By: Simon Collins

(Left) A caterpillar at Massey Primary School displaying each student’s reading progress against national standards. Treasury worries about the loss of such data nationally. Photo / File

Cabinet paper released by Education Minister Chris Hipkins says Treasury advised keeping national standards “until the new assessment framework is ready for implementation”.

The paper also reveals that Ministry of Education officials do not yet know how they will allocate funding to schools to support extra learning in maths and literacy and professional development for teachers, which are all currently based on schools’ performance against national standards.

“The ministry would need to rely on historic data or else use alternative information to inform the allocation of these resources,” the paper says.

“These allocation decisions could potentially be informed by Education Review Office reports about individual schools and kura or analysis of variance reporting.”

Hipkins announced today that schools will no longer have to report to parents or the Ministry of Education about how their students measure up against national standards from the new year.

The Cabinet paper says this means schools will no longer need to report 2017 national standards data to the ministry, although they will still have to report by March 1 on any variance between outcomes and the targets they set in their 2017 charters, which in most cases included national standards.

“Kura and schools will be able to choose to change their 2018 charter targets to use different measures for tracking student progress and achievement,” the paper says.

Communities of learning – groups of local schools which have set “achievement challenges” which have also often involved targets for national standards – “will also be able to choose whether or not they change their achievement challenges”.

Hipkins said he would work with “experts and stakeholders’ to develop a new system for measuring student progress, with a report to Cabinet by next September.

The Cabinet paper says the new approach will build schools’ capability to work with students, parents and communities to develop locally-relevant curriculums, personalised learning for all students, and “data for improvement”.

“Rather than reporting being seen as a twice-yearly accountability mechanism, the focus should be increasingly on supporting timely and meaningful information sharing with students, their parents and whānau,” Hipkins says in the paper.

However, Treasury notes in the paper that scrapping national standards means the only remaining data on primary school achievement will be sample surveys carried out by Otago University’s National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement and global surveys such as the recent Progress in International Reading Literacy Study.

“They are not sufficiently frequent or granular to get a comprehensive picture of how the system is performing, which is particularly important for learners who are most at risk of educational underachievement,” the Treasury says.

“The Treasury recommend that removal of Ngā Whanaketanga Rumaki Māori [national standards for Māori-language schools] and national standards be delayed until the new assessment framework is ready for implementation.

“This is to prevent a gap in systems-level information on the overall performance of primary schools in the foundational skills of reading, writing and maths, which are critical to later success in education and training.

“Systems level information on primary school performance is critical for the Ministry and the Education Review Office to identify whether there is a need for changes in education policy settings, as well as to identify which schools may need additional support or intervention.

“Without this information, systematic issues may not become visible until NCEA [in Year 11], which is too late for effective intervention.”

Hipkins responds in the paper that “the current data is neither national nor standard and does not provide a reliable indication of system-level performance”.

He says any new data collected will “minimise the potential for the act of measurement and reporting to cause harm to children’s learning” by labelling them as “below standard”.

He also wants to avoid “the potential to create league tables, achievement data being used as a proxy for school performance, and the potential for progress or achievement data to be used within a funding or pay mechanism”.

Hipkins repeats in the paper that individual schools are still free to use national standards if they choose to.

The Cabinet paper reveals that the Government has also halted the planned transfer of teacher professional development from the Ministry of Education to the Education Council on January 1.

Instead, Hipkins will transfer professional development to a planned educational advisory service and a College of Educational Leadership. He has not yet decided whether these will sit within the Ministry of Education or elsewhere.

National’s education spokeswoman Nikki Kaye said Hipkins was “irresponsible” to scrap national standards before putting a new system in place.

“He has done it in a very arrogant way without working with a whole lot of people to make sure there is something to replace it with,” she said.

She said tools to measure progress across all curriculum areas had not yet been developed, so schools would be “confused” about how to report to parents.

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