National Standards

National Standards aim to lift achievement in literacy and numeracy (reading, writing, and mathematics) by being clear about what students should achieve and by when.

This will help students; their teachers and parents, families and whānau better understand what they are aiming for and what they need to do next.

(NZ Ministry of Education)

Whatever your position on national standards it is difficult to disagree with the tenor of the quote at the top of this post – it’s the implementation of processes to meet this aspiration that will cause debate.

I unfortunately missed being able to attend the meeting in CHCH earlier this week when the MoE consultation roadshow came to town to inform local teachers and principals about their plans for introduction national standards. From what I’ve heard in conversations, through the Twitter community and in phone calls and skype sessions I rather wish I’d been able to attend.

Consult: to deliberate together, to ask the advice or opinion of
(source: Merriam-Webster dictionary)

interesting when I Googled the word Consult, and when I went to the dictionary definition, advertised links appeared on both pages for the TeamUp page inviting parents to have their say on national standards. Kudos to whoever it is in the MoE that has strategically positioned these ads in these places – I hope they’re successful in drawing out helpful responses.

Consultation is an oft-used idea whose meaning has unfortunately shifted in many circles to become synonymous with “tell”, “brief”, “explain”. So it was of little surprise I read tonight in the Education Week an article titled Subject-Matter Groups Want Voice in Standards that draws attention to the response of various teacher representative groups from across the US to the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

I see many similarities to what we’re currently going through here in NZ – I’m arguing here not for or against national standards, but for a more determined and inclusive approach to the process of consultation to ensure that what we end up doing is informed by the wisdom, experience and thinking of as many people as possible. You can see some of that debate emerging already in the Education Leaders forum.

A comment in the report by Kent Williamson, the executive director of the National Council of Teachers of English, stood out to me. Williamson states his general support for the introduction of national standards, but is emphatic about the need for consultation with the profession. He says;

“… one lesson from that era was that “top-down reform doesn’t work” in drafting standards. Without the involvement of professional organizations, he said, teachers might come to regard the Common Core process with the same level of mistrust with which many view the federal No Child Left Behind Act.”

I agree.

8 thoughts on “National Standards

  1. Our meeting is on Monday next week. I get to go and hear from the horse’s mouth. I can see the whole thing fraught with chasms of deep despair! I hope I am wrong.

  2. to say that we didn’t know what students should achieve and by when, before standards were introduced is a bloody insult. I am very clear about where kids need to be- thats our job. so if we already know what a high standard is how does that lift achievement in Numeracy and Literacy? The only way it can lift is if we concentrate on Numeracy and Literacy, flag away the other stuff and go hard introducing numeracy and literacy hours……. scarely this might happen. so you are right derek its the implementation. sadly principals want glory, they will chase the “best school achievement tag” the private school guys will start first.
    I can see falsifying data, absent students, and test teaching.

    so in theory I am disagreeing with the first statement from the MOE. because the implementation will kill the theory.
    I am very keen on creativity and i wont concede to be test driven sadly others will at their peril.


  3. Kia ora e Derek!

    Welcome to the ‘consultative process’.

    It has been around since the 90s as far as I can stretch my recollection.

    It has been used by governments in gathering opinion from their people by referenda.

    It has been used by city councils in gathering the opinion of rate-payers by questionnaires.

    It has been used in corporate organisations, and similar, in gathering staff opinion.

    It has even been used by some schools when gathering opinion form the so-called stakeholders.

    I have always translated the ‘consultative process’ to mean something that says, “let’s give them the opportunity to express their opinion – that’ll keep them quiet while we can then go about doing what we planned to do in the first place.” Sometimes I wonder if there was a plan at the time the ‘consultative process’ was entered. As Ashleigh Brilliant says, “One possible reason why things aren’t going according to plan is that there never was a plan.”

    Sorry for appearing cynical. I think it’s being realistic.

    Catchya later
    from Middle-earth

  4. Thanks for posting the link to the NZEI site Stephanie – really encouraging to see the use of a social networking site to encourage participation in this debate!

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