Friday, September 21, 2012

Teachers need God-like qualities for raising National Standards!

Oops, I should not have used such a provocative opening---I may cause riots and initiate signs that demand that I should be beheaded. OK, that may be the topic of other blogs but I am annoyed at the bloody-mindedness of the Government and its stance on National Standards.
Despite much research from overseas, the Government continues to pursue this issue. We do not need research to tell us what most teachers and many parents have known for decades, if not longer.
There are many reason why a section of our populace fails to meet the ‘at or above’ level for the National Standards in the three areas measured (many say by a flawed system).
I have used the term, ‘Cultural Capital’ (CC) several times in my previous blogs and I feel the need to base some of arguments on this. I make no apologies for boring those unwilling to listen. No amount of political posturing, all in the name of either saving money or pushing right-wing philosophies that have no place in Education changes the fact that for some, attaining levels of achievement enjoyed by those who have the role-models and the means to take advantage of the universal education system will make any measurable difference, without major resourcing of the schools in lower socio-economic areas. There are examples in schools where improvement has occurred, but without consistent application and increased resourcing (and possibly ‘targeted’) of families who send their kids to school; those gains can be quickly lost.
What is it that is so hard to understand about the obvious? Maybe the Government does not want to acknowledge the significance of CC, because the implications are in either in the ‘too hard basket’ and therefore poetically unpalatable, or their agenda is anti-lower decile areas in our community. The cynical side of me suspects that the answer is a bit of both. I won’t accuse them of being lacking in brain cells because I believe they know exactly what they are doing!
The Government is intent on laying the blame for poorer standards in our lower decile schools and in particular for the achievement of Maori and Pacifica children. They fail to make the link between the numbers of Maori and Pacifica children falling into the poverty trap that further diminishes their educational achievement rates. My statement is not an excuse; it is more in the way of an explanation. We will never consistently raise achievement levels for the majority of those of our citizens who are in this ‘poverty trap.’
The typical right-wing and often espoused view of national party politicians is that---‘hey, I came from a State House, and look at me now!’ They use their experience as an example of what can be. Let’s get real here. Of course they have done well, and generally, I say ‘good on them,’ but that is not the reality for many of our populace. There is no society on earth that reflects ‘success for everyone,’ even in so-called Communist countries. Human nature and our individual differences work against such a perfect society. I cannot be accused of approaching this argument from a solely left-wing perspective, but having said that, I probably will be.
Now, take the experiences of so many of our hard-working teachers and teacher-aides. Kids come to school from poorly heated homes, hungry, sick and without the very tools they need for their education. Ask teachers in lower decile schools about how often they buy stationary and food for their charges. Generally they don’t make a fuss about this and just get on with their jobs.
Add in the mobility of many of these families in the above mentioned areas and you have another factor in ‘lower-achievement. Families move around in response to their economic needs. Bottom line--- AGAIN!—Kids who are hungry, lacking ion the basics of life and who miss out on schooling do not achieve at the same level as their cohorts who have all of their needs met. No amount a political machinations will alter this fact.
Unfortunately we have had successive governments who have approached this issue in inconsistent ways. The National Party, in particular resides in a place where there is no light--- their head is way too far down in the sand to observe what is patently obvious to those of us who work at the front line.