Thursday, February 4, 2010

NZ Herald excels in Creative Writing

The past couple of weeks I have had the opportunity to work with clusters of teachers around the North Island as they prepare for the start of the new year. For me this is a fabulous learning opportunity as I get to learn from them and see the different ways schools take on the challenge of preparing for the year ahead. I get to speak about eLearning - one group went so far as to announce me as the eLearning 'expert'! I think it would be more accurate to say enthusiast.

One of the major points of my presentations this Summer has been about our imperative in 2010 to prepare our students with dispositions of digital literacy and digital citizenship, starting at the age of FIVE. In passing I talked about having Google Alerts set up to alert you to what is being said about you and your school. It is even interesting to know if
nothing is being said! As part of digital literacy I spoke about teaching our students to discern the accuracy of information of things they see and read online.

I had a feeling of deja vue when I sat down after speaking at the
Inspired Impact Conference and opened my laptop to check my email. A Google Alert had arrived while I was speaking to say Pt England School was mentioned in the New Zealand Herald. Of course I followed the link to check it out....

The Herald's creative writing skills became apparent from first glance at the Headline, because I had a vague memory of hearing about the reporter phoning the school early in December (hardly breaking news when it was a month old). I was sure I had heard that "The
media could make decile 1a schools look bad" was the thrust of the comments made. But the big alert to anyone who knows anything about the person being quoted - whether from sitting in staff meetings, participating in school and community events, or personally- is that he never uses deficit words like 'poor' to refer to our community or any decile 1a schools. Was it only for sensationalism that the editor chose to use the word 'poor' to talk about us in a headline (which of course is read by the community) or is that expressing an underlying attitude of this publication towards decile 1a communities? Hmmmm.....

Since the NZ Herald has not yet published Russell's letter of clarification, I have asked if I can add it to this post....
"Herald Reporter Andrew Laxton quoted me in his article on Education National Standards, 28/01/10. I wish to present my own unvarnished opinion: I do not ever, refer to schools or areas as being "poor" and do not pretend to represent all the low decile schools and communities of this country. I was clear with Mr Laxton that I support evidence based education and agree with many others, that parents and students own this evidence and deserve to have it shared with them as clearly as possible. I was equally clear with Mr Laxton, that there was no evidence whatsoever, of the government or the Ministry of Education ever wishing to create school 'League Tables'. Indeed, I challenged Mr Laxton that the only group ever to show such propensity was the media. Further, that if responsible reporting displayed value added, rather than a simplistic comparison of one school's position against another, schools like ours would look great and we could display to the public the truly excellent work we do. To this, Mr Laxton replied that the media reported what the public wanted. I hope reporting will also be be evidence based and truly educative. Russell Burt Pt England School"


  1. Good old granny herald!!! There is a distinct feeling out there that suggests the Govt is opening their eyes to concerns around league tables we need the data being shared in context i.e value added Good on you Russell

  2. Nice work! The press's aim to meet public need is one we need to consider as representatives on the education community. It'd be nice to see Russell's letter made just as big as the main article!
    Even if tables aren't an intention of the Ministry, managing intent simply doesn't address the issue. Even if the data is made broadly transparent then they will happen, it'll just be in a Herald pull out instead. Now, WE know how to look and learn from that data and what questions can temper any possible knee jerk assumptions about school performance.. but does everyone?
    I wonder how the press will present or interpret that information. I wonder too how easily uninformed readers will draw conclusions based on that data.
    If we know that the media will present that data in an unbalanced way, and the conclusions drawn by the public will be unbalanced as a result .. then can we honestly say that allowing such table to be collated is really the best or most honest way to communicate with the public?

  3. @Pete I think John Roughan gave us a clear indication of how the NZ Herald views tables in his editorial piece this morning
    Sadly we have shot ourselves in the foot with parents by not sharing the information we DO collect with them in the past. Showing my age here, I was told in several schools in my early teaching days NOT to divulge test results to parents because they wouldn't understand it. That kind of attitude created legends that are very hard to dispel.
    I would hope that we can manipulate the benefits of Web 2 and social networking to disseminate our own interpretations of these tables when (there is no if) the media create them. Perhaps our Union should be focusing their attention on harnessing Digital Age tools rather than buses to capture the hearts and minds of EnZeders?