It is a tortuous logic for you to use the tragic results of segregation as an argument for the continuation of it. It is necessary to get to the causal basis.
Martin Luther King
Seeing as how Stuff (proudly brought to you by Coca Cola) has built their entire coverage of the National Standards around comparing schools I guess we should play their game. The Stuff journalists tell us that they, with great nobility, have not ranked schools. Ranking schools nationally doesn’t matter. It was creating the local school as an option on a regional shopping list that bothered people. Everyone wants to send their children to a good school. Comparing unmoderated data and putting it into a comparison table now lets parents do that. Call me fussy, but this feels a lot like ranking schools. Actually, I’m a little over this debate. What I am interested in is what happens next.
Anyway, the good news is that if you’re living in a nice, mostly homogenous neighbourhood your local school is great.
Island Bay School is killing it. The teachers there must be great. It is a decile 10 school, with a school population that is over three quarters NZ/European (and other European).
Newtown School. What is going on at that school? How appalling! It is a decile four school with a school population that is 50% Maori or Pasifika, and 25% NZ/European.
We would think Newtown was a bad school if we were racist. If we accepted the idea that historical disempowerment is connected to present outcomes in some way then we can understand the results. Children of the empowered going to schools that reflect the culture of the empowered, from families of the empowered do quite well. And the opposite is true.
At the moment I am identifying the students in Year 9 who got low results over the year in my learning area. I want to interview them and make a better programme for them. All the results are not quite in yet, but the trend is clear: Pasifika students are grossly overrepresented in the bottom quarter. Two studies I have read tell me why. One tells me that for low-achieving Pasifika there are often no books at home, no quiet spaces to work, no role-models for educational success. The other study, an American study, tells me that children have a word bank that mirrors their parents’ word bank, and that word banks tend to be as small or big as the parents’ socio-economic status. A child from a low socio-economic group can have a 35 million word gap when entering school next to a kid from a high socio-economic family.
Which tells me that the National Standards, in general, inform us where social deprivation lies (as if we didn’t know already), and show the tragic consequences for a child as young as six of growing up inside a system that has over a long period of time placed their family at a disadvantage.
At the moment all of this wrangling is just wrangling. The key lies ahead. What the National government does with the data tells us what their actual education policy is. If it is a pretty complex and long term group of linked up supports for those in our society that are underachieving then this would be fantastic. If it is being “relaxed” about zoning and charter schools popping up then it is running away from the problems our society faces, and abandoning our most vulnerable students.