With so much being written about and an incredible amount of opinion being spouted forward on the topic on national standards it is sometimes far too easy to forget the key points of this professional debate. As much and the union and the government would like it to be black and white like most, (but not all) things in life it is quite grey.
Alongside the return to school we have had a flurry of opinion, usually ill-informed on this topic. In my humble opinion three of the best considered views on standards come from those listed below.
The first is a edited video clip from TVNZ's Q & A programme on Sunday mornings. Dr Therese Arseneau, political scientist from Canterbury University sums ups very well where things are at.
Then this morning from Russell Brown's Hard News blog comes this very good piece, taking a very balanced view and actually backing his statements with evidence, imagine that. In the opening paragraphs he takes aim at the lead story in the NZ Herald and rightly so. He makes this comment about the so called poll the Herald conducted, given that parents want standards but very very few understand them,
But 88% of the self-selected Herald readers surveyed by Nielsen on the forthcoming national education standards were decent enough to admit that they didn't fully understand what they were commenting on. Given that the idea of standards is, in part, to provide clarity to parents, the fact that they apparently do not understand the system should arguably be the real lead in the story.
Russell then goes on to quote a report provided to our own Ministry by Ian Schagen who was right in the middle of the Bristish system and its development. I thought I was reasonably well read on National Standards, however this one I missed. Russell submits this quote,
I suppose it would be impossible to prevent the media publishing league tables in order to sell papers, but it is important that the government and Ministry has no truck with them. The Minister needs to have a severe word with anyone publishing league tables and tell them firmly that they are harming New Zealand education.As soon as the assessment judgements underpinning the use of National Standards become high-stakes for schools, we are going to compromise the real value of formative assessment for improving teaching and learning for individual students.
And then from a political perspective, someone's whose comment I respect is John Armstrong writing for the NZ Herald. Identified on the NZ Listener's 2009 power list for the influence he seems to have with our politicians, shared these thoughts last week.
It is an interesting view from a politically speaking. Two quotes I liked.
It's going well. Swimmingly so, according to the Prime Minister. Well, things aren't going well.
If everything was going tickety-boo when it came to implementing the new regime to measure primary school pupils' progress in learning basic literacy and numeracy skills, why did Key feel it necessary to intervene and call a special press conference to launch a propaganda offensive to counter the "misinformation" that teachers and the education unions are supposedly spreading?
If you are looking for a positive in all this, At least the country is debating one of the most important aspects of a civilized democratic society, education!