The PaCT Tool

There has been many thoughts around the PaCT tool and it’s use or non-use by New Zealand schools. New Zealand Educational Institute (union for primary teachers, NZEI) has warned against it, but they are bound to do so given the current political climate and their educational policies.

Using the Progress and Consistency Tool
However, what I don’t understand is that we (teachers, schools) have been saying that National Standards are not standard and there is a vast difference from school to school as to what is Below, At, or Above since it’s inception. The PaCT tool has been designed to moderate this very problem, as NZEI point out in their article, which is surely what teachers want – to make National Standards more reliable, rather than just doing it because we have to and working with rubbish data about our students.

You cannot deny that Ms. Parata, however controversial, makes some sense in this article, and essentially makes the same points as I do above.

It would seem that they (National Standards) are not going anywhere, with the National Government in power for another three years. I don’t particularly agree with the saying “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, but in this case, it would seem pointless fighting. Teachers, Parents, Principals,  Educators, Educationalists and Professors have been fighting them since their release in 2010. Despite this, the National Standards continued to be rolled out, and the government continues to roll out other policies in the face of adversity. Most of the initial hatred towards them was the way they were rolled out, without any duty of care shown around their trialing on our kids. But it is now almost 5 years on. Let’s also make clear, that while the opposition would scrap them, they also suggest that they would still continue to monitor student’s progress, but align them to the curriculum. This seems like a complete waste of time, money, and resources, as if you read anything on the development of the National Standards, you’ll find that they are already aligned with the curriculum.

“In doing this New Zealand has taken a different approach to the rest of the world. We have used our national curriculum to determine the standard of achievement that needs to be reached at the end of each year.” – Education Gazette, 11 October, 2010.

Despite what the scare mongers say, I think it’d be worth every school investigating signing up to use the PaCT Tool.
That’s my personal opinion.
Personally, I know some of the developers of the tool, and I have been assured on more than one occasion that from their side of things (the developers) the PaCT tool has not been designed with the capacity to link student data with teacher pay. This seems to be the main concern with the doubters beyond that of trying to make the ‘flawed’ National Standards more reliable (rather than scrapping them and developing a more robust assessment).

I think that if the government wanted to align student achievement with teacher salaries (i.e. performance pay), that they would already be able to do so without using the PaCT tool anyway. Therefore, if that’s the case, then any school using the PaCT tool will not make a difference for the government; but it has the potential to be very worthwhile for us as teachers and as a school to better get to grips with assessments for the National Standards, and might even go some way into making them more robust – which is what we’re asking for anyway.

There has been many a classroom I’ve seen, where a student has stepped out of line and done things on their own terms. For example, entering the classroom (their own terms) instead of lining up like the rest of the class (teachers terms). The teacher might scold them and then send them out to the principal, if the student hasn’t already become defiant and stormed out of the class for the scolding. When you boil down the behaviour and the problem, and take a step back; the actions taken by the ‘professional’ have in fact caused that child to no longer be in class, and no longer learning. If a quiet word was had, a little pride (on the teacher’s behalf) dropped, and the student allowed to still remain in class before everyone else, then that student might still be in class learning and hopefully engaged. The end product is what we really wanted, which is the troublesome child in the class.

Instead of fighting for fighting sake, why don’t we take a step back, work out what it is we want, and drop our pride of having things done on our (teachers) terms. Rather than missing the point and ending up with nothing, we should be thinking about the end product.

The end product is we want a robust system of measuring our children on a national level, without using a one off national test (that students could fail if they had an off day). We want to be able to use our professional judgement as teachers, and our knowledge of each child as individuals, and use that subjective information in order to fit students against our curriculum. We want it to be a robust and moderated system so that the data can be trusted from school to school, from city to city, right across the country.

If we want National Standards to be more robust, then lets see if using PaCT will in fact make them more reliable, rather than scrapping National Standards and making all line up outside before bringing them into the classroom again.