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The Forum > Article Comments > There's no doubt that education standards are falling - we need to act > Comments

There's no doubt that education standards are falling - we need to act : Comments

By Kevin Donnelly, published 7/5/2004

Kevin Donnelly argues that secondary education outcomes have deteriorated in recent years

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As an extremely hard working primary teacher, I found Kevin Donnelly's thesis completely insulting, quite apart from the intellectual flaws in it, which are breathtakingly gaping. His major intellectual error is to generalize failure to an entire state school system based on his own interpretation of national testing data. This is an incredibly long bow to draw, considering the complexity and diversity of the system and students. A case in point is my own grade. They are 90% ESL students from Vietnamese, Cambodian and Cook Island Maori background. 25% are from sole parent families. 6 of the children have been diagnosed with learning disorders, 3 with behaviour disorders, and 1 has permanent hearing damage.

They are all mainstream students. Success for them is measured far more broadly than results in National Literacy and Numeracy tests. Our first challenge, in which we are succeeding, is KEEPING THEM IN SCHOOL (regular attendance). In my experience, parents from different cultural backgrounds place a different value on education. School attendance is whimsical for many of our families, and not always a priority. Therefore parent education is, in importance, a school function on par, if not more important, than teaching the "basics." After all, if theyre not there, you can't teach them anything! With such a diverse student population, we also face the challenges of teaching our kids to co-operate in the classroom, treat each other with diginity and respect, organize themselves for learning, and develop the persistence and work ethic necessary for "learning the basics." These skills are fundamental.

If anything is failing our kids, it is our work, family and broader social structures. Teachers are having to develop social/personal skills without a willing partnership from the home or family unit. With this in mind, I believe the national testing results are exceptionally impressive. My classroom case is a microcosm of the challenges faced by our education system in a highly multicultural city. There is a vibrant culture of Professional Development in our schools equipping educators to meet these many challenges (overlooked in his thesis) and I believe we are overwhelmingly succeeding.
Posted by Kanman, Wednesday, 8 June 2005 10:05:36 PM
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