Sunday, August 11, 2013

Can Hekia Parata spell 'fuckwit?'

The SST has another big article today pandering to middle class angst about schools.  It comes with an online tool for comparing schools and the usual appalling "How to choose the best school" bollocks.

The reason why it's bollocks is summed up right there in the SST's headline:  "Rich, poor gap widens in schools."  In other words, what the data shows, again, as usual, just like all the other times, is that the social class of a school's intake is by far the most important determinant of that intake's educational achievement. So, agonise over the "best" school for your kid all you like - how "good" that school is mostly comes down to how well off the families of the incoming pupils are, which is not something that's going to rub off on your kid. Added to that is the fact that a statistical average tells nothing about individual outcomes - for instance, you could send your kid to a great school and have them get that school's crappiest teacher, or vice versa.  Quality of the teacher is the next biggest factor after social class of the pupil, and you can't tell the quality of the teacher your kid will get at a particular school by looking at the school's stats.  Unless you want to job-interview every teacher your kid gets, you might as well send them to the nearest school and be done with it.

So, how does that fine example of the peter principle, Hekia Parata, come into this?  Via this comment on the report:

"The decile system has a good intention in that it takes into account the different backgrounds students come from but has increasingly become the explanation for everything.

"It is not. Quality teaching and school leadership make the biggest  difference so that is where we think our resources are best directed."

Hey, dumbass - your own fucking data says those don't make the biggest difference.  It says the biggest difference is that decile thing you think isn't very important.  Grade: Not achieved.

UPDATE:
The SST's editor is no smarter than Parata.  Their print editorial says 'The bottom line is that the best education comes at a price - either paying for a private school or moving to an expensive area in order to get children in to a high-performing decile 10 school. (emphasis mine)

Consider the stupidity of moving to an expensive area to get your kids into a decile-10 school.  We know that school "performance" is very strongly correlated with decile; that means either:

1.  A high-performing school will cause people in the surrounding area to become wealthy.

or

2.  Wealthy people's kids do better at school.

If the cause of the correlation is number 1, fuck yes rent a house in that area, you'd be insane not to.  But if the cause of the correlation is the distinctly-more-likely number 2, renting a house in the area gets you nowhere.  It would be the equivalent of noticing that people in the wealthiest suburb have beautiful cars, clothes and hair, and perfect teeth, and imagining that if you rent a house there the same will apply to you.

5 comments:

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Milt, you do Ms Parata a disservice. Go back and read what she said.

I take her to mean that the decile system is being used as an excuse for poor performance = and it is.

Ask Kelvin Davis. He'll tell you.

The Veteran said...

PM ... drill down into the issue and it's a no brainer that teachers/quality of teaching is a very important part of the equation.

In my experience and for better or worse quality teachers are attracted to high decile schools where there exists good management support that allows them to 'teach' rather than act as a surrogate minding service.

On a slightly different tack and a sleeper problem is the matter of Area Schools where lack of numbers in their senior department means they can offer little more than the most basic of subjects with the teaching staff required to teach outside their areas of expertise.

Take for example the Broadwood Area School up here in the Far North. It is located in the middle of nowhere, has a total roll of less than 100, is 90% Maori and has a senior department roll you can count on your hand.

That school is the heart and focus of the community yet the reality is that the pupils are being short changed by its very existence which is way short of critical mass (in educational terms).

Right now I am working with the parents of an obviously talented student from that school who is going nowhere. We are trying to get him into Dilworth. We may succeed with him but what of the remainder? That worries me.

bsprout said...

While I wouldn't use the same language to express myself, I agree with what you say here. While good teaching can lift children's achievement despite their background, the effectiveness of their efforts is still limited. According to PISA advisor and assessment expert Margaret Wu, a school's influence makes up around 10% of the all the factors that determine a child's success. Even if you doubled that, 80% of determining factors would still be outside the influence of a school.

Psycho Milt said...

Veteran: it's true that teacher quality is important - it's the most important thing after decile, which comes first by a long way. You've provided in your comment another example of why that is - teachers will prefer to work with kids who are actually interested in learning, which translates to competition to work in the high-decile schools, which translates to the best teachers getting concentrated there. It's yet another factor that is extremely difficult for Ministers of Education to influence.

While I wouldn't use the same language to express myself...

Probably a good thing!

Anonymous said...

One thing in favour of low decile schools is there are much lower school fees.
Same applies with PHO's.
When you have kids move to a low decile and when you get elderly and require more doctors visits return there.