can only be meaningless.

    Will not the logical (and hugely ironic) outcome of this be that if the governent of the day wnats to increase “lower end” achievement, then they need to give lower decile schools more funding? Watch out for the role reversal where the government ends up agreeing that the resuilts really are menaingless.

    Moral of story, never be afraid of information. Wouldn’t it have been better if this conclusion was “outed” years ago, rather then be fought tooth and nail by the union, principals, teachers etc every step of the way?

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