Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Latest Learning Matters

Right now there is a large debate going on in education circles, especially in the primary sector, around the National Government’s policy of introducing national standards at each year level up to and including Year 8.

There is a huge amount of overseas experience, notably in the US and the UK, which shows such a policy has a negative rather than positive impact on student achievement so it is being treated with caution and, in some cases, hostility in the primary sector.

The Minister of Education claims that what is being introduced in New Zealand is quite different and has been developed fully aware of the faults in overseas models. She may well be right as New Zealand has a record of leading the way in educational practice.

Primary teachers are worried that they will be forced to ‘teach to the test’ and that the inevitable publication of league tables will show some schools, typically those in lower decile areas, are falling quite short of the national standard.

Good or bad; welcome to the world of the secondary sector. We have been operating in such an environment for ever with the national standard determined by School Certificate and now by NCEA and the publication every year of league tables.

One of the arguments against pay equity between the primary and secondary sectors is the lack of any external accountability for student achievement in the primary sector, something which secondary schools are faced with and fall or stand against every single year.

I don’t think I like the new policy but I will wait and see.

My advice to colleagues in low decile area primary schools in New Zealand is to take the opportunity to throw off the yoke of low decileness and show the Minister and your community that this does not limit achievement opportunities for your children. There are plenty of places where this happens.

Once again, decile 1 Opotiki College students have done impressively well in NCEA from 2009. With 83% of non-Maori gaining Level 1, 75% gaining Level 2 and 77% gaining Level 3 and with 62% of Maori gaining Level 1, 83% gaining Level 2 and 68% gaining Level 3 our students have done our school and community proud. In all but one of the groups above this puts us at or above the average level of achievement for deciles 8-10 schools (the highest grouping) and in the other we are above the average for decile 4-7 schools.

These figures are not a figment of my imagination and will soon be available to the public on the NZQA website.

The primary schools in Opotiki are doing a great job and despite their best efforts our Year 9 students do arrive well below the national average for their age group. This is normally the case in a low-decile community.

A combination of innovative programmes, committed staff, supportive parents, great resources and a ‘never give up’ attitude help our students to achieve these great results. The most important thing, however, is that we have learned to ignore our decile ranking and to operate in a way that shows we expect all of our kids will achieve national qualifications. This is the learning that matters.

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Fixed Assets, Depreciation
Intangible assets
Current liability
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Long-term liability
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