League Tables

Poms don’t mind league tables

Poms are loving the transparency that published league tables bring:

League tables showing Key Stage 2 test results for 11-year-olds at nearly 16,000 primary schools around England were published today by the Department for Education.

Pupils in their final year of primary school are assessed in English and maths, and are expected to reach a Level 4 standard in both. Attaining this level indicates that they can spell properly, start to use grammatically complex sentences and employ joined up handwriting in English, and are able to multiply and divide whole numbers by 10 or 100 and use simple fractions and percentages in maths.

The tables published in tomorrow’s Daily Telegraph newspaper will rank primary schools according to the amount of pupils attaining Level 4 or higher – schools are expected to ensure 60 per cent of pupils achieve this standard in both English and maths.

But our unique online infographic (above) allow users to search interactively for specific schools across the country, and compare them according to a far wider range of criteria.

Users can begin searching by school name or postcode via the search box, or alternatively browse schools by region (Local Education Authority) by clicking on the map of England above.Schools may then be compared by size, percentage of students achieving Level 4 or higher in English, percentage achieving Level 4 or higher in maths, and overall average points score per pupil.Average points score is calculated by assigning each level a certain number of points – Level 2 or below is 15, Level 3 is 21, Level 4 is 27, Level 5 is 33 and Level 6 is 39. Totals are then divided by the number of pupils sitting the tests to provide an average.Clicking on an individual school’s name brings up more detailed information, including the amount of pupils achieving a high Level 5 standard in English and maths, and the national and regional averages for each statistic to provide context.

Why 107 Academics are wrong

ᔥ Lance Wiggs

Lance is normally left of centre in his thinking but in his post he tears apart the very wonky thinking of 107 academics….they will of course probably sneer that he isn’t peer reviewed and not a teacher so he should STFU. Have read, he makes very good sense unlike the first commenter Ben Gracewood who thinks that buckets of money should be poured into education even though we know that little discernible progress has been made on the long brown tail despite millions of extra funding.

Basically Lance is saying what gets measured gets done…a point lost on most, and especially teachers:

A group of academics signed off on a letter against school league tables. The stated logic may work in an academic research setting but is inappropriate to apply to the real world. We should instead publish the measurements, improve the measurements and their context over time and, most importantly, focus energy and resources on understanding the issues and helping the schools at the bottom of the league.

That is perfectly logical…as one would expect for a tech-head. Now to the details:

1. National Standards data are unsuitable for comparing schools The performance of schools cannot meaningfully be compared with each other unless it can be demonstrated that assessment measures, processes and moderation have been used consistently across schools.

[T]o improve something we first need to measure it, and if we can’t measure it accurately then an approximation will do. In business that means using surveys of customers that have clear sampling bias, reacting more to customers who complain and even believing what we read in the papers. We know all of these sources are incomplete and have bias, but we can account for it somewhat, and are much improved by using the input. The online advertising industry is a lovely example, using a system for measurement that is clearly wrong to measure traffic, but while it is wrong, it is wrong for everyone, and it’s only the starting point for a conversation.

The academics and teachers don;t want that conversation they are simply saying that we shouldn’t have it at all.

2. The contextualising data are incomplete

Many elements of the school’s local community context affect teaching and learning processes and children’s achievement. These include socio-economic and other intake differences (such as ethnicity, student transience rates, the proportion of English language learners or children with special needs) and other school and area characteristics (local labour market, urban/rural location, popularity compared to surrounding schools).

There are also internal school contexts, such as past leadership or reputational issues, significant staffing changes or schools being damaged.

Many attempts at comparing school performance do not even try to use the best available statistical methodologies. Instead the school decile rating is typically used as a proxy for all these contextual indicators. 

[W]e need to start somewhere, to create a minimum viable product and steadily improve it over time. While many criticized the early versions of iPhone, Xero and even Powershop, the steady improvement in functionality and usability were what won consumers over time. It’s the same with a measurement system that relies on a variety of data. Some of the early data will be wrong, and some of the things measured will be missing, but we should accept that and move to steadily improve the quality and context over time. If we don’t have the right socioeconomic data, for example, then someone will find it and mash it up with the National Standards data. The 107 academics are ideally placed to perform this work.

The reference source of information on schools will be the website (no doubt) that combines the highest quality information in a way that is meaningful to parents, teachers and students. Releasing the data in an open form is the first step towards creating  complete school reports across a broad spectrum of facets.

I understand the natural academic reluctance to never release data that is potentially wrong, and I see that in business sometimes where companies do not want to release an imperfect product. But while they are polishing the bezels yet again competitors are releasing their inferior but higher selling versions. Similarly we should release the data, and call on the power of academics, hundreds of thousands of parents and even students to provide both sunlight as a disinfectant and the right context.

Except we can’t use those academics because they have now introduced bias into their work. They have pre-determined the outcome of anything they touch…they are actually tainted.

4. The political argument for league tables is weak

The argument that the Ministry of Education should release league tables in order to prevent the media doing so, does not address the problems that their effects will be damaging and the data used to compile the tables will be incomplete. 

A long piece containing several arguments about why releasing the data is bad.

However while it might be considered bad by the academics, it is not by myself, and more pertinently, at least some parents. While even a small minority, and this is not a small minority, wants access to our data, New Zealand has a policy and obligation to provide it. Arguing against releasing data is quite remarkable for a group of academics. It should be easier to understand school performance than to read about individual student’s private lives on Facebook.

I would suggest that the numbers of people actually wanting the data is measured in the thousands…as in thousands upon thousands of parents with children in school. Why on earth do teachers and academic resume to pretend they know better for our own children.

In particular, the moral principle of social justice demands that the situation of the most disadvantaged in our society should not be made worse through the release of official information. 

[T]he moral principle of social justice demands that the situation of the most disadvantaged in our society be identified and fixed, and not hidden from public view. We can fix these broken schools, and we don’t have to look further than Wellington High or Pt England to find great examples.

I am somewhat dismayed at the attitude of the educators, although I do understand their reluctance to release what is seen as incomplete data from an academic study perspective.

From a society perspective there is at least some demonstrated demand from parents.

From a business perspective there are a number of businesses and individuals who would  love to mash this data up to create something new and useful.

But, most of all, from an educational perspective, releasing the data as a league table will allow us all to ask the hard questions of everyone involved – how are we going to help the schools at the bottom?

That is the key…not a single teacher or academic has even the slightest idea about how to address the long brown tail or the 20% of kids the current much vaunted “world-class” system is failing those kids. Instead they know, implacably that Charter Schools, League Tables and National Standards must be opposed with every breath in their bodies. They should be ignored until they demonstrate how they are going to solve the tail.

Take note Hekia, do not appoint these people

ᔥ Scoop.co.nz

100 academics have put their names to a document opposing league tables. Good, that is a convenient list of people who should never be appointed to any position anywhere. They are not ever going to support government policy.

At least they have conveniently listed all their names, that should ensure that even stupid people like Hekia Parata won’t appoint them to jobs.

Over 100 education academics have signed a letter against primary school league tables based on National Standards

We are a group of New Zealand academics teaching and researching in universities. As a group we are very concerned about the proposed publication of ‘league tables’ of primary school performance based on National Standards, whether compiled by media organisations or by Government. We believe that National Standards achievement data and the available school and student level contextualising data are so clearly unsuitable for the purpose of comparing school performance that to purport to do so would be dishonest and irresponsible. We also believe, based on the experience of other countries, that the publication of league tables will be extremely damaging for New Zealand primary education. As academics we will condemn and disregard any published league table of primary school performance and we urge the New Zealand public to do likewise.

Holy Grail of high-quality teaching

ᔥ Sydney Morning Herald

While the NZEI and NZPF are telling schools and teachers to break the law in New Zealand, in Australia league tables are being heralded as the way to find the holy grail of high quality teaching:

Given that the My School website now contains publicly available data which purports to identify the schools achieving excellent outcomes (as measured by the controversial NAPLAN tests), why aren’t the next generation of teachers being sent to those high-performing schools to learn the tools and tricks of the trade?

Gathering data from students to raise public awareness of educational issues is a necessary first step, but the next obvious step is for the federal and state governments to use the data to solve educational problems. A further step could involve identifying high-quality teachers and targeting them as trainee teacher supervisors. How about tasking the Institute of Teachers with identifying good teachers who are also good mentors? What a transformative resource those teachers could be.

Using the knowledge we already have in smarter, more connected ways is necessary if we want to grab the Holy Grail. Creating links between the NSW Department of Education (which needs quality teachers in its most disadvantaged schools) and the Deans of Education faculties (who want quality experiences for their undergraduates) is an obvious one. Their needs are symbiotic, so they should be listening to each other and working together on research, trialling and implementing what they find out. A model for this can be found in the medical sector at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, where research and practice are intertwined.

This approach should also solve a problem at the university end of the equation, which is the quality of feedback given to students by academics who are supposedly supervising them during their pracs. I have known students who have never seen their supervisor during their pracs, let alone shared time in a classroom with them. The Grail we are seeking is teachers with the ability to link theory with practice through self-critical reflection. Some do it instinctively – and many of us have been lucky to have been taught by one or two of them – but the rest need to be nurtured into understanding why thinking critically is so valuable to professional teachers.

Those university lectures about theories of how most of us learn, why some of us can’t learn like the others, why most of us behave a certain way, while others do not, might seem a waste of valuable time to young teachers, who are in a rush to get out there and ”do it”, on their own, in a class of 30 students.

But for someone like me, who has spent decades in classrooms from kindergarten to university level, those theories are what I fall back on when I try to work out why I couldn’t give the lesson I’d planned because a student in my class couldn’t actually read the question, or was unable to follow more than one instruction at a time or chose to disrupt others in the class for reasons that weren’t immediately obvious to me.

Reflecting critically on those failed lessons, which are a part of every teacher’s classroom experience, is what’s needed – working out what went wrong, when and why. Why some students didn’t learn and why others weren’t interested. The ability to get better learning outcomes from students next time, through this kind of reflection, is where high-quality teachers get their edge.

It’s this kind of thinking that needs to be at the core of our university teacher training courses and the supervised pracs of trainee teachers in our schools.

The Huddle

I’m was on The Huddle last evening with Larry Williams and that filthy pinko David Farrar.

Our topics were

  • User pays plan for Aucklanders and their rubbish collections. There’s been a meeting today to discuss charging residents each time a bin is collected. This would be done through electronically tagging the bins and having a waste collection account for each household. I’m not sure if this means rates are going to drop as currently there’s already a charge for waste collection in the bill.
  • League tables  – all parents want is an effective way of knowing how well students are doing at a school. BUT teachers are opposed to that because it reflects on their performance!
  • Asset Sales too
  • And Andrew Little’s constant defaming of Judith Collins.