This week primary school principals have had a problem and it is not the one in the news, though it is one of many that might be exposed by more transparent national standards. It is a problem principals face at this time every year: what to do with the substandard teacher.
Just about every big school has one. In secondary schools they don't matter as much because no pupil has them all day. But in a primary class the teacher is crucial. A poor one can harm a child's progress for a year.
The principal knows who they are. The whole staff knows who they are. The more savvy parents have heard about them too. The teacher has probably been there forever and can't be moved.
It would be good to give them a roving commission rather than a class but staffing doesn't usually permit that. The best the principal can do is fill the class with kids who might do all right despite the teacher, arrange what support is possible, and make sure no child is being consigned to him/her for a second year.
None of that will have mollified parents in the know. The more determined of them will have been in the principal's office demanding their child be put in a different class. My father was a primary principal and I saw the annual strain.
Indeed. This really is the elephant in the room as far as the NZEI is concerned. Ypu'd think the union would be concerned about the quality of its membershiop, but it would seem not - more from Roughan:
This week the New Zealand Educational Institute, the union that protects these people's jobs, has put a bus on the road to oppose new national standards of reading, writing and maths that would be tested and the results reported in a way everyone could understand.
It is the last bit the NZEI really hates. Schools already test kids constantly for their own purposes but they are not supposed to share the results with parents. They'll provide your child's test scores if you know to ask but they'd rather you didn't.
You might "misinterpret" them. You might think a substandard mark is a worry when really it is just something the teacher is about to attend to. You might go home and transmit your concern in inappropriate ways, damaging the child's confidence and self esteem.
Roughan does note that the majority of teachers do not fit into this category, and we have little difficulty agreeing with him on that count. So what is it that makes the NZEI so fearful about teachers of inferior quality being rooted out?
We don't have an answer to that. Nor, we suspect, does the NZEI. But here's the bottom line. Our childrens' education is far, far too important to be put at risk by teachers who are not up to the job. If the NZEI wants to have credibility in these times, it needs to promote teaching quality, not safety by union card.
It's little wonder then that the NZEI is so vehemently opposed to the imposition of National Standards. But the union is out of step with public opinion. Over at Kiwiblog, DPF comments on the Herald's poll (and being a professional number-cruncher, does it far better than we could) which shows support for National Standards trumping opposition by a five-to-one ratio.