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Teachers Not To Blame

Teachers Not To Blame

Academics at Massey University have strongly criticised research carried out in South Auckland schools.

The Ministry and Minister of Education have used the media to give favourable attention to literacy research in Mangere and Otara. This attention has been very uncritical. Parents, teachers, and members of the public will have been misled if they think that the New Zealand research community accepts this research as valid and significant.

Two reports (PACE and FOCUS) have been widely publicised as “proving” that: teacher expectations are the key to student achievement; teachers typically have low expectations of children in low decile schools; changing teacher expectations raises the achievement of children in these schools to the average level; These improvements in achievement are sustained.

The Massey Education Policy Group argue that these claims are false. The original study on which the conclusions are based is seriously flawed and the conclusions drawn are seriously misleading. “Contrary to widespread claims,” they say, “the research does not show that responsibility for reading failure in low decile schools lies with teacher expectations.”

According to the Massey group Numbers in the study are too small to justify the claims made and the policy conclusions drawn from them; One third of the children being studied get ‘lost’ along the way; progress in learning is not sustained at the predicted level; if any gains were made they are not sufficient to bring the children up to the average level; no data on teacher expectations are provided and the teacher efficacy tests show no real change; the research does not show that home background is insignificant.

The Ministry of Education has cited this research as part of the justification for the expenditure of some $10 million. Because this research is so flawed, it may prove to be an expensive and wasteful use of public funds. The public will be interested to know that so much money is to be spent on proposals based on research that is very questionable.

“It is a scandal,” says the Group that “possibly fruitful research has been subject to inaccurate interpretation and media promotion by people who clearly have not read the reports and have little understanding of the research..”

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