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Chris Hipkins, do or do not – there is no try…

It was great, today, to see so many coalition MPs, including the Prime Minister, turn up in the Beehive’s grounds today to hear and acknowledge why NZEI members were striking.

Chris Hipkins spoke eloquently about his understanding of the issues, agreeing that more must be done for students with special educational needs and that staff workload and retention issues must be addressed, and for that we were very thankful.

And we understand that not everything can be addressed at once. We get that this government inherited a cesspool of bad policies from National and ACT. We know the pot of money is not bottomless.  But we also know we are in dire straits right now. That the issues are happening all around us, and there is no time to waste.

So, whilst we are very glad this government treats education staff with respect and genuinely seem to listen to us, we need more than just sympathy; We need action.

Before it’s too late.

yoda and hipkins

NZEI Claims and Negotiations

Admission shows that Charter School funding is higher

Radio NZ ran a story last week with the startling admission that funding for two Whangarei based charter schools was about to fall as they converted into Designated Character State schools from 2019.

The revelation will not be a surprise to opponents of the charter school initiative, as it has been clear from the outset that the original funding model was based on bold assumptions that have simply not come to pass.

Here are the statements in the Radio NZ article attributed to Raewyn Tipene, CEO of the He Puna Marama Trust:

“We won’t be able to fund them [staff] all. That’s a fact: the funding won’t allow for us to have all the teachers we’re eligible for, plus the support staff we are used to having.”

“We will just have to work out how best to do with less.”

Unfortunately the piece did not clarify how much the funding was expected to fall by when they convert.

He Puna Marama, as Sponsor of the two charter schools, will receive nearly $4 million this year for the two schools: $3,074,521 for the secondary school and $883,073 for the primary school.  These figures are published on the Ministry of Education website and are based on the projected opening rolls.  Actual quarterly payments could vary depending on the student rolls as the year progresses.

The article stated that Te Kāpehu Whetū (the educational unit of He Puna Marama Trust) employed 26 staff for its 190 students, according to Mrs Tipene, who said: “That is a higher teacher to student ratio than a state school would have. A number of those staff are not trained teachers, they are mentors who support our senior students.”

Under the contracting out theory of the charter school initiative, the Sponsor may deal with the funding it receives in whatever way it feels is appropriate.  So they can hire more teachers, more support staff, mentors etc. if they wish.  Charter school supporters claim this bulk funding approach is one of the main features of the initiative.  But the real issue has always been the quantum of funding they are receiving and not just how it is delivered.

Charter school supporters have hidden behind the narrative that the Ministry tried to make the original charter school funding model produce a level of funding that was “broadly comparable” to that of a “similar” State school.  But this modelling approach was flawed from the outset.

First, making comparisons with State school funding is problematic, as State schools have many different sources of funding.  The modelling had to try and reduce all of these to a simple approach that could be written into a commercial contract.

Second, State schools’ property is provided by the Crown but charter schools need to rent (or buy) their premises.  So how this component was cashed up has caused problems from the outset, especially if the charter school did not reach the maximum roll on which the property funding was based, or took a long to get there.

Third, it also ignored the reality that the choices parents make are “local” and not “comparable”.  So the problems with the original funding policy mean that the early charter schools have enjoyed far more funding than the local schools they were set up to compete against.

Save Our Schools NZ analysed the 2015 financial statements of South Auckland Middle School and compared these to Manurewa Intermediate.  What we saw was that SAMS received funding per student of $11,740 after paying the cost of the premises it rented from the Elim Church.  In contrast, Manurewa Intermediate received $5,907 in Teachers Salaries and Operations Grants funding per student, with its premises provided by the Crown.

This means the charter schools have been able to offer advantages such as hiring more teachers, which reduces class sizes, hiring more support staff, such as mentors and community liaison staff, or offering support to parents by way of free uniforms, free stationery and so on.

The National government changed the charter school funding model in 2015 but the revised model applies only to charter schools which commenced operations in 2017 and 2018. The government is therefore locked in by contract to the original funding model for the early schools.

A paper from the Ministry of Education to Bill English and Hekia Parata, dated 30 April 2015, set out the key problems with the original funding model and the proposed solution, which was based on:

“Moving to a true “per-student” funding model rather than a “per school” model;

Ensuring that the property funding flow is aligned with the current enrolment”.

The impact of the change in funding model is clear when we look at the funding for the closed First Round school, Whangaruru, in 2015 (its second year of operation) compared to that for the new Third Round school, Te Aratika, in 2017.

In 2015, Whangaruru received operational funding of $412,148 per quarter, or $41,215 per student p.a. based on 40 students.  In the 4th quarter of 2017, Te Aratika received quarterly operational funding of$126,580, or $15,343 per student p.a. based on 33 students.

So two “similar” schools – in this case small secondary schools – have received vastly different amounts of funding per student under the two funding models.

The initial policy mistake of fully funding the cost of creating and operating small schools has meant the charter school initiative has cost the government more.  This is why Bill English and Hekia Parata changed the funding model – over 3 years ago!

Whether this additional cost has paid off is arguable, as the formal evaluation failed to draw any meaningful conclusions as to the impact of the initiative.

But either way, one could just as easily assert that the Government should be prepared to invest more and help all students who need more support, not just those in an ideologically motivated experiment.

Bill Courtney

Save Our Schools NZ, August 2018

Secret Teacher NZ: Why I left teaching?

I sat down to write this and had to start over many times. I’m not sure how to go about explaining why I left teaching in a way that doesn’t come off as judgy, or blamey or a woe-is-me tale. I suppose many educators feel like this.

Teaching seems to be the one profession everyone feels qualified to have an opinion on, seeing as we all went through a school at some point. When I first started teaching, I had creative license and freedom to plan my days with my class. If a kid turned up with a story about how the cat had had kittens that weekend, we could embrace that teachable moment and spend 20 minutes talking about mammals and pets. If I had a few chapters left of the shared novel, we could shift something else and finish it off if we liked. As time went on, this freedom of professional judgement was eroded.

Classrooms now are full of swaps for different subjects, children leaving for extra curricular activities during the day, or specific times to access valuable resources (like computers, libraries or sports equipment.) I don’t want to seem ungrateful, because I love that children have new ways to learn and new environments to do it in; I just wish it hadn’t come at a cost to teacher’s time and our ability to use our judgement on what works for our children.

I worked in a school where we had a large space for co-operative teaching, where the syndicate swapped children around based on their levels. I can imagine some people’s eyes glazing over, so I will try to paint a picture instead.

Imagine a large hall-like space with three teachers in different areas, each reading with a small group of children. Scattered around are more groups of children, some on laptops, some on tablets, some with board and card games, some sitting in corners together working in their exercise books. You might imagine its harmonious, a buzz of children learning, both independently and supported by teachers. Unfortunately, for the majority, this is not the case.

The teachers with those groups have about 15 minutes to get through their reading, before swapping to another group in order to meet and assess them, meeting them all over a week period. Questioning, checking, hearing children read, explaining and clarifying, and all that intense learning that happens in a guided reading situation. But one of those kids forgot their book in the other class, so they have to run and get it. That’s 2 minutes gone. You can’t really start without them, or you’ll be repeating yourself. You look over and see the group that have an ipad activity to do are actually on maths games – you get up to intercept and move them back on task. Over in the library corner a group of children who are meant to be reading and working in their exercise books are clearly off task, but that first child has returned with their book- and now you’ve only got about 10 minutes left before you need to change the rotation, so you call out to one of the other teachers (also trying to get through the guided reading) to check on those off task students, well aware that you are cutting into their time too. You sit back down and go over the learning intentions and begin to get into it, when a group playing with the games has a disagreement and an incident breaks out – so again you are forced to stop, to sort that out.

Rinse and repeat.

I could go on, but the point I’m trying to make is that this is JUST reading. You have maths interchange next, and then topic interchange. And you are on duty at lunch, and then there’s a staff meeting after school… Some days I would arrive at school before 7am and not get home till after 6:30pm, and that’s with a box of marking to do.

Now add into this those children with high learning and/or behavioural needs that can’t organise themselves, can’t cope with having a different teacher, or can’t manage being a “self directed learner”.  And those who had a bad morning (or weekend) at home and are wound so tight that they might explode at any time. And the child who isn’t coping with social things and is isolated, and the mean kid who’s been hassling the outsider. All that social stuff is still happening… But somehow you have to set up the classroom for the next lesson AND find a minute or two to cram something vaguely nutritious into your gob.

As an educator 10 years ago you had the time to actually teach. Eventually I felt more like a person whose job it was to keep things running – even if that running wasn’t beneficial to the learning of the majority of the children.

Before I left teaching I was stressed, anxious and feeling like a failure every day. I had been assaulted by a special needs child multiple times, and was managing two volatile children with aggressive and violent behaviours, all while maintaining this modern idea of what learning should “look like” and spending so much of my time making sure I was collecting all the data for the children and planning their next learning steps, too.

There was no fun or fulfillment anymore. It was like failing every day.

I saw children who just wanted to be with the teacher, who wanted to learn, but who were being swept along in this seemingly never ending rotation of ‘new ideas’ and ‘innovative learning strategies’. Everything was measured and monitored because we also had data to be collecting for assessment and reporting.

I’m not for teachers becoming the facilitators of busy work to serve some ideal that is the current flavour of the month.  I spent three years studying education, children, reading, writing, maths and everything else only to find my days as a teacher filled with behaviour management and making sure children are in the right place at the right time. And that’s not to mention teachers who are struggling with learning new technology and navigating these spaces themselves, all while still doing their regular job!

My personal experience was one that made me physically and mentally sick.

I continued to give 100% of myself because, like most teachers in New Zealand, I am passionate about children getting the best education and reaching their potential.  But the system as it is, that actually destroyed me. I burnt out. I would wake up crying in the night for no particular reason. I would dread going to work again as soon as I left. Thinking about the unending cycle of planning, implementing, and hoping I got through what needed to get through – and that the children held up their end and did the work, and that there were no breakdowns in behaviour that would derail the sessions and cause me to have to cut out something else to ‘catch up’.

I burnt out. I damaged myself to the point where I will live with that for the rest of my life.

Our teachers are a resource. You can’t replace our care, knowledge and ability to teach with fancy spaces and new technology. Piling these expectations on teachers and children isn’t improving our system- it’s creating another rod for our backs.

When I studied post grad with a group of young people in their 20s, I was amazed at how poorly they managed themselves, and I wonder why we expect school-aged children to be able to do it?

There are so many complexities to the things eroding our teachers’ spirits and well-being- this is just a tiny glimpse, and not even the full picture. I could talk about disenchanted staff, apathetic senior management, poor resourcing, the social issues in school communities, negative and punitive assessments, and an obese curriculum. And, of course, under-funding of our schools and support staff. But I won’t, because we all have other things to do today.

Teachers want to teach. That’s why we became teachers! We want to have meaningful relationships with your child to help them achieve their potential. The education system in this country has moved away from allowing us to do that and morphed into something very different. 

~ end~

For more on a teacher’s daily work life, read this great post by Melulater.

National’s knee-jerk support for charter schools shows it is struggling to develop Education policy

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

Teachers Vote To Strike

Primary and Intermediate school NZEI members have voted overwhelmingly to reject the Ministry’s paltry pay and conditions offer, and to hold a three-hour strike on 15 August. But many at the recent paid unions meetings felt that a three-hour strike starting in the afternoon would not give a strong enough message.

For most teachers, a three-hour afternoon strike would impact one hour of classroom time, the rest of the three hours being after 3 o clock. Commentators point out that teachers’ work after 3 o clock – weekly meetings, planning, marking, paperwork and so on – would likely be rescheduled and still have to be done at some other time.  As strikes go, that’s rather lame.

At meetings across the country there was a strong call to replace the three-hour strike with a full-day strike. A whole day. That, many argued, would have more impact and send a far stronger message.

Whether or not NZEI members strike for three hours or a whole day will in the end be down to them. It’s their union – they make that choice. The union is canvassing opinion now, and state that “[d]epending on the level of feedback, an online ballot may be held early next term to vote on whether to extend the strike to a full day on the 15th of August“.

Whatever they think is the best cause of action, NZEI members must make their voices heard. The time is now.

~ Dianne Khan, NZEI member

kuataetewa

 

Utter hypocrisy from Simon Bridges on Education

So, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says that school principals must be listened to?  Obviously he has forgotten the disgraceful approach of his party when they drove through the introduction of National Standards.

School principals and teachers were supported by many leading academics in condemning the rushed and flawed process used to develop the Standards in 2009.  The Ministry of Education used external contractors to write the Standards and they worked in secrecy, with no meaningful input from school leaders and teachers.

In November 2009, Four academics wrote an open letter to Anne Tolley  to stress their view that the new system was seriously flawed and would not achieve its intended goals.

But did John Key listen?

Hell no!

Even a 38,000 signature to Parliament did not cause the National Party’s collective ears to twitch, and deafly they drove on to implement a system that the vast majority of primary school educators never supported.

Perhaps Mt Bridges can be allowed some slack, as he was a new boy in 2009?  Maybe he just didn’t pay active attention? After all, the entire National Caucus was hearing impaired that term.

About this government and education…

I’ll be honest, when it comes to education policy, I’m not enthralled with everything the Labour coalition government’s done so far.

In particular, I’m more than a bit annoyed about the piddling increase in schools’ ops budgets, and don’t get me started on not reinstating 100% trained teachers to Early Childhood Education (ECE). And the increase to Ongoing Resource Scheme (ORS) funding doesn’t cover the full need out there,  Teacher Aides are still being paid out of the operations budget (competing against the power bill and the money for loo rolls), and the teacher pay offer is galling. Very galling. But it would be madness to say this government isn’t an improvement on what we had for the last nine years.

Already this government in the process of getting rid of two of the hugest bones of contention for so many in the education sector – National Standards and Charter Schools. As soon as the government was formed, the announcements were made, and it’s moving as fast as the wheels of Government allow given that changes to the Education Act are needed.

The government’s also reviewing Tomorrow’s Schools to see if it’s fit for purpose, and looking at NCEA for the same reason, including inviting feedback from the education sector and the wider community. And school funding is being reviewed, too, to see if there are better ways than the current decile system, which everyone agreed for years is a blunt instrument but nobody had yet replaced. So they’ve acknowledged that changes may well be needed and they’re seeking feedback – this I like.

It also matters that the current Education Minister, Chris Hipkins, and the Associate Education Minister, Tracey Martin, both speak about teachers with respect. It seems like such a small thing, but after almost a decade of vitriol, it’s needed and it’s so very, very welcome.

So, yes, there’s a lot more to do, and we are entitled to gnash and wail about the pace and the bits not yet addressed. And we absolutely should continue to watch every move and hold our Ministers to account. But to say nothing’s changed would be wrong. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than what we had for almost a decade.

As Rita Pierson might have said, we ain’t there yet, but we’re on the road.

Teachers Propping Up the NZ School System With Their Own Money

SOSNZ surveyed New Zealand teachers about the amount of their own money they spend on school supplies, and the results are astonishing.

In reply to the question “Have you ever spent your own money buying supplies for your own class?”, 100% of respondents said yes.

A huge 86% of teachers said they have spent their own money on supplies every year they have worked, an additional 12% said they have spent their own money most years, and 2% said they had done it a few years. Nobody said they had never done so.

In short, NZ teachers are propping up the school system with their own money.

How much are teachers spending?

The survey asked “How much do you estimate you have spent on essential work supplies over your entire teaching career?”, and a stunning 32% of teachers responded that they SOSNZ Teacher Spend Survey, May 2018have spent over five thousand dollars of their own money so far. $5000! That’s a significant sum, especially when we consider the large proportion of teachers that don’t stay in the job for more than 5 years.

A total of 69% said in their teaching careers they have so far spent over $1000, 19% said it was $501-$1000, 10% said $101-$500, and one lucky respondent said they had spent ‘only’ $1-$100. All respondents had spent something.

When asked what they had spent on supplies this year alone (bearing in mind we have only had around 14 school weeks so far), 65% of teachers have spent between $100 and $500. A lucky 4% had spent nothing, and 24% up to $100. But a worrying 4% have spent $501-$1000 and an alarming 2% have spent over a thousand dollars.

What are teachers buying?

Respondents were asked to “Tick all of the things you have spent your own money purchasing for any school while you were employed there”. According to their responses:

93% bought small in-class storage (e.g. tubs, buckets, containers)

91% bought display materials (e.g. borders, background materials, pegs, clips, etc)

88% bought baking and cooking supplies for student use

87% bought pens and pencils for students, and 85% bought them for their own use

Over 80% bought highlighters/vivids/board pens for their own use, posters for display, and maths supplies such as games, dice, cubes, flashcards, clocks, measuring jugs etc.

74% had bought reading books for their classroom, and 74% had bought art supplies. Purchases for topic studies also came in at 74%.

Almost three quarters of teachers are buying modelling books for group and whole-class activities, and over half of teachers have bought students workbooks.

In addition to own-class supplies, 45% of teachers responded that they had spent their own money on supplies for the wider school – e.g. for the library, office, copier room or resource room.

This is a breakdown of all responses:

Pens/pencils for students’ use

85%

Pens/pencils for your own use

87%

Rulers/glue sticks for students’ use

64%

Rulers/glue sticks for your own use

68%

Highlighters/vivids for students’ use

65%

Highlighters/vivids/board pens for own use

84%

Work books for students’ use

56%

Teacher modelling books

72%

Display materials (e.g. borders, background materials, pegs, clips, etc)

91%

Posters for display

84%

Art supplies (e.g. felt tips, crayons, jovis, pastels, paints, paint pots, brushes, glue, craft materials etc )

74%

Small in-class storage (e.g. tubs, buckets, containers)

93%

Large in-class or office storage (e.g. filing systems, cupboards, shelves, drawers)

53%

Soft furnishings (e.g. cushions, rugs, curtains etc)

66%

Seating  (e.g. seating pads, chairs, sofas, beanbags etc)

46%

Maths supplies (e.g. games, dice, cubes, flashcards, clocks, measuring jugs etc)

81%

Topic-specific supplies 

74%

Cookery/Baking supplies 

88%

Te Reo supplies

54%

Reading books (fiction, non-fiction, reference)

 72%

Furniture & Furnishings

The above figures show that teachers are even buying furniture for their classrooms.

Just over 50% said they had bought large in-class or work office storage such as filing systems, cupboards, shelves, and drawers. 66% had also bought soft furnishings such as cushions, rugs and curtains, and almost 50% said they had bought seating such as seating pads, chairs, sofas, beanbags for their classrooms.

It’s alarming that so many teachers are having to buy their own essential work-space furniture. Does Ministry account for teachers’ administrative needs when new classrooms are designed? Are insufficient operational budgets being propped up by teachers’ own funds? What’s going on?

Do Teachers Mind?

The final question in this short survey asked teachers to rate on a sliding scale how they felt about paying for these supplies. The scale was:

(0) Don’t mind at all  ——————————————————— It infuriates me (100)

The mean average response was 61 points showing a large level of dissatisfaction with this situation overall, but there was quite a range in the responses: Ten percent said they don’t mind at all (responding 0 or 1), whilst 18% were infuriated (responding 90-100). Of the 18% that were most infuriated, 8% responded 100, the maximum option.

Impact on New Teachers

The SOSNZ survey didn’t ask how long the respondents had been in the profession, but it would be interesting to look into whether there is a link between yearly spend and length of service. My suspicion is that new teachers (that are paid the least) are spending most. If that’s the case, it could be a contributing factor in overall job dissatisfaction. This is an important consideration given most teachers leave the profession within the first five years, and may be worth further and deeper investigation.

Imagine…

Teachers are clearly spending significant amounts of money propping up our education system in order to give students what they need in class and to have adequate supplies for themselves, and have been doing so for quite some time.  Some overseas teachers responded to this phenomena by removing from their classrooms everything they had paid for, with startling results. I wonder, New Zealand, what would our classrooms look like if we did the same?

Another Charter School Whitewash Report

It is laughable that John Banks told Cabinet in July 2012 that “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.”

The 3-part evaluation of charter schools has failed in key respects to deliver on what Banks promised.

First, there is absolutely no attempt in the final report to evaluate the most important outcome, which is student achievement.

Instead, we get some wishy washy statement that : “MartinJenkins has worked with the Ministry to refocus the final year of the evaluation (away from a primary focus on outcomes) because it was still too early to determine “success”:  schools/kura were still becoming established, numbers of students that had received a “full dose” of the PSKH intervention were low, and efforts were ongoing by the Ministry to define and agree contracted outcomes.”

Rubbish!

Charter schools were touted as having “freedom from constraints imposed on regular state schools in exchange for rigorous accountability for performance against agreed objectives.”

So, if these schools had agreed objectives in their contracts from the outset, where is the rigorous analysis of how they have performed?  And why would the Ministry of Education still be “defining and agreeing contracted outcomes” if the schools are in their 3rd or 4th year of operation?

The real answer is simple: they have not performed as expected.

The primary content of this expensive exercise was not a strong evaluation of impact and effectiveness but instead they turned to a weak gathering of “survey” data from students and whanau.

But even this part was an embarrassment for charter school supporters.

“Low response rates to surveys and selection bias meant we were not able to examine student and whanau perspectives from all angles or across all schools/kura.”

Five schools (out of eight) were included in the surveys of students, but the responses from three of them were so low that they were excluded.  So, instead, they resorted to merely including the responses from the two Villa Education Trust middle schools as a “case study”.  Wow!

But the problems did not stop there.

“Limitations in the administrative data meant:

  • Attendance data was not sufficiently robust to be included;
  • We were unable to compare quality of outcomes with outcomes that had been achieved at previous schools or to accurately identify where students went after exiting.”

The comment about the attendance data was interesting, given David Seymour’s press release only last month that charter schools outperform state schools on attendance.

There are numerous other problems and gaps with the MartinJenkins report and they can be discussed more fully in due course.

Overall, it is clear that this exercise has simply not produced the thorough examination that was promised by John Banks, let alone enabling informed decisions before opening further such schools.

It was clear from the outset that the charter school policy was driven solely by political ideology, and Mister of Education, Chris Hipkins, was right to dismiss the evaluation report as being of no real value to policy makers.

Maybe the very poor survey response rates – even from those closely involved in these schools – send a clear message: it is time to move on.

~ Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ

Fact Checker: David Seymour and “School Choice”

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

Further reading:

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

 

Leading US Civil Rights Group calls for charter school moratorium

Several recent stories are highlighting the fall in support for charter schools in the USA.

Most significant is the call at the 2016 national convention of the leading civil rights group, the NAACP, for a moratorium on charter school expansion.

The resolution called for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools at least until such time as:

(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools

(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system

(3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and

(4) Charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.

But following the November 2016 Presidential election, the NAACP was concerned that Trump’s agenda to expand the privatization of public education would put the promise of a quality education for all at risk.  The Board of Directors then expanded the work of a Task Force they had created to examine charter schools to include protection of quality public education for all inner-city children and renamed it the Task Force on Quality Education.

The Task Force framed their report around five critical recommendations for regulating charter schools and strengthening the public education system.

  • More equitable and adequate funding for all schools serving students of color
  • School finance reform is needed.
  • Invest in low-performing schools and schools with significant opportunity to close the achievement gap.
  • Mandate a rigorous authoring and renewal process for charters
  • Eliminate for-profit charter schools

Other key findings of the Task Force are worth highlighting:

“Charter schools were created with more flexibility because they were expected to innovate and infuse new ideas and creativity into the traditional public school system.  However, this aspect of the promise never materialized.

“Charter schools are publicly funded, but they are privately operated under a written contract (or charter) with a state, school district or other authorizers depending on the state.”

“With the expansion of charter schools and their concentration in low-income communities, concerns have been raised within the African American community about the quality, accessibility and accountability of some charters, as well as their broader effects on the funding and management of school districts that serve most students of color.”

“For some, charter schools provide the answer to persistently failing traditional public schools in their community.  To others, charter schools drain their community of limited resources and harm their children because many cannot attend the charter schools in their own neighborhood.”

“There were pros and cons on charters versus traditional schools in every hearing.  The Task Force heard testimony that accused charter schools of “cherry-picking” students, counseling out the difficult students, manipulating funds related to average daily attendance once students were no longer in attendance, and re-segregating the public school system.  Conversely, charter school advocates criticized the traditional school system for its poor record in educating students.”

“In every hearing, many people agreed that the current education system fails too many children because of the lack of investment in people, policies and programs that support high quality educational opportunities.”

“Furthermore, while high quality, accountable and accessible charters can contribute to educational opportunity, by themselves, even the best charters are not a substitute for more stable, adequate and equitable investments in public education in the communities that serve our children.”

~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ

Source: NAACP Task Force on Quality Education Hearing Report, July 2017.

Educators welcome reforms but need close consultation

Educators will need to be consulted heavily if the overhaul of education announced by Education Minister Chris Hipkins today is to be successful.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart said NZEI welcomed the reforms.

“We are generally pleased with the direction this Government is taking in education. We encourage the Minister to take the time needed to undertake the reform properly. Careful and planned implementation is needed and would set this Government apart from the previous National Government.

“There are huge and pressing issues that need resolving in education. Today’s announcement gives us some hope for these being addressed.”

The issues include: teacher shortages and the ability to attract and retain teachers, sufficient release time for teachers to teach and lead, ECE funding and a need to fix the ECE sector issues more generally, principal burn-out and stress, and more support for children with additional learning and behavioural needs.

“We want a world-leading curriculum and an education sector that fosters children’s love of learning and allows teachers to the freedom to teach and engage children in the learning that motivates them.

“However, the reforms will only be successful if teachers are meaningfully consulted in the development of the new programmes.”

Teachers were the experts in education and were able to bring to the table best practice and real world experience of children’s learning.

Over the past nine years under the National Government education has languished to the point that it is now in crisis.

Answers for David Seymour

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?

Much Ado About Nothing – aka ACT’s fuss about closing Charter Schools

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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?

~ Dianne

David Seymour and his charter school “facts”

David Seymour needs a reality check if he thinks that charter schools are not in trouble overseas.

Here is how Save Our Schools sees some of the key evidence:

1. Professor John Hattie, in his quantitative studies, ranks charter schools at number 183 out of the 195 policy interventions that he examined in his paper “The Politics of Distraction”.

Hattie based his analysis on no less than 246 studies and concluded that within a year or so, the “different” school becomes just another school, with all the usual issues that confront all schools.

2. Popular support for charter schools is falling in the United States. A nationwide poll conducted by the “Education Next” magazine, published by Stanford University, found that public support for charter schools has fallen by 12 percentage points, with similar drops evident among both self-described Republicans and self-described Democrats.

3. The experience in New Orleans is that the locals do not believe that the charter school miracle has worked for them. This editorial by the African American newspaper, the New Orleans Tribune, in November 2017 doesn’t pull any punches:

“It’s been 12 years since our schools were hijacked. And 12 years later, many of them are performing just as poorly as they were before they were stolen. To learn that charter operators set up goals they knew were unattainable just to get their charters approved and their hands on public money and facilities is indefensible. Unless and until these pilfering reformers are ready to admit what they did and that it was wrong and then actually return public schools to real local control without charter organizations and unelected boards that come with them under the current model of return anything else they have to say sounds pretty much like sounding brass and tinkling cymbals—a whole bunch of noise.”

4. David Seymour mentions the CREDO studies but fails to mention their main finding.

In the CREDO 2013 nationwide study, less than one hundredth of one percent of the variation in test performance is explainable by charter school enrolment. Specifically, students in charter schools were estimated to score approximately 0.01 standard deviations higher on reading tests and 0.005 standard deviations lower on math tests than their peers in traditional public schools. “With a very large sample size, nearly any effect will be statistically significant,” the reviewers, Maul and McClelland, conclude, “but in practical terms these effects are so small as to be regarded, without hyperbole, as trivial.”

The reality is simple: there is no genuine educational merit in the charter school model. As John Hattie observes, “these new forms of schools usually start with fanfare, with self-selected staff (and sometime selected students) and are sought by parents who want “something better”. But the long-term effects lead to no differences when compared with public schools.”

~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ

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