What happened with the Education and Science Select Committee report on engaging parents in the education of their children?
This is one of the most wishy-washy and banal reports I’ve seen from a select committee – it’s not even in the ball-park with the ambitious 21st century learning report from this committee, or the gutsy health select committee report on children’s health.
Quite apart from the limp recommendations, it’s characterised by muddled thinking.
This paragraph is probably the worst, and deserves to be looked at closely.
The ministry told us that all countries exhibit an association between socio-economic status and student achievement. One New Zealand-based project, Competent Children, Competent Learners, found that socio-economic status explained 18 percent of the variation in achievement in the Programme for International Student Assessments, an international study that assesses reading, mathematical, and science literacy in 15-year-old students. A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement, by Professor John Hattie, (Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement, 2011), concluded that socio-economic status was the 32nd most influential factor in achievement. An OECD report, Strong performers and successful reformers in education, indicates that in the best-performing countries in the world, students’ performance is only weakly linked to socio-economic status. Nevertheless, some of us consider that factors such as poverty and transience remain significant obstacles to some parents engaging in their children’s education.
Let’s go through this mess sentence by sentence.
1. The Ministry told us that all countries exhibit an association between socio-economic status and student achievement. For real. If the MPs didn’t know this already they should not be on the Select Committee. It’s an incontrovertible fact; it’s the nature and strength of that ‘association’ that are interesting and debatable.
2. One New Zealand based project, Competent Children, Competent Learners, found that socio-economic status explained 18 percent of the variation in achievement in the Programme for International Student Assessments…. Oh dear. Competent Learners is a sophisticated and nuanced longitudinal study of children educational experiences over fifteen + years. It makes no mention of PISA, and certainly no mention of any percentage associated with SES. The 18% figure is one that Minister Parata plucked out of the last PISA report, which presents a very narrow reading of the ‘out of school’ factors that affect learning. Mixing these two together is either incompetence or an attempt to give a dubious claim a lot more credibility than it deserves.
3. A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement… Yet another example of misrepresenting Hattie. He explicitly states that the greatest factors influencing achievement are characteristics outside of school - 50%, students peers, 5-10% and the home, 5-10%. Once again, SES is very narrowly measured in this report, but the recognition that it’s out of school factors that are the dominant ones is clear.
4. An OECD report, Strong Performers and successful reformers in education, indicates… It is clear that the link to SES is stronger in New Zealand than some OECD countries (one reason could well be that we resource schools that students in poverty attend only a small amount more than those where wealthy students go), but it exists everywhere. The following table shows it clearly.
5. Nevertheless, some of us consider that factors such as poverty and transience remain significant obstacles… Okay, so some of them don’t consider poverty or transience a significant obstacle. Well, there we go then. Just ignore 50 years of education research, data like the graph above, and the submissions to the inquiry.
And as a result of that you get a weak report which adds very little to the education policy debate.