Expert plans school ratings

By Andrew Laxon

The education expert who first advised the Government on school standards is about to start work on plans for a national league table system, which he hopes will satisfy parents and teachers.

Professor John Hattie, who was called to Wellington last month by Prime Minister John Key to explain his concerns about national standards in primary schools, said the Government's "wait and see" approach to league tables wasn't good enough.

He did not support league tables, but the introduction of national standards in reading, writing and maths made them inevitable, so it was important to work out a fair solution.

He planned to work with other researchers to produce an independent paper on school league tables this year, suggesting what information parents could reasonably expect.

Professor Hattie, of Auckland University, said results could be shown in context, such as how a school compared with others in its decile. For instance, he helped Metro magazine devise fairer comparisons between NCEA results in its annual survey of Auckland secondary schools.

Last year, the top school on test results alone was the $16,000-a-year private girls' college St Cuthbert's, but the best school on improved student achievement was decile 4 Mt Roskill Grammar.

Principals Federation president Ernie Buutveld said Professor Hattie's idea was worth exploring and he believed many teachers and principals would like to be involved.

The Government was trying to portray all opposition to national standards as outright hostility but most critics of the new system simply wanted to have their views listened to.

"The issue we are attempting to debate is how to best lift student achievement. Surely the best way for the Government to do that is to work with the varying groups and sector charged and challenged to do this."

The Government has formed its own working party, which is expected to consider league tables, but Mr Key and Education Minister Anne Tolley have not indicated any likely solution.

Mr Key last week promised to start an experts advisory group, which will report to Mrs Tolley on any problems.

Details will be announced this week and Professor Hattie is expected to be asked to take part.

Professor Hattie said his group, the New Zealand Assessment Academy, was made up of researchers specialising in assessment measurement: Alison Gilmore of Canterbury University, Charles Darr from the Council of Educational Research, Professor Terry Crooks, Professor Jeffrey Smith and Professor Lisa Smith, all from Otago University, and himself.

- NZ Herald

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