Do National Standards improve learning?
Published on Sunday, 1 December 2013, 3:32 p.m.   Print Article

Another survey has come out questioning the value of National Standards.

In the latest figures out today, 80 per cent of teachers surveyed by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) said the policy had not made a big difference to student achievement. Education Minister Hekia Parata herself acknowledged students' achievement was stagnating, and she was braced for new international rankings to reflect that. In a speech to the Iwi Chairs Forum, she said the Government was bracing for a drop in achievement rankings when OECD figures were released next week. She said that drop will be made to look worse compared with Asian countries, which were lifting their game.

But Parata denied New Zealand only looked like it was struggling because of their success.

The NZCER figures also showed that only 7 per cent of principals and 15 per cent of teachers agreed the standards were robust. This comes after research released yesterday from Waikato University showed the Government's National Standards programme was doing more harm than good. Commissioned by teachers union the New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI), the three-year study looked at the rollout of the policy in six primary and intermediate schools.

It found there had been "some favourable impacts" including teachers having a greater understanding of curriculum levels, it had lifted the motivation of both teachers and children, and also interventions were much more targeted to children who needed it.

"Nevertheless such gains are overshadowed by damage being done  through the intensification of staff workloads, curriculum narrowing and the reinforcement of a two-tier curriculum, the positioning and labelling of children and unproductive new tensions amongst school staff," the report said.

Parata dismissed the data as biased.

"First of all, it's a three-year study of six schools only, [and] it's paid for by the NZEI, who have a public position of opposing National Standards. "So it's hardly unbiased and balanced research, and its sample is extremely small."

She said there were many "more authoritative" studies that showed National Standards had lifted achievement and targeted areas of slow learning.

"We've got really high congruence between both national and international reports, and the individual National Standards reports tell us consistently we've have challenges particularly in maths and science, particularly at years seven and eight, and that we have a bit of a hole at years nine and 10."  

Yesterday Parata announced $31 million in extra funding to lift Maori achievement in secondary schools. The new Building on Success programme would extend progress made on existing Maori achievement programmes. To be funded over the next three years, Parata said it would roll together the best aspects from programmes such as Te Kotahitanga, He Kakano and Starpath, and also integrate literacy and numeracy programmes.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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