They will tell you that one in five children leave school without being able to read and write. They will tell you that the unions are protecting bad teachers. They will tell you teachers are only in teaching for the money and holidays (sorry.... just choking a bit on that one). They will tell you that the state system in New Zealand is not doing a good enough job for Maori and Pacific Island children.
They will tell you that National Standards will raise your child's achievement levels. They will tell you that teachers do not make good assessments of where your child is at, so we need a new tool called PaCT (Progress and Consistency Tool). They will tell you that Charter Schools with unregistered and untrained teachers will provide you with more choice and will solve our tail of underachievement and low achievement rates for Maori and Pacifica children.
Data projectors have become essential teaching and learning tools. You can learn anything on You Tube now! The other day we looked up how to make sock puppets and got a fantastic tip! Data projectors have also almost made the old OHPs obsolete (but I would still use one)!! Now you can scan your worksheets and have them on your computer to shine up on a screen to discuss with the kids.
Cameras are essential to allow the teacher to capture learning moments and for students to create learning moments. Some classes can use I-pads, I-pods, tablets and smart phones to do this. Students and teachers are capturing these moments as either still pictures or as video. They manipulate these using their computers into wonderful multi-media presentations.
Interactive whiteboards, i.e. ActivBoard and Smart Boards and the like, are becoming more common. The applications of this are way more than a digital white board or a place to show a movie. All sorts of exciting learning can come from these boards... too many things to list here. ,
There are many other exciting things to be used in a classroom for ICT as well.... but like the money each school has to spend on ICT, but time is limited to wax lyrical about ICT. The government should just fork out for in direct ICT funding. Unfortunately they do not do this currently. They merely pay lip service as to how important ICT is in learning.... but don't stump up with actual cash.
I taught in England for a year and the majority of schools provided an option for children to get a school lunch. Scandanavian countries, including Sweden, have school lunch programmes. Japan has a school lunch programme. Yet in New Zealand we hear calls that it should be the parents responsibility.
One school in Putaruru, Te Wharekura O Te Kaokaoroa O Patetere, provides breakfast and lunch to its students for $10 a week per student. The principal, Keith Silveira said providing meals was not a response to poverty but to make sure children were eating well. He said a major benefit was the students having among the lowest rate of tooth decay and dental work in the Waikato because they were not exposed to junk food. He said it also made life easier for parents and instilled responsibility in the children, who were also rostered on either set-up or clean-up duties.
Clearly though, well nourished children will have a better capacity to learn and a child with a full stomach will tend to have less behaviour problems. Low dental decay is an obvious bonus. Also another bonus is how the scheme is able to instill in the children a sense of service to the school and their school mates by participating in preparing and cleaning up from the meals. Eating at school can also develop the students' social skills.
Don't go down the standardised testing line and get rid of National Standards. Part of the GERM agenda is to tell you that students are failing, leaving school without basic skills like reading, writing and numeracy. The GERMers will also tell you that teachers are ineffective, lazy and their unions are just protecting their jobs. The GERMers will tell you that we need to measure childrens' learning, and therefore measure how effective the practice of a teacher is.
Look, I could give you all the reasons why National Standards are a complete waste of time in a short list:
- It labels children, especially children who struggle.
- By publishing the data, individual children risk having their privacy breached.
- The government insists that even special needs children should be assessed using the Standards, and even Special Schools should produce data against the Standards. What is the point of an ORS funded student being assessed against the Standards? It's not like their Downs Syndrome (or whatever) is going to be cured by the National Standards!!! It is just plain stupidness on so many levels!!! Grrrr!!!
- It doesn't tell teachers anything they didn't already know and doesn't really inform future learning.
- It allows schools to be ranked and labelled on the basis of data that is not standardise and means schools of different socio-economic areas are compared to each other, thus creating loser and winner schools, failing schools and magnet schools.
- It does not take account of where each individual child has come from, how much progress they have made or their individual learning challenges.
- It narrows the school curriculum and kills creativity. The teaching of science, social sciences, technology, health, PE, the arts and languages have truly taken a battering over this.
- Critical thinking is lost in the classroom as it is more important to pass the tests.
- Teaching to the test becomes the modus operandi in schools rather than teaching to the individual needs of each child.
- The creation of failing schools opens the door to the charter/partnership school model which then commercialises schooling, opening up children to an untried curriculum and unqualified/unregistered teachers. There is no conclusive evidence that shows charter schools are better than public schools. In fact the evidence shows their effectiveness is the same or worse than public schools.
- The use of the data to assess the effectiveness of teachers opening the door to performance pay - which has been shown not to improve the outcomes of students, but has been shown to squash collegiality which consequently isolates teachers and means they can not support each other to become better teachers or improve student outcomes.
- National Standards is the door opener to national testing like NAPLAN in Australia (which people are now waking up to what a clanger that is), and national testing in the US and UK. The PaCT tool is the next step National is making in the move towards national testing. Again this will narrow the curriculum, create teaching to the test scenarios (which I witnessed blatantly in the UK) and undermines the professionalism of teachers to be able to teach to the needs of the individual child.
For more reading on why National Standards, national testing, charter schools, performance pay and lots of other educational things of interest check out Dianne's blog Save Our Schools New Zealand, Allan Alach's blogs on The Daily Blog and The Treehorn Express, Education Aotearoa (for a variety of education focused musings), Kelvin Smythe's Networkonnet and Bruce Hammond's Leading the Learning (which Allan Alach also contributes too and covers a wide area of educational interests).
Refocus on our world leading, well researched and trialled, New Zealand Curriculum!! This really is a no brainer. It has been hailed throughout the world as one of the best curriculums around.... but before it could truly be implemented and bedded it, it was pushed to the side-lines by that stupid idea of National Standards.
This curriculum aims to develop the whole child, not just in literacy and numeracy, but in the arts and sciences.... and so on. It's aim was to develop a person with critical thinking skills, who could problem solve and work independently or as part of a group - a person who could contribute to wider society and help to improve society for the better.
Instead we got National Standards forced upon us, which disregards critical thinking, has a basis of everyone for themselves and will turn out fodder for employers who want people who will just do as they are told and work for peanuts.
This little blog baby has been brewing for several months. These are my opinions, but I would appreciate your constructive evaluation of these opinions and any other suggestions you have for how we can make our quality public education system even better!! (Please play the ball and not the man in being constructive).