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Source: Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA)

PPTA president Jack Boyle considers the many changes facing the education sector with the aid of his favourite TV show.

Image by Fleur on Unsplash 

One of my favourite TV shows is the HBO series The Wire. Focused on the city of Baltimore, the show drills down into the school system, local politics and the media, providing a “fly on the wall” scrutiny of their workings and dysfunctions.

One of the seasons, the one that deals with the schooling system, follows a class in a public school conscientiously focusing on practising for the standardized tests that will occur in six weeks. This becomes the entire focus of learning. Consequently, teaching to the test is held up as a way in which effort is diverted from an institution’s true purpose.

A new assessment regime

The lesson for us as teachers in Aotearoa is perhaps salient, what with a new assessment regime imminent within a year and other ideas about curriculum and measurement in nascent form in the bowels of the Ministry of Education.

Will we all be tasked with measuring progress in a standardised way? Will this be an alternative to assessment for credentials or will we be expected to do both? Are PACT and other digital tools the way to ensure learning can be more personalised or are we meekly giving way to the voracious appetite of data and “digital everything” as the drivers for what schooling will (and must) be to be future ready? And what of the key competencies: will debates about measuring these again emerge?

Those of us who have been in the game for a few seasons know that what can be measured is not always worth measuring (and that what matters can’t always be measured).

Will the pendulum swing too far?

Can we anticipate that resources in support of the changes to NCEA, local curriculum, personalised learning and the new New Zealand history curriculum will be available for teachers to use, amend and share, or will we be left waiting as we were at the inception of the NCEA in the early 2000s and again when the NCEA was “realigned”?

The union-led PLD offerings for this year, including funding for teachers to attend their subject association conferences, will no doubt help – but does our leadership in the curriculum and assessment space run the risk that the pendulum swings too far and resource development by the centre is discontinued in favour of the local? In other words – will teachers become tasked with building (and funding) all curriculum resources themselves?

Tune in next time

Much like the TV programme, the influence of one institution on another can take some time to materialise: In the Wire “juking the stats” in schools comes to be a plot line in the season on local politics. Is the proposed removal of “unnecessary metrics” in our education system (e.g. National Standards and appraisal) a political foil for the new metrics that will take their place?

Did the same quid pro quo occur with the proposal to have a “teacher led” Centre for Leadership established at the teaching council (with the boon of paying for it out of our recent pay increases)? Do we need to tune in next time to find out?

Last modified on Friday, 27 March 2020 16:33

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