Sunday, March 26, 2023

Benjamin Macintyre: Anecdotes don't make for sound evidence - a response to the Kokirihia Report

Tokona Te Raki, an advocacy and research group for Māori issues, has recently released a report titled Kōkirihia. The report takes aim at the practice of streaming in our schools and pushes forward the bold suggestion to ban streaming by 2030.

Tokona Te Raki’s efforts are based on good intentions. Māori students are over-represented in lower streams, and in most statistics relating to poor educational outcomes. Seeking to find a solution to end this inequity and ensure that Māori students have the same opportunities as everyone else is a noble endeavour. Unfortunately, there is one major issue with this report – it isn’t very good.

More specifically, almost all the evidence provided in the report is entirely anecdotal and unreliable. Teacher interviews, student first-hand accounts, and other questionable methods are used to paint an unfavourable picture of streaming. In other words, there is a distinct lack of reliable evidence. This may make for an interesting conversation starter but it is not a substantive basis for major policy change.

Let us take one example to demonstrate what I mean by this. On the website version of their report, there is a subsection headed “streaming case studies”. It contains, unsurprisingly, a collection of case studies on schools that have ceased to stream. Most of these studies comprise no more than interviews with staff members at these schools. The principal of Fairfield College in Hamilton notes in his interview that “most of my evidence so far is anecdotal.”

The experience of educators matters, but are they sufficient for a nationwide ban on streaming? What about the perspectives of educators who find that streaming works in their schools? A more rigorous approach is needed.

Further evidence of the invalidity of this report can be found in its bibliography. Steenbergen-Hu et al. (2016)’s synthesis of meta-analyses is cited in the bibliography but cannot be found anywhere else in the report. Perhaps this is because Steenbergen-Hu et al. found that streaming had either no impact or a positive impact on students in low, middle, and high-ability streams. Perhaps they didn’t read that particular piece.

This should demonstrate that even the noblest intentions cannot mask the fact that Kōkirihia is not a good report. It certainly isn’t evidence for a need to ban streaming and should under no circumstances be enough proof for the Ministry.

Benjamin Macintyre is a Research Assistant at The New Zealand Initiative. This article was first published HERE


DeeM said...

Not content with ruining our students chances by focusing on wellbeing and inclusivity, as opposed to knowledge and understanding, coupled with a huge dose of Maori culture and indoctrination, they now propose putting all the boneheads and no-hopers in with the higher achievers to bring everyone down to the lowest common denominator.

Our so-called educational elite are certainly intent on turning out the most ill-equipped generation of schoolkids NZ has ever seen.

Anonymous said...

There will be as many reports showing the disadvantages to Maori as there is money to throw at the alleged problems. And the problems will always be a colonial outcome.

Terry Morrissey said...

To not allow streaming is only another method of introducing equity by dumbing down the higher achievers, not improving the level of the slower learners.
That would be like asking someone from NZCPR to work with journalists from Stuff, the Herald, RNZ, or TVNZ. NZCPR would have to lower their standards to an unacceptable level and therefore become as unreliable as the latter.

Robert Arthur said...

Streaming is essential to reduce teacher burden. It was the basis of success of education in the distant past (students failed to their level). With the teacher handling one level there is not a high degree of distraction of pupils. The large multi level classes have to go. (It seems to me these are just a crafty way of using able taechers to train those recruited primarily for their pro maori leanings) Many of the sociological problems will reduce when students are not overwhelmed, confused and dispirited. When students could go freely out of zone a degree of streaming was automatically acheived. (A policy which benefitted neighbourhoods becaue the more able did not feel compelled to flee, creating ghettos). Of course it is vital that the lower streams concentrate on the basics; not haka and kapahaka. Assigning easy going maori teachers will not help. Pupils need to be discouraged from relying on professional sport for their future. The road to benefits and welfare needs to be made more difficult so that some effort to obtain basic skills is warranted.

Anonymous said...

What do teachers say about removal of streaming. I am not a teacher but I am advised by friends it is near impossible to teach those that want to learn in a class with those who don’t or who are not up to it. Think about it : one teacher, twenty kids: one special needs, three insist on being taught in te reo Maori, two’naughty kids’, one hungry kid, two sick kids, one who is learning English as a second language, three who can’t read, two who can’t write, four who are so under stimulated they are bored to the point of distraction, one whose beloved pet has just died and is crying inconsolably.

Anonymous said...

Kids, like all humans, need stimulation and they need to be challenged and there's nothing like the satisfaction one gets in achieving targets or goals. Non-streaming is just plain dumb, and that's what you'll end up with - a class full of kids with few if any reaching their full potentials.
When we select a sports team, we invariably try to pick players of similar capabilities, that's what works best - where everyone strives to improve with training, but also feels valued for their contribution.