It’s mid-year reporting time: here that means pupil, parent and teacher sitting down to discuss progress to date (the pupil’s); and what needs to happen next to ensure further progress (also the pupil’s). Added to the interview this year has been the requirement to provide a written, plain-English report too. So far so good.
Each written report takes one to two hours to write; it varies slightly from teacher to teacher and child to child. One of the challenges has been minimising the jargon and converting everything into to “plain English”. While some technical terms can easily written in straightforward language or explained by way of giving an example; others can provide a real challenge.
Sometimes, a simple explanation effectively over-simplifies a situation; sometimes only technical terms accurately describe an issue. For example, if you go to the doctor complaining of a burning sensation in the centre of your chest, you want a better explanation than, “You’ve probably got hot stuff that’s upsetting the place where your tummy joins on to your throat.” You need to know that your doctor knows whether or not it’s indigestion, reflux, or a heart attack!
More importantly, you need to know that your doctor has some ideas about what to do next to help remedy the situation. The whole point of going to the doctor in the first place is to have a two-way conversation about what the problem is; and what the next step in the treatment is likely to be. You and your doctor expect to use and understand some of the more common medical terms as part of that conversation. The explanation may turn out to be that you’ve got some inflammation in your duodenum and that to help manage that, you will need to take prescribed medication at the earliest onset of pain.
Certainly, if it’s your child who is the patient; as the parent, you very much expect to be a large part of the conversation with your doctor; resulting in your child, you, and the doctor each leaving the appointment knowing what the problem is and what needs to be done next to improve the current situation.
Mid-year school interviews are no different. The diagnosis is about your child’s educational health; the treatment prescribing what the child, teacher, and you will need to do next, to support continued and improved educational health (progress).
Just as you need to discuss with your doctor the results of any lab tests your doctor may sent your child for: to get real benefit and understanding from your child’s mid-year report results, you need to have a conversation with your child’s teacher. Thank you to all parents who made the time and effort to come to the mid-year check up – your child, your child’s teacher, and you should all now have a clearer understanding of what’s going on than had been the case if you simply relied on the reports – in plain English or not.
Thank you Waverley Park parents: more than 82% of Waverley Park kids get to benefit because you booked interview times and had conversations about their education; an excellent prognosis.
“Education Minister Anne Tolley said no other country had National Standards like New Zealand’s. “This is a world-leading initiative and many countries are watching with interest,” she said yesterday.”
So the Minister was quoted in responding to Thursday’s article (Southland Times 27/05/10) regarding our opposition to national standards.
The first point may well be valid. However, as is the case with the supposed effectiveness of the standards themselves; it maybe that there is no hard evidence to support that contention.
The second point may be accurate too. Human nature being what it is; morbid fascination is what keeps people watching a train wreck.
Mrs Tolley is also reported as saying that “the standards had been developed by experts, and allowed teachers to assess students and make a professional judgement about progress using a variety of tools.”
Aside from the fact that teachers have long been assessing students and making professional judgements about progress using a variety of tools; the implication that the standards have gone through a development process is somewhat misleading.
The national standards have undergone none of the extensive researched and collaboratively development that has made the New Zealand Curriculum a real “world-leading initiative (that) many countries are watching with interest.”
National standards have been determined by ‘backward mapping’ from NCEA Level 2 (equivalent to the old University Entrance); underpinning the admittedly admirable aspirational goal of having every student attain it.
Two realities: try ‘backward mapping’ your tax return from the size of the refund you want, and; qualifying times for the Commonwealth Games team are also ‘aspirational goals’. Is it realistic to expect every athlete in the country to meet them? If not – is it any more reasonable to expect every six-year-old in the country to reach national’s (arbitrarily determined qualifying) standards?
Many principals are opposed to the idea of labelling students as failures – there are very few other euphemisms for “well-below standard” – but very few would opposed to the concepts of standards of achievement, or plain-language reporting. Despite the ‘spin’ to the contrary, New Zealand’s ongoing development of; and monitoring and reported against; expected levels of achievement relative to students’ age and stage have long been part of New Zealand’s educational fabric. To claim otherwise is simply disingenuous.
The first two bullet points in Section 1 of The New Zealand Teachers Code of Ethics read:
“Teachers will strive to:
a) develop and maintain professional relationships with learners based upon the best interests of those learners,
b) base their professional practice on continuous professional learning, the best knowledge available about curriculum content and pedagogy, together with their knowledge about those they teach,”
The implementation of national standards demands that teachers and principals overlook the meaning and intention of both statements because:
a) the “best knowledge available” verifies that wherever they have been tried, national standards regimes have failed students and their communities; b) “the best interests of…learners” are not served by committing every single one of them to an untried and untested regime.
Sheer logic alone dictates that if “no other country (has) National Standards like New Zealand’s”; then New Zealand has absolutely no way of knowing that New Zealand’s approach will work. Would the populace be as willing to commit all primary school-aged students to a national health initiative when there was no research to support it? The subsequent ramifications would be just as life-long.
Opposition to the National Standards is supported by the research data; the support for them is not.