Below is my email to Hekia. I am appalled at the suggestion from MOE to do with my national standards data. I don’t know where our system is heading. The only certain fact is that national standards data is not worth the paper it is printed on.
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Date: Friday, 9 May 2014 12:38 PM
Subject: National Standards data
A little while ago I sent the spreadsheet of national standards data to my MOE office as required. Some of the columns to do with ethnic group achievement levels did not tally. I checked my school assessment data carefully and confirmed the numbers in each ethnic group at each level, but this would still not tally with overall ethnic group numbers. The overall numbers did tally to my school roll at the time, so there is a ‘glitch’. I believe the glitch is to do with the priority ethnic group system the MOE uses which places students as Maori if they indicate at any level that they are (a student listing themselves as Asian, Pakeha, NZ Maori will automatically default to Maori for instance).
I received a phone call and email today from MOE regarding certain ethnic columns not tallying with ethnic totals. I told them I knew that, but the individual ethnic totals in each level (‘well below’, ‘below’, ‘at’, and ‘above’) tally with my school assessment data. MOE are desperate to have columns all adding up nicely, so helpfully suggested a way to make my reading achievement data look tidy. They suggested I take the three Asian students in the ‘below’ column and place them in the ‘above’ column. That would eliminate one red tag. I pointed out that I did actually have three Asian students in the ‘below’ category. That, however, was of no interest to the MOE person who indicated that it would balance things up.
After the phone conversation I requested guidance via email on what it was suggested I do. I received an email back from MOE with the stated suggestion confirmed as above.
What they are suggesting I do is in fact manipulate my data to make it fit. In this case it would make my data look better as I would now have no Asian students in the ‘below’ category and three more Asian students in the ‘above’ category.
There are three other columns with red tags on the spreadsheet so I presume I am expected to follow a similar process – juggle around numbers until everything is tidy.
As I stated, there is definitely a ‘glitch’ and I agree with MOE’s idea that it most likely has to do with the priority ethnic question – however, I will not accept that the answer is mindlessly to alter achievement data to make things tidy. Professionally and morally I am appalled by this suggestion which simply reinforces that the national standards data that makes its way to the public, via MOE, is rubbish data.
We seem to be sinking to new lows in New Zealand education when this type of thing is happening. I do not blame the individual in the MOE who has suggested this to me. It is a fault of a high stakes testing and reporting regime we have had imposed. I feel sorry for all parents and communities who look at 2013 national standards data and make assumptions about school performance based on manipulated data, and I am appalled at the thought that schools will be judged and ranked on such data.
I will not be altering my data. No doubt this will lead to serious phone calls from my MOE office and pressure to conform. I have too much professional integrity to be influenced by that.
I have no problem with someone working alongside me to try to discover the spreadsheet glitch affecting half a dozen students out of 452 so the red tags disappear, but I will not be party to suggestions of data manipulation from the Ministry of Education.