“The National Standards work will ensure that:

oversight of schools that consistently perform well is minimised and support is targeted at schools where there are a high number of students not attaining the standards”

– anyone still want to work in a school where children have collectively further to go to reach the ‘standards’?  With ERO breathing down your neck at regular intervals?

Is the model of ERO reviews going to change to take account of the change in role from assessing legal compliance to advice and guidance this will require?  Who would want to lead a school in this situation?  We are already suffering from a dirth of people wanting to step into school leadership roles in this country.  How will this improve the situation?

Does this mean a set period of time with ‘lower than expected’ achievement and we will have a knock on the door from the person from the MoE with a checklist of possible support they will give to the school?  Lower class numbers?  Increased staffing?  Increased Op Grant …. what’s that noise?  Oh the pigs flying past.

From the reporting to parents information pamphlet:

So which of these things is not happening?
#1 – the best in NZ are among the best in the world.  We have a tail and it needs to be shortened.  Lets focus on that, where the need is greatest.
#2 – Can someone please explained the concepts of Reading Ages, Numeracy Levels, Writing exemplars to these people!?
#3 – how many schools, really, are not doing this?  Make it an ERO ‘area of interest’ over the cycle of reviews.  Focus on those who are not doing it!
#4 – It is the job of the principal to make sure this is happening.  Improving the internal consistency and validity of summative assessment decisions and decision making are a focus for most schools I know.  No assessment system is completely reliable and valid.  Lets realise this and focus on improving the one that is doing a good job for the majority already.
#5 – many BoT’s simply accept what principals give them.  They do not question the information very closely at all.  Lets make sure that we have robust and SIMPLE systems for reporting on achievement.  Simply changing the criteria will make no difference to this at all!  measuring the weight of the pig in Kg or Lbs makes no difference to its weight.
#6 – Oh come ON.  What school, BoT, Teacher or Principal doesn’t bend over backwards to do their very best for all the children in their school with the scarce resources they have?  What education professional gets out of bed thinking “whose life can I ruin today”?
#7 – Isn’t this already happening?  Haven’t we already been told this is a done deal?

Seems to me the rationale for all this is to fix things that aren’t really broken, to remediate a whole system because of a few underperforming schools.  Tantamount to us putting our whole school through Reading Recovery – most don’t need it and it costs a lot of money that could almost certainly be better used elsewhere, it will probably not make a whole lot of difference.  Then we will publish the level the children get to after their final assessment in the newspaper so as to make the ones ‘below the standard’ pull up their socks and do better from now on.  Sounds sensible to me – NOT!!

7 Responses to “Pigs and measuring ….”
  1. Pauline Sparks says:

    Dear Greg

    I am an ardent reader of your blog and want to let you know that I have just added it to my iGoogle page bookmarks with the label ‘sane education commentary’.

    Thank you.

    I believe I went to Ch’Ch Teachers College at the same time as you -- although I was there as a ‘mature’ trainee. From then till now, I have worked with quite a number of principals few of whom come anywhere near the thinking I see in both your blog, and Bruce Hammond’s which I also regularly follow.

    Thank you again.

    Do people in the Ministry, and for that matter the Minister herself read the wisdom contained in both yours and Bruce’s blogs? And there are many others. In fact, it is my belief that there is no excuse for anyone in education not to be aware of promising and obviously non-promising practices -- it is available to each and every one of us at the touch of a button. And yet our ‘powers that be’ continue in their ‘conform and control’ ways in the face of everything that cries out for ‘creativity and invitation’.

    Once again, thank you.


    Pauline Sparks

  2. greg.carroll says:

    Thankyou so much Pauline. It is good to know someone out there is listening. hehehehe
    My first year teaching was 1989 …. if that helps the timelines. Core that is 20 years ago! Scary possums.
    I HAVE actually been tackled at conferences a couple of times by MoE people who have obviously read some of the things I have written and policy disagrees with me. I have also had comments from data management people with the issues we had there.
    Interestingly Anne Tolley (or at least her advisors) seem to agree with me about the trajectory of learning being important as well as final end point achievement in her statements accompanying the National Standards. So why the current model? Hmmmmm

  3. […] Greg Caroll has a principals take on them:  Pigs and measuring… […]

  4. Hi Greg

    “…anyone still want to work in a school where children have collectively further to go to reach the ’standards’? With ERO breathing down your neck at regular intervals?…”

    In short, YES. Along with a multitude of teachers who work in Decile 1a schools in Auckland and work with fabulous students who just happen to statistically contribute to the ‘long tail’ which rightly concerns the nation, YES! I love working with these kids their aiga/whanau/community and really want to see them reach their full potential.

    As part of schooling improvement we have been applying national standards to our students for a few years (in the form of tests such as asTTle and STAR), moderating them with the schools in our cluster and sending our results to the previous government in Wellington. And guess what? Their results are improving! And we don’t even have to fear ERO breathing down our neck at regular intervals because our school has recently had ERO visit under the new regime and they have told us that because of our rigorous self-review they are recommending they come back in 4 or 5 years.

    I would like to see constructive advise from those of you who don’t have this problem as to what we should be doing differently to shorten the long tail. We know that when we (with support of our parent community) have done the testing and know exactly where are students are at, we can work together on solutions. And if the government (or the tax payer) want to be involved in our deliberatons that is not necessarily a bad thing. But it would potentially be more powerful if those of you who are identified with the high achieving schools were able to share with us what in your practise is making your students progress more rapidly.

  5. greg.carroll says:

    Thanks Dorothy.
    Come on …. I don’t believe that anyone in a higher decile school has answers to fundamental issues that have simply been missed by their colleagues in lower decile schools. All children have potential, and all children can learn! There are many characteristics that describe children -- ethnicity, decile, hair colour, handedness, learning preferences …. the list goes on.
    Lower decile schools DO have issues finding staff, they DO have real challenges getting children to the same ‘level’ overall at the same age as higher decile schools. Research shows both. However this does NOT mean the quality of the education is any less because of the community of which the school is part. Indeed that is my point; that national standards and end-point testing do not capture what is essentially the quality of what you describe happening in your school. The trajectory of learning for many of your children will be great. Other factors may mean they do not necessarily reach the same level collectively as other schools but that is not the point. Higher decile schools may even have the same issues. I would rather have my own children with a greater trajectory of learning than simply be judged against some arbitrary above/at/below criteria.
    You are being accountable for the learning in your school and track it closely. That is good practice. You don’t need national standards or league tables, performance pay, a decile rating or whatever … to make your school perform. It is a function of the ability and commitment of your staff and the vision for learning you have.
    Any school can learn from what is successful in another school. There is context to be borne in mind but it is all provocation for the professional learning of others.
    My point in the quote you have is that teachers already choose schools to work in based on many criteria. Challenge is one of them. Adding the pressure of being in a publically identified ‘underperforming school’ in national standards league tables is another reason NOT to apply. Having (as a result) ERO visiting every 12-24 months because you are seen as ‘at risk’ is another reason not to apply. How does this help the school? How does it make it successful? How does it improve the achievement of the children? I would argue it doesn’t.

  6. Hi Greg. I really enjoyed your comments under ‘which of these the MOE site have caused quiet a stir -- in the papers and on radio. I even had someone from the NZEI question my “devil’s advocate “stance -- apparently I was giving all principals a bad name by insinuating that some principals will perhaps fudge the results and teach to the tests -- get a life, get real!!
    Keep sticking your head up and calling it as it is.

  7. greg.carroll says:

    Hi Paul -- thanks for this. I think we are being vindicated with our concerns when you read this mornings papers about the cuts to the School Support Services. Why will we NOT see a narrowing of the curriculum when all the professional support is in a narrow band? Sad more than anything!

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