Friday, November 13, 2009

More information please: National Standards

It all seems so simple but does it give a true picture of a learners progress and what will be neglected while the focus goes on improving the graphs? With the 'real' plunket graphs parent could at least feed their child to improve height and weight.

Newspaper editors and opinion writer have had a field day with the national standards 'debate'. Actually 'debate' there hasn't been. Opinion has held sway fed by Ministry of Education spin.

Where are the investigative journalists these days are are papers just worried about pandering to the prejudices of their readers?

Anyway I was motivated to write to our local paper after a poorly written editorial featuring the full range of shallow writing that seems to have taken the place for editorials these days.

Maybe others should write to their local papers?

Dear Sir

I guess it is in the nature of editorials to be full of generalizations and to be provocative. I refer to your editorial of the Friday 6th of November about the misinformation about the proposed national standards. Most of it, you state, coming from educators with vested interests.

If parents are not to be left, as you say, ‘languishing and wondering’ who is right in this ‘fiery nasty debate’ about national standards then this surely is an opportunity for some real in depth investigative journalism?

There is no doubt on the surface national standards do seem a sensible idea but what do they really mean beyond the simplistic ‘plunket style’ graphs showing student progress in a few defined areas?

If your paper is interested in enlightening parents and readers I suggest your education reporter researches:

1. What evidence can the Minister, or the Ministry of Education, provide to support the introduction of such standards? Can they point to other countries using them successfully without any distorting side effects?

2. What countries do best in international testing and do they use national testing in the areas to be covered by national standards? And where do New Zealand students stand in these tests?

3. What does the three year Cambridge Study of Primary Education say about the effects of national testing (and ‘league tables’) in the UK? What does it say about the levels of anxiety and stress for students, teachers and parents?

4. What do internationally recognized New Zealand assessment experts say about national testing? Or international experts for that matter?

5. What current testing going on in primary schools around literacy and numeracy and the time spend each week on such important areas of learning?

6. What did the recently released NZCER research say about the feeling of parents re national standards?

I am also curious to know what you mean about by the ‘softer focus and broader learning’ that you mentioned in your editorial. How does it relate to the exciting demands of the recently published and internationally acclaimed New Zealand Curriculum?

Is education to be a debate between the Right’s narrow accountability culture and the Left’s soft focus (whatever that means) as you seem to think it is all about?

As you say in your editorial there is a great deal of misinformation about but I do not agree that it is coming from the educators. In my experience teachers work hard on behalf of their students and not, as you infer, for their own vested interests.

Maybe your paper can help sort all this misinformation out for your readers?

Yours faithfully

Bruce Hammonds

If we are to enter the debate we ought to know the answers to most of the above questions?


Anonymous said...

Great letter Bruce. Did the paper do any research?

Bruce said...

Not so far.Our paper would rather puts its research into the quality of coffee in the various cafes than anything as important as reactionary changes in education .

Regan said...

Bruce, this letter should be sent to all the newspapers nationwide. A great read.