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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?

Nikki Kaye calls for transparency on charter schools? Yeah Right!

Nikki Kaye has taken the early lead in the “You must be joking” stakes with her ridiculous press release calling for transparency on charter schools.

Nikki Kaye and her government played an active role in holding back information during her time in office. She is in danger of becoming the hypocrite of the year as she now calls for transparency. And, just for good measure, she is supposedly now worried about the cost to the taxpayer of dealing with the mess that she has left behind!

A few fact checkers may be in order here:

• The charter school model does not have a proven track record as Ms Kaye claims. See our release on the poor School Leavers stats across the model as a whole, which shows charter schools underperforming the system-wide benchmarks used by the government.

• In particular, the charter school sector results are below those of both Decile 3 schools and those for Māori students across the NZ school system.

• Ms Kaye delayed the release of the second Martin Jenkins evaluation report from late 2016 until June 2017. Furthermore, the report could not discuss the true level of student achievement given the problems the Ministry of Education had uncovered in how the schools had incorrectly reported their School Leavers results.

• Ms Kaye took until June 2017 to finally release her decisions on the performance-related funding for the 2015 school year. That’s right – it took 18 months to evaluate only 9 schools and then she fudged the decisions on 3 of those schools.

• As for the new schools that were announced to open in 2018 and 2019, Nikki Kaye takes the cake with these. Not one single piece of official information on any of these 6 proposed schools has yet been released. When the Third Round schools were announced in August 2016, the supporting documentation, including the signed contracts, was released that afternoon.

• The biggest concern we have is how much taxpayer money has already been paid to the Sponsors of the 6 proposed schools and is this recoverable? In the early rounds, the Sponsors received the one-off Establishment Payments within 20 days of signing their contracts. So, Nikki, how much taxpayer money have you wasted?

~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ

Nikki Kaye and David Seymour make misleading statements about charter schools

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.

pants on fireThis 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

David Seymour and another misleading statement about charter schools

David Seymour has made a clearly incorrect statement to the media about his beloved charter schools and contradicted his Minister in the process.

The question at issue is the incorrect interpretation and measurement of the student achievement targets used in the original charter school contracts for the first and second round charter schools.

Save Our Schools NZ has been involved for over a year in the battle to get the Ministry of Education to acknowledge that both the reporting by the schools and the performance evaluation by the Ministry have been incorrect.

Radio NZ reported on Thursday that Seymour defended the incorrect interpretation by making the following statement:

“The reason that there is a difference, just remember, is that we have been pioneering holding schools to account through a contract, and it was necessary if you wanted to do that to have a different system of measurement.”

This statement is rubbish!

The original contracts did not have a different system of measurement at all.

The performance standards used in the original contracts were stated as “School Leavers with NCEA Level 1” and “School Leavers with NCEA Level 2”.

But both of these performance standards have been interpreted incorrectly and not calculated in the normal way that the Ministry does so for all other schools in the system.

These School Leaver statistics are published in the Ministry’s Education Counts database for every school: state, state-integrated, private and now the charter schools.

The error was obvious once the Education Counts “School Leavers” figures for the first round charter schools were released and it was clear that these were different from both the schools’ own reporting and the Ministry’s evaluation.

But it was also clear that they were not what the Minister had intended when the contracts had been put together in 2013.

Under the Official Information Act, Save Our Schools NZ obtained Ministry reports to the Minister in 2013 that set out the basis for the contract performance standards and the metrics that would be used to measure performance.

These documents included one where the Minister, Hekia Parata, made a hand-written comment on one of the papers in May 2013, discussing the principles behind the contract standards:

“There is to be no compromise on the system-level benchmarks.”

This makes a mockery of David Seymour’s claim that it was necessary to have a different system of measurement.

The  Minister then signed off the contract metrics in September 2013.  These included the following:

“n.          Agree that performance standards for 2014 NCEA Level 1 and 2 should be based on 2012 system-level results for decile 3 state schools.”

So the Minister had clearly intended that the normal system-level benchmarks should be used and the charter school targets for 2014 should be the same as the results of decile 3 state schools in 2012.

It is the incorrect interpretation and measurement of those performance standards that has been revealed and is now being corrected.

Seymour is simply wrong to argue that a “different system of measurement” had always been intended.

~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ

See also: https://saveourschoolsnz.com/2016/08/16/david-seymours-bizarre-claims-about-charter-school-performance/

Update: Defunct group, NZ Special Education Association, confirms Hekia Parata did not consult them

Thousands of people have read my post about Hekia Parata fabricating support from a mystical “Special Education Association”, and most were just plain dismayed that a Minister would openly make up information to justify her plans for special education. However, a few hardy trolls souls dredged up whatever support they could for the Minister, saying that there is indeed an New Zealand Special Education Association (NZSEA) in Canterbury and they probably did support the plans. (This despite Hekia writing on her Facebook page that when she said she had the support of the Special Education Association what she mean was some people generally support her plans). Most people know and accept that Hekia lied – but, you know, some poor devils just wont face those kinds of facts.

So I did what seemed best, I emailed the apparently defunct NZSEA to double check that they are indeed no longer a group and check whether they did or did not support Ms Parata’s plans.

In plain English and to be very clear, I asked the NZSEA whether they are the Special Education Association to which Hekia Parata referred when she said to Chris Hipkins during Question Time in Parliament on 23rd August 2016:

“I can tell the member that the Special Education Association tells me they want to be able to measure progress…”

The answer is no, they are not.

The NZSEA’s reply, received at 9.45am today, said:

Kia ora Dianne,

Thank  you for your email.  It is timely as I am about to write a letter to the editor disclaiming any association between NZSEA and the Minister’s statement she gave last week. She has never consulted with NZSEA on any matter associated with special education, in the past or now.  

Unfortunately, the NZSEA is currently on the process of winding up so it will be interesting to see if the Minister refers to the group again.  All the best in your quest. 

Ngā mihi 

Gaye

Chair

New Zealand Special Educaiton Association (NZSEA)

Over to you, trolls.

~ Dianne

Spin Doctors out in force at Vanguard – again!

spin checkedThe recent press release from Vanguard Military School (3 February 2016) again highlights how the spin doctors love to spin a story around high participation-based pass rates in NCEA.  But do they tell the full story of student achievement at the charter secondary school?

Late last year an excellent article published in the NZ Listener revealed that students at Vanguard and its counterpart in Whangarei – Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa – gained the vast majority of their NCEA credits in internally-assessed standards.  They also had far higher pass rates in internally-assessed standards than they achieved in external assessments.

The full breakdown published by NZQA (and linked to in the Listener article) also revealed that no less than 25 students at Vanguard gained 3 credits at NCEA Level 2 in 2014 for such demanding subjects as “Experience day tramps”, which is Standard no. US 425, if you want to look it up!  Readers will be pleased to know that no-one seemed to have failed that one!

It will be interesting to examine the 2015 standards information release and see if there is any change in the makeup of these “top academic results”, as the spin doctors  have described them!

The final comment in the release also caught our eye, as it related to the school roll.

Vanguard talked about opening in 2014 “… with a roll of 104 it has grown to around 160 students in 2016 and will continue to look to expand.”

This sounds like the school is growing steadily but in practice, Vanguard’s roll has been below its Guaranteed Minimum Roll used for funding purposes since the day it opened.

The 2014 GMR was set as 108, but the actual roll dropped from 104 in March to 93 in July and 79 by year end.

In 2015, the GMR was set higher at 144 but the actual roll was 137 (March), 123 (July) and 84 by October.

This trend confirms that students are leaving the school well before end of year external exams take place, which is consistent with the high proportion of internally-assessed standards achieved.

But, more significantly, the taxpayer is funding far more student places at the school than has been evident in the school roll.

Given the school is operated by a for-profit company (Vanguard Military School Ltd, company no. 4622709) this additional revenue has gone straight into the Sponsor’s bottom line profit.

Bill Courtney, SOSNZ

Hekia misleads the house on Wairua charter school funding

Hekia ParataMinister of Education Hekia Parata (again) misled the House in response to a question yesterday about the school’s funding.

Here is what the Minister said (Oral Questions no. 8, 29 July 2015):

“Te Pumanawa o te Wairua will continue to operate under its contract and will therefore receive $412,000 per quarter.”

“This is the money that would have been spent had these kids attended other schools.

Wrong, Hekia, wrong.

Under her charter school funding model, the government pays $355,200 per quarter for the fixed costs that it pays the school’s Sponsor.  These costs would cease once the school was closed.

Add in the additional $129,000 in emergency funding that she has thrown in, and the taxpayer will pay a total of $839,400 over the balance of 2015 because the Minister of Education decided not to close the school at the end of the second term.

The charter funding model has four components for each school: two of these are “fixed costs” and two are “variable costs”.  But only the variable, or per student costs, would continue and follow the students if they were to transfer to another school in the network.

Wairua Funding Breakdown

Here’s the breakdown of the quarterly funding for Wairua for 2015:

Base Funding                                                                                   $252,128

Property & Insurance                                                                      $103,072

Sub-total Fixed Costs                                                                    $355,200    [86.2%]

Per Student (based on a Guaranteed Minimum Roll of 40)       $54,188

Centrally Funded Services                                                                 $2,760

Sub-total Variable Costs                                                                $56,948     [13.8%]

Total Quarterly Funding:                                                               $412,148

So, when Hekia quoted a cost of “412,000 per quarter” she was referring to the total funding that the school receives from the Government.

But $355,200 per quarter would not be payable, if she were to close the school, as her officials clearly recommended.

~ Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ

Fact Checker: Hekia and Charter School Finances

sosnz fact checker RECTANGLEMinister of Education, Hekia Parata, faced a few questions in parliament yesterday about the $2.5 million surplus that one of her charter schools has accumulated in only 15 months.

Save Our Schools would like to make a few points about the Minister’s answers that warrant comment.

The Minister attempted to deflect the primary line of questioning by saying that the Paraoa charter school Sponsor, He Puna Marama Trust, was responsible for several entities and that the charter school  was only one of these entities.

True, Hekia, but the surplus relating to Paraoa on its own is $2,535,196. Total Trustee’s Equity, as at 31 December 2014, was $6,697,084, as shown in the Trust’s published 2014 financial statements.

The Trust was established in October 1997, but in only 15 months, a brand new charter school now provides over 37% of the Trust’s total net worth.

The accumulation of a surplus of $2,535,196 arising from total government revenue of $3,897,323, indicates there are real problems with the funding model: both in the generosity of the one-off Establishment Payment and the method and amount of the annual operational funding.

And the Ministry of Education knows this.

In a Ministry paper prepared for Cabinet in October 2013, the Ministry made this observation:

“36.        The cost is particularly high, especially for small secondary schools.  The development of a resourcing formula for Partnership Schools based on an equivalence with state schools highlighted the significant amount of base funding that small state schools get that is not roll-related.  This is to ensure that they are viable, regardless of the number of students enrolled.  Property funding for Partnership Schools is essentially a leasing model and is based in the school’s final roll so that the school does not have to move as its roll builds up.

37. These factors mean that the cost of small schools is much higher on a per student basis than larger schools (Figure 2 refers). [p. 5]”

And therein lies the heart of the problem.

Why is the government fully funding the establishment of small, expensive schools when there is capacity in the network that the taxpayer has already built and paid for?

And what happens if the model produces an amount of funding that proves to be greater than necessary to operate the school?

Why is the government fully funding the establishment of small, expensive schools when there is capacity in the network that the taxpayer has already built and paid for?

Overfund a State school and it’s an asset owned by the Crown and operated by a Board of Trustees, which is a Crown Entity; overfund a charter school and the private sector Sponsor gains directly from the government’s generosity.

All of the charter secondary schools, including Paraoa, are small and therefore bear high “fixed costs” funding.  The Base Funding alone for each charter secondary school is over $1 million each year.

But this problem is compounded by the fact that the model is “cashed up” and paid out to the Sponsor, whereas State school assets are still owned by the Crown.

The funding model is also allocating the Sponsor an amount based on the assumption that the roll is heading for its Maximum Roll, as per the contract, of 300 students.  This would still be a small secondary school by New Zealand standards, but in 2014, the actual roll for Paraoa ranged between  50 at opening and 52 in October.  The 2015 opening roll is 76 but this is still only a quarter of the target roll.

A further problem lies with the “Property & Insurance” component of the annual operational funding.  The funding model produced an annual allocation for this school of $737,936 but property costs incurred in 2014 amounted to only $239,097.

So, the property funding component alone generates additional net income for the Sponsor of half a million dollars a year – every year!

Save Our Schools calls on the Ministry to conduct an urgent review of the charter school funding model.  There are flaws in its policy base, the method of funding and the amounts it is allocating to the individual schools.

A detailed analysis of the 2014 charter school financial statements is being prepared by Save Our Schools and will be released once the outstanding Sponsor financial statements have all been published.

~ Bill Courtney

Fact Checker: Vanguard’s 2014 NCEA Results Release

sosnz fact checker RECTANGLE

The press release from Vanguard Military School on its 2014 NCEA results makes for impressive reading on the surface (release date 18 February 2015). Digging deeper, a  few key questions are worth asking.

First, a statement about percentage pass rates does not reveal two key ingredients: how many students obtained that qualification and how many attempted it, especially in relation to the number of students in the cohort?

This is important in any school that experiences a high rate of student attrition, as Vanguard did in 2014.

Second, in what subjects have these students achieved their qualification?

Vanguard’s curriculum is narrow, which is a practical constraint given the small size of the school.  At NCEA Level 2 students take five compulsory subjects and then two electives.  The compulsory subjects are English, Maths, Physical Education, Physical Training and Recruit Development Course.

The electives are Engineering and Defence Force Studies (vocational pathway) or Maori, Biology or History, from the university pathway.

It is not clear from the release how many students went down the university pathway and how many took the vocational pathway.

Nor is there any indication as to the level of achievement within each subject.  However, it is possible that such detailed information may be available at a later date.

In addition, although the press release stated that the school’s roll has “increased from 108 students in 2014 to 144 this year”, this is not quite correct.

charter schools this-does-not-add-upVanguard’s “Guaranteed Minimum Roll” was set as 108 students in 2014, as per its contract with the Ministry of Education.  Vanguard was therefore funded throughout the year as if it always had this number of students, but the reality was quite different.

Roll returns obtained from the Ministry of Education’s School Directory database indicate actual student roll numbers as follows: 104 as at 1 March; 93 as at 1 July and 79 in October.

Vanguard has previously stated that many students received their qualifications during the course of the year and then left, often to join the military forces.  This may well be a sensible and logical outcome for the students concerned but the taxpayer still funded the privately owned and operated school for many more students than it ever enrolled.

This is in contrast to the position of State and State-Integrated secondary schools, which lose funding during the course of the year if their roll numbers decline.

Guaranteed Minimum Roll levels and funding details for 2015 for the 5 first round charter schools have not been released by the Ministry of Education, despite repeated requests under the Official Information Act.

This lack of transparency has plagued the charter school experiment from the outset and undermines any confidence that the taxpayer may have about how their funding is being used.

Finally, there are ongoing concerns around the charter school funding formula, particularly in respect of funding for property costs.

On balance, this may or may not be a good set of results, given the expectations of the students and their families. Many questions remain about this concept and its applicability to the New Zealand system.

It is the stance of Save Our Schools that individual school performances will not, in themselves, either prove or disprove the charter school idea in New Zealand.

As we see in the United States, charter school performance varies widely and right across the spectrum.  We expect charter schools in New Zealand to exhibit the same characteristics.

It is the ACT Party conference this weekend but Vanguard’s oh-so-positive press release is unlikely to be the full story.

~ Bill Courtney

Fact Checker: Partnership School Funding

 

sosnz fact checker RECTANGLE

The Ministry of Education has produced a brochure that attempts to explain “Partnership Schools” funding.  Unfortunately, it does a good job of highlighting the problems, rather than answering the real questions.

In particular, their worked examples reverse out the most troublesome items and then proudly claim that this explains the “facts”.

Parents are not going to make comparisons with notional Ministry of Education worked examples.  They are going to compare the effect of the actual funding Partnership Schools receive with the schools that already exist in their local areas.

For example, the primary school worked example seems to be the Rise Up Academy, based in Mangere.  This is compared to a Decile 3 State school in an unknown location with a roll of only 44 students.

Furthermore, it appears that the secondary school chosen in the brochure worked example is Paraoa, with a projected maximum roll of 300 (although its roll this year did not exceed 53).  This is the largest of the maximum rolls of the first five Partnership Schools, so this helps the illustration look better by spreading the fixed costs over the highest number of projected students.

In the short term, Sponsors seem to have used the excess funding they have received to provide more teachers and other perks, such as free uniforms and free stationery.

Creating smaller class sizes has been a feature of the initial batch of schools and even the Education Review Office has commented on this point.

But this cannot persist in the long term.  If the Ministry assertion that costs will equalize over time proves correct, then staffing ratios should become more consistent between types of school.  But if they persist, it could signify that the Partnership Schools are permanently overfunded.

Our full analysis of the brochure is detailed below.  The brochure itself is available here.

Background Discussion

Issue 1: “Partnership Schools are fully-funded schools outside the state system…”

Why are Partnership Schools fully funded by the State, when they are schools of choice?  Why is their funding model inconsistent with other types of school, such as Catholic schools?

If parents choose to enrol their children at a Catholic school, for example, then that school is funded for operational grants and the same teacher staffing entitlement as an equivalent State school.  These are the two largest costs, by far, of providing education.

But when the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act 1975 went through, it was made clear that the State would pay for those students’ education but would not be responsible for the schools’ assets, which remain the property of the Proprietors. Why are Partnership School assets, which are owned by a private sector Sponsor, paid for by the State?

Issue 2: Is the funding model consistent with the original National / ACT Party Agreement?

The agreement, in December 2011, mentioned the issue of funding but vaguely stated that:

“Public funding would continue to be on a per-child basis. (Details are included in the attached Annex).”

Annex: Public funding would continue to be by way of normal operational grant funding and may include funding targeted at disadvantaged groups. Schools may also be eligible for capital funding for school property, although overseas experience suggests use of private capital will be required. Schools may choose to rent, rather than own the school building and hence may instead receive equivalent funding to cover rental costs.”

This statement raises two questions: how much private capital is invested and at risk in the new schools?  And how would be the “equivalent” funding to cover rental costs be determined?

Issue 3: “Partnership schools receive much the same funding as comparable state schools.”

What does “much the same” mean?  As the brochure quite rightly points out, “Funding for all schools, even those of a similar size and decile, varies.”  No two schools will ever be identical for all sorts of reasons.  Fair enough.  So, how was the “equivalence” funding model determined and what assumptions were used?  What would be the implications if the actual outcomes were different from those assumed in the model?

Reading the detailed funding model background paper released by the Ministry gives us an insight into just how vague this equivalence approach really is and how many assumptions underpin it:

“The Crown believes funding Partnership Schools on the basis of “Cash for Buildings” provides equivalence with the property support for State schools where property is leased. The following table provides indicative amounts of property funding for Partnership Schools based on Cash for Buildings model.  The amounts below are indicative only and subject to change.

 

Roll Primary Secondary Yr 1 – 13
50 $60,232 $209,724 $96,428
100 $105,167 $339,157 $193,005
200 $189,710 $590,193 $385,862
300 $298,018 $745,112 $533,105
400 $372,590 $863,218 $641,866
500 $445,114 $977,491 $778,262

 

Please note that the amounts above may alter if a school is not proposing to reach its maximum roll in the first few years.  Composite school (Yrs 1 to 13) funding may also vary depending on the balance between the numbers of primary and secondary students enrolled.” [Emphasis added]

And therein lies the key problem: the equivalence approach is based on two key assumptions: the school moves within a few years towards its maximum roll and that the costs it will incur are similar to those of equivalent state schools being funded on this particular “Cash for Buildings” model.

But note the large difference between a 50 roll secondary ($209,724) and a 300 roll secondary ($745,112).  The larger school is funded for this cost component at a rate that is 3.5 times the amount of the smaller school!

So if the new school simply projects that it will grow, then it will be funded at a much higher rate in the short term than may ultimately prove to be necessary to cover its actual costs.

Issue 4: Small schools are expensive.

The brochure makes two statements about how certain costs associated with a new school mean that average funding will appear higher than in established schools; but that eventually as any new school reaches capacity, its average funding per student will fall.  The economists would call this “economies of scale”.

The allowance for fixed costs of this nature is called Base Funding.  The Base Funding for the three Partnership secondary schools has been set at $997,044 per annum.  The middle school receives $571,448 and the primary school receives $145,856 per annum.

But if the schools remain small, even at their projected maximum roll levels, they will remain expensive and not achieve the same reduced average funding per student that larger schools achieve.

Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, is on record in parliament acknowledging that small schools are expensive.

Issue 5: Then why create more small schools?

Why are we creating new schools at all, given that many of the new Partnership Schools are not in areas of roll growth?  This is also inconsistent with Treasury’s advice to the incoming government in 2011, which advised the government to “rationalise the school network”!

New partnership schools in 2014 have been created in South Auckland (South Auckland Middle School and Rise Up Academy) Albany (Vanguard Military School) and in Whangarei (Paraoa).  The four schools proposed for 2015 will be in South Auckland (Pacific Advance Senior School and Waatea), West Auckland (Middle School West Auckland) and Teina, a sister primary school in Whangarei for the Paraoa secondary school.  That makes a total of 8 schools that are, in reality, in areas where schools already exist.

Why, therefore, is the State using a funding model which is seeking to fund these new schools on an equivalent basis to that used to create new State schools, when there is existing capacity in the school network?

Issue 6: “All new schools are also funded for a minimum roll even if the school, on opening, is below that roll number.”

What has been the actual experience so far with the schools’ rolls?

The roll return information is contained in the “Schools Directory” spreadsheet available on the Ministry’s Education Counts website at

http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/directories/list-of-nz-schools

School Guaranteed Minimum Roll* 1 March Actual Roll 1 July Actual Roll October ActualRoll Maximum Roll
South Auckland Middle School 90 108 110 107 120
Whangaruru 71 63 56 50 128
Paraoa 50 50 53 52 300
Rise Up Academy 50 42 46 48 100
Vanguard Military School 108 104 93 79 192
Total 367 358 336

 

Based on actual roll experience, three schools were funded during the course of the 2014 year on a “Guaranteed Minimum Roll” number of students that was greater than their actual roll returns ever recorded.

What evidence is there that the Partnership schools’ rolls are consistent with the projections and assumptions underlying their funding model?  In particular, the Ministry comment that “the amounts above may alter if a school is not proposing to reach its maximum roll in the first few years…” is certainly relevant here.

How were the “Guaranteed Minimum Rolls” determined for the 2014 year?  What, if any, changes are to be implemented by the Ministry in the procedures used to determine the Guaranteed Minimum Roll for any new schools in the future?

At what stage of their development will the secondary schools be subject to the same funding reduction regime that now applies to the funding for State and State-Integrated secondary schools, where funding is reduced during the course of a year if the school’s actual roll falls?

Bill Courtney – SOSNZ

Hekia Parata Fact Checker: National Standards are “the right steps”

sosnz fact checker RECTANGLE

Hekia Parata, quoted in stuff.co.nz, Monday 17 November 2014:

“The profession and academics of New Zealand determined that those were the right steps to be taken in each progression through our education system,” Parata said.

Well, Hekia, some of us beg to differ. National Standards has always been a highly contentious policy. But there is no excuse for anyone making statements about the system that are simply not true.

We need to ensure that historical fact is recorded and is not distorted by contemporary political spin.

Many parents, media and commentators might assume that the National Standards were set correctly and were properly tested.

But those of us involved in the debate over time know that there are several issues around the construct of the Standards that have never been resolved.

Let’s check the history:

•The Standards were developed by two small teams of developers (one wrote the Reading and Writing Standards and the other wrote the Maths Standards);

• These people were chosen by the Ministry of Education and mainly included external contractors;

• The Standards were written in a very short period of time in the first half of 2009;

• A brief “consultation” period ran from May to July 2009, during which three draft Standards were available for consideration by the teaching profession and the public;

• The full set of 24 Standards (Reading , Writing and Maths across 8 ages and year levels) was released at the official launch by John Key, in October 2009.

But was the teaching profession involved in the process of setting the Standards?

Frances Nelson, President of NZEI, certainly didn’t think so:

“Not only have the Standards been developed under a cloak of secrecy, the small number of practitioners who were invited into the “inner circle” were – apparently – required to leave all material in the room and sign confidentiality agreements to ensure they didn’t go back and share what they’d been doing with other colleagues, board members or parents!”

Frances Nelson op-ed, Dominion Post, December 2009

Nelson had responded to an op-ed published earlier by the Minister of Education, Anne Tolley:

“There will be no concessions, there will be no trial period. Parents want national standards and they are going to get them from next year. There will be constant evaluation, the tenders are just being let, and if adjustments need to be made, then that will happen.”

Anne Tolley op-ed, Dominion Post, November 2009

To this day, the Standards themselves have never been tested in any trial of any kind.

People forget that the 2010 nationwide petition, organised by NZEI and known as “Hands Up For Learning”, did not call for outright opposition to National Standards but rather for them to be trialled:

“The petition of William Michael Courtney, requesting that the House of Representatives note that 37,617 people have signed a petition requesting that National Standards be trialled in our schools before being introduced nationally.”

Petition no. 2008/90 tabled in the House by the Hon Trevor Mallard, 28 June 2010

The government-commissioned evaluation of the National Standards system did not make any significant recommendations and no “adjustments” of any sort have been made to the Standards.

So, any flaws in the construct of the original Standards have remained.

And what did the academics think?

Professor John Hattie, a leading supporter of the concept of National Standards, was critical of this set of Standards when they were released:

“The success of national standards will be related to the quality and dependability of the standards. The current approach of developing standards by committee is not good enough.

The glossy, recently published New Zealand literacy and numeracy standards have no data, no evidence, and no evaluation – they are pronouncements without evidence. If there is evidence outside committee contemplations, where is it? Until there is evidence, the standards remain untested and experimental.”

Hattie: Horizons and Whirlpools, November 2009

The Parliamentary Library prepared a research paper on National Standards in June 2010. Here is an extract from the section “Speed of design and implementation”:

“The lack of a trial period or testing of the Standards has caused concern. Education sector groups and academics sought a phased introduction of the Standards, as opposed to full implementation in schools during 2010. Concern has also been expressed that with no trial of the Standards, there has been no opportunity to establish whether they have been set at the correct level, or to see how they relate to actual patterns of student progression over time. Not all students follow the same developmental trajectory to get to the same level of performance over time.”

Parliamentary Library Research Paper, National Standards, June 2010

One of the most concerning aspects of the system is the lack of evidence underpinning the Standards and the “One Size Fits All” trajectory they assume. This is important, as in standards-based assessment, achievement is defined as being “in relation to the standard”, as opposed to norm-referenced assessment, for example, which shows student achievement in relation to a student’s peer group.

So it is important for parents and commentators to understand that if there are concerns about the level at which the Standards are set, and how appropriate they are to individual student achievement and progress, then there must be real doubt about the validity of any assessment results arising from using such a system.

~ by Bill Courtney, SOSNZ

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