Wednesday, February 17, 2010

UK sink schools and National standards testing

This article is highly relevant to those clamouring against standards.
She tested the 11-year-olds and found that the highest reading age was that of an average nine-year-old. Less than a fifth of them were leaving with five GCSEs at grades A-C.
“We worked our socks off,” says Myers, who puts in a regular 16-hour day. Sure enough, now nearly 90 per cent of girls obtain five GCSEs at grades A-C, and Bishop Challoner is in the top 2 per cent of state secondaries even though more than half the pupils receive free school meals, 27 per cent have special needs, and they speak a total of 73 mother tongues
A highly successful turnaround of a failing London east end sink school.

To those educationists who disapprove of testing, let Myers be a lesson to you, and to me, as I sit down in her new office (passing five girls waiting nervously outside the door). She gives all new pupils a cognitive ability test (CAT) and retests them every year. The CAT is also used to help in choosing subjects and careers. Each student is given an ambitious performance target.

Although this approach is now catching on, 18 years ago Myers was the pioneer. She can produce for me spreadsheets of each child’s progress; if pupils fall behind, she and the teachers ask them why.

“We ask children, how do you like to learn? Aside from the core subjects, there is no reason why they can’t like to learn and learn what they like.”

Catherine Myers’s formula for educating teenagers successfully:

1. Educate girls and boys separately. It’s not just girls that do better in single-sex schools. “That’s an assumption that is generally made, but if boys have teaching geared towards them, they will achieve.”

2. Let them do it their own way, as long as they do it.Encourage pupils to analyse and develop their own style of learning (eg, last-minute, in groups). “Children should learn what they like and like what they learn,” says Myers.

3. Don’t see vocational subjects as second best — they are not. Think beyond the British school tradition, to the more vocational Scandinavian model. “As a mother I know that if you spend half your life making them do what they don’t want to do, you only make your life difficult. Everyone should leave school qualified for something.”

4. Set targets. Try not to compare your child to others — but set individual targets that will stretch his or her particular abilities. Respond quickly and collaboratively if the targets are not being met.

5. Get respect by giving it. “You have to like children and believe that they can achieve”.


Lindsay said...

"This article is highly relevant to those clamouring against standards."

It is not clear whether you mean it provides an argument for or against National Standards.

NZ schools already use CAT. What this success story says is that schools should treat children as individuals and not compare them. There is a difference between testing and national standards.

sagenz said...

Testing is very relevant. I don't understand why you appear to think that parents should not be able to understand the results of testing. National standards give that testing some context.

Lindsay said...

Yes, testing is relevant. I am simply arguing that if schools already do it based on age attainment expectations AND convey the results to parents (my experience) why introduce another layer of bureaucracy called national standards?

Lucia Maria said...

The article's not about standards - it's about the teacher.

She retires this summer, her life’s work done, her legacy in thousands of young lives. The staff are worried. What makes a good school? Perhaps it is just a good head, after all. One teacher whispers to me as I leave: “It’s all her, you know. Her vision. I don’t know anyone else who could have achieved all this. Down to the last tile.”

And that's what National Standards will take away, the ability of an individual school to raise the standards of it's children. Instead, they'll be trying to meet the standards the Government expect and in the process, failing the children.

The Government should really get out of trying to control education altogether.

JC said...

Lucia and Lindsay,

Standards is not about good individual teachers and schools, but about 20% of our kids who are failing.

I'm struck by the commonality of recent reports coming from NZ, Oz, UK and US that great schools can have dud teachers and poor schools can have great teachers;
that a good class can move on to another teacher and go backwards; how good teachers persevere against the odds and win and how dud teachers see only the odds against them succeeding;
and how an assembly line process of teacher recruitment, training, assessment and promotion is giving us highly variable results in educating kids.

A good school should have no problem with reporting on standards.. afterall the essence of good teaching is that pupil assessments are accurate, up to date and instantly accessible, ie, available at the touch of a button and already showing whether kids are above or below a line.


sagenz said...

You cannot have it both ways. If New Zealand schools already use CAT they assess their children. Making that available nationally in the aggregate so that parents can assess the added value of schools(the difference between intake at start and output) then that is simply sunshine and better informed choice. Any desire to obscure that should be fought against. The point of a national standard is simply to give the individual context otherwise a measure is meaningless.

Anonymous said...

Standards only apply to state schools.

By definition: they do not apply to good school

Want to fix NZ's education system once and for all?
Close down every state school

there. done.

Lindsay said...

I don't think you are reading me properly. I am not against testing. Again. But why not ensure all schools use CAT? You see the Minister is now having a problem with 'inter-school moderation' because schools like the one my child attends already do a good job of testing and reporting and she doesn't want to change that. But on the other hand she wants standardisation between schools. The suggested standards system that National has shown parents via a letter from the PM would provide less specific information than I already get.

At the moment the implementation seems to be a mess. Hence a new group of advisors are being called in.

Lucia Maria said...

I'm not against testing, either.

What I am against, however, is the nationwide standards regime being implemented by this government.

Have you read the standards, Sage?

As someone who homeschools to a classical curriculum, I find them to be horrendous. They expect too much, at too young an age. And the result will be a whole generation of children who can churn out stuff, but won't understand the material because of the focus expected in the standards.

For instance, a 6 year old should not be attempting to write creatively unless they themselves are driven to do so. At that age, they should still be learning to hold a pencil correctly and maybe be starting to copy a sentence. That way, they learn good sentence structure via copying without having to struggle to do think of it themselves. And that's not enough in order to be able to write well. Once you start expecting children to write creatively at a very young age, you teach (implicitly) that it doesn't matter what they write as long as they express themselves. So, what do we have now that is a precursor to what these standards will perpetuate? Text-speak, that some educators want to include as viable writing language. This is crap.

And that's just one example of what is wrong with the standards.

Notice that in that article you quote, the learning is tailored to each child. Standards will not encourage that, in fact, they will do the direct opposite.