Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Academics call for halt to league tables plan

Education Minister Hekia Parata. Photo / Ben Fraser
Education Minister Hekia Parata. Photo / Ben Fraser

More than 100 New Zealand education academics are calling on the Government to halt any plans to compile league tables of schools based on national standards reporting.

"Data release in league table form will ... misinform rather than inform parent and community judgments about how well children are learning," they said in an open letter published yesterday, with the names of 107 university academics attached.

The academics teach or research at Auckland University, AUT, Waikato, Massey, Victoria, Canterbury and Otago and include 15 professors and 12 associate professors.

The National Government established national standards in reading, writing and numeracy and requires schools to report regularly to parents in plain language where their child sits in relation to the standard.

The Ministry of Education is due to release in September its first lot of data on national standards and Prime Minister John Key has expressed support for some form of league tables, noting the media would be able to compile league tables from information given under the Official Information Act.

The letter says international experience of system-wide assessments showed that encouraging public comparisons of school performance led directly and indirectly to behaviours that harmed the education of the very groups of students that Governments say they want to help.

An early study into the way six schools measured national standards showed differences and there was likely to be much greater variation over the 2300 primary and intermediate schools.

They say such league tables would be educationally harmful and because there were so many small schools, some children could be identified.

Almost half of primary schools had fewer than 150 pupils. Small schools meant that a school's national standards achievement performance was likely to fluctuate widely from year to year for reasons beyond the control of the schools and their teachers.

The academics say the potential benefits of release needed to be weighed against the potential harms that league tables might cause.

"The moral principle of social justice demands that the situation of the most disadvantaged in our society should not be made worse through the release of official information."

- NZ Herald

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