Wednesday, 4 July 2012

League tables

The Telegraph reports on the continuing problems confronting the English education system, where exam boards have been expose as corrupt, conspiring with schools to debase tests.  It's something for Johnny Key to think about, before he foists yet another ill thought through, imbecile notion upon us.
The current system has created “perverse incentives” in which multiple examiners strip content out of syllabuses, stage training seminars for teachers and sell textbooks packed with exam tips to help schools inflate their overall scores, it is claimed.
In a damning report, the Education Select Committee accused boards of setting tests that make “lesser demands of students” to boost their share of the market.

This has been driven by a league table system that has created “significant downward pressure” on schools to secure basic passes at the expense of promoting a rounded education, it warned.
Making schools compete like football teams was truly, spectacularly stupid.  Schools live or die by their reputation.  A low league table position destroys that reputation.  We have no way of knowing if that position reflects institutional incompetence; or if it represents an achievement as they are converting non-achievers into achievers; or if it suggests a school is maintaining standards and is being overtaken by other institutions offering low quality assessments.

I can think of nothing that the Tories did in the 80s or 90s that exceeds the stupidity of introducing league tables.  And John Key is content with them being brought in here.  Probably, he thinks this will be an easy win - the education sector will oppose it, and this will give National an opportunity to split the teacher-parent coalition that formed over class sizes.  The education sector will be portrayed as secretive and furtive, trying to conceal important information from parents; parents will be told, again and again, that this will help them make an informed choice in the best interest of their child.  That nagging insecurity that afflicts middle New Zealand will be aggravated into a full panic and National will be able to erase the memory of its recent humiliation over class sizes.

But the long term consequences - which John Key seems to think are negligible - are apparent from the convulsions racking the English system.  Perhaps that is the goal though.  Perhaps National strategists are thinking a decade ahead, and envisioning a time when NCEA will appear to have been discredited as schools are driven to compete for places on league tables.  Perhaps John Key isn't the naive, unthinking fool he presents himself as, and the ploy is really a cynical attempt to discredit NCEA and justify its abolition.

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