Parents to get progress charts
By NATHAN BEAUMONT - The Dominion Post
Last updated 05:00 23/10/2009

Parents will be able to follow their children's progress on the Government's new national primary school standards with a Plunket-style chart that shows strengths and weaknesses and alerts parents to problems.

The reports, which will come out twice a year, will also include sections with teachers' comments, practical steps parents can take to help their children improve, learning goals and whether they need extra support at school.

But education groups are warning against standards data being turned into publicly available league tables comparing schools.

The reports will be unveiled today when the national standards are issued by Education Minister Anne Tolley and Prime Minister John Key at an Auckland primary school. They will be in place from the first day of school next year.

Plunket's growth charts track children's weight and height. The school graph will track performance in reading, writing and maths against national benchmarks.

Mrs Tolley said the Plunket system was familiar to many parents.

"Parents can watch over time how a child is progressing against the standard. If a child suddenly dips below the line it gives everyone the ability to notice something has gone wrong. It will alert parents to ask questions of the teachers about what they can do or how they can help.

"At the moment I have parents coming into my electoral office showing me their reports and they don't know what they mean.

"What we want are reports that clearly tell parents where their child's strengths are, their weaknesses and what the school is doing about it," she said.

Mr Key said national standards were an important step to ensuring children got the best help.

"Unless young New Zealanders can read and write at the appropriate level there's no question that their future opportunities are closed off to them. In the end, ignoring the problem only robs them of their future."

He dismissed concerns that league tables comparing schools would be published.

Principals have threatened to "overestimate" pupil achievement against the standards to protect their reputation.

"We've made it clear that this isn't about league tables. If the media want to spend their time digging into that, it's always a possibility," Mr Key said.

The release of the standards comes as the Education Ministry reveals schools will not get extra professional support for teaching arts, science and physical education. Instead, it wants schools to concentrate on reading, writing and maths.

Mrs Tolley said it was important schools were given extra support to embed the standards. "If I didn't put some support in, you can be sure the sector would be complaining that they weren't getting enough help. I am damned if I do, damned if I don't."

Cannons Creek School principal Ruth O'Neill said that, with the standards in place from next year, the main priority should be teacher training.

"From our school's perspective we wouldn't be concentrating on PE or arts as something to develop teachers because they really have to concentrate on national standards. If we are going to be able to do it properly, that has to be our prime focus."

From here.