Great education needs a push

Insights Newsletter
13 March, 2020

What if the principal and chair of trustees of each of New Zealand’s 500 secondary schools received a report every year that cut through the noise to show exactly how their school was performing?

Crucially, this report would be objective, data-driven and fair, because it adjusts for the unique community of students each school serves. In practice, this would mean a decile 1 school in South Auckland could fairly compare itself with the decile 5 and 10 schools down the road, not to mention the decile 1 school in Porirua.

The report would also show how the school performs over time and compared to every other secondary school in the country.

Sounds like a pipe dream, right? Well, it isn’t.

This week, the New Zealand Initiative launched the latest in a line of education research demonstrating exactly how its ground-breaking new tool could generate exactly these reports.

Insights and Excellence: School Success in New Zealand ran three individual schools through our model as a proof-of-concept demonstration of the tool unveiled in our previous report, In Fairness to Our Schools: Better measures for better outcomes.

Using integrated data already collected by the Ministry of Education and other government agencies, the tool is the first in the world to separate the contribution of family background from the contribution of each school.

The three initial school reports highlight the success of both low and high decile schools performing in the top 25% for NCEA levels 1 and 2 and University Entrance. They also track how each school’s performance changed over time, with surprising results at both ends of the decile spectrum.

This tool gives principals and boards of trustees an objective, fair and more accurate picture of how their school is performing.

The aim is not to give gold stars to New Zealand’s high performing schools or create new league tables. Rather, it is to help all schools improve, first by understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and then by helping them identify which schools they can learn from.  

The Initiative has done the hard work to build this model. It took us two years. It is now time the ministry adopted it and sent the reports to principals and trustees.

However, the ministry is currently “gauging schools' reactions to the NZI release to see if they would find value in the measure," according to an article about the report in the NZ Herald.

Parents, principals and boards of trustees must start requesting this information from the ministry.

School improvement needs pressure from individuals like you and me.

Joel Hernandez' new report Insights and Excellence: School Success in New Zealand is available here.

Stay in the loop: Subscribe to updates