School principals have given the thumbs down to a suggestion by Prime Minister John Key that the Ministry of Education should compile league tables comparing student performance.
Mr Key said that schools are already required to submit data on student performance in reading, writing and maths to the ministry as part of their obligations under National Standards.
But principals spoken to by the Petone Herald say league tables are a bad idea and there is already plenty of information out there for parents.
“You can’t use numbers to represent the quality of a school,” says Andrew Bird from Muritai School. “League tables produce anxiety among parents and teachers. But they don’t improve learning outcomes for children. League tables are like repainting your house at least once a year. You’re dressing it up but not necessarily making it better.”
Mr Bird agrees that parents are entitled to information on which to base decisions on which schools to send their children. “If parents are selecting schools they should visit schools, meet the principals and talk to the teachers. And if they want information on how their children are doing, most parents find face-to-face interviews with teachers the best way to get it.”
Mr Bird says Education Review Office reports on schools are available online and provide data that parents can use to compare schools.
Wilford School principal Neil Sargison says league tables can never show progress or the difference that teachers make to the achievement of their students. “Some students will never reach national standards. But they could be making real progress every year. But that won’t be reflected in league tables.”
He says league tables could lead to a narrowing of the curriculum. “There is much more to learning than reading, writing and maths. But league tables won’t measure sporting, artistic or cultural achievement, or scientific knowledge or thinking skills.”
Carmen Jennings for Discovery School says there are plenty of sources of information for parents. “There are ERO reports and there are children’s own reports. Parents should ask them how happy they are school and what opportunities they’re getting.”
Ms Jennings says it will be a real shame for New Zealand education if league tables are introduced. “We work hard to develope the whole child – academically, physically and culturally. League tables will force schools to narrow the curriculum.”
Raroa Intermediate principal Kevin Ryan says while decisions on where parents send their children are important and should not be based on a few figures that measure only part of the educational process. “A school is more than its results on a narrow range of tests. League tables don’t tell you whether a school has a caring environment or fosters or sport.
“When parents are looking at a school they should go in and see it in action. They should talk to the relevant people and see and read the ERO report.”
Aotea College principal Kate Gainsford says data on NZCEA achievement in secondary schools has been available for years and has often been published. “There’s a huge amount of data out there. The way it is manipulated is critical.”
Ms Gainsford says legislation already sets requirements for schools when reporting to parents.
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