About Thinks

Sometimes good thinks happen and sometimes bad thinks happen. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the two.

Some thinks need immediate action and some thinks may remain as thinks forever. Thinks can be angry and heated. Thinks can be joyful. Thinks should never be cold.

These thinks are linked to many other wonderful thinks and I like to attribute these.

These thinks do not necessary reflect those thinks of my employer.

Think long, think on.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

PaCT... Yeah... Nah

Last September I blogged about PaCT and as predicted the tool will be in our schools within the next couple of years and we are finally beginning to see a commentary around it which is a welcome change.

Nat Torkington has written a post from his point of view explaining the tool and pointing our why it cost so much money to produce.

The thing is, is that the New Zealand Curriculum is (was?) a marvellous and flexible thing of beauty. The suggested 'age range' for curriculum levels were blurred and gradual allowing young learners (remember we're talking 5 - 12 year olds here) to learn in a flexible manner.

When I trained to be a teacher (early 2000s) we were given fantastic courses in The Arts, Social Sciences, Science, Technology, Health and PE as well as Numeracy and Literacy. We were taught in an integrated manner so that kids could, for example, achieve the AOs of, say, Maths while exploring such concepts through dance and movement.  Now in primary schools The Arts are often 'done' by participating in events such as Artsplash or Kids for kids choirs (tick that box). But such events are barely even one of 4 strands of the Arts Curriculum (remember Developing Ideas, Practical Knowledge, Communicating and Interpreting and Understanding Context?)

Assessments, as we know them today, were things that were done to kids in the UK and the USA. We celebrated that our fantastic and effective education system did not allow kids to be 'done to'. We learned about Maori pedagogies through researchers such as Bishop & Glynn who showed us that characteristics of these pedagogies (e.g. collaboration, empathy, holistic learning, and celebrating strength) not only benefited the learning of our Maori learners, but all learners.

The issue I have with PaCT is that it is neither flexible nor holistic . As Nathan has said - assessing Literacy AOs will be done in front of a computer screen, comparing my student's work to others, flicking through exemplars going yep, yep, nah, nah, yep, nah and then waiting for the answer...

Yeah, nah...

What if my students, when looking at the AOs (they should have access to them) interpreted, and responded to them in such a way that they could not be compared to anything else? Surely we should actually be encouraging this behaviour - not valuing 'work' that is comparable to others? What will happen to this kind of creativity? Will I be saying: "Yep, that is brilliant but could you write it up as a story so that I can run it through the assessment tool?" (and yes you could argue that they should be able to do both... but my issue is why value one over the other all for the sake of formal reporting?). Why not trust teacher's judgement? Isn't that what OTJ means? Can we at least be honest about it and call it Overall PaCT Judgements (OPJs)?

So as I said in a comment on Nathan's blog, the cost to me (as a teacher and mother) is not about $$$ but about educational implications:

PACT measures (thus values) only numeracy and literacy.
The implications of this is that it narrows our curriculum.

PACT assumes that learning is linear. 
The implications of this is focusing on areas of weakness (alleged gaps) as opposed to strengths.

PACT (NS) levels come from working backwards from level 2 NCEA. The formula:
All 5 year-olds = Year 12 minus 7 years
The implications of this is that the labels At, Below, Above get distributed by age 6. 
Once ‘below’ is issued, a child has to work twice as hard to get to ‘At’ as the ‘gap’ is cumulative. 
BUT REMEMBER this is only in numeracy and literacy
If you did happen to have an edge in another curriculum area you won’t have time to pursue that strength. Any additional learning time is likely to be spent on MORE reading.

PACT assumes tidy year levels where kids should achieve numeracy and literacy standards based on age.
The implication of this is factory model pedagogy.

PACT allows National Standards to take the focus of assessment. 
The (already) implications are that newer teachers are now only assessing to the National Standards (at, below, above) and not to curriculum levels.

PACT (NS) values Pakeha ways of Knowing over Maori and Pasifika pedagogies. 
The implications of this is assimilation. (i.e. whose standards?!)

PACT values other assessment tools that assume that achievement and success is something that is carried out in isolation (eg. eAsttle writing). Even worse, assessments that reward one clean correct answer (STAR, PAT) . 
The implication of this is a future population who have been rewarded for rote learning and problem solving (in timed isolation) independently – as opposed to collaborative, creative, critical thinkers.

And one last thing, that has to be addressed:
"But in a world of devolution, how does the state ensure that schools don’t suck?..."
PaCT will not magically fix any schools that 'suck'. From the bottom of my heart I truly believe that PaCT will instead make such schools suck even more.


  1. Indeed Tara! The narrowing of our gorgeous, rich and as you say 'flexible' curriculum is devastating. As an arts advocate I too worry about the lack of focus on varied ways of knowing and ways of showing.
    Thanks for your thinks.

  2. That last question is stupid - the curriculum ensure that schools don't suck. If they were worried about schools sucking, that person should take it up with private and charter school owners, not punishing hard working teachers.