Editorial: What’s the best way to measure success in education?

EDITORIAL: “I used to get mad at my school,” The Beatles sang on It’s Getting Better more than 50 years ago. “The teachers who taught me weren’t cool.”

Despite the warm temperature of the academic profession in Liverpool, things worked out all right in the end for the Fab Four. However, it would be a brave principal who took the credit for their eventual success.

Sir Paul McCartney was a bright schoolboy but never went to university. Didn’t do too badly, though, did he?

In fact, how much of an impact schools have on an individual pupil’s achievements and path in life has been the subject of debate for years.

What role does a school play in a child's achievements?

If a classroom of children all get A grades, is that because of the school, the teacher, or the individual pupils? And what role do their parents and their parents’ backgrounds play?

At present, most parents in New Zealand rely on the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), which records a pupil’s end grade, to see how a school is performing.

But an increasing number of schools are looking to value-added models of assessment, which measure a student’s progress over the course of a year – a bit like taking a photo at the start and a photo at the end and comparing the two.

Researchers at The New Zealand Institute think tank reckon that, by gathering enough information on individual pupils’ circumstances, they will be able to predict the likelihood of their future pathway in life.

The institute’s model compares new students to older counterparts with similar backgrounds. Institute staff say it should help to predict NCEA success, the chances of taking on tertiary study, or a child’s potential to end up on benefits or in a Corrections facility.

This could mean schools and other agencies would be able to look at a pupil who was failing and suggest solutions based on what worked in other cases.

It could also pave the way for more investment in schools, based on results.

It certainly sounds impressive – if not a little Orwellian. After all, and as one academic has pointed out, a parent’s circumstance is not a prophecy for how their offspring’s life will pan out.

But if value-added models of assessment help to get the best out of pupils and schools, and give youngsters the best start in life, then their introduction is to be encouraged.

That said, there is far more to education than a piece of paper (or, more likely these days,  a PDF) with a grade on it.

Would you rather have a child who left school with excellent grades but who never picks up a book again because they’ve been put off learning, or would you prefer a child with good-to-middling results who remains curious about the world and wants to find out more about it?

School should be, if not exactly fun, a good and positive experience. Children should have their minds opened and their horizons expanded.

Teachers know that – even the ones who aren’t cool.


Article from Stuff: https://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/108633771/Editorial-Whats-the-best-way-to-measure-success-in-education

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