With the regularity of the changing of Australian Prime Ministers, David Seymour periodically re-moots his master plan to introduce teacher performance pay and lays alongside it a promise to give principals a massive $20k extra per teacher if, and only if, the teacher has left their union. Well, Australia just had an election, the alarm batteries have been changed and, right on time, this appeared in The Spinoff.
There are a number of things that need addressing with David’s idea and his evidence.
First, the union-busting aspect of his plan is problematic because, well, it’s not legal. As outlined here on MBI’s Employment New Zealand web site:
No-one (employers, managers, colleagues, union members or union officials) can threaten, or put (directly or indirectly) undue pressure on you:
- to be or not to be a union member…
A contract, agreement or other arrangement can’t:
- require anyone to be or not to be a union member or a member of a particular union
- give a person, just because they are or aren’t a union member or a member of a particular union, any preference:
- for getting or keeping employment
- relating to terms or conditions of employment…
Most observers would say the fact that the plan isn’t legal might be the end of the matter, but it doesn’t seem to deter David and his supporters, so let’s dig deeper into the plan: Let’s take look at that promise of $20k per teacher.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Twenty thousand dollars per teacher. Tempting. Juicy, even. But all is not as it seems. David’s proposal is that the principal gets an additional $20k per non-unionised teacher that they employ – and there’s nothing to say how the principal might allocate the money. If, as David Seymour proposes, the principal decided to allocate the money to teachers via performance pay, how might it look? And if the goal is to improve student learning, would it work?
In his Spinoff piece, David cites two quotes as evidence that performance pay is the way to go. Each quote is linked to an abstract (not the full report) and in each case he has cherry picked a single quote that supports his ideological position. Let’s look at these quotes…
David writes: ‘In 2007 the Journal of Public Economics published a study which found “test scores are higher in schools that offer individual incentives for good performance”.’
However, a less selective reading of the abstract shows that it goes on to say:
“The association between teacher incentives and student performance could be due to better schools adopting teacher incentives or to teacher incentives eliciting more effort from teachers; it is impossible to rule out the former explanation with our cross sectional data” (my emphasis).
In other words, the better grades may have nothing to do with performance pay at all. David didn’t mention that bit of the abstract in his article, did he?
The second abstract David links to says that it uses PISA 2003 micro data for its analysis. I cannot dig deeper into the research because again David shared only the abstract, but the May 2012 OECD report “Does performance-based pay improve teaching?” states that:
“…the overall picture reveals no relationship between average student performance in a country and the use of performance-based pay schemes.”
That report goes on to say that performance pay tends to work only in those countries where teachers are poorly paid. Is that David’s plan, I wonder – to keep teacher basic pay so low that it makes the prospect performance pay look attractive? It’s not much of a plan, is it? Especially when, as the report states, “empirical analyses of the effects of performance-related pay has generally been inconclusive“. And if there’s no clear evidence it improves student outcomes, what is David’s plan for, I wonder?
Oh, gosh, I almost forgot to give you the link to the definition of union busting.
That’s me for now. Shout me when the Australian Prime Minister is rolled.
Some research on Performance Pay
National’s support for reinstating the American charter school model shows not only that the privatisation bias that Bill English pursued over recent years is alive and well, but also that they are struggling to develop sound Education policy.
As far back as the 2008 general election, National committed to “increasing educational choices”. But everyone knows that the phrase “School Choice” was first coined by economist Milton Friedman and is the code used to drive the privatisation movement in the USA. The pure form of the privatised market model is vouchers, but in practice the charter school model has been adopted as the most practical privatisation route in most States.
The irony is that there is a wide variety of choice already available in the New Zealand public education system. One leading American commentator, writing in the Washington Post, made the remark that “…the most aggressive school choice system in the world is probably New Zealand”.
Surveys over many years by the NZ Council for Educational Research confirm that around 90% or more of New Zealand parents feel they send their child to the school of their choice. This high degree of satisfaction with choices available is underpinned by the variety of schooling options available, both within the State system and across the State-Integrated model.
Every State and State-Integrated school is governed by a parent-elected Board of Trustees, under a charter, the defining document that sets out the school community’s Vision and Values. It is this inconvenient fact that requires “charter schools” to be called something different in New Zealand!
The State system includes the set of schools operating as Kura Kaupapa, under s. 155, and the set of Designated Character schools under s. 156. These schools are complemented by over 330 State-Integrated schools, with religious character, such as Christian values or even Muslim values, as well as a variety of teaching philosophies, such as Montessori or Rudolf Steiner.
Indeed, anyone who tries to claim that New Zealand has a “one-size-fits-all” public education system is either very poorly informed of the variety of options available or is being deliberately misleading.
As a former Minister of Education, Nikki Kaye knows this only too well. So, we can conclude from this release that she has just nailed her colours to the mast of the privatisation movement.
National hid behind the ACT Party first time around and needed the support of the Maori Party to get the initial charter model legislation through the House. The convenient marriage of the ideology of privatisation and the ideology of self-determination was therefore born.
Given that the formal evaluation of the charter school model, carried out by Martin Jenkins, failed to draw any genuine conclusions as to the impact of the model to date, National is clutching at straws to claim that the model has already proven to be successful.
And we know from the financial statements of the Sponsors that this has been a lucrative business for them to enter. Bill English rushed to change the funding model after only one year but the first and second round school Sponsors have scored well out of the policy and away from the watchful eye of the Auditor-General.
No wonder they don’t want to let it go!
Labour has launched several reviews across multiple fronts to try and get to grips with the challenges of reinvigorating the New Zealand public education system after 9 years of flawed policies, such as National Standards.
It is early days yet but National’s knee-jerk reaction to bring back an American model that doesn’t even work there reveals how shallow National’s approach to developing Education policy is proving to be.
– Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ
The ACT Party’s ideological bent for privatisation is clear when David Seymour talks about the government’s decision to “take school choice away” from kids if his charter school model is abolished.
But the New Zealand system already has a remarkable variety of options available without the need to privatise the provision of public education.
US commentator, Marc Tucker, had this to say on “school choice” in an article that appeared in the Washington Post, in October 2012:
“The country with the most aggressive school choice system in the world is probably New Zealand”
And that was before we introduced the charter school ideology!
Mr Seymour might also want to check the views of parents a bit more widely than asking the National Party pollster, David Farrar, to run a poll for him.
Regular surveys of New Zealand parents carried out by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER), have consistently found that around 90% of both primary school and secondary school parents state that their child is attending the school of their choice.
And these numbers have hardly changed over the 25 years or so that NZCER has run these surveys.
Most New Zealanders understand that the phrase “School Choice” was used by Milton Friedman to advocate for the privatised, market model of education provision that he believed should replace the institution of public education.
Fortunately, the vast majority of New Zealand families do not support either the ACT Party or its ideology.
~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ
Parent and whānau perspectives on their child’s schooling: Findings from the NZCER national survey of primary and intermediate schools 2016, by Linda Bonne and Eliza Stevens
Save Our Schools feels a response to David Seymour’s Questions for Kelvin, Willie and Peeni should include a few relevant facts. This seems to be something Mr Seymour routinely ignores in his communiques.
First, his comment about Maori educational achievement being so utterly abysmal.
Using the Government’s main system level metric, called School Leavers, Māori achievement has been increasing steadily for many years. In 2016, 66.5% of Māori students left school with at least NCEA Level 2 or higher, the benchmark used by the government for the minimum desired level of qualification. This compares to a similar figure of 45.7% in 2009, an encouraging increase of 20.8 percentage points in 7 years.
In contrast, only 59.7% of charter school leavers left school in 2016 with at least NCEA Level 2 or higher. Furthermore, it was disappointing to see that no less than 20.2% of 2016 leavers from charter schools left without even attaining NCEA Level 1.
Second, his comments on charter school funding always require clarification. Charter schools receive much more funding than the LOCAL schools that they were set up to compete against. This gives them an advantage compared to the much bigger, more established schools in places such as South Auckland.
Save Our Schools analysed the 2015 financial statements of South Auckland Middle School (SAMS) and its local counterpart, Manurewa Intermediate. SAMS received $11,740 of funding per student after paying the rent for its premises. In contrast, Manurewa Intermediate received funding of $5,907 per student, with its property provided by the Crown.
This simple analysis destroys the myth perpetuated by charter school supporters that there were not serious problems with the original charter school funding model. Some of these problems were corrected when the funding formula was revised but the early schools still enjoy the benefit of being locked in to the overly generous original model.
Last, we are always puzzled by the current stance that charter schools are apparently now behaving themselves, and all teaching the National Curriculum and employing registered teachers etc. etc.
Wasn’t Mr Seymour’s marketing slogan that charter schools were freed from constraints placed on state schools in return for rigorous accountability against agreed objectives?
Well, if they are not, in fact, using these so-called freedoms, then what is their point of difference?
And, if they are, then they will have no problem merging back into the incredibly broad range of school types and structures that characterise the New Zealand education system.
Won’t they, Mr Seymour?
The charter school model is being closed down. The model. Not the actual schools currently operating as charter schools, necessarily.
The charter schools currently running have opportunities to remain open, in that they will be able to negotiate to become state schools or special character schools.
Some of the charter schools have got poor academic results. Some have not met their roll targets. Some are doing okay. Each school will be looked at individually. And if a charter school is doing okay, they surely can do the same job as a state school.
In moving from being a charter school to being a state/special character school, the only big differences are:
- they will no longer receive funding for students they don’t have (via the minimum roll funding provision) or for property when they don’t need it (via flat property payments that can be spent on anything, not just property), and
- will legally be schools as opposed to businesses and therefore open to exactly the same scrutiny as other state-funded schools, including the Official Information Act.
Truly, if – as they assert – a charter school is doing a good job, has qualified teachers, can cope on the same funding as a state school, and has nothing to hide, why the fuss?
Nikki Kaye has joined her colleague David Seymour in making misleading statements about charter schools.
In a stuff.co.nz story, written by Jo Moir and published on Tuesday 7 November, she is quoted as saying that the six new charter schools were “publicly notified in February”, meaning the wheels had been in motion for many months for those schools.
This is incorrect.
The public announcement of the two Fourth Round schools, due to open in February 2018, was made on Tuesday 11 July this year.
The public announcement of the four Fifth Round schools, due to open in February 2019, was made on Thursday 7 September, only 16 days before the election.
No documentation relating to either the Fourth or Fifth Round schools has yet been released. This is in contrast to the Third Round schools, when documentation such as the applications, evaluations and contracts was released publicly on the day of the announcement.
Further scrutiny of the minutes of the Partnership Schools Authorisation Board confirm that at the meeting held on 11 April 2017, the Board agreed to delegate to the Chair and Deputy Chair the authority to make the final decisions on the outstanding due diligence matters for the Fourth Round applications. The Ministry of Education was to then confirm the communications plan ahead of the Round 4 contracts being signed. So, that implies that as at April, the final decisions had not even been made and the contracts had not yet been signed. But without any documentation, who knows?
As for the Fifth Round applications, they were even further behind. The 11 April meeting agreed the following dates for Round 5:
- 24 May: Board meets to discuss STEM / TEI applications
- 8 June: Board meets to review balance of applications
- 9 June: interviews
- 15 – 16 June: Interviews
- 22 June: Final recommendations meeting.
According to that timetable, the Fifth Round recommendations were not even going to be finalised until late June!
So, Nikki, where does the “publicly notified in February” comment come from?
As for David Seymour, he was up to his usual mischief over the weekend, when he made this statement in his press release:
“The Sponsors of these schools are passionate educators who were required to demonstrate community support for their schools before their applications were accepted.”
Not so, as least as far as the Wairakei community is concerned, where one of the Fourth Round schools is due to open next year.
Two recent articles in stuff.co.nz have covered the anger and frustration that Wairakei residents have expressed about the proposed new school. In the second article, dated only 2 days before the election, Taupō Mayor David Trewavas called for a halt to plans for a partnership school at Wairakei Village, saying the complete lack of consultation is “unacceptable”.
But the article also quoted David Seymour, who responded to a query from local MP Louise Upston, saying that while community consultation was not required to establish the school it was an “essential component” of a school’s preparation for opening.
So, Mr Seymour, why do you now say that demonstrating community support for the school was required before the application was accepted?
The appalling lack of transparency has been an unfortunate feature of the New Zealand charter school experiment from the outset.
Save Our Schools NZ calls on the new government to instruct the Ministry of Education to release all documentation relating to the Fourth and Fifth Round applications with immediate effect.
Only then can the false and misleading statements of opposition politicians be called out as they should be.
– Bill Courtney, SOSNZ
It’s election time again, but before choosing which Party to vote for, make sure you know what their education policies are – and pay attention to what isn’t mentioned, too.
This time we are looking at National Standards.
New Zealand Political Parties’ Policies on National Standards
“Labour will abolish national standards to return the focus to a broad and varied curriculum with the key competencies at the heart. Labour will ensure that the education system embraces and fosters essential skills and competencies such as attitude, communication, commitment, teamwork, willingness to learn, motivation, self-management, resilience and problem-solving.”
“Labour will abolish national standards and work with experts and stakeholders to develop a new system that better acknowledges child progress and focuses on the key competencies”
“Labour will scrap the current approach of measuring the success of schools by the number of students achieving national standards or NCEA, and will work with teachers, principals, parents, tertiary institutions and the Education Review Office (ERO) to develop more effective ways of evaluating the performance of schools”
“Labour will re-direct resources spent forcing “National Standards” on schools into teacher professional development programmes that assist students who are struggling”
“The Green Party will: Oppose the system of National Standards that was introduced in 2010, and remove the requirement for schools to report against them”
“The Green Party will: Work with teacher organisations to develop an assessment model or models that allow tracking of student progress against national data; to be used to inform further teaching and learning in partnership with students and their
“The Green Party will: Oppose the publication of league tables which rank schools on academic achievement.”
“New Zealand First would abolish National Standards and re-establish professional learning and development support for the quality delivery of our New Zealand Curriculum with monitoring as to children’s progress based on curriculum levels.”
“New Zealand First believes that all students need to be literate and numerate but does not believe that the black and white National Standards imposed on our primary school children are fit for purpose. Our national curriculum documents, the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, have identified curriculum achievement levels that are progressive and overlapping – children are not expected to achieve at the same level at the same time.”
“New Zealand First will: Abolish National Standards in their current form and work with the sector to establish robust assessment measures for individual students and to identify nationwide goals for primary education.”
Mana will: “Replace National Standards with processes that help parents assess their child’s progress”
TOP will: “Reduce assessment, giving more time for teaching and learning.”
“TOP will delay National Standards until Year 6”
“National is [also] ensuring a better education through: Providing parents with better information through National Standards so they know how well their child is doing at school.”
The ACT Party’s education policy does not mention National Standards.
The Maori Party
The Maori Party’s education policy does not mention National Standards.
United Future has no education policy on its web page.
If you spot any errors or missing information relating to this post, please comment below and I will edit as quickly as possible.
Dianne Khan – SOSNZ
New Zealand Charter (or Partnership) Schools are private businesses that are fully funded by your taxes. They are funded at a higher rate than comparable state schools.
Charter Schools can employ untrained staff to work in classrooms as teachers.
Charter Schools are free to pay staff, advisors, etc whatever they choose. Charter schools need not declare pay levels or any other aspect of what their funding is spent on.
It is not possible to get use the Official Information Act to access information from a Charter School, as they are private businesses.
Charter Schools need not have parent representation on the Board.
With that basic overview done, here are the charter school policies of the main New Zealand political parties.
Party Policy on Charter Schools
Despite charter schools being driven by ACT, their education policy web page has no mention of charter (or partnership) schools at all.
Despite bringing in the legislation for charter schools, the National’s education policy web page has no mention of them at all.
“We believe in a quality, comprehensive, public education system, not the corporatised, privatised system that the current government is driving us towards. Taxpayer funding for education should be directed towards learning and teaching, not creating profit-making opportunities for private businesses.”
“Labour will protect and promote our quality public education system by: Repealing the legislation allowing for Charter Schools” (Source)
“The Green Party will: Oppose charter schools, repeal the enabling legislation around charter schools, and maintain the current flexibility to support/create some state schools designated special character.” (Source)
“New Zealand First is strongly opposed to “charter” or “partnership” schools; public funding for these privately owned profit making opportunities would be ended by New Zealand First.”
“New Zealand First will: Repeal the 2013 amendments to the Education Act 1989 that allowed the creation of Charter Schools.” (Source)
Mana will: “Cancel public private partnership contracts for schools and abolish the charter schools policy” (Source)
“Question: You seem to be staunchly against specialist schools like charter schools and even private schools. Shouldn’t parents have the right to do best by their child, and be less concerned about the plight of other less fortunate children?
Answer: You’d have a point if there was any evidence that these specialist schools are producing better overall results for their students. There is no such evidence. There is however strong evidence that ghetto-ising the residual schools is doing real damage to the students there, entrenching disadvantage and raising the costs to society of the rising inequality that results. There is a case for specialist schools or at least classes for children with special needs, or for children of various ethnic communities. But the trend under Tomorrow’s Schools of “affluent flight” shows no benefit and plenty of costs.
As for charter schools, they could easily be accommodated within the state system – there is no need for them to sit outside.” (Source)
The Maori Party
The Maori Party’s education policy does not mention charter schools. (Source)
No school-level education policy at all can be found on the web page of United Future (Source)
If you note any errors or missing information relating to this post, please comment below and I will edit as quickly as possible.
Dianne Khan – SOSNZ
Edited 10/9/2017 3.34 to update TOP’s policy and add link.
In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s election year, and that means it’s time to look at the various political parties’ education policies.
So, because we are helpful souls here at SOSNZ, here’s a handy alphabetical list of NZ political parties with links to their education policies online (or, where no education policy is yet published, a link to their general policy page):
ACT Party Education Policy
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party Education Policy – none on party web page. Other policies are here.
Conservative Party Education Policy – none on party web page. Other policies here.
Green Party Education Policy
Internet Party Education Policy
Labour Party Education Policy
Mana Party Education Policy
Maori Party Education Policy – not on party web page. Other policies are here.
National Party Education Policy
New Zealand First Education Policy
The Opportunities Party (TOP) Education Policy
United Future Education Policy – none on party web page. Other policies are here.
1. The introduction of charter schools is both a sop to the ACT Party, with their ideological desire to introduce a privatised, market based model of education, and a follow up to the Step Change Report produced in the term of the previous National Government. [Feb 2010]
2. However, there are significant differences between vouchers, the pure market model usually promoted by ACT, and charter schools, which is privatisation by way of contracting with private sector providers. Treasury calls this “Contracting for Outcomes”.
3. Treasury, in its advice to the Minister of Finance, noted that: “The evidence suggests that schooling systems that use strongly competitive elements such as vouchers, avoiding school zoning and ‘charter’ schools do not produce systematically better outcomes.” [July 2012]
4. “School Choice” is the phrase used in America to describe the market model. But New Zealand already has “arguably the most aggressive school choice system in the world” in the view of one overseas commentator. [Marc Tucker, Washington Post, October 2012]
5. NZCER surveys over the years consistently show that the vast majority of NZ parents already believe they send their children to the “school of their choice”. [NZCER]
6. Overseas evidence on charter school performance is inconclusive, at best. A wide range of individual school performance is evident but with little system-wide effect across the model as a whole. [CREDO and Hattie]
7. This purely quantitative analysis is then subject to further criticisms of many aspects of US charter school practices, including: student selection, including the effect of “self-selection” amongst parents; the proportions of English language Learners and special needs students; student attrition; school discipline and behaviour management practices; the apparent lack of backfilling, i.e. the tendency to not replace students as they leave; and the drive for what is commonly called “test prep”, in contrast to a genuine focus on the quality of education.
8. The promotional pack from the Authorisation Board boasts that the New Zealand charter school model represents “Freedom from constraints imposed on regular state schools in exchange for rigorous accountability for performance against agreed objectives.”
9. It then identifies the following factors, but without any evidence that these are likely to lead to higher student achievement: Cashed-up per student funding; school day & year; school organisation; curriculum; teacher pay / teaching practice; privately provided / secular or faith based. [PSKH Authorisation Board, 2016]
10. The argument that “freedom” will encourage/facilitate “innovation” is weak. It is not supported by overseas evidence [Lubienski 2003] and one US charter school industry’s overview even conceded that “… most charters do not employ particularly innovative instructional approaches”. [Bellwether 2015]
11. The combined roll of the 10 schools now in operation was 1,257 as at 1 March 2017, an average of about 125 students per school. The combined Maximum Roll across the 10 schools is 2,112 students. [MoE Schools Directory, April 2017]
12. The original funding model has already been changed, as it soon became clear how much operational funding these schools were receiving compared to their local state schools. Small schools are expensive and the government was fully funding the First and Second Round schools with no Sponsor capital input required.
13. Even in their 4th year of operation, the two largest First Round charter secondary schools are receiving cash funding of over $14,000 per student, compared to a system-wide weighted average for all schools, including property, of $7,046.11. [2015 system data]
14. The Third Round funding model now uses an approach more oriented to funding the student than funding the school, as the roll grows. But the government still provides the property and insurance funding for what is essentially a private sector organisation.
15. Cabinet was told: “A strong evaluation programme will be put in place that thoroughly examines the impact and effectiveness of the first such schools. This will enable us to make informed decisions about whether or not to open further such schools in the future.”
16. This promise has not been carried out. The roll-out of the model has proceeded well ahead of the release of any evaluation. At the time of writing, the Third Round schools have opened this year and applications are being processed for the Fourth and Fifth Rounds!
17. The first two reports from the Martin Jenkins Evaluation Programme are weak and do not rigorously examine school performance or the impact these schools have had. The Evaluation has also completely ignored the failure of the First Round school at Whangaruru.
18. Student achievement outcomes to date have been mixed but difficult to analyse thoroughly given the delays in the Ministry releasing accurate information.
19. By May 2017, the Minister has still not announced her decision on the release of the performance based funding for the 2015 school year! No operational reports for the entire 2016 year have yet been released, along with supporting documentation such as contract variations and Ministry advice to the Minister.
20. There was a major problem with the interpretation of the original secondary schools’ contract performance standard, which is “School Leavers” and not NCEA pass rates. This resulted in incorrect reporting of the true state of the 2014 and 2015 secondary performance. [MoE advice to the Minister, July 2016, obtained under the OIA]
21. Superficially high NCEA pass rates are published by Vanguard Military School but NZQA data obtained under the Official Information Act (OIA) reveals issues around the quality of the credits gained, the high proportion of unit versus achievement standards entered and large differences between internal and external pass rates. [NZQA]
22. Primary and middle schools assessed against National Standards have not performed well. In the 2015 year, only one school out of five – the Rise Up Academy – met its NS student achievement standard targets. [MoE initial analysis, 30 May 2016]
23. Some schools, including Vanguard and the two Villa middle schools, have failed to meet their Student Engagement contract standards relating to stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions. This is of concern, given the US charter school practices noted above.
24. Charter schools are not more accountable than public schools, simply because they operate under a contract. Whangaruru was not closed for failure to achieve contract standards; it was dysfunctional from the start.
25. Public school accountability includes parent-elected Boards of Trustees, which must hold open meetings, maintain open records and be subject to the Official Information Act. Board finances are subject to audit under the supervision of the Auditor-General.
26. No such requirements apply to charter schools, which are organised under a commercial contract between the government and the private sector Sponsor.
27. Public funding must go hand in hand with public accountability. State and State-Integrated schools both abide by this principle but charter schools do not.
David Seymour has made a clearly incorrect statement to the media about his beloved charter schools and contradicted his Minister in the process.
The question at issue is the incorrect interpretation and measurement of the student achievement targets used in the original charter school contracts for the first and second round charter schools.
Save Our Schools NZ has been involved for over a year in the battle to get the Ministry of Education to acknowledge that both the reporting by the schools and the performance evaluation by the Ministry have been incorrect.
Radio NZ reported on Thursday that Seymour defended the incorrect interpretation by making the following statement:
“The reason that there is a difference, just remember, is that we have been pioneering holding schools to account through a contract, and it was necessary if you wanted to do that to have a different system of measurement.”
This statement is rubbish!
The original contracts did not have a different system of measurement at all.
The performance standards used in the original contracts were stated as “School Leavers with NCEA Level 1” and “School Leavers with NCEA Level 2”.
But both of these performance standards have been interpreted incorrectly and not calculated in the normal way that the Ministry does so for all other schools in the system.
These School Leaver statistics are published in the Ministry’s Education Counts database for every school: state, state-integrated, private and now the charter schools.
The error was obvious once the Education Counts “School Leavers” figures for the first round charter schools were released and it was clear that these were different from both the schools’ own reporting and the Ministry’s evaluation.
But it was also clear that they were not what the Minister had intended when the contracts had been put together in 2013.
Under the Official Information Act, Save Our Schools NZ obtained Ministry reports to the Minister in 2013 that set out the basis for the contract performance standards and the metrics that would be used to measure performance.
These documents included one where the Minister, Hekia Parata, made a hand-written comment on one of the papers in May 2013, discussing the principles behind the contract standards:
“There is to be no compromise on the system-level benchmarks.”
This makes a mockery of David Seymour’s claim that it was necessary to have a different system of measurement.
The Minister then signed off the contract metrics in September 2013. These included the following:
“n. Agree that performance standards for 2014 NCEA Level 1 and 2 should be based on 2012 system-level results for decile 3 state schools.”
So the Minister had clearly intended that the normal system-level benchmarks should be used and the charter school targets for 2014 should be the same as the results of decile 3 state schools in 2012.
It is the incorrect interpretation and measurement of those performance standards that has been revealed and is now being corrected.
Seymour is simply wrong to argue that a “different system of measurement” had always been intended.
~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ
See also: https://saveourschoolsnz.com/2016/08/16/david-seymours-bizarre-claims-about-charter-school-performance/
This is the second in a series of postings following up an op-ed written by Don Brash published in the NZ Herald.
Our first response discussed what motives might lay behind what we feel is a concerted PR push by Villa Education Trust, the Sponsor of South Auckland Middle School.
In this piece we will look at the statement made in the op-ed about funding, as this remains one of the real sticking points about the early charter schools.
Ah yes, critics argue, but partnership schools get a lot more money from the taxpayer than other schools do. Absolute nonsense.
Sorry, Dr Brash, but charter schools do get more OPERATIONAL FUNDING than the local schools get. Especially when their funding is compared to the larger schools in South Auckland, where SAMS is located.
In a nutshell, SAMS received total operational funding of approx. $12,800 per student in 2015 compared to Manurewa Intermediate (the intermediate school used in the article) which received approx. $5,600 per student.
To understand how this large discrepancy arises, we need to look at the original charter school funding model. The single biggest policy mistake it made was to try and work out the equivalent funding that a stand alone State school of the same size and type might receive.
But, in practice, the charter schools are being created in places like South Auckland where there are larger, more established schools that receive much lower average per student funding. This means that the larger schools could not possibly recreate the conditions such as class sizes of 15 that the smaller charter schools can.
One recent story on Radio NZ described the pressure on some South Auckland schools that saw many of them using their libraries and halls as teaching spaces. One school had plans to start teaching next year in the staffroom!
So, is it any wonder that when given the option of class sizes of 15, free uniforms and free stationery, that parents may be choosing the charter school?
Let’s look briefly at the original charter school funding model, noting that this model has already been changed for the third round schools that have just been announced.
The original model had two essentially fixed components per school: Base Funding and Property & Insurance. The property component is fixed for the first 3 years (unless the school changes size or teaching year levels) and the base funding component varies by type of school (secondary, middle or primary) and is indexed each year.
Variable Funding comes in two parts: a Per Student Grant and Centrally Funded Services. The two variable components are then multiplied by the number of students on the roll or the Guaranteed Minimum Roll (“GMR”) whichever is the greater. So, if the actual school roll is less than the GMR, the Sponsor gets paid for at least the GMR number of students.
In 2015, SAMS operated at its Maximum Roll, which was originally 120 students.
So, putting all the components together the SAMS financial statements show revenue from Government Grants of $1,536,016, or an average government funding figure of approx. $12,800 per student, in 2015.
So let’s walk through the SAMS financial statements for 2015 and see what Villa does with its $1.5 million of funding.
First, it pays the rent, which is $150,000 per annum. If we are generous, and include all Property expenses, including utilities, we find these amounted to $194,776 in the 2015 financial statements.
This would then leave a total of $1,341,240, or $11,177 per student after we have acquired and maintained the school premises.
What do we do next? We would look to hire the teachers necessary to deliver on the 1:15 class size ratio.
For a school of 120 students, we would need 8 teachers, at a round number cost of $75,000 per annum each. That should cost us approx. $600,000 and we find that teacher salaries in the 2015 SAMS accounts came out at pretty much that amount: $584,883. Add in the other curriculum related costs, such as classroom resources – including those free school uniforms and stationery – and total Learning Resources amounted to $869,846.
That leaves us with $471,394 to pay for the administration of a 120 student school.
Plenty of money to pay for a full-time Community Liaison Manager – nice if you can afford it – pay for all the office and other admin costs and allow for depreciation and you spend a total of $263,906.
And what does that leave room for?
That’s right: the Management Fee payable to the Sponsor of $140,000. That’s the cost of hiring a full-time principal at a much larger school!
For comparison, let’s see how Manurewa Intermediate is getting on.
The Find A School application on the Education Counts website has summary financial information for State and State-Integrated schools.
In 2015 Find A School showed Manurewa Intermediate’s Staffing Entitlement figure was $2,510,958 and its Operations Grant figure was shown as $1,431,808. So, let’s cash this all up and make an OPERATIONAL FUNDING total of $3,942,766.
But straight away we have a problem. Manurewa Intermediate has 704 students. So we start our comparison with average per student government funding of only $5,600 per student.
Its property is owned by the Crown, so it doesn’t pay rent in cash. So we can skip straight to the teacher costs.
To engineer class sizes of 15, we would need to buy 47 teachers. At a cost of $75,000 each we would need $3,525,000.
That would leave us with only $417,766 or $593 per student to pay for everything else necessary to run a school of 704 students which is nearly 6 times the size of SAMS!
Out of that amount, we would need to pay for all classroom and curriculum resources, all the non-teaching staff, all the administration costs, the utilities and property maintenance costs and the depreciation to cover the replacement of all the furniture, equipment and ICT resources.
Hopefully you can see from this comparison that it would be virtually impossible for Manurewa Intermediate to have class sizes of 15 with the level of government operational funding it receives.
You could also arrive at the same conclusion with a simple rule of thumb calculation.
Based on a teacher cost of $75,000, in a class size of 15 each student needs to contribute $5,000 to pay for their teacher. SAMS had $11,177 after paying for the premises; Manurewa Intermediate started with $5,600.
In summary, what readers interested in understanding charter schools funding need to appreciate is the significant influence of the fixed cost components of their funding model.
Even at its initial maximum roll of 120, the fixed components of SAMS’ funding comprise 57% of its total funding: base funding was $578,021 and the property component was $303,681. That is why the charter schools are proving to be more expensive than their local counterparts: they are small schools with high fixed cost funding.
But they are being compared to larger, longer established schools where the fixed costs are spread over a much greater number of students.
This is what economists call economies of scale.
It is a major reason why direct comparisons between schools with significantly different funding streams should be treated with real caution.
Research shows that the effects of smaller class sizes are positive and of real help, especially when dealing with students who need more intensive support.
Smaller class sizes are an expensive policy to engineer; but wouldn’t it be great to see class sizes of 15 in all our low decile schools, not just those favoured by the flawed charter school funding model.
~ Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ
The NZ Herald ran an op-ed piece yesterday written by former ACT Party leader, Don Brash. It sang the praises of South Auckland Middle School, one of the two charter schools run by Alwyn Poole of Villa Education Trust.
The piece contained statistics of all sorts including figures purporting to compare the National Standards results for SAMS to local Manurewa schools. I will write separately on the thorny topic of comparing schools and how this might fit in to how we see the charter school concept playing out here in New Zealand.
We will also look again at the much higher operational funding that SAMS receives compared to local schools. And we will also deal with the silly comment that Dr Brash made about Rototuna Primary receiving “$40 million for start-up”, which is a ridiculous statement to make.
[If you want a summary of this year’s charter school funding read our piece from earlier this year]
But, in the meantime, let’s focus on the current PR push.
We have seen this push several times recently in the right wing blog sites Whale Oil and Kiwiblog and it even appeared in a piece in the National Business Review, written by another former ACT Party leader, Rodney Hide.
Alwyn is well known to many of us in the charter school circle. He is very aggressive in his marketing and communications, looking to push both the charter school concept and his own schools at every opportunity.
While there’s nothing really wrong with that, I suspect the motivation for this current push was that SAMS has fallen short of the student achievement performance targets in its contract.
This was confirmed last week when the Ministry’s evaluation of the 2015 charter school performance was published. SAMS met only two of its six Targets and was rated as Almost Met. However, its sister school out west, Middle School West Auckland, met only one of its six Targets and was rated Not Met.
Mind you, the Ministry report, dated 30 May 2016 but released in the last week of August, was buried on the charter school section of the Ministry’s website and not even put at the top of a long list of documents. No press release, no website announcement – nothing. I wonder why?
The Ministry report did not make any recommendations on the release of what is termed the 1 per cent retention amount of each school’s operational funding. This is supposed to be released only when a charter school has met all of its performance standards. [See charter school Agreement, Schedule 7: Payment, clause 1.4 (i)]
However, the Minister fudged this decision last year and released the retention payment to Villa, even though SAMS failed to meet its student engagement performance standard, due to having too many Stand Downs, Suspensions and Exclusions.
Just out of interest, we should also note that the two Villa charter schools have so far generated $640,016 in management fees to the Sponsor. And these are on top of any expenses incurred within the schools to cover both teaching and administration costs.
The charter school love-in group, known as the Authorisation Board and headed by another ACT Party ideologue, is in recruitment mode now for the Fourth Round. They have a slide pack that promotes the charter school concept as “Rigorous Accountability for performance against agreed objectives”.
Both SAMS and Middle West have not met their student achievement contract performance standards in the 2015 year.
We shall see what the Minister decides…
~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ
Analysis by Save Our Schools NZ shows that the charter primary and middle schools achieved only 27 out a combined total of 66 achievement Targets for the 2015 academic year. This is a hit rate of only 40.9%.
For most people, this would represent a “Fail” but David Seymour seems to have taken the dark art of grade inflation to a new height.
In his Free Press release (15 August), Seymour claims that his charter schools are “knocking it out of the park with results and innovation”.
Outrageous comments such as Seymour’s serve to remind us that charter schools are clearly not subject to any serious monitoring at all.
Seymour’s colleagues on the charter school Authorisation Board have just launched a marketing campaign to try and bounce back from the disastrous current application round.
One of the slides in the presentation pack describes the charter school model with this comment:
“Freedom from constraints imposed on regular state schools in exchange for rigorous accountability for performance against agreed objectives.”
But the agreed objectives are those set out in the charter school contracts and not those in Seymour’s fantasy baseball stadium.
It will be interesting to read the Ministry’s evaluation of 2015 charter school performance and to see whether they have also drunk too much of the charter school Kool-Aid.
For the record, the combined 2015 results for the 3 primary and 2 middle schools are shown below.
Contract Targets are set at each Year level, as being the percentage of students assessed as “At or Above National Standards” across Reading, Writing and Maths.
The schools have different numbers of Year levels in operation, as they become established, but these add to 22 in each subject area for the 2015 year.
Targets Met in total: Achieved 27 out of 66 40.9%
Reading: Achieved 7 out of 22 31.8%
Writing: Achieved 10 out of 22 45.5%
Maths: Achieved 10 out of 22 45.5%
– Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ
If you don’t follow charter school goings on worldwide (and for your sanity, I kind of want to suggest you don’t), you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s just the odd blip here and there. But, to be honest, it’s more like a volley of blips coming thick and fast. In fact, if blips were locusts, we’d have a plague on our hands.
Take just this week’s revelations, for example…
Nga Parirau Matauranga Trust (NZ)
- David Seymour confirms that as yet not a cent of the $5.2 Million the failed Northland charter school received has been recovered. The school was open for just one year.
Waipareira Trust (NZ)
- Waipareira Trust pulled out of charter school negotiations in part because Government refuse to include the Treaty of Waitangi in the contract. (What’s that again, how ACT say this is all for the benefit of Maori students…)
The E Tipu E Rea Trust (NZ)
- This new body is set up by government to promote and support charter schools and given half a million dollars without even going to tender. (Very expensive cheer leading.)
- Apparently it’s a charity, so it’ll have charity tax exemptions.
Academy Transformation Trust (England)
- Ian Cleland, chief executive,”…spent £3,000 of taxpayers’ money on first-class rail travel, while dining expenses racked up on his taxpayer-funded credit card include a meal with other staff at Marco Pierre White totalling £471, and the Bank restaurant in Birmingham, at a cost £703.45″ Yes, teachers eat this way all the time in the staff room. More Moët anyone?
- He also leased a XJ Premium Luxury V6 Jaguar car and put his wife on the insurance, clocking up £3,000 in service bills alone. Because what head teacher doesn’t need a Jag?
NET Academies Trust (England)
- Maxine Evans spent over £9,000 on executive taxis to travel between schools (and they have been sometimes made to wait outside, meter running, for the duration of her visit!)
Paradigm Trust (England)
- An OIA shows that the Trust pays for broadband at CEO Amanda Phillips’ holiday home in France. (Clearly it’s hard to afford when one only earns £195,354 (NZ$400k) a year.)
Gulen/Harmony Charter Schools (USA)
- Charges filed against them alleging US$18M fraud (One of a raft of scandals related to the Gulen charter school chain over the years)
Michigan study (USA)
Ohio Department of Education invoiced (USA)
- Diane Ravitch reports that Geneva Area City Board of Education invoiced the Ohio Department of Education, stating that “[o]ver the past 16 fiscal years, $4,265,924.70 has been taken away from Geneva Area City Schools via State Foundation Settlement deductions and sent to under-performing charter schools.”
Cabot Learning Federation (England)
- Bath-based school is closed due to insufficient students, leaving current students without a school. Parents were not consulted.
- The school was inspected in May and judged to be inadequate.
Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (England)
- The Trust decides it doesn’t want to run the schools any more and looks to find someone new to take over. (Like passing on a franchise…)
- The BBC reports: “In November, the Regional Schools Commissioner’s Office issued a pre-termination warning notice to the trust over “unacceptably low” standards at Marshlands Academy in Hailsham.”
- The BBC also reports: “The commissioner said the number of pupils reaching level four or above in reading, writing and maths had fallen by 20% and was “significantly below the floor standard”
Oh I could go on… this is but a drop in the ocean… but you get the idea.
The charter schools movement is not about education – it’s about privatisation and diversion of funds. As always, I ask you to follow the evidence and follow the money.
Featured Image courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Taxpayers fund large wages and lavish perks of academy school chiefs , The Guardian, Published online Sunday 24 July 2016 00.05 BST, retrieved 6.59pm NZ 25/7/16
Trust given $500,000 charter school contract without going to tender, NZ Herald, published online 10:43 AM Monday Jul 25, 2016, retrieved 9.18pm 25/7/16
Are charter schools making the grade? – The Nation, TV3, Saturday 23 Jul 2016 10:34 am, retrieved 9.38pm 25/7/16