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There is a lot of emotion around National Standards in education at present.  Putting this aside, the two issues vexing the teachers are i) the Standards need to be trialled, and ii) the Standards will result in the creation of league tables.

In regard to the first point, schools do not have to report any National Standards data until 2012.  This ‘bedding in’ period will allow for fine-tuning the system – in essence, a trial period.

The second point is one that has only been raised by the teacher unions and the media.  It is a point that teachers need to provide alternative solutions for, rather than using it to dismiss the Standards out of hand.  It was never the Government’s intention to create league tables.

Currently, one in five New Zealand children are leaving our schools without the literacy and numeracy skills they need.

National Standards are one way of ensuring this does not continue.

The decision by some Southland primary principals to boycott the National Standards implementation workshops is a cop-out.

This decision is not about money.  It’s an ideological opposition based on flawed logic.  Those now opposed were the ones who, just a year ago, were key participants in the development of National Standards.  The NZEI and the principals are abrogating their responsibility to their teachers’ professional development and consequently to their students.

Professional development through this training is essential to ensuring principals, teachers and boards are well-equipped to work with the Standards.

The Government wants to make sure principals, teachers and trustees understand the Standards themselves; how they can support effective teaching across the curriculum; and the importance of reporting to parents.

At least 7000 teachers will be provided with in-depth training so they can use the Standards to set goals for student learning and improve their teaching practice.

A further 1200 teachers will be offered opportunities to study university papers in literacy or numeracy to improve their content knowledge and understanding of effective teaching.

Southland principals are going to get left behind.  All the parents I speak to tell me that they can’t wait to have a valid, fact-based assessment of their child’s progress, rather than some of the subjective material they receive from schools at present.  If Southland principals think boycotting the training sessions will somehow put their students in a better position, they are sorely mistaken.

Do they not want our children to get the best start possible?

The scaremongering among some groups over National Standards is ignoring the most important point.

What is wrong with parents being alerted to the fact their child is not doing well?

The focus is on individuals, engaging parents more in learning and any remedial requirements, and ensuring that we improve the literacy and numeracy of those currently missing out.  The National Standards are not a ‘pass’ or fail’ measured against other students.  It is designed to ensure that the child is not falling behind in literacy and numeracy – it is an individualized test to assist the individual student and identify gaps in learning for remedial action.

The negative publicity from unions and others shows a level of self-interest or lack of understanding which ignored the point of the National Standards.

We have a lot of very good teachers and very good students.  This policy is aimed at helping those who aren’t getting a basic level in the core competency subjects.  It’s about children and ensuring their future, and anything that assists them should be welcomed, not pilloried.  Another important aspect is that children who are failing can be helped.  The Government has put $111 million towards this goal of helping those children who need remedial assistance.

These standards are valid, reliable and evidence-based; rather than an anecdotal approach.

If you listen to talkback, read blog comments, and most of all talk to parents, they are very keen on getting a solid, fact-based assessment on how their child is doing.  This is all about improvement and ensuring no child is left without a basic education.  The only people against this are the unions and the Labour Party, and their self-interest has to be put in question.  Do they not want our children to get the best start possible?

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