Principals and teachers have described the Ministry of Education’s new demo website for the Progress and Consistency Tool (PaCT) as “wasted resource” as they express their frustration at more money being invested into tools that support National Standards.
Launched in 2015, the PaCT is an online tool designed to improve the reliability of National Standards. It is currently being used by over 500 schools and according to Education Minister Hekia Parata, has received “overwhelmingly positive feedback”. Parata launched the new PaCT demo site last week.
The new demo site is a reproduction of the live version of the PaCT, but has been populated with mock student information. It was launched to allow schools to try out and understand the progress and achievement benefits for their students in reading, writing and mathematics.
“The new demonstration site means any one can now see how the PaCT works including parents, trainee teachers and schools who aren’t already using it,” says Parata.
However, NZEI Te Riu Roa does not expect the new demo site will be used much by teachers. The union has already advised its members not to engage with the PaCT “because of its key role in legitimising National Standards and the Government's data-based accountability agenda”.
Many teachers take a dim view of National Standards, launched six years ago. NZCER research last year showed that less than a quarter of principals and teachers surveyed thought National Standards provided a valuable picture of student learning.
NZEI president Lynda Stuart describes the Standards as “a one-size-fits-all model that narrows the curriculum and is particularly unfair on students with special education needs”.
President of the New Zealand Principals' Federation (NZPF), Whetu Cormick agrees that National Standards are a flawed measure of achievement.
“It makes no logical sense to then try and make a flawed measure reliable,” he says.
“What our young people and their parents want is to see progress across all subjects in the curriculum. Our priority and struggling learners especially need authentic contexts and a broad range of learning opportunities.”
Cormick says the focus should be on making sure children can access all of New Zealand’s world-class curriculum at all times.
“What we don't want to do is get bogged down in micro-analysis of the three R's (reading writing and maths), and neglect the very curriculum subjects that can empower, challenge and motivate our young learners,” says Cormick.
The PaCT demo site can be accessed at http://pact-sandpit.education.govt.nz .