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League table: the titillating presentation of misleading information

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
League table: the titillating presentation of misleading information

QPEC joins the chorus of school principals and educators to condemn the government-sanctioned release of school league tables based on national standards.

Schools have always been happy to be accountable to parents, children and the government for educational achievement but have quite rightly and vigorously resisted national standards and their associated league table because of the damage these tables will do to schools and student achievement here as they have overseas.

The publication of "disclaimers" from the Herald and Fairfax media are no excuse. They are weak and indefensible reasons to publishing this data in the way they have.

And so we have irresponsible, misleading and inaccurate commentary in New Zealand which has suggested the standards enable parents to "Mark the teachers", asking "How does your primary school rate?" and for sheer stupidity the headline "National standards shock: Big classes work".

To cap it off the same media are already judging schools based on these standards with a "can do better" comment regarding one school and "top of the class" applied to another. The sellers of newspapers just can’t help themselves. They can’t be trusted with this data.

The negative effects of league tables published this weekend will include:

- Many schools reducing the breadth of the curriculum to focus on what are now high stakes national standards.

- Schools being unfairly judged by media and therefore by their local communities - this has already happened.

- Many schools being much more reluctant to enrol children with special needs as they will lower a school’s national standards pass rate (already a widespread problem in secondary schools)

- Many schools increasingly questioning the enrolment of children of lower academic ability or behaviour issues with subtle and not so subtle suggestions they enrol elsewhere.

- Students at schools in low-income areas becoming less engaged in education as the "drill and kill" takes over from one of the best broad and engaging curriculums in the world.

- Demoralisation for children and schools who feel failures when they may be doing much better teaching and learning than schools in well-heeled suburbs with "better" pass rates.

- A greater degree of social segregation becoming evident in our schools.

All these effects have been observed in primary schools in the UK, US and Australia as well as in secondary education in New Zealand.

This has been a bleak few days for quality education in New Zealand.

In Australia this would not be tolerated because media outlets are prevented from doing what the New Zealand Herald and Fairfax have done with such irresponsible abandon over the last two days. The Australian "Our Schools" website says users of achievement data -

"...must not, without our prior written permission, do any of the following things:

a) Reproduce or Distribute the whole or a substantial part of this Site for any purpose;

b) use in any manner any Content from this Site or any Derivative Work for any commercial purposes, including but not limited to:

i) directly or indirectly sell or license any Content or any Derivative Work;

ii) sell access to the Content on this Site or any Derivative Work via a website, web address or by any other means ;

iii) gain advertising or subscription revenue from Content or from any Derivative Work by any means;

iv) Reproduce or Distribute Content or a Derivative Work on, or in connection with, an external website, intranet site or equivalent media directly or indirectly for commercial purposes; or

v) create lists of comparative school performance from Content on this Site directly or indirectly for commercial purposes;"

The New Zealand Herald and Fairfax media would be in breach of several of these provisions designed to protect Australian schools from irresponsible reporting were they included in regulations here.

How long will it be before we have primary and intermediate schools following the unsavoury past practices of Cambridge High School or Avondale College to convince local people they are the top schools? Judging by some of the coverage it may already have begun.

John Minto

National Chairperson


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