I imagine John Key's feelings are akin to the ones you get when you are an actual educationalist, you know, the ones that actually teach children. You come up with this great idea, you invest a lot of time into it. And often, especially when you are a beginner, you will even fund the idea with your hard earned money.
The day comes, you pat yourself on the back as the most amazing educational breakthrough is about to be unleashed! Guess what? - it's not what you think it was going to be. Sometimes you even find out that your great idea has been tried (and failed) before. It's all a bit disappointing, it's all a bit ropey.
Why? Because there is no single solution to teaching and learning. Children are all different. They are not tidy inputs. They bring with them a variety of different experiences and ideas, and they certainly do not output tidy data packages.
I've said it once, and I'll say it again (and again). The problem lies in our assessment methods:
- We are using 19th century tools to assess 21st century learning
- We are encouraging children to think outside the square, then demanding they complete multiple choice tests
- We tell our learners that they learn best when they collaborate, then insist that they take a test in silence and in isolation
- We open our learner's eyes to a range of 21st century tools then measure their knowledge allowing them to use only pencil and paper
- We cheer at conferences about unleashing creativity then measure 'achievement' by looking only at Numeracy and Literacy
- We encourage children to re-craft their writing and then we measure their writing ability (using a one-off , e.g. AsTTle, test where they are required to write for 45 mins, in silence with no resources)
- We tell ourselves that we have standardised assessment systems (yet a 'Stage 6' in maths means one thing at one school and something else at the next)
- We have different teachers with different beliefs, who move readers through the levels for different reasons (decoding, comprehension, consolidation)
- And as for moderation meetings - you could write a TV series on them alone.
So the data, ropey as it might be, is bogus anyway. Even if we did get to a point where the data was all presented in the same pretty format, and the children all took the same test, it will actually tell us NOTHING. And while we are on this 'one test' chances are that it will be Eurocentric (which, by the way, is not addressed by simply switching the subject's names from John to Hone). Questions will require only one narrow answer and the 'results' will be spat out by some efficient machine.
But ... the data will be tidy, and the league tables will be easily generated by the push of a button. If that's what he wants, chances are, that's what he will get.