Decile doesn’t mean destiny

Barbara Ala'alatoa: I'm pleased to see The New Zealand Herald putting education in the headlines. It's important for society to understand the critical issues facing schools and students, and why some kids are not achieving the way others are. But I have a problem with the reporting of schools and their success – or not – by decile. The word 'decile' needs to be erased from our vocabulary. It has created more misinformed headlines than I care to remember. That's because the term decile, and in particular 'low decile' is misleading when it comes to talking about success. There is a far more interesting question to thrash out in the public space, and it's this: why is there a greater variation of achievement within deciles than across deciles? Simply put, there are schools in the lower decile range that achieve on par with higher decile schools, and there are high decile schools that do not achieve as well as low decile schools. What we should focus on is; what are those successful schools doing, and how can we replicate, and expand, this success? I know our students' success is not just possible but probable when we focus on what matters. For us, this means great teaching every day in every classroom, being evidence-based about our practice, and having a learning-focused partnership with our community. So we shouldn't just take it at as axiomatic that low decile means low achievement. What we need now is evidence. We need to work collegially and collectively across deciles. That's our challenge and our opportunity.

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