All around the country Kiwi students are in the thick of their long-awaited NCEA exams. Many of which will now have a new appreciation for the immense value of schooling – particularly after being locked out for several weeks this year.
School is more than cheap day-care. They are places where teachers prepare young Kiwis for life. They are where teachers and principals pass down cultural and social values. And where kids gain life-long friends and learn to socialise with those different to themselves. Schools are where students learn powerful knowledge that enable them to flourish in work, study or simply in their passions.
Some of these outcomes have been easier to measure than others. Educators and parents both want kids to be happy, culturally sensitive and productive members of society. But getting reliable data on how schools are helping to reach these aspirations can be difficult if not impossible.
That’s where key innovations in data management come in.
Introduced in the report In Fairness to Our Schools: Better measures for better outcomes, the Initiative’s school performance tool is the first of its kind in New Zealand and the world. Using socioeconomic data on more than 400,000 students over 500 schools, the tool can fairly evaluate every secondary school in the country regardless of decile.
Located in Statistics New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI), the tool uses information from not only the Ministry of Education but also the Ministry of Social Development, Inland Revenue, Oranga Tamariki, New Zealand Police and the Department of Corrections.
The tool then compares school performance beyond just academic outcomes. Upcoming research will reveal how schools are performing in preparing young Kiwis for life after graduation in addition to how they have performed in NCEA.
So, what might this project reveal?
Previous research uncovered that on average there is no NCEA performance difference between decile one and decile ten schools after the tool accounted for the communities each school serves.
This upcoming research will show if this is the same case when we compare schools on the employment, training and later-life outcomes of their students.
Are schools that perform well in NCEA the same schools that perform well in preparing their kids for employment and future study? The tool will help answer this question.
If New Zealand cares about equity and equal opportunity in education, then it is imperative to use the wealth of government data to get the most out of schools.