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Monday, September 24, 2012

No comparison

The Tory's education panacea brainchild, National Standards, have gone live. The league tables they say they didn't want have already been constructed and now exist in all their interactive glory. The words of warning from the publisher about the (un)reliability of the data and what it means indicates strongly that the entire exercise is a colossal waste of time and money.
Many people told us not to publish the information you see on this site.
They fought to stop us. Some sent us bills for the privilege of their school's data. Others buried the figures we asked for in complex matrices and pages of indecipherable bumph.

Many more gave up their school's National Standards data with a grave note of caution about the reliability and usefulness of it. We have not been deterred by the criticisms and the cautions, but neither were we unmoved by them.
Anyone who read the National Standards results as a proxy for quality would be quite foolish. We wouldn't do that and we don't suggest you do, either. For starters, they are not moderated, so one school's "well below" may be another's "at" or "above". There is just no way of knowing - yet - exactly how the standards have been applied across schools.

No moderation, incomplete data... what is the value here? As with the fraying edges of NCEA system where soft units are manipulated by corrupt school principals to boost their school's stats, the National Standards will just reward school authorities shrewd and devious enough to massage their figures. The table is set for anxious parents to make decisions.

For a quick test I looked up the primary schools where I used to live. They are all decile 10 - the wealthiest.  Devonport wasn't always like that, but I'm going back a few years.  (As an example my old school, Vauxhall, returns "no data" for Maori students - that would be because there isn't a single Maori attending; and Stanley Bay - my other old school - says "data omitted for privacy" meaning there may only be one or two Maori. Pasifika is nil for both schools and data omitted at Devonport Primary. UPDATE: No - there are a handful of non-Europeans listed under the individual school pages not in the main data set - see below.) Devonport is as white as an albino in a snow storm. There isn't going to be any deprevation related problems in this part of the Shore - you basically have to be a millionaire to live there. I compared them with some decile 1 schools Eastside.
Devonport Primary reported no kids left behind, at all. Zero. There are no losers at Devo. No-one is in the "well below" category in any of the three subject areas. According to themselves, let's not forget. Compare to Glenn Innes School where 47% were deemed Well Below in writing (the worst score I could find in this small group - and a shocking 60% of boys). Is this telling us anything we didn't already know?

Stanley Bay Primary:
Glenn Innes School:
There are only two Pacific Islanders at Stanley Bay and only two Europeans at GI. Schooling is subject to more racial segregation/concentration than neighbourhoods because of "white flight" where Pakeha parents will take their kids out of a school next door if there are too many brown faces and send them across town to a white school.  Stats like these are used to entrench this racially and socially stratified situation.
The differences between the two sets of schools are blindingly obvious - all the stats align to the  assumptions that wealth is the main determinant of educational outcomes. But so what if the stats are compiled at the discretion of the school? The rich ones have a reputation to uphold and an incentive to bend the numbers so we can never be sure of the real position.


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