28 Sep 2012

Standards data too inaccurate to compare - principals

8:05 pm on 28 September 2012

School principals have hit back at the Government's assertion that parents can use national standards figures published today to help them choose schools for their children.

The Ministry of Education published results on Friday showing how nearly every school in the country teaching five to 13-year-olds rated against the benchmarks in reading, writing and maths last year.

Education Minister Hekia Parata says only 186 schools' results are missing.

She expects parents will use the information to compare schools.

But principals say the figures are too inaccurate for that.

They say comparisons will inflate the importance of the standards and prompt schools to narrow their curriculum in order to improve their results.

An education professor at the University of Waikato, Martin Thrupp, says a responsible government would not have published the information, because there is little consistency between schools' use of the standards.

Professor Thrupp says the results will not become more accurate, because schools will subvert the system in order to look as good as possible.

Ms Parata says the publication of statistics from nearly 2000 schools is a significant milestone in the development of the standards in reading, writing and maths.

The information is on an Education Ministry website, Education Counts. Readers can view PDF files showing how individual schools performed against the new benchmarks in 2011.

The results come with a warning that they should be considered in conjunction with other information.

"What national standards data provides is an insight to the achievement of the school. So it will allow parents to just have a broader range of information upon which to make their choice about which school, Ms Parata says.

"But it will also, having made the choice, facilitate a greater engagement by them in their child's learning."

School groups say the results are not yet consistent and should not have been made public, but Ms Parata says the Government had to start somewhere.

News media have already published the results of more than 1000 schools. But the ministry says its figures cover nearly all the 2087 schools with children in Years 1 to 8, meaning the results of almost every primary and intermediate school in New Zealand are available for scrutiny.