Tag Archives: Politics in Ed

Kiwi kids big pencil and pen users – but are they doing any better?

The latest OECD report around investment in IT and student achievement has hit the media and will no doubt cause a lot of second guessing from our parent communities. The following is the article from the One News Now site with a few tweaks (Parody Alert). I am not attacking the study… yet.

New Zealand has the second highest number of pens and pencils to students, but it might not be doing much good for their performance in key subjects, according to a study by the OECD.

It found New Zealand has 0.5 15-year-old students per pencil or pen, topped only by Australia with 0.3 students that age per writing device.

The study found 86.4 per cent of 15-year-olds are using pens or pencils at school in New Zealand.

But the report found countries which have invested heavily in this proven technology for education have seen “no noticeable improvement” in their performances in OECD test results for reading, mathematics or science.

Students who use pens and pencils moderately at school tend to have better learning outcomes than those who use pens and pencils rarely, it says. 

But students who use pencils and pens “very frequently” at school do much worse, even after accounting for social background and student demographics.

High achieving school systems such as South Korea and Shanghai in China have lower levels of pencil use in schools.

Singapore, with only a moderate use of pens in school, is top for future focused skills.

To assess their real world skills, the test required students in 31 countries and economies to use a pen and/or pencil to navigate texts as well as using slide rules, cosine tables and library catalogue cards in order to access information. Students were required to make a chart from data via inserting a pencil into a compass.

The OECD says ensuring every child reaches a baseline level of proficiency in reading and maths will do more to create equal opportunities in the real world than solely expanding or subsidising access to high-tech devices and services like pens and pencils, let alone access to the newer technology of slide rules.

OECD Director for Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher says school systems need to find more effective ways to integrate pens and pencils into teaching and learning to provide learning environments that give children with the real world skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world.

Yes a bit tongue in cheek, but really? Couldn’t this study be summed up by “Effective Teachers make a difference in learning.”

The actual paragraph that mentioned what the test was should give us a clue as to the nature of the information and mental models of what is being measured.
“To assess their digital skills, the test required students in 31 countries and economies to use a keyboard and mouse to navigate texts by using tools like hyperlinks, browser button or scrolling, in order to access information, as well as make a chart from data or use on-screen calculators.”
Is that it? Is that the measure of technology impact? A very one dimensional view of technology use in schools and if that is the measure of 21st Century Skills, skills for the future, then perhaps the test is missing the mark. Not being at the top of that test may well be a good thing!


Impending League Tables

I complied with the Official Information Act this week and forwarded our Annual Report to the reporter who requested it. Not a big deal really as it is a public document that anyone can access. Our data is there for all to see.

At a Principlas’ Cluster meeting earlier this week Louis Guy from the NZEI really hit the nail on the head with a scenario he painted…

Imagine what the first principals’ cluster meeting will be like after the league tables are out. One person in the room will be the top ranked school in the cluster. Imagine what that principal may feel walking into the room? Perhaps they feel that their colleagues will not trust the data they have provided. They may feel a little sheepish at being labelled the best. They may feel that as a school they have worked hard for that student achievement but cannot crow about their success for fear of being labelled as touting for children. That being said – depending on the ego of the principal concerned they may be feeling a little superior to the rest.

Imagine the school principal walking in who is second in the cluster. Having just come from a discussion with a parent who asked why their school’s data is not where the top ranked school’s data is.

What about the colleague who walks into that meeting being ranked at the bottom. What are they thinking? How are they feeling? What discussions have they had with their BoT, their community, the media?

Everyone else in the room will have looked at the league table and jumped up ladders (Ladders of Inference – Argyris) They are making assumptions, value judgements, creating stories of data that are rooted firmly in their own interpretations.

Is this competitive collaboration? Will having this information in the public domain raise achievement?

As a cluster we can have an agreed approach, a code of conduct if you like. Northland Schools have already committed to the following statements.

  • The data will not be used to promote their school through websites, newsletters, media releases or any other public information source because it would be unethical to do so 
  • They will not draw comparisons between schools using the data
  • They will avoid any activities that could legitimise national standards data as good public information
  • They will share other positive achievement information about their schools
  • They will issue a collective media release on their agreed position
  • They will explain to their boards and communities the reasons for their concerns
  • They will continue to deliver a broad rich curriculum
I agree with these statements – in fact, as principals in our cluster we all agree. But the first bullet point needs some dialogue.
Schools promote themselves all the time. Some of us do not promote ourselves enough. There is great work happening in a large number of schools that never sees the light of day. This statement is loaded with assumption and judgements. I suppose the intent of this statement is that we will not promote the place on the league table or use National Standards data as a selling point. An interesting point as schools often celebrate data with their communities. Information about how well the school is progressing toward their goals is essential in building confidence and having a happy community.
What do you think about this shared approach to the threat of league tables?
Can we trust all our colleagues to walk the talk?
Will we be looking sideways at each other in cluster meetings?
What Ladders will we be climbing?