School principals rejected any further association with the development of a computerised assessment system, the Progress and Consistency Tool (PaCT), at their national conference in Hamilton this week.
Philip Harding, president of theNew ZealandPrincipals’ Federation says while the Minister of Education has made it clear that national tests are not conducive to children’s learning, by using PaCT to support national standards, it will do the same harm as a national test.
“Further, introducing PACT will do nothing to help our priority learners who are supposedly the target group of this government,” says Harding.
“We already know who these children are – why can’t we talk about their learning needs rather than foist a test on them so we can say yet again that their achievement results are poor.”
Meanwhile education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, is also calling on political parties to oppose the PaCT, which is expected to become mandatory for all primary school students in 2015.
Judith Nowotarski, NZEI Te Riu Roa national president, says the PaCT tool would not fix dodgy and inconsistent National Standards.
Instead, it would harm children’s learning and quality teaching by narrowing the curriculum, cementing in invalid National Standards’ judgements about children’s achievement and de-professionalising teachers’ expertise and knowledge of students by forcing a reliance on one assessment tool.
She says it’s also concerning that by making the tool compulsory, the Government could rank individual schools or individual teachers based on student achievement.
“Teachers already know how well their students are doing. What they want is the ability to share new and effective teaching strategies and to access the specialist support many children that are struggling need," she says.
"The government needs to listen to the teaching profession and work with us to focus on how to lift student achievement, particularly amongst vulnerable children, rather than impose policies that have failed overseas.”
NZEI has already urged principals and teachers not to take part in PaCT trials being run by the Ministry of Education.
However, according to the Ministry of Education, initial feedback from teachers and principals on the tool has been positive.
The Ministry of Education this week demonstrated how the tool works and how it will support teachers and schools to the Education and Science Select Committee
It will be used by teachers, not students and has been developed in response to concerns about consistency. It helps teachers know how their students are progressing and what they might do next to support each student.
“National Standards rely on the professional judgment of teachers and PaCT is designed to support teachers to make those judgments. It is being developed with the teaching profession, for the teaching profession,” says Phair.
“It is not a test of any kind. It is a tool teachers have asked for. They wanted more consistency and reliability about the overall judgements they make in reading, writing and mathematics," she says.
"The tool responds to that need and will support professional teacher judgments.
"Teachers know their students best and the tool is designed to support their professional judgments – it does not replace those judgments.
Principals and teachers will also be able to use the tool to help teaching and learning in their schools. PaCT will help identify what professional, learning and development teachers may need.
“Work is being done to ensure that PaCT is approved and available as expected for schools. It is being introduced over 2013/2014 with full implementation in 2015,” says Phair.