A system of new national educational standards to assess primary school students is doomed to fail, academics across New Zealand say.

Their doubts over the new standards-based system to rate children join those of teachers and parents expressed earlier this month.

In an open letter to Education Minister Anne Tolley, four education academics from Otago, Waikato and Auckland universities highlighted "fundamental flaws" in the hastily developed system.

Professor John Hattie, from Auckland University, Professor Martin Thrupp, from Waikato University, and Otago University's Professor Terry Crooks and senior research fellow Lester Flockton submitted the open letter yesterday.

Prime Minister John Key previously said Professor Hattie introduced the idea of the standards-based system to him, though the academic now warned the system was flawed.

The standards had been developed too quickly and were not ready to be brought in over the next three years, the group said.

Schools would start using the system from next February.

"It will not achieve intended goals and is likely to lead to dangerous side effects."

They expressed their concern over public reporting of the standards, saying similar overseas measures involving national testing had been damaging.

"We stress that such reporting of results at each year level will distort and impoverish the culture of teaching and learning and assessment within schools."

Likewise, a system assessing students against a standard could add New Zealand onto the "damning" record of failed national testing systems.

"Our understanding of why national testing has such adverse effects convinces us that the intended national standards system will suffer most of the same problems."

They were concerned the system wrongly assumed children were failing if they were not meeting standards for their age.

"This will lead to the repeated labelling of many young children as failures and will be self-fulfilling because it will damage children's self-esteem and turn them off learning," the academics wrote.

The group suggested instead a system where students were assessed against the progress they had made.

Last week, teachers' union New Zealand Educational Institute called for the Government to at least trial the system before ordering its adoption.

It criticised the system's "one size fits all" approach, the unworkable implementation times and said teachers did not fully understand how it worked.

A New Zealand Council for Education Research report released earlier this year analysed 5000 submissions, 3000 of which were from parents. When asked for further comments or suggestions, 38 per cent of the parents made negative comments about system. Fourteen per cent commented positively.

"[Parents] raise some quite legitimate concerns... That doesn't mean that they didn't like the standards," she said.

- NZPA