In the media this week, Kirsty Johnston investigative reporter at the New Zealand Herald, published an article titled ‘Primary schools in NZ: Is the $250m policy working?’ The article draws attention to the significant amount of money that has been injected into National Standards since their introduction in 2010 and provides the reader with an opportunity to make their own judgement around the governments return on investment.
For the record, I hold a neutral view on National Standards. I share the opinion offered by Professor McNaughton within Johnston’s article which states “They enable us to have a collective wisdom about where we think children should be” but also believe that this wisdom alone does not lead to collective change in the achievement levels of all students.
So how successful has the Governments’ investment into the National Standard policy been?
NZEI president, Louise Green, highlights an ongoing concern of primary teachers by stating “Measuring does not raise achievement. What happens in classes raises achievement”. From personal experience, quality New Zealand schools have always made judgements about the achievement of their students. They have always targeted the individual needs of its learners and made provisions to ensure that each child is achieving to the best of their abilities.
Sadly, the narrowed focus of many school’s curriculum since the introduction of National Standards, along with the consistently overlooked factors of poverty and equity have done little to improve the status quo. Worse still, quality schools with effective and robust systems to monitor student achievement and welfare are now being penalised by the Ministry of Education through their Education Review Office who are judging the effectiveness of a school by achievement outcomes alone.
Education Minister Hekia Parata believes that the small increases in achievement (see above) since the inception of the National Standards in 2010 “will grow larger over time as they are bedded in”. Let’s hope so, for the shifts within the overall data alone indicate that the $250m has had little to no impact on solving the overall achievement of the students in New Zealand schools let alone those students within the every growing tail of underachievement.