Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New Zealand #1 in Education

 “Sometimes we don’t realise what we’ve got, because we are too close to it.  We see the faults and the flaws, but not the beauty of the whole thing.

We see ourselves as individuals in a tiny population living in a tiny country tucked right down in the bottom corner of the world and we have absolutely no idea how great we are, or how great we can become. We suffer from the “we’re just wee sprats in the big ocean of the world – what could we possibly know – or change – or achieve?” type of thinking.

But we aren’t.  Kiwis pack one heck of a punch!

For example, here we are living in the country that has been classified as the #1 country in the world in education! We don’t realise it, because we are in the middle of it – to us it’s normal, and in fact, we can see lots of ways to improve it – which is good, because that means we’re hell bent on doing it even better!

New Zealanders – ordinary Kiwis like you and me, can be world-beaters.

 We ARE world beaters!

One of the scariest and most challenging tasks I’ve ever had was taking a team of Future Problem Solving students to compete in the States in the International Finals. These were four 14 yr old students who had won the title of NZ Middle Division champions and who now had to compete against 64 other international and State Champion teams.

We were Kiwis! Sprats! Minnows!  Could we do it?

We returned from the USA carrying the biggest trophies we had ever laid eyes on (they do things big in the States!).

Was it a fluke?  No.   Was it just the school I taught at?  No.

That was 16 years ago.  Since then, year after year, NZ Future Problem Solving teams carry off major prize after major prize.  These students come from places like KeriKeri, Matamata, Invercargill, and some places that are so small I can barely find them on the map! Of course there are teams from the major cities as well.

Along with other NZ schools, I was lucky enough to take NZ teams to the International Finals 6 years in a row. I don’t need proof that NZ is ranked right up there in education – I had State Directors besieging me with questions: they wanted to know what it was we did back here to make our students so good.

The NZ education system is world class.

I believe my teams were so successful both because they were part of the NZ education system, and because I taught them that the essence of achievement is to work hard at what you can control.
You CAN’T control the level of ability of your opponents; the mood of the judges; whether or not one of your team mates gets sick on the day...
You CAN control:
                        how much preparation you put into something;
You CAN control:
how well you work as a team member; (you’re never ever really flying solo in life – there are always others working with you) and
You CAN control how much you are focussed on the task in hand.

If you are as prepared as you can be,
and you put everything you’ve got into it,
then you have at least as much chance as the next guy to be a world beater.”

About 10 days ago I had the privilege of being the guest speaker at a Senior School Prizegiving. I drew inspiration from the news featured that declared NZ had been rated as number 1 in education.  This blog is an extract from my speech.
 (Email me if you want a copy of the full speech - J)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Some Important Dates for 2011

SAGE 2011
(Secondary Auckland Gifted Educators)

As the Gifted Consultant for SAGE, I want to let you know of the special events being planned by the Committee for both gifted educators and gifted Secondary Senior School students next year, so you can diary them (and budget for them!) now.

1.      Focus Group Workshops:
Term 1: Wednesday 23rd February 2011 Time: 6:30pm – 8.30pm
Term 2: Wednesday 25th May 2011 Time: 6:00pm – 8.00pm (note earlier time)
Term 3: See Teacher Symposium below.
Term 4: Wed 23rd November 2011 Time: 6:00pm – 8.30pm  (note earlier time)

Venue: Level 1, Pfizer House, 14 Normanby Road, Mt Eden, Auckland
This year, workshops are free to any enrolled members of SAGE. (All educators and professionals interested in gifted education may join – see website www.giftedconsultant.ac.nz/SAGE.html ). Gold coin donation only for nibbles, thanks to the hospitality of Cognition and Micheal King.

2.      SAGE Gifted Student Conference
For Gifted Yr 11, 12 and 13 Students.  Enrolments through schools.
Thursday 7th July 2011 NOTE Change of date. 
Massey University, Albany, North Shore.
Download enrolment pack and details from  www.giftedconsultant.ac.nz/studentconf.html .

3.      SAGE Symposium for Gifted Educators
One day Symposium for Secondary Educators and Professionals involved in Gifted Education
Wednesday 5th October 2011
Details available on www.giftedconsultant.ac.nz/SAGE.html from May 2011.

Membership to SAGE is open to all educators and professionals with an interest in gifted education. Individuals, institutions and organisations can join, with multiple membership, for the modest sum of $20.00 per annum. SAGE@giftedconsultant.ac.nz

HATTIE WARNING: Not Enough Attention to Underachievers at Top End of the Scale

Recently I wrote an editorial for the SAGE newsletter about my concerns about potential negative effects that National Standards could have upon gifted learners.

It is gratifying to read that at the Labour Party Conference a few weeks ago guest speaker Professor John Hattie noted, “that while a lot of attention was given to the "tail" of under-achievers, not enough attention was being given to children on the other side of the scale who were not achieving their potential” NZ HERALD HATTIE[1]

“Success in implementing national standards in literacy and numeracy should be evident by seeing: ...students appropriately challenged and no teaching as if all students in the one year are similarly challenged”.

Ideally, schools will use national standards to identify those students who are performing well above the standard in numeracy and literacy, and this will lead to teachers and school management:
·          taking into account the student's prior knowledge and advanced learning ability
·         making appropriate provisions for those students to learn at the appropriate learning level through differentiated learning and an appropriate level of challenge
·         considering alternative learning pathways for these students so that they maintain their learning curve and remain engaged in learning
·         making decisions about individual gifted learners that are based upon best practice for gifted
These are actually the stated and implied aims (and worthy ones at that) of the NZ Curriculum.
However, this ideal may not happen.
Schools with inadequate gifted identification processes in place may narrow identification of giftedness to achievement measurement in literacy & numeracy standards. This may further marginalise those gifted at risk of non-identification:  those with learning or physical disability, minority ethnicities, lower socio-economic groups, and /or a different type of giftedness.  These students are already at risk of underachieving because they often do enough to pass a standard, but their true potential is masked.  Logic would dictate that if schools wish to raise student achievement, they should also be looking to that second tier of students.
Very high achieving gifted may be less well served than their underachieving “well –below” standard peers.  A gifted student may be underachieving even if they are scoring at “well above” their age level. If further above level assessment can prove they are capable of achieving at an “above” the standard these students should be assessed at the higher standard and learning and reporting should reflect this. Tracking should be in place to ensure that learning continues on an appropriate curve. However, if there is no above level testing, this is unlikely to happen.
Raising the tail is not the only desperate need here.


[1] NZ Herald Oct 18, 2010


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