Monday, 8 August 2016

Unlocking school data

You should subscribe to The National Business Review. Then you'd be able to read my columns there when they're printed, rather than waiting for them to show up here.

Here's an ungated version of my piece on unlocking school data. The Auditor General's report on Maori education found things very similar to what The Initiative has found more generally: poor use of data throughout the sector, and variable performance.

A snippet:
If you found out your local school had a 60% NCEA level three pass rate, would you know whether you should congratulate the principal or demand a sacking?

Students come to school from different starting points. If one school teaches kids who never saw a book before showing up at school and another school teaches kids whose parents mostly teach at the local university, it would be daft to expect both schools to deliver similar outcomes. 

Praising or damning schools for their performance relative to fixed national benchmarks then is just a little silly. A 60% pass rate could be a failure or a triumph.

At the same time, differences in student outcomes at similar schools can be vast. 

The Auditor General’s report on Maori education, released this month, makes for sobering reading. 

Among small decile 1 primary schools, the percentage of Maori students meeting or exceeding the bar on National Standards ranges from just over 20% to just under 90%. Comparing small decile 2 secondary schools, the percentage of Maori students at or above average NCEA level 2 results ranged from just under 40% to about 95%. 

Students’ backgrounds matter for educational outcomes. But if decile were destiny and student backgrounds were all that mattered, there would not be yawning gaps in performance among broadly similar schools. 

The best small decile 2 secondary school would not have a 55 percentage point NCEA achievement lead on the worst performing small decile 2 secondary school if all that mattered were the mix of incoming students. And the worst performing small decile 1 primary school would not be more than 60 percentage points behind the best performing small decile 1 primary school on National Standards.

[From Auditor General's report, Figure 7, page 24.]

The Auditor General’s report focuses on outcomes for Maori students but the problem is much broader. 

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