Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Challenging the great decile divide.

Yesterday morning, listening to the radio on my 30 minute commute, I heard Green Party co-leader Dr Russell Norman talking about education matters, specifically, the effect of National Standards targeting the 'just belows'. "If you're a primary school teacher in a lower decile school, you're been told not to teach most of your students." (Norman, March 2014, 7.00 minutes) He discussed his concern for a growing trend in teachers being pressured to focus their energy on those students who are sitting just below National Standards in order to make the school data appear positive. His argument was that particularly in Low-decile schools teachers were being faced with this pressure and as a result largely ignoring the other students in the classroom.

As a teacher in a low-decile school I am pleased to say that this is not the case. Our focus is on raising the achievement of ALL the students in the class, those below the National Standard. Just yesterday I was sharing with my students their assessment data, and explaining that we are all on our own learning pathway, even me, as their teacher is still seeking out more learning every day. I told them that I wanted them all to set themselves high goals for this year, even those already at or above National Standard.

However, at my time at other schools in greater Auckland (although these were mid-decile), I have heard management subtly telling staff to make those just-belows their 'target group' this year/term. This means that although Dr Norman's opinion was somewhat generic and flawed, there is truth to this concern.

I also read an article in NZ Herald Online which discusses the decile divide, this article highlighted the public misunderstanding (and apparently political too, from the above statement) about the decile system. Yes, it is calculated on the local socio-economic communities position, but it does not indicate the intelligence of the students or the affect of the teachers.

The theme is that people want the best education for their children, however how to achieve such a 'best' is the question. There is an overwhelming amount of research out there on parental involvement having a positive relationship with student achievement, so much so that a quick search to find something to quickly back up my opinion swamped me. However I did come across this statement which sums it up quite nicely. "Educators have increasingly identified parental involvement as the primary vehicle by which to raise academic achievement from current levels" (Jeynes, W. H., 2007).

Therefore parents who are striving for the best education for their children, may best well save their efforts from sending their children across town, and instead taking an interest in their day-to-day learning and becoming a part of their school community.

Within Manaiakalani, we believe in the 'Learn, Create, Share' philosophy, once students learn something, they create something, and then share this learning via an online blog, we encourage busy parents to use this an an avenue to be more involved in their children's learning.

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