An initial flurry of attention by commentators and politicians quickly waned as it became obvious that all the data had to show was a form of poverty porn: decile 10 schools rate well, and “performance” falls in corresponding steps down the ratings.
However, according to Fairfax, “There is very big public appetite for this information”, although neither it nor the Ministry of Education would release its current website traffic figures.
The Fairfax Group Digital Editor Sinead Boucher replied to questions from EA saying, “It staggers me that there are those who think it is more socially responsible to withhold this kind of information from the public, as if they were children not able to make balanced judgements.”
This was despite the data being remarkably inaccurate: an open letter sighed by 100 prominent educationalists, including Warwick Elley, Lester Flockton, Richard Harker, Helen May and Linda Mitchell stated: “The data is so clearly unsuitable for the purpose of comparing school performance that to purport to do so would be dishonest and irresponsible.”
Sinead’s Boucher response was, “We have consistently reported that the data is based on self-assessment and should not be taken as the final picture of a school’s Performance”” although this information is not repeated on the site’s search-and-rank pages and “self-assessment” seems a remarkable understatement.

Derided

One large suburban intermediate claimed 80 percent of its students were “above” the standards something its neighbouring schools privately derided as impossible.
Some schools excluded data from special needs students, while others with high numbers of ESOL students were up against schools in the same decile with far fewer ESOL students. (The Fairfax site doesn’t separate out ESOL or special needs students, and nor does it include “fundraising and donations” in its funding figure” giving the mistaken impression that high decile schools do better with less money (http://tiny.cc/6notow).
Other schools discovered they “had been assessing students too conservatively¦ and there could be a temptation to mark˜easy’ to improve public perception, but this has not been the approach of our staff,” as one Wellington inner-city BoT chair put it.

PaCT

At the same time, the Ministry of Education is pushing ahead with its Progress and Consistency Tool, to be will be trialled early next year and rolled out in 2014.
From 2015, teachers will have to use it to assess students against National Standards and to record their data. It has the potential to be used to implement performance pay and “incentives” for school funding.
Award-winning economist Brian Easton told EA, “‘People who are given wrong signals to operate on will make bad decisions.”
He says that one effect of the league tables might be to close down “high productivity” schools, which take in students from an educationally deprived background and give them a lot of attainment, while encouraging “low productivity” schools which take in the easy-to-teach students and don’t do a lot for them.

A devilish PaCT

  • International experience suggests league tables will lead to:
  • Teaching to the test
  • A narrowed curriculum
  • Valuing of some students over others for an ability to perform and conform
  • Prioritisation of teaching and support to students who can reach the standard, at the expense of those who are “well below” or “above”
  • Increased student anxiety
  • Disengaged learners who perceive themselves as “failures”
  • Declining student achievement levels