Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fasten Your Seatbelts!

Guest Post by Allan Alach

Well, as I’ve been predicting, along with many others, it seems, from this article by Kelvin Smythe, that national testing is on the way. I don’t know Kelvin’s source for this, but seeing as he was spot on with his story about the Ministry of Education seeking people to train for limited statutory manager roles in schools, we can expect that his source is accurate this time as well.

It was only a matter of time, as many commentators have been saying, for testing to appear on the radar. National’s standards were never going to work, for many reasons, all of which have been well expressed in many different forums. My suspicion is that the protests and non-compliance from schools is exactly what was expected and that we may have played very nicely into their hands.

As I have written previously in a number of other guest postings on this blog, this now opens the way for a probable attack on the lack of professionalism of principals, the New Zealand Principals Federation (NZPF), and even more importantly in the eyes of the National government, an attack on the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI). For overseas readers, the NZEI is the primary teachers union, representing principals and teachers, while the NZPF is a professional body for principals and is not their union.

These attacks would be used to justify the introduction of the national testing regime because 'of the unprofessionalism and vested interests' of these groups, and especially the NZEI for ‘protecting incompetent teachers.’ The only remaining question is whether this will appear as part of the coming election campaign, or be kept secret until after the election. My personal opinion is that while union bashing will be a feature of the campaign, the testing agenda won’t be revealed until after the election, should the National Party be returned to power. This would be consistent with other policies of the present government.

This approach is completely consistent with the models used in the USA, which is to be expected, seeing as the whole standards agenda, including rhetoric, seems to be a carbon copy of the process there. This link has been made time and time again, by many people, including Kelvin Smythe and Bruce Hammonds here in New Zealand and by Phil Cullen in Australia, and many others, and I’ve also drawn the dots together in my articles. Everything is tracking according to the predictions we’ve all made, and if you care to check out ALEC in the USA (especially their education policies) you’ll see where much of this originates.

The latest edition of the Education Today magazine will be out shortly. This includes an article that Bruce Hammonds asked me to write about the book “A Measure of Failure: The Political Origins of Standardized Testing” and especially looking at this in the New Zealand context. One thing that is very clear, from this, and many other books (for example “The Case Against Standardized Testing” by Alfie Kohn) is that standardized tests are imposed for political reasons, to enable the ‘school reform’ agenda to be set in place. Read this article when Education Today arrives and you’ll see what I getting at, and why.

Why ‘school reform?’ That is easy to answer, and the path is well laid out - to open the way for privatisation of schools. Phil Cullen has illustrated this very well in his Treehorn Express newsletters, as have many people in the USA. The most well known of these is Diane Ravitch and there are many, many others, such as Alfie Kohn and Susan Ohanian. How much more evidence do you need?

How about this article then?

“What Does Rupert Murdoch Want With America's Schools?

Murdoch has made it very clear that he views America's public schools as a potential gold mine.”

That’s Murdoch. What about the Pearson Group? McGraw Hill? Both are heavily involved in US education. Pearson Group have a nice little deal running - one of their subsidiaries helped develop the USA Common Core Standards (like national’s standards, but worse). Another subsidiary is developing curriculum resources to ‘assist schools in raising achievement” against these standards. And so the stories keep on coming - they’re all out there in plain view, if you care to look. Here’s an example: Erect Wall Between Test Companies and School Officials

There are many USA websites and Facebook pages that provide all the information you could ever want. I’ve listed these several times in previous articles.

Think we are immune from this corporatisation? Why would you think that? Is there an opportunity for the private sector to make profits running schools? Seeing as a private company is making a profit out of running a prison in Auckland, why would schools be exempt? Is there an opportunity for private companies to prepare and sell curriculum resources that will supposedly help children pass tests? Common overseas; are we any different?


The future is very clear.

National testing, and all that follows from this, is on its way unless the people of New Zealand take action to stop it.

Unless there has been much preparation behind the scenes, which has been kept secret, I can’t see systems being ready for this to arrive in 2012.

With the three year term of a New Zealand government, 2014 is the next election year. Introducing tests then seems to be politically risky. What does that leave?



Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work Allan.
Brucefrom the UK

Allan Alach said...

Thanks Bruce. Hope you're enjoying the heatwave!