Prompted to write about league tables and standards
Phew! It has been a really long time since I felt the urge to write anything here. Probably I have no one reading this anymore but if perchance I do then here is my little rant.
I was prompted to write after reading Greg's comments about MOE people reading his blog and asking him to correct material on it. He rightly pointed out that he was writing his own opinion and that should be respected. At the end of his post he says to be aware that MOE people are reading blogs to gauge opinion and that we should not be put off from sharing our thoughts.
So.... Here goes. If you are reading this from the MOE and want to comment then by all means do so and thereby add to the debate. Or even better go and comment on Greg's blog, cause a whole lot more people read that.
Tell me one good reason why we should be comparing schools in the manner that league tables will. I want to know two significant things when it comes to achievement data. I want to know where the child is at when they arrive (either to me as a teacher or to us as a school) and I want to know have I made a difference. (yeah yeah, I do want to know other things like next steps for learning and all that other stuff but basically I want to know am I making a difference). If I'm not helping the child improve in reading then I need to know that. If we as a school are not helping the children move numeracy stages then we need to know that, so we can do something about it. Who benefits from a league table comparison of our school to the one down the road? Or the one at the other end of the country? The argument that the MOE need this data to judge whether schools are failing just doesn't wash. They have ERO for that. If we have national standards and compulsory reporting of these will we no longer need ERO reviews?
The negative effects of league tables far outweigh any benefits.
Now don't misunderstand me. I'm not actually against plain language reporting to parents nor am I against having a standard to make comparisons against. Exemplars can be a really useful tool to use with the children to show them how their writing could be improved. As a parent I want to know whether my child is doing ok? As well as expected? Are they a genius (having inherited their mother's genes) or do they desperately need some more help. I want to know all this and it is quite reasonable to expect that we should be giving that information to parents in simple language they can understand. Learning stories are great (we use them a lot at our school and love them) but not really helpful if at the end of it I still have to ask "So are they doing ok?"
A big bug bear I have about this whole process is the sham that has been called consultation. If this is really important would it not have been significantly more productive to work with teachers and principals and get the sort of input and consultation that has happened with the new curriculum. I was offended to read in the paper in the first weekend of the school holidays an "announcement" from the ministry about new reporting formats that we will have to adopt for 2010??? Come on people. This is really unreasonable. Now perhaps this is just media hype and actually the MOE are not going to ask us at the end of October to have new reporting formats and documents for 2010. But hey! We live in interesting times.