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PQ8. Education, National Standards—Student Achievement Data

[Sitting date: 23 July 2014. Volume:700;Page:10. Text is subject to correction.]
8. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education : Is she satisfied that national standards data provides an accurate reflection of real student achievement; if so, why?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe e te Mana Whakawā. Yes, I am satisfied that the reported data provides an accurate reflection of where teachers assess their students to be against the national standards at this time. This is because I back the professional judgments of teachers. National standards is in the third year of reporting, which has been remarkably consistent given the very early stages of implementation. The reporting is also far more comprehensive and systematic than anything we have had in the past. It is helpful to schools, which can now identify early and precisely who needs what kind of assistance. It is helpful to parents, who tell me they appreciate the plain English reporting and knowing what they can do to support their children to achieve. It is helpful to teachers, who tell me it has enriched their understanding of New Zealand’s brilliant curriculum. It is helpful to principals, who tell me it helps them to know how their schools are doing as a whole. It is helpful to kids, who tell me they are enjoying knowing their next learning steps. With this information, schools can now turn numbers into names into needs so that five out of five can succeed.
Chris Hipkins : What confidence can parents have that national standards data represents an accurate picture of student achievement when the Ministry of Education is advising schools in writing to arbitrarily adjust their results from below standard to above standard in order to make their schools data add up?
Hon HEKIA PARATA : That is absolute rubbish. That is not what is happening. What is happening is that the Ministry of Education is checking totals with schools, is checking whether the data would disclose privacy issues, and is reporting exactly what schools are telling it with those results.
Chris Hipkins : I seek leave to table an email from the Ministry of Education to Valley School in Pukekohe, advising it to manipulate its data. It is dated 9 May. I have removed the name of the official who sent it.
Mr SPEAKER : Leave is sought to table that particular email. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.
• Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Chris Hipkins : Why should parents have confidence in the national standards data when the principal involved has stated “What they are suggesting I do is in fact manipulate my data to make it fit. In this case it would make my data look better, as I would now have no Asian students in the ‘below’ category and three more Asian students in the ‘above’ category.”, and that principal further went on to say “I feel sorry for all parents and communities who look at the 2013 national standards data and make assumptions about school performance based on manipulated data, and I am appalled at the thought that schools will be judged and ranked based on such data.”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA : The answer to the member’s question is in the very quote he read out. He is talking about four Asian students. In a school they would be identifiable if those numbers were used.
Chris Hipkins : Does it paint an accurate picture of a school’s student achievement if the Ministry of Education is advising schools to adjust the results of students that the school has ranked as being below the standard to be above the standard?
Hon HEKIA PARATA : It seems that the member is unable to process the answers I have been giving him. There is—
Hon Members : Ha, ha!
Hon HEKIA PARATA : Yes, I agree. I agree that it is extremely funny. The conflict here is the balance of managing the privacy of students where the numbers are so low in a school that the students would be recognised. The member’s own evidence was that we were talking—
Chris Hipkins : Make the numbers up.
Hon HEKIA PARATA : Perhaps the member would like to listen. We were talking about four students—four students of a particular ethnicity being disclosed. That is not manipulation. That is in accordance with the 1993 Privacy Act.
Chris Hipkins : How does it accurately represent student achievement at a school when a school is being advised by the Ministry of Education to change data so that students whom the school has assessed as being below the standard are now reflected in the school’s data as being above the standard?
Hon HEKIA PARATA : I absolutely reject the assertion that the ministry is adjusting its reporting. The ministry is certainly working in terms of protecting privacy. The information that is provided by schools is what is reported. Therefore parents, the public, and everyone can look at that information, and it will be available to them. Actually, it provides a systematic report to parents about what is happening, unlike Labour, which is promising to replace—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! That answer is now sufficient.

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