You might have seen or heard adverts in recent days urging people to nominate themselves to run for their local school boards.

So it’s kind of unfortunate timing-wise that a major battle is underway between the professional educational establishment and the National-led Government on the issue of national educational standards, as championed by John Key and Education Minister Anne Tolley.

Minister Tolley threatens to sack school boards if they don’t comply with the standards. That’s hardy an inducement for parents to stick their necks on the line by becoming elected officials!

Personally, I don’t think this is an easy issue. I’ve written an article in the current BayBuzz Digest, National Standards: Pass or Fail?, expressing one point of view.

Our regular columnist Mark Sweet has argued a different position in his article, National Standards: A Dangerous Thing.

I hope you’ll take a look at both … and weigh in. Then go nominate yourself for your local school board. Put your convictions to work!

Tom Belford

P.S. You can read the entire March BayBuzz Digest here. And speaking of standards, have you taken our two-question poll on the Higgins donation to the sports park?

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  1. As a recently subscribed member, your Bay-Buzz articles really interest me. To find an investigative reporter is most encouraging in this now "Nanny State" we are slowly climbing out from. Each day I look forward to your articles. I rank you up with the realms of Ian Wishart, And really enjoy your exposes on the demi-gods of the district. I am old fashioned in my beliefs and do not condone bribery and backhanders at all. Certainly the old adage of "Power Corrupts" is true. Keep up the good work, and I trust I will not be called upon to buy bananas, if you overstep and get locked up!

  2. I'd like to correct a small piece of 'misinformation' in the article by Mark Sweet – National Standards are not tests. They are actually benchmarks, against which the results of teachers' assessments of student's achievements and progress (carried out as they always are) will be measured.

  3. The danger of arbitrary and prescriptive standards is that they chart the 'desired' route for academic development. Route maps make the trip easy, predictable and ensure that the end point fits the designers expectations. They don’t ensure healthy development and are the tools of ‘the nanny state’.

    If Einstein and Churchill had attended schools that adhered to National Standard reporting they would have been placed in special remedial programmes. They suggest that learning and intellectual development is not linear.

    We know so little about cognitive development that it is dangerous to be too certain about how learning happens. Cook, Columbus, Kupe and Toi successfully created their own maps being prepared to turn left or right when the blueprint told them to go straight ahead.

    If our schools are to meet our needs they need as much data about learning as possible. Teachers need support in interpreting the information so that they, their students and the student's family can ensure that the student is making cognitive progress.

  4. Mark Cleary is "spot on" in his interperation of National Stardards.

    From a Napier perspective,with our former deputy mayor of Napier, Anne Tolley, now Minister of Education ,Anne was always consciientious, and pleasant, and honest, but never walked in the bare feet of the kids from Maraenui.

    For this reason alone, Anne Tolley perhaps would be better placed as a back up for Corrections Minister, Hon,"Crusher" Collins,and give her Education Portfolio to the Hon Peter Sharples..,?

  5. Oh Mark … 'the tools of the nanny state'; could be readily reduced by making political agenda not offait in schools, as per the UK. Why educators do not see themselves as capable of producing a consistent product (i.e. national standard) is quite beyond my ken … for if teachers cannot teach basic numeracy and literacy skills without attributing their inacapabilities to family/socioeconomic characteristics, then there is something amiss.

    If you do not have a basic grasp of skills and history (previous knowledge) then how can you think laterally, how can you creditably problem solve?

    Cognitions, metacognitions and meta meta cognitions are the words of those attributing causation to the nebulus … as is such an intangible notion as 'cognitive progress.'

    Being good at one's vocation, sport, or indeed academic skill is to do with practice … when practice was dispensed with, replaced with rule (whole language and numpties), skill proficiency was lost.

    It is well and truly time for accountablity albeit the current propositions are by no means sufficiently absolute nor unambivalent … they should have gone further.

  6. I read with interest the article written by Mark Sweet: 'National Standards: A Dangerous Thing'.

    I noted the author's statement that, 'National Standards are tests in writing, reading and mathematics.' He goes on to say, "Years 1 to 8 children will twice yearly sit the same basic assessment tests, set to the 'standard.'"

    This implies that children will be sitting pencil and paper tests.

    This is simply not true.

    The Ministry of Education's website, FAQ, under the heading 'Will there be one test?' responds, 'No. Teachers use many different ways to work out where each child is at-including watching them in the classroom, talking with them about their learning, children's assessment of their and each other's work and using formal tests.'

    Under the paragraph heading above this: How does the teacher work out where you child is at?, the first sentence states: Teachers will use a range of assessments to make an overall teacher judgment to work out where each child is at, what their next learning steps are and to set goals.'

    Perhaps the paragraph in your March 2010 publication,under the heading, 'What are National Standards?', should have been published under the heading in the next column, 'Misinformation.'

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