Saturday 9 June 2012

Education - where we sit internationally...

From the NZ Teachers Council:
"New Zealand parents should be assured that our education system is high performing", according to Dr Peter Lind, the Director of the Teachers Council.
The latest OECD Report (2012): OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education: New Zealand has confirmed this view.
Emeritus Professor Warwick Elley was reported recently as saying, "the reason it should provide us assurance is because the authors of this report are top experts from other OECD countries... Using a set of rich data, they are able to provide an independent, comparative perspective and are ideally placed to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the New Zealandeducation system".
This view is confirmed by our rankings on The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). It is a worldwide study by the OECD of 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading. New Zealand consistently scores in the top half dozen OECD countries, even though, according to the evidence gathered by the OECD, we spend far less per student than nearly all of the other 34 OECD nations.
 The great majority of our students are repeatedly up with the best in the world. In the latest survey, New Zealand students were ranked fourth in reading literacy, fourth in scientific literacy and seventh in mathematical literacy.
"It is not easy to maintain these rankings andNew Zealand has consistently maintained its overall ranking on these measures since they were first introduced in 2000," said Dr Lind.
Three examples illustrate the significance ofNew Zealand's achievement. Australia has recorded a significant decline since 2000 on all the skills measured. England has slipped from seventh in 2000 to 25th in reading, eighth to 28th in maths and fourth to 16th in science. TheUnited States only rates around the average of all OECD countries.
"This reflects very favourably on the quality ofNew Zealand teachers."
However, it is true that the latest PISA survey still shows a wide dispersion of scores amongNew Zealand students.
"Lifting the performance of those New Zealandstudents that are underachieving must be a priority for our education system, but without allowing the slippage in our overall rankings as has recently occurred in Australia.
"To achieve this requires a strong commitment from the teaching profession and the Government in partnership. There are no silver bullets and a focus on a single variable will not achieve the goal intended. It will require dialogue and detailed consideration of any initiatives proposed," said Dr Lind.
I have nothing to add really... 
We can. We are. We do.

Thursday 7 June 2012

Performance Pay for teachers

I want to post a thought (or 3) on this one. It is a result of a comment made on air (source unknown) where it was suggested that the national standards would be a good way to measure teachers' performance. (Please remember the National Standards were NOT developed with the full involvement of teacher professionals and were NOT trialled to see if they were any good or would even be successful.)

So, here's an hypothetical situation...

Teacher A has 20 11 year old students who have good literacy skills. In fact they all have a reading age of 11 years when they hit his classroom. Let's assume for the sake of this argument the national standards require all these children to be reading at 12 years by the end of the year in which they turn 12. Not unreasonable?
Teacher A works hard and moves all his charges on by that year of growth and all achieve the standard by the end of year.

(Stay with me here...)

Teacher B also has 20 11 year old students, but these children have a poor background in literacy and have reading ages ranging from 7 to 9. Teacher B works just as hard with these children and manages to get them ALL up to an 11 year reading age. Some have improved their literacy scores by the equivalent of 4 years over the 12 months!

However the standard says they should all be reading at 12 years. Teacher B has, therefore, failed.
Performance pay goes to Teacher A as his students have all reached the standard.

I know, it's simplistic, but it is another example of why performance pay needs to be treated with extreme care. I mentioned yesterday the experiences students come into the classroom with - some have wider, more developmental experiences than others. No matter how 'good' a teacher is, you cannot guarantee the same can of baked beans at the end of the process.

Many of the public are not aware that we ALREADY HAVE excellent, robust appraisal systems in place. (The government doesn't want you to know this... spread the word!) Registered Teacher Criteria have been 'upgraded'.

Good teachers are right there in front of your children every day. Ms Parata wants you to believe every teacher a child works with should be remembered, as adults, as a great teacher. They probably already are, but I respected and liked teachers in different ways. Some made learning easier, some 'taught' well, some made contact on a level that can't be easily described, helping me grow and guiding me as I grew, others inspired me in their subjects through their own passion.

It doesn't mean they didn't perform because I didn't get a pass in Latin. Maybe the teacher was great - and I was just c**p at Latin?

Tread carefully on performance pay. Yes, we all want great teachers.
But consider this... are they already there?

Here's a thought...

"This a shoot first and ask questions later government." I like that quote.
Here's an idea Ms Parata. Treat our country's professional educationalists as just that - professionals. Actually consult with us BEFORE making decisions that affect the education of all New Zealand's youth. We can contribute more than you want the public to believe.
Then you can make informed decisions based on what's best for education, not what's best for party politics.

Just a thought...

This post is a result of reading the following online link:

Education in New Zealand. A few thoughts.

Can our Prime Minister explain why he supported an increase in class sizes in state schools (where the vast majority of NZ children attend school) when he is on record as saying that he would send his own children to a private school because they have smaller class sizes and are better resourced than state schools?

Also, why are these "well resourced" private schools given additional state funding by our government - money that could be saved without detriment to our state schools?

Unfortunately education in New Zealand has become a political football. We are in the top group of OECD countries for our education system and yet politicians, particularly around election time, keep telling us we are failing our children, our teachers aren't up to the job and, if we will only vote them in, they will fix everything.

Much has also been made of the fact that 1 in 5 children are 'failing' (sorry, I really don't know the source of that statistic - I only know it is quoted just about every day at the moment by just about every politician I hear speaking about our schools)

FACT: We have a very good education system
FACT: No education system will ever get 100% success

This is not because we have poor teachers although the politicians would love to make you think this is the case.
Each student is an individual. They have their own strengths and abilities. They come to school with different backgrounds and skills and experiences. We cannot produce identical cans of baked beans from different raw materials.

We CAN help each student to be the best they can.
We can. We are. We do.

Last thought... I honestly have yet to meet even ONE person who is critical of teachers (you know the comments - good pay, 9 to 3 work hours, awesome holidays) who would actually do the job.
They don't want a bar of it.

"Those who can, teach. Those who can't pretend to be experts in education and try to tell the teachers how to do their job."

At a politician's whim...

The NZ Government has reversed an appalling decision to increase class sizes as a money saving idea in the latest budget. What bugs me is why we have to kick up such a fuss to get politicians to do the right thing. They should be doing it anyway. This U-turn is not an educational one, sadly. It is a political decision. Our children's futures are being decided based on the ambitions of a group of politicians. (That's my rant for today!)