An NZ teacher writes:
I’m having a remembrance day.
I remember sitting on a couch with a boy who was around six. He was drawing a purple cat under a turquoise scribbly sky. He had dark hair and deep brown eyes. His teacher was across the room from us. Not too far. She said- so very vehemently – “I don’t want him in my class” and pointed at the boy next to me. He lifted his head. Looked at his teacher. Looked at me. I was reeling in shock at the outright rejection I’d just heard so he probably noticed that the smile I gave him – that was meant to be reassuring – was quite wonky.
I remember standing in a long and narrow “resource room” of a secondary school with the head of the English department and a curly haired, hugely built, usually tall but at that moment curve shouldered and stooped teenager. The same teenager that had written me a naïve but still detailed with understanding sympathy card when he had found out my father had died. The HOD was rifling through a grey filing cabinet, outlining all the ways the teenager was failing. She gave me his behavioural contract (lots of red marks and red pen comments from an assortment of teachers.) She gave me unfinished assignments. I recognised the student’s penciled printing and could easily imagine him writing every letter sooooo carefully. She gave me pristine textbooks with relevant pages marked and “The Diary of Anne Frank” which she wanted the teenager to summarise. She kept saying “He needs to take responsibility for this poor performance” and she gave me a deadline for when everything she was shoving my way was due in for him. I was feeling like I’d just been tackled by someone not unlike Jonah Lomu, so the teenager probably noticed the wobble of my voice as I faux merrily said “Do you want to grab all that stuff, mate……my bag is full of lollies and booze……”
I remember walking with a child from my class after school. A colleague came up to me. Very upset. Telling me very loudly in front of the child from my class that one of my other students shouldn’t be allowed at our school. She could see how this child “just didn’t belong with us”. She had seen how this child behaved. She had told the mother of this offensive student that her daughter shouldn’t be here. She was on the way to tell the principal that the child needed to go. I looked at the student from my class. She looked at me questioningly. Then looked down at the ground. So she missed my fake wink – again supposed to reassure that at least one of the adults on the scene wasn’t going to go nuclear.
All these young people I was so, so privileged to work with and have in my life for a while had special needs. And they were all treated so badly.
In my time in special education – and mainstream – I have heard and seen monstrously unfair things. Things so cruel they made me revert to the question children ask of each other when they can’t believe an injustice they’ve just been dealt. “Why are you being so mean?”
I’m a full grown adult – yeah, all altruistic and “overly emotive” (actual quote) – but I still ask “Why are they being so bloody mean?”
As an adult I know – The teacher who didn’t want the child with ADHD and Autism in her class was getting no ongoing support or understanding from her management team.
The HOD had no understanding of the teenager’s diagnosis. She had no idea what to do with him. She was hyper aware of the judgment that was being flung her way over the failing mark in her departmental bell curve of achievement that the teenager represented.
The colleague that was railing at me was also ignorant. And scared. And angry about something that probably wasn’t even to do with me or my student. I can’t rightly say what her exact issue was.
What I can say is that when I first saw and heard these monstrous things and felt like I’d been punched in the solar plexus, a part of me thought “I’ll probably get used to this.”
Yesterday – for reasons long and complicated – a person who has also been in special education for a long time walked into my mainstream classroom. I was relieved to see her. From the moment she started talking I realized how long I’d been worrying for, fighting for and trying to protect this particular student and her parents from “the mean people.”
It was like seeing the cavalry coming.
I can’t describe the relief.
It was only yesterday I figured out that as an “overtly emotive” person I’m never going to get over the shock of people willfully and fearfully misunderstanding others and trying to punish them and isolate them instead of trying to address their own ignorance.
It ALWAYS sucks when people are treated this way , and I will always, always remember it.
~ Secret Teacher NZ
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
The voting is over, the preliminary results are in, and New Zealand First are calling the shots.
Winston Peters’ coalition decision will decide who is in government, but he is such an enigma that it’s impossible to know what he will do. Will he go right with National, or will he go left with Labour and the Greens – we really don’t know.
However, for education, the two possible outcomes stand in stark contrast.
Scenario A: NZ First and National
NZ First and National have incredibly different visions for education:
- NZ First want to restore the requirement for all ECE providers to ensure that the 100% registered teacher staffing ratio is achieved. National removed that provision.
- NZ First want to replace National Standards at Years 1 to 8, with children’s progress and achievement being assessed against level bands within the New Zealand Curriculum. In contrast, National want to further embed National Standards via ‘National Standards Plus’.
- NZ First want to repeal the amendments to the Education Act 1989 that allowed the creation of charter schools. National want to expand the charter school experiment.
- NZ First want to work with the sector to provide for professional development and re-establish the curriculum and school support advisors that National got rid of.
- NZ First want to ensure the education sector can elect its own representatives to sit on the Education Council. National took this right away from teachers.
NZ First and National are just not in agreement on the future of our education system, and with an NZ First/National government, it would be an uphill battle for NZ First to effect any changes to National’s plans.
Scenario B: NZ First, Labour and the Greens
In stark contrast, there is enormous agreement on what is needed in education between NZ First, Labour and the Greens:
- All three parties want to restore 100% trained Early Childhood Education (ECE) teachers and promise to restore funding to support that.
- All three parties want to get rid of National Standards.
- All three parties want to increase funding and support for teachers’ professional development.
- All three parties want to repeal charter school legislation.
- All three parties want teachers to have the right to elect their own representatives to the Education Council.
All three also want an inclusive model that properly supports children with Special Educational Needs, and all three want adequate funding for support staff.
Clearly, NZ First, Labour and the Green Party are on the same page when it comes to education.
Use your teacher voice
If your vision for the NZ education system aligns with NZ First, Labour and the Green Party, you might want to ‘cast your vote’ one more time and email Winston Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask him to put education at the forefront of his decision. With Tracey Martin and Chris Hipkins together, education would be in safe hands.
~ Dianne Khan
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.
NZEI Te Riu Roa is demanding the National/Act Government say how much it’s spending on four new charter schools, adding its money that should have gone on education of children with additional learning needs.
“It’s immoral to spend huge amounts of public money on schools that aren’t even needed, when children with additional needs are being denied the support they need to learn,” NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart said.
This week it was revealed that three and four year olds were waiting up to a year for an initial appointment with Ministry of Education specialists when they were identified with special needs.
“These children are being robbed of their right to an education, at the very time when it can have the greatest impact.
“The money being spent on charter schools would change the lives of thousands of children missing out on an education because this Government won’t properly fund learning support.
“The charter school experiment has not worked to raise achievement, according to recent analysis of school leaver results.
“It’s time to put an end to political interference in education, and focus on what works for all our children. That’s a strong public education system designed to ensure every child, not just some, achieve their full potential.”
Figures just released by the Ministry of Education show that only 59.7% of charter school leavers left with NCEA L2 or above in 2016. (School Leavers Stats.xlsx – Sheet1)
This compares to a system-wide figure of 80.3% across all schools within the system in 2016.
Looking more closely at specific groups, the system-level result for decile 3 schools was 74.3% and for Maori students, across all deciles, it was 66.5%.
The School Leavers metric is used as the performance standard in the charter school contracts. Former Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, made her intentions clear when she said:
“There is to be no compromise on the system level benchmarks”.
(Source: Hand-written comment from the Minister on a Ministry of Education paper, dated 24 May 2013)
The decile 3 system-level result for 2012 had been used as the baseline for the charter schools in their first year, i.e. 66.9% for the 2014 year. The contracts then set out a series of performance standards for subsequent years, culminating in the target of 85% of School Leavers attaining NCEA Level 2 or above by 2017. *
Worryingly, even this poor performance masks a weak set of results overall.
There were 124 School Leavers from charter schools in 2016 and this is the breakdown of the highest qualification they left school with:
Qualification # students % of total
Below Level 1 25 20.2%
Level 1 25 20.2%
Level 2 45 36.3%
Level 3 14 11.3%
UE 15 12.1%
Given the hype around charter schools, it is disappointing to see that 20.2% of students left school in 2016 without even attaining NCEA Level 1.
And at the top end, numbers above Level 2 fall away quite markedly:
- The proportion of School Leavers attaining NCEA Level 3 or above was 23.4% compared to 53.9% for the system as a whole.
- UE attainment is low, with a mere 15 students, or only 12.1% of School Leavers, attaining University Entrance, compared to a system-wide figure of 40.7%.
As we await this year’s Ministry of Education evaluation of the charter schools, we are minded to note Hekia’s comment from 2013. Clearly, the New Zealand model of charter school is currently not achieving at anywhere near the system-level benchmarks that have been set for it.
~ Bill Courtney
* Note: There were no contract performance standards set above NCEA Level 2. The contracts for primary and middle schools are based on performance standards using National Standards for years 1 to 8.
For more information on charter schools, you may wish to read Charter School Report Card by Shawgi Tell
Saturday morning, while all sensible people were eating second breakfast and procrastinating about the weekend chores, Nikki Kaye snuck out a little education policy announcement about National Standards.
That it came out in such an understated way was made even more odd when, on Sunday, National gave us a second three-pronged education policy announcement – and this one was an all-singing, all-dancing affair with hundreds of waving, cheering National supporters in tow.
Leaving Sunday’s announcement to one side for now, I want you to ask yourself why was one single policy put out separately? Why the day before the bigger announcement? Why not include it in the main announcement? is it that bad that it has to be hidden away? Ponder that as you read on.
The policy announced on Saturday is that National will implement ‘National Standards Plus’. This will require teachers to input National Standards data into the ‘Progress and Consistency Tool’ (PaCT), a computer programme that ostensibly exists to take test results and use them to spit out a child’s attainment level against National Standards. PaCT will then, we are told, use students’ data to calculate their progress so that we can see the ‘value added’ to any student over a given time. It sounds quite sensible on the face of it. Who wouldn’t want to know how a child is progressing?
Input the data and voila!
And it might be good if it weren’t for a couple of pesky details.
First of all, if the data going in is not reliable then the data coming out isn’t either. Or as computer folk like to call it, GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out.
Problems with the unreliability of National Standards are well known. Professor Martin Thrupp outlined these issues and how they relate to PaCT in his second Research, Analysis and Insight into National Standards (RAINS) Project report, saying:
“If the Progress and Consistency Tool [PaCT] to be made mandatory by the Government is mainly intended as a form of national moderation for [Overall Teacher Judgement] -making, then it can be expected to be an expensive failure. This is because it will not be able to address many of the various influences and pressures schools and teachers face, illustrated by this report, that will lead schools to take different ‘readings’ of the National Standards and of OTJs. “
So, issues with the reliability of National Standards data relating to students are the first key problem: GIGO.
The other elephant in the room, glaring over from the sidelines, is PaCT’s role in teacher evaluation.
The announced change in how PaCT is used will see students’ data being recorded against their teachers. Again, this seems useful at first glance. Surely, people say, that would help evaluate which teachers are doing the best job? But it’s not that simple.
One issue is that students often have a burst of learning after work by many teachers over a number of years, and to attribute that only to the teacher they are currently with would be incorrect. For example, for year 0-2 teachers, it can be quite some time before the fruits of their labours come to fruition, and to attribute all gains made, say, in Year 3 to just the Year 3 teacher would be erroneous.
So GIGO problems apply as much to PaCT data relating to teachers as to students, rendering it far too unreliable to accurately judge a teacher’s impact on a student’s learning.
Nikki Kaye assured me today via Twitter that PaCT will not be used to implement performance pay, but as one of the software engineers that built PaCT warned me almost a decade ago that the capacity for this has been built into the system, this remains a concern.
All in all, this new policy seems to be a poorly thought out move. While National Standards continue to be anything but standard, PaCT will only ever be the lipstick on the National Standards pig. In other words, you can pretty National Standards up any way you want, they are still just plain shonky.
So the question remains, what’s the real reason for National implementing progress tracking via PaCT?
Research, Analysis and Insight into National Standards (RAINS) Project – Final Report: National Standards and the Damage Done, by Martin Thrupp & Michelle White, November 2013
The Search for Better Educational Standards – A Cautionary Tale, by Martin Thrupp, (ISBN 978-3-319-61959-0)
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.
The cover up of the true picture of student achievement in charter schools continued today with the belated release of the second Martin Jenkins Evaluation Report.
The report, with a final publication date of 28 November 2016, was released on Friday 5 May 2017, a delay of over 5 months.
However, even now, the report contains a massive caveat in the section discussing student achievement, which indicates there are still major problems behind the scenes.
Here is the footnote set out under the Evaluation Report’s analysis of Student Achievement:
The ratings in the May 2016 advice were based on the best information available to the Ministry at that time (and are indicative of the reports that the Ministry had received from schools/kura by then). They reflect the most up-to-date information provided to the evaluation team at the time of writing this report, but are not the Ministry’s final assessments of schools’/kura performance for 2015.
Source: Ministry of Education (2016) Education Report: Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua: 2015 Quarter Four and Annual Reports, 30 May 2016
So, a formal policy evaluation signed off in November 2016, cannot go to print in May 2017 with a clear statement of exactly what represents the “Ministry’s final assessments of schools’/kura performance for 2015”?
The same problem is holding back the Minister of Education’s decision on whether or not to release the retained operational funding that is performance related, in respect of the 2015 school year. And this is now May 2017!
The major problem relates to the issue which surfaced last year, when the Ministry acknowledged that the interpretation of the secondary schools’ contract performance standards had been incorrect. As a consequence, the schools had also reported incorrectly against their contracts.
These incorrect figures had been used to determine the Ministry’s ratings in its May 2016 advice, referred to in the footnote. While the Ministry has now acknowledged that these figures are incorrect, nothing further has since been released.
The poor performance of the primary and middle schools is also evident in the Evaluation Report. Of the five primary and middle schools, which have contract targets set against National Standards, only one school, the Rise Up Academy, was assessed as having met its contract targets.
And problems are also clearly evident in the assessment of performance against the Student Engagement standards. Vanguard Military School and Middle School West Auckland performed very poorly against the standards for Stand-downs, Suspensions, Exclusions and Expulsions.
Overall, the main takeaway from the Evaluation Report is a fairly damning indictment of performance to date.
But the continued cover up of the true picture should not be tolerated any longer.
~ Bill Courtney
For a Minister so obsessed with data and, in particular, the sharing of data, it is interesting how little we know about charter schools.
Bill Courtney writes:
The game of delaying the release of a vast range of information on the charter schools continues.
The Ministry has promised to release a lot of material, including the formal evaluation of 2015 student achievement, in “April” but has refused to state exactly when. They also need to release all of the 2016 quarterly reports, the 2016 contract variations and the second “annual” installment of the Martin Jenkins evaluation of the charter school initative.
In short, lots of information is being withheld for no apparent reason.
When it is finally released, we will go through it and post our thoughts on what it reveals.
In the meantime, propaganda and marketing material fills the void.
Children sometimes bring unhealthy lunches to school – that’s a sad fact. When you see a lunch box with no fresh fruit or veg, or that’s wall to wall sugar, or just a packet of noodles, or … well, you get the idea – when you see those lunch boxes, you sigh. But trying to change what lead to that lunch box being in front of that student by policing said lunch box would be wrongheaded.
No educator wants to be in the position of telling kids they should or shouldn’t bring this or that, when in fact they usually have no part in the decision-making around what goes in their lunch box.
Similarly, it’s not at all helpful to create tension with parents by sending home notes about the food they provide. Of course I want students to eat healthily (and eat enough), but making parents feel judged does harm to the home-school relationship, and that is a bad move. The solution has to be focused on education, not policing.
Education for students around what good food looks like, clever buying, balanced diets etc is much more helpful. In my experience, the more clued-up the students are, the more they influence the purchases of the grown ups around then. We all know how insistent small people can be when they want something at the supermarket!
When I was trying to eat more healthily, I charged my year 5-6 students with checking my lunch box each day, and giving me feedback, and by crikey they took to that challenge like ducks to water: “Have you SEEN how much sugar is in that low fat yoghurt, Mrs Khan! Don’t be fooled by that ‘low fat’ thing!” They also wrote me a list of healthy snack foods for 3pm, knowing my tendency to stop at the local garage and make poor choices when driving home around 5 or 6 pm. Given good information and a real life problem to solve, kids will almost always blow your socks off with just how clever they are.
So focusing on educating kids and letting them educate the adults seems like a good strategic move. But it must be collaborative, done with the community, not at them. Which leads me to the brilliant work done by Julia Milne and her team at The Common Unity Project Aotearoa.
The Common Unity Project is a school-based project with a collaborative community model. It started small and got little to no Ministry or official support, but through sheer tenacity and will power and the support of the school in which she is based, Julia has built a magnificent living model right here in Lower Hutt, NZ.
In their own words, the Project “works collaboratively with Epuni Primary School, a little school with a big heart, in Lower Hutt. We grow food on a disused soccer field – enough to feed our children of Epuni School three times each week. We invite our parents and wider community to come to school each day and learn, share and educate one another. In turn, this has become a collective response to meeting the needs of our children and developing our own resilient solution within our community.”
The Project has brought a community together to learn and grow – literally and figuratively – together. Learning about food is linked with curriculum work – maths, literacy, science, art – you name it, they’ve linked it, and done so meaningfully. Identify the problem, find solutions, get helpers with the skills needed, helpers pass on skills to the kids, helpers learn new skills themselves, and BINGO! we have real life learning. This is what The Community Unity Project does.
The kids are cold? Put a call out for wool and some knitters with a bit of time on their hands, and BINGO! the adults are passing on key skills to kids to make something they all need.
The kids are hungry? Put a call out for helpers to come make a meal using food grown by the kids in the school gardens. The helpers teach the kids, the helpers learn new skills, and they all have enough to eat.
Gardening, cooking, knitting, bike maintenance, building, sewing bee keeping, food budgeting – you name it, they’re onto it.
Real life problems, real life solutions, real life learning. And community.
That’s my kind of model.
Read more about The Common Unity Project here.
Read more about the issues around food in schools here.
This is an excellent article about Singapore, published on the BBC site.
Dr Lim Lai Cheng, former head of the prestigious Raffles Institution school in Singapore and director at the Singapore Management University, explains the push for character as well as qualifications.
“Schools have become highly stratified and competitive. More advantaged families are better able to support their children with extra lessons outside of school, such as enrichment classes in mathematics, English, dance and music.
Those who can’t afford this have to depend on their children’s own motivation and the resources of the school to catch up.
This social divide continues to widen because the policies that had won the system its accolades – based on the principle of meritocracy – no longer support the social mobility they were meant to bring about.
So work is in progress to tackle anything in the system that seems to be working against social cohesion.
Government policies are moving away from parents and students’ unhealthy obsession with grades and entry to top schools and want to put more emphasis on the importance of values.
Schools have been encouraged, especially for the early elementary years, to scrap standardised examinations and focus on the development of the whole child.
To enhance equity, the education ministry has also attempted to spread resources more evenly across schools by rotating experienced principals to schools that need more attention and paying more attention to academically weaker students by strengthening vocational and skills training.
All round, government leaders have expounded a wider definition of success beyond academic grades.
The media and elite schools have been discouraged from showcasing top students and their academic achievements.”
Contrast what you have read above with the New Zealand system, focusing so relentlessly on National Standards. Add the New Zealand Initiative push towards greater measurement and the publication of the results and you cannot get further from the position Singapore has adopted.
As the NZ Listener remarked in their October 2015 article on charter schools, the national picture on NCEA pass rates is that they are now ascending into farce.
It is a February ritual to look out for the Vanguard Military School NCEA results release and to comment on what lies behind the meaningless percentages that this organisation releases.
This year’s version from the North Shore based charter school waxing lyrical about their 2016 results is available here.
Thanks to two years of OIA responses from the NZQA, covering the 2014 and 2015 school years, we now know a lot more about what standards the students at Vanguard were entered for and how well they did on internal versus external assessment.
What we now see from NZQA, for the second year running, is that a high percentage of the credits that students at Vanguard achieve are unit standards (42.2% in 2015), rather than the more academic achievement standards; a very high proportion of credits are gained via internal assessment (93.5% in 2014 and 94.2% in 2015) and a wide gap exists between external and internal pass rates (90.5% internal pass rate v 58.2% external pass rate in 2015). Note the full NZQA analysis for the 2016 results will not be out for several months.
While it is quite fair to say that some courses that Vanguard offers, such as Engineering, will always be internally assessed, our analysis of the detailed listing of standards entered in 2015 shows many “soft” credits being gained by Vanguard students.
For example, 57 entered for “Be interviewed in a formal interview” (2 Credits), 74 entered for “Produce a personal targeted CV” (2 credits), 53 entered for “Demonstrate knowledge of time management” (3 credits), and over 50 entered in each of the Outdoor Recreation courses: “Experience day tramps” (3 credits), “Experience camping” (3 credits) and “Navigate in good visibility on land” (3 credits). All of these standards are unit standards at NCEA Level 2.
To put these entry numbers into perspective, the 2015 July roll return shows Vanguard had 61 Year 11 students, 47 Year 12 and 15 Year 13 students at that point in 2015. So entries of over 50 students into each of these Level 2 courses is significant.
In addition, a large number are entered for Physical Education standards, which are actually regarded as achievement standards. This means the students can achieve Merit or Excellent credits which are generally not available in the unit standards. For example, no less than 96 students were entered for achievement standard 91330, “Perform a physical activity in an applied setting”, which is worth 4 credits at Level 2.
Some of these activities may be useful things to do but you can draw your own conclusions on what this means for the quality of qualifications these young people are obtaining.
The detailed NZQA analysis for 2016 will be released later this year and we will look to see if there is any change from previous years.
A couple of other points about Vanguard are worth noting.
First, Vanguard’s roll drops quite markedly as the year progresses. Using the 2016 roll return data, Vanguard opened with approx. 152 students in March, dropping to 142 as at 1 July and only 113 in October. So the roll drops away quite significantly after many complete their NCEA Level 2 and leave school during the year. With a low proportion of credits gained via external assessment, there is no need to wait around until the end of year examinations.
Second, because of this tendency to leave after NCEA Level 2, the Vanguard roll also drops away at Year 13. The full 1 July 2016 roll return shows 55 students at Year 11, 69 at Year 12 but only 18 at Year 13. 2016 was the third year of operations for the school, so retention into Year 13 seems to be quite low.
Of the 18 students at Year 13, there were 10 Maori, 5 European, 2 Pasifika and 1 Asian. Draw your own conclusions about small cohort sizes and the promotion of the 100% Pasifika NCEA L3 pass rate!
As to why they emphasised the Maori and Pasifika results in the release, is management sensitive to the fact that Maori and Pasifika students make up only 54% of the school’s roll?
The policy intention of the charter school initiative was to target Maori and Pasifika learners which is why the charter school contracts have a performance target for enrolling at least 75% “priority learners”. Vanguard argues that they meet this target because many of their other students are from low socio-economic backgrounds.
The final point to note about Vanguard is the number of expulsions. Ministry of Education analysis confirms that Vanguard expelled 3 students in 2014 and 5 students in 2015. Furthermore, these students are not included in any calculations relating to student achievement performance for the year in which they were expelled.
The Ministry of Education insists that they apply their rules relating to students being enrolled for “short periods” consistently across all schools and that this does not advantage the charter schools compared to any other type of school.