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National testing not the key, John

Media Release - for immediate release

National testing not the key, John -

New Zealand Principals’ Federation, 24 August 2008 -

The New Zealand Principal Federation (NZPF) is very disappointed with National’s proposed education policy, which is looking to introduce compulsory national testing.

“National testing is such an old-fashioned idea,” says NZPF President Paddy Ford. “What’s more, it is ineffective. In every country where national testing has been imposed, learning outcomes have not increased. National testing is, quite simply, a backward step.”

Ford says that New Zealand already has some excellent testing models which use benchmarked tests, such as asTTLE and PAT. “A huge number of schools already use these, and they give great information when used correctly.”

Ford also says that teachers are already able to discuss student progress with parents. “Teachers use the results of tests like asTTle and PAT, plus their knowledge of the children, to talk to the parents in very plain English. The relationship between teacher and parent is crucial and the great majority of schools make extra efforts to ensure parents are aware of progress and ability. A nationally imposed test would be time consuming, add another level of compliance and detrimental to achieving better outcomes overall.”

Ford agrees with the comments from New Zealand Council for Educational Research chief researcher Cathy Wylie, who points out that countries that already do national testing tend to focus on students just below the required benchmark at the expense of other students. There is also evidence of schools offering incentives such as lollies or movie vouchers for good results in the annual test.

The NZPF is disappointed that the National Party is taking this approach to education policy. “This policy shows a lack of understanding of what is already happening in our schools,” says Ford. “We have some of the best systems in the world, and with adequate resourcing we could become number one. National needs to concentrate on improving resourcing for programmes such as special needs and reading recovery.

They also need to fund appropriate administration time, which will allow principals to focus on teaching and learning. That’s how we will improve educational outcomes for pupils.”

“We already have great people in the education system, who are doing a wonderful job. If the Government resources us in a more appropriate manner, we will get even better results.”

-ENDS-

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