13 Dec 2016

Teachers still doubt national standards

9:15 pm on 13 December 2016

Most teachers do not support the national standards in reading, writing and maths, a report has found.

School class learning generic

It has been seven years since national standards were introduced, yet many teachers and principals still do not support them or feel confident using them, a survey has found. Photo: 123RF

The Council for Educational Research report, "National Standards in their Seventh Year", was based on survey responses from 200 principals and 771 teachers earlier this year.

Of the principals surveyed 44 percent supported the standards, 37 percent did not and the remaining 18 percent were unsure or had no view.

Among teachers, about 35 percent supported the standards and 41 percent did not.

A high 69 percent of the teachers said they narrowed what they taught because of the standards, while 83 percent said they were under pressure to accelerate children to the next level of achievement.

Report author Linda Bonne said teachers and principals were still worried about aspects of the standards, such as labelling children who performed below a certain standard.

"There hasn't been a lot of change in the responses in this survey compared to 2013 around the labelling of students."

Teachers were particularly worried for students with additional learning needs, she said.

"They are being labelled as performing well below national standards or below national standards. Teachers are noticing more this year that, for some students, there is a negative effect on their performance. They're concerned about student anxiety more than they were in 2013."

Dr Bonne said teachers said they would prefer to focus on students' progress rather than their level of achievement against the standards.

She said a significant proportion of teachers wanted more guidance and training in how to use the standards.

Educational Institute president Louise Green said the survey showed the standards were not working and should be abandoned.

"It's seven years on and there's still a really significant lack of confidence in national standards."

She noted principals' confidence in the standards as a record of student learning had fallen from 37 percent to 23 percent.

Ms Green said if the standards were useful, teachers and principals would have figured it out by now.

"If they were working, then people would take that on board," she said.

"People are saying that they don't give us a valuable picture of children's learning, they've narrowed the curriculum and there are some real issues around that especially for motivating kids and having learning that's really relevant for kids."

Education Ministry head of early learning and student achievement Karl Le Quesne said the report showed the standards were working as intended.

"It finds that national standards are being used to set goals for teaching and learning, are contributing to more focus on lifting the achievement of students who are below the standard and that more parents are finding them a valuable record of their children's learning," he said.

Mr Le Quesne said the 44 percent of principals who supported the standards in principle was up from 38 percent in the last survey. The ministry expected that trend to continue.

He said the ministry's evidence suggested the standards had a positive impact on student achievement and learning and got extra resources to students who most needed additional help.

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