Miracle on Swann
By Kelvin Smythe
Miracle on Swann
Swann Avenue is set to become the Lourdes of world education. Anytime soon we can expect to see a statue of Bruce Crawford displayed in heroic pose, on a rearing horse perhaps; or maybe in philosophic pose, peering significantly into the future, thumb and fingers facially poised, eyes somewhat startled in growing realisation of his being on the cusp of another fantastical Socratic breakthrough. His burly figure and grizzled beard adding form, texture, and depth to the visual drama on display.
Why the supra-heroics?
The fabled answer is that Bruce Crawford of Swann has led his Decile 1 school of 186 pupils with a transience figure of 47%, the only Decile 1 school of two amongst the 44 schools of the wider Whangarei area, to achieving 91.60% of the children being at or above the national average in an NZCER standardised test.
The NZCER standardised test was the STAR end of year one of the newly revised edition.
That bald figure, miraculous though it is, of 91.60% (63.86+27.74) is made wildly hairy when compared with beginning of the year test (also the newly revised edition) in which the children being at or above the national average was 51.79% (41.96+9.83).
Bruce Crawford, principal of Hikurangi School has, on the surface, done something supra-heroic on two counts: achieved 91.60% in the end of year test, that being an improvement of 40% from the beginning of the year.
Sometimes the ministry plays around with which stanines fit into which categories so I'll put the results another way: 81.51% of the children were at stanine 5 and above.
A national standards success story?
Well, no. In 2011 the children and teachers barely did national standards, because Bruce Crawford and his school don’t believe in them. The school was a hold out into the New Year.
So, in no way a national standards success story.
Well, only if it is real: which it isn't.
Puzzled, well let’s go back to the beginning and sort out what has happened.
Kia ora Kelvin
Have just finished processing the schools Star results.
Fantastic 91.60% at or above average.
Great, only problem is I don’t believe it.
We have 47% transience. Our best result in the past has been 74% at or above their chronological age.
This leads me to conspiracy theory 75(a) iii, sub para 35 z.
That is that the test is skewed to generate this kind of result so that the smiling Ngati Porou (my iwi) can stand up and say how good NS are.
I might be wrong and just have absolutely outstanding teachers (which I do).
But I also know exactly what is going on in my rooms, and this leap of performance is just not true.
On 16/11/2012, at 9:17 AM, Kelvin Smythe wrote:
I was half thinking of travelling to Whangarei (from Cambridge) to see my daughter and grandchildren, will go today.
See you in five hours
Would you have any relevant records on hand?
I have known Bruce for a number of years; a brave and enlightened principal – he is also a dab hand at statistics.
There was something awry here.
Was it a cock-up or a jack-up?
Anyway, there I was walking into Bruce’s vibrant school.
What a joy.
The office has a marvellous worked in feel to it.
It has a bungalow line of windows which has the children walking close by. I sensed he sometimes lent out for a chat.
We immediately slipped into talking the curriculum as curriculum people do (on writing).
‘What wonderfully colourful and individualistic art work,’ I continued.
‘I encourage them to do heaps of artwork. They will only stop when supplies run out.
Then down to business.
Bruce sensed a jack up.
We agreed that STARS is an important marker for national standards literacy, if the government wanted to demonstrate for political purposes that national standards were ‘working’, this would be an excellent place to start.
NZCER is now no longer the independent research organisation it claims to be. It is just another organisation that has been ideologically corrupted.
For instance, Robyn Baker, director of NZCER, is on New Zealand Teachers Council Review Committee, along with the hard right educationist Judith Aitken, and John Morris from Auckland Grammar, and former chair of the hard right Education Forum. This Committee is charged with producing a classic neo-liberal education outcome for a changed Teachers Council.
Robyn Baker, from a teacher’s point of view, has no place there.
Even worse is NZCER’s heavy involvement in PaCT, version 2 of national standards.
NZCER is involved in producing national standards.
It is quite unbelievable.
Is your organisation’s involvement in national standards evidence-based Robyn Baker?
If national standards are researched how independent could your research be?
Over 200 research academics sign a statement about the destructiveness of national standards and NZCER, a self-proclaimed ‘independent research organisation', sides with the government.
NZCER has deserted us.
So there is a prima facie case for NZCER being susceptible to nod and a wink influence to make certain choices here and there.
With Bruce, I went through the STARS records for the past few years, checked on the administration of the tests, also looked at the national standards records.
Was it a jack-up or a cock-up?
I explained to Bruce that I thought it was almost certainly a cock-up, though I needed reassurance on one matter.
The redevelopment of STAR, I explained, had been undertaken by Warwick Elley, the original author.
Warwick Elley was described on the NZCER web site as leading ‘the NZCER team’.
Warwick Elley is the Abraham Lincoln and George Washington combined of New Zealand education.
To even entertain Warwick Elley as being susceptible to nod and wink is utterly ridiculous.
But Warwick Elley would have been dependent on others, how fully in control was he?
The web site says the ‘NZCER test development team spent two years on a full revision, which included pilots, two national trials, review of items, and working with external experts.’
Yet it seems something has gone wrong terribly wrong.
Was it a jack-up or a cock-up?
We wondered where the 2013 beginning of the year test is going to go to from here.
While I was in Bruce’s office I rang another Decile 1 school I knew had administered the test and was promptly informed about a surprising bump in results.
There will be all kinds of reassurances from NZCER that all is well, but things aren’t all well.
Or are heroic statues going to become an everyday feature of primary school environments?