Study of National Standards shows compliance in name only

Press Release – NZEI

The first detailed research into National Standards shows there is a wide variation in how schools are approaching the National Standards and suggests most schools are complying in name only.15th March 2012

First detailed study of National Standards shows wide variation and compliance in name only

The first detailed research into National Standards shows there is a wide variation in how schools are approaching the National Standards and suggests most schools are complying in name only.

The three-year Research, Analysis and Insight into National Standards (RAINS) project is following six diverse schools to look at how they are responding to National Standards. The study is being led by Professor Martin Thrupp from Waikato University’s Faculty of Education and was commissioned by the education sector union NZEI Te Riu Roa. The first yearly report has just been completed.

The report’s case studies show that schools are approaching and interpreting National Standards in very different ways.

“What we’re seeing is that individual school context – socio-economic factors, school type and location, curriculum development – has a big impact on how schools are responding to the National Standards and what sort of position they are in to use them. The pattern which is coming through does not show National Standards as genuinely national, they are better characterised as local to schools,” says Martin Thrupp.

Although most of the schools chosen for the study were not openly resisting the policy, only one has turned out to be mainly positive about the National Standards.

“Schools are very aware of the variations between them in terms of where they are at with National Standards and even the principal of the most positive school said she would have concerns if the Standards were used publicly to compare schools or as a performance measure for teachers”.

“Already one of the schools in the study has pushed down its National Standards student achievement targets because it doesn’t want to be in a situation where it looks like it’s not meeting them.”

“We’re also seeing a situation where compliance with the Standards is now masking some of the deep concerns schools and teachers have,” according to Professor Thrupp.

“The message from government and ERO is that most schools have fallen into line. But if you actually dig into what’s happening on the ground there remains a lot of unhappiness and concern about the Standards, particularly around the labelling of children. It’s compliance in name only”.

Martin Thrupp says he hopes people will take the time to read some of the report and its case studies. “I think it all illustrates just how complex schools are and that National Standards were never going to be a silver bullet”.

Immediate NZEI Past President Frances Nelson says “given the absence of a trial of National Standards it is good to see some robust research about the policy and how it is playing out on the ground. This first report from RAINS also confirms many of the concerns principals, teachers and communities have been trying to flag since National Standards were introduced”.

The next RAINS report is due out at the end of this year and the final report will be the subject of an international conference in Wellington in January 2014.

ENDS

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