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Teachers *Must* Keep Up With Education Politics, No Matter How Busy

sb-get-informedIn a chat with some teachers tonight, one commented that she doesn’t have time to keep up with politics because she is too busy teaching.  I hear that a lot, and to be honest, I was exactly the same when I was in the classroom. Note to Hekia Parata and David Seymour, if you want me to be quieter, I need a job.

Seriously, though, between the planning and marking, the social issues, special educational needs, my own professional development and reflections, staff meetings, art exhibitions, camp trips, paperwork, and heaven knows what, there is little space left in many educators’ minds for anything else. Doubly so if they have a family.

It’s hard to strike a balance between being informed and having one’s head in the sand. We want to know what’s going on, but we don’t want to become overwhelmed, which can so easily happen in teaching as in many jobs. So what do we do?

Well, there are a few simple ways to keep up with what’s going on in education politics:

Your Union 

1) Make sure your union has your email address and you get the regular updates sent out.

1a) Take a minute to read the emails from the union. Seriously, just having them in your in-box doesn’t count, much like the pile of dieting books on my shelf aren’t helping me lose weight.

2) Attend union meetings and ask questions.

3) Check the PPTA and/or NZEI web sites now and then.

Social Media

Clearly you use social media because you are reading this. Excellent – I like the cut of your gib. Now maybe you would like to follow some of these marvellous people so that you can find out what’s going on via them, too:

Facebook

Twitter

On Facebook and Twitter you will find new people and pages to follow, some will come, some will go, and you will find your tribe. It’s invaluable – I can totally recommend it for the best PD around, quite aside from keeping up with education politics.

In School

Ask other teachers to tell you what’s going on. You don’t have to accept their viewpoint or what they’re saying without question, but you will still get an idea of the issues of the moment and some of the concerns.

Read those magazines, leaflets and posters in the staff room to find out the latest.

Ask your union rep. If the rep isn’t clear, ask someone else.

Pick What Works For You

You owe it to yourself, your profession, your students and their parents to be informed. Changes will happen – they always do – but you must be clear of the possible impact of those changes so you can choose whether your input or action is needed.  Being passive is not really an option.

Pick whatever methods work for you. If you are on the computer a lot for work, maybe join a Facebook page or group (or two), and consider Twitter to link to other educators (well worth it, I promise).

Whatever way you do it, find your tribe and get yourself informed.

~ Dianne

PS, thanks for the work you do in our schools. We parents appreciate it more than we might let on.

Survey Of Political Parties On Child Well-Being Issues

Bryan Bruce - Inside child povertyby Bryan Bruce, Knowledge is Power

Last week I surveyed all the political parties on where they stood on 10 issues  directly or indirectly  related to child well-being in New Zealand.

They were asked which of them they would or would not support  in principle  should it come to a vote in the upcoming parliament.

Bill English on behalf of National refused to take part in the survey saying the questions were ‘hypothethical”.

National are also now the only party not to commit to cross-party talks after the election to see if some long term solutions to issues surrounding child poverty can be found.

Some parties chose to give ‘No Answer’ to some of the questions because their party had not yet formed a view. National’s refusal to respond has also been listed as ‘No Answer’ …..

1. Warrant of fitness to be compulsory for all rental properties within three years.

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party

Labour

Mana

NZ First

Maori Party United Future

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

Conservative Party

NO ANSWER

National

2. Progressively extend the paid parental leave period to 12 months within the next six years.

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party

Labour

Mana

NZ First

United Future

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Conservative Party

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

Maori Party

3. Free healthy lunches to be made available to all school children within the next 6 years. The scheme to be introduced first to decile 1, 2 and 3 schools and then rolled out progressively up to decile 10 schools.

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party

Mana

NZ First

Maori Party

United Future

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

Labour

ACT

Conservative Party

NO ANSWER

National

4. Free 24 hour medical care be made available to all children and young people up to, and including, the age of 18 within the next three years.

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party

Maori Party

Mana

NZ First

United Future

Alliance

Conservative Party

Democrats for Social Credit

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

NO ANSWER

National

Labour

5. One health nurse for every 300 school children and a free doctor visit to schools once a week

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party Mana

Maori Party United Future

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

NO ANSWER

Conservative Party

Labour

National

NZ First

6. Create low interest initiatives to allow families to build or buy affordable healthy housing.

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party

Labour

Mana

NZ First

Maori Party United Future

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Conservative Party

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

NO ANSWER

National

7. The introduction of a “living wage” rather than a “minimum” wage?

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party Labour

Mana

Maori Party

Alliance

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

Conservative Party

Democrats For Social Credit

United Future

NO ANSWER

NZ First

National

8. Remove GST from food.

WOULD SUPPORT

Mana

Maori Party

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Conservative Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

Green Party

Labour

United Future

NO ANSWER

Internet Party

NZ First

National

9. Repurchase the electricity system to be run as a public utility and not for profit?

WOULD SUPPORT

Mana

NZ First

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

Green Party

Labour

Maori Party

United Future

NO ANSWER

Conservative Party

Internet Party

National

 

10. Does your Party undertake to take part in cross party talks after the election to reach long term solutions to child poverty related issues?

YES

Green Party

Labour

Mana

NZ First

Maori Party United Future

ACT

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Conservative Party

Internet Party

NO ANSWER

National

 

Source: Knowledge is Power

See also: www.facebook.com/InsideChildPoverty

A comprehensive education manifesto for New Zealand schools

Below is the Networkonnet Manifesto, the only comprehensive education manifesto I have seen.  Please read it and see if it meets your own vision for what our education system should be.  If it does, please either sign it here (below in the comments) and I will forward those comments to Kelvin, or click through HERE and sign it directly on the Networkonnet site.

Likewise, if you have suggestions for changes, please share them in as much detail as you can.  The aim is to craft a manifesto that speaks to what the majority of teachers, academics, parents and students would like our education system to look like.

~ Dianne

The networkonnet manifesto: sign up to have your ideas heard

by Kelvin Smythe with Allan Alach

The manifesto is intended to gather signatures then, with media release attached, distributed to media, teacher organisations, and a range of interest groups.

Readers can sign up by putting their names and position in the comments box HERE or e-mailed to ksmythe@wave.co.nz  or allan.alach@ihug.co.nz

At the moment, it could be widely understood that teachers have no specific budgetary or system demands beyond opposition to substantial parts of government policy.

For the sake of our children, our own ideas need to be heard.

The networkonnet manifesto is intended to jog the teacher organisations to set out such specific budgetary and system demands and to publicise them intensively and imaginatively.

Readers will note that the networkonnet manifesto is based on a philosophy expressed as governing ideas. The government is working to a philosophy, brought in from outside and economics: we need to work to ours developed from our education heritage and social democracy. The hammering of public primary schools – the scapegoating, the disenfranchising, and the financial and spiritual impoverishment, is not government whim but engrained ideological policy as part of global capitalism and a shift of civilisation. That policy needs to be confronted with our own set of cohesive ideas.

We urge readers to sign up and encourage others in your school and beyond to do so as well.

The manifesto is open to change and addition, but if you support the general direction, then we suggest you take the positive step of signing up in support.

Readers might be interested to know that one significant political party has called the manifesto a ‘great read’ and remarkably close to theirs.

Kelvin Smythe and Allan Alach

 

read meNETWORKONNET MANIFESTO

Governing ideas

The key idea in the policy recommendations that follow is that the education system should be based on valuing variety – and fundamental to this, the idea of collaboration and shared knowledge development. It is not just accepting variety or tolerating it, it is valuing it – valuing it as part of living in a democracy and as the best means to help children’s learning.

Valuing variety would mean changes to regulations, allowing a wide interpretation of the curriculum – within broad guidelines – in school charters and evaluation practices. Eventually the curriculum would need to be revised to concentrate on principles and aims, leaving schools to decide how to interpret those – at the moment National Administrative Guidelines (NAGS) and the demands of the education review office (using national standards) exert a stultifying control of classrooms.

The Lange government, through Tomorrow’s Schools, introduced into education a philosophy antithetical to Labour Party philosophy. (Most Labour mps of the time find this hard to accept holding on to the idea that Tomorrow’s Schools was, in fact, about giving more power to schools.) While this neoliberal philosophy was diluted in the Clark years, it still remained and remains dominant.

In education that philosophy is expressed as managerialism.

As it pans out, the basic tenet of managerialism is that any issue in education, including the education effects of poverty – indeed, especially the education effects of poverty – can largely be resolved by management changes to do with the organisation and direction teachers. This always involves overstating the role of the teacher in learning so that when schools fail to overcome sufficiently the education effects of poverty, schools are blamed, providing an excuse for shaping schools into the political right’s own ideological image.

An implication in this top-down philosophy is that there is someone knows and that person who knows is a political leader informed by a certain category of academic.

The present education system is substantially a command one – a command one based on excluding teachers and parents from genuine participation in policy making, also on fear, control, propaganda, and corrupted statistics.

The education system needs to be democratised.

One very important effect of bringing in parents and teachers into policy making would be to broaden the curriculum to counteract the trend of an ever narrowing one.

A managerialist-based education system requires a curriculum that is amenable to command and control, also one that can be understood by politicians and bureaucrats – that curriculum is a fragmented one organised for measurement.

New Zealand primary education has a culture of being holistic, in other words, not fragmented for ease of measurement and control. (Many of the most important things in learning are immeasurable; in a measurement-based education system those things are neglected.)

A measurement-based classroom is possible in a holistic-based education system but a holistic-based classroom isn’t possible in a measurement-based system (an important point in considering an education system based on valuing variety).

The present primary school education system is governed by fear and bureaucratic command, and protected by propaganda and corrupted statistics.

The contract system is important to the government control of universities: a key way to restrict academic freedom of speech.

Within schools, the major source of fear and control comes from the education review office – it is unaccountable and used in a variety of ways to generate fear and ultimately obedience; it is really the review office that determines the nature of the curriculum.

The heavy use of statutory managers is another source of fear, control, and indirect propaganda.

People outside the education system have little appreciation of the extent and depth of the fear, control, and use of propaganda that exists within it.

Perhaps the key idea to be developed should be that just as a healthy economic system needs a free exchange of ideas so does a healthy education system.

And central to that is the idea of a shared view of the way knowledge is developed.

All parts of the education system need to be freed up so that all parts can share in the generation of knowledge: teachers, curriculum advisers, academics, parents, and government education agencies.

Teachers should be freed to colonise the curriculum (that is, make curricula work) and to establish their knowledge in the form of successful established practice.

Teachers and schools should function within fairly wide curriculum guidelines.

Academics sought for advice should come from groupings much wider than the current headlining quantitative academics; in particular, that means advice should also be sought from qualitative academics and curriculum academics with significant classroom experience.

 

More specific policies as an outcome of governing ideas

A call should be made for a grouping of countries to join together to develop an international testing system that functions transparently and concentrates on a broader view of the curriculum. (However, the government should stay in the present international system until that is achieved.)

The 359 million dollars intended for the government cluster policy should be spent directly on helping children in classrooms, not on giving large pay increases to a few teachers and principals.

In a whole series of ways, policies and increased funding to meet children’s special needs should be a priority.

First, there should be a substantial lift in support teacher numbers as well as moves to make support teacher staff better paid and to provide them with a greater sense of permanency.

Following that, there should be improved staffing ratios (gradually introduced) to give flexibility to schools enabling them to provide more individual attention to children’s learning needs, including some appointments for specialist learning (for instance, science, or maths, or Maori language, or drama) as set out as an emphasis in schools’ charters.

Also for improving home school relations (a priority).

An important idea to understand is that the government in implementing national standards ostensibly to lift learning in lower decile schools has used the opportunity to achieve its long-held objective of a narrow 3Rs curriculum for all children.

Improvements in staffing and support teachers and in other areas should be described as being there to help the learning of all children, not just the ones who are struggling  (children of all abilities are being badly served by the present system).

A non-contestable fund to promote Maori language should be established to which schools can apply to fund part-time teachers, support teachers, and Maori language labs.

There should be improvement to special needs services including making RTLBs (Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour) more accessible and less bureaucratic. Their role should be extended to work more closely with families – an improved version of the former visiting teacher positions.

The SAF (Student Achievement Function) should be removed with money saved being allocated to other and wider forms of advisory support.

Reading Recovery should be increasingly well funded.

The best home-school reading programme for lower decile schools, one already in operation in miniscule way, is Jeanne Biddulph’s Reading Together programme which binds home and school together in a harmonious and joyful way.

A Committee of Inquiry into making education more collaborative for successful learning should be established – though this should not mean changes to education won’t begin immediately (Committee of Inquiry for Collaboration for Better Learning).

School charters at the moment are a major source of control and bureaucratisation – school charters should be freed to allow schools to develop programmes, within broad guidelines, that suit them. (As discussed above.)

The education review office needs to be staffed by teachers and principals of the highest quality; deliver its work in schools in a different way; and be made accountable (it should also be made fully compliant with the Official Information Act).

There should be a Review Office Appeal authority appointed to hear appeals from schools (a priority).

A cross-sector review office advisory board should be established.

The review office should concentrate on work in schools, not producing reports – those reports should be done by universities on the basis of proper research design.

The School Trustees Association should be restricted in its work to providing direct services to members (a priority).

The statutory management system should be restructured: a more comprehensive conciliation system before statutory management should be established and perverse incentives removed. In particular, the cost of statutory management should fall on the ministry not the school.

Schools and colleges of education should develop a better balance between general education courses and ones directly related to classrooms (though both should be considered equally important) – this might mean rehiring some academics who possess both academic and classroom knowledge.

As one part of the advisory function, a permanent advisory service should be re-established attached to universities to function within broad guidelines (a reasonably free advisory service is an important source of practicable knowledge).

The Teachers Council or its equivalent should be reorganised to reflect the policy of collaboration. As well, it should concentrate on the safety of children. (All teacher organisations are doing well on this one, so I am not elaborating.)

Teacher organisations should be represented as of right on policy, curriculum, and administrative groupings.

Charter schools should be funded and administered on the same basis as other privately-run schools and the money saved allocated to meeting the education needs of low decile schools.

National standards should be removed and with the money saved used to re-establish NEMP (National Education Monitoring Project) formerly based at the University of Otago – more money than before should be allocated and the previous directors asked to advise on its establishment, functioning, and staffing (NEMP was a collaborative institution much admired and appreciated by schools).

NMSSA (National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement) based at the University of Otago should be removed, with the money saved used in the re-establishment of NEMP (see above).

Clusters established on a voluntary basis should receive some government funding.

How to bring parents into education on a national basis is a difficult one: my suggestion is, on a regular basis, NZCER to undertake a survey and some research as the focus for parent discussion (within schools) – the outcomes of this discussion to be reported to a body to consider and sometimes develop matters further.

A broad curriculum should be encouraged in anticipation of the outcomes of the results of the Committee of Inquiry (see above).

An important part of that broad curriculum is an understanding that attention to the 3Rs is mutually supportive with attention to flexible thinking – a mutual supportiveness that should be acted on from children’s first days at school.

The greater freedom for schools to shape their curriculum within broad guidelines will have major implications for the work Colleges of Education, advisory services, and education review office.

The use and resourcing of computers should be approached carefully: there needs to be a broad-based permanent grouping set up to provide schools with guidance on computer use in schools (at the moment it is growing helter-skelter with the curriculum quality being given insufficient attention); also government money would seem to be better allocated for professional development and computer maintenance rather than for directly purchasing computers and other digital devices. (Free technical support is crucial, along with extensive ICT support through advisers.)

The curriculum area of mathematics should be given special attention: a curriculum committee to report in three months, meanwhile, conferences should be organised around the country and extra finance made available to schools working on innovative ideas. (Bobbie Hunter from Massey and University and Jodie Hunter her daughter are doing some excellent work in junior maths with implications for older children.)

The Novapay system, from computer programming to data gathering and Novapay reception, has inherent faults within it – a new system should be introduced (either that or funding for office staff both schools and Novapay reception, be substantially increased).

 

The Beeby statement I like is the one he made in 1942 following a meeting with the South Canterbury NZEI management committee: ‘There seems to be a common desire on the part of teachers to ask the Department for detailed instructions regarding such things as the changes that are taking place in infant education, rather than to embrace the freedom the Department has given and to participate co-operatively in the working out of up-to-date practice in the infant room.’

 

Some excerpts from comments made by readers on the initial posting of what is now the networkonnet manifesto

Bruce Hammonds said: 

The 2007 New Zealand Curriculum introduced by the last Labour government needs to be emphasised – it is highly regarded by teachers. National is about standardisation and competition while Labour needs to focus on personalisation and collaboration.

 

Kids at the Heart of Education – latest dates

 Kids-at-the-Heart-Title-only

Catherine Delahunty and Metiria Turei are on a speaking tour to explain and discuss the Green Party’s education policies.  They will discuss the Greens’ plans for more community involvement in schools, community hubs, nurses in school, and their plans for such things as National Standards and Charter schools, amongst other things.

It’s a great chance to hear from the horse’s mouth what alternatives there are to what is being implemented now, and to ask questions.  There are also some great guest speakers.

To keep up with new events/speakers, you might want to follow Catherine Delahunty’s page on Facebook.

I attended the Lower Hutt event, and it was hugely interesting to not only hear from Catherine but also to hear from people working at local schools, undertaking innovative and hugely successful projects that encompass the whole community.  It was informative and very inspiring, and I can’t recommend the talks enough.

 

These are the latest conformed dates:

 

Auckland – 30 April, 6-7.30pm 

Catherine Delahunty

17 Mercury Lane, Newton Auckland

Join or follow this event on Facebook

 

Gisborne – 6 May, 7.30pm

Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty

Ilminster Intermediate School Library, De Latour Road

Guest speaker: Peter Ferris, Principal of Illminster Intermediate.

 

Tauranga – 12 May, 5.30pm

Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty

Gate Pa School Staffroom, 900 Cameron Road

Guest speaker: Jan Tinetti, Principal of Merivale School.

 

Thames – 13 May, 7.00pm (NOTE THIS IS A CHANGED VENUE & TIME)

Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty

Grahamstown Community Hall.768 Pollen St, Thames

 

Whakatane – 14 May, 7.30pm

Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty

Knox Presbyterian Church, 83 Domain Road

 

Whangarei – 19 May, 7pm

Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty

Old Library, 7 Rust Avenue

 

Rotorua – 22 May, 6pm

Catherine Delahunty

Haupapa Room, Rotorua District Library, 1127 Haupapa Street

 

Auckland – 22 May, 7.30pm

Metiria Turei

Te Atatu South Community Centre, 247 Edmonton Road, Te Atatu South

 

Hamilton – 16 June, 6pm

Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty

Stack Space, Hamilton Library, 9 Garden Place

Guest speaker: Martin Thrupp, Waikato University Institute of Educational Research

 

New Plymouth – 18 June, 7pm

Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty

Beach Street Hall, 40 Beach Street

 

Auckland – 26 June, 7.30pm

Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty

Mangere East Community Centre, 372 Massey Road, Mangere East (Behind the Library)

 

Whanganui – 23 July, 7.30pm

Catherine Delahunty and Dave Clendon

Alexander Research and Heritage Library (Venue now confirmed)

 

Palmerston North – 25 July, 7.30pm

Catherine Delahunty

Palmerston North City Library, 4 The Square

Guest speaker: Professor John O’Neill, Massey University Institute of Education.

 

If National, Labour or any other party plan a similar tour, I will share that as well, but as yet only the Greens are fronting up.  Do let me know if you spot any talks (from any party) that I don’t seem to know about.  Thank you.

 

The Bigger Picture: Education Reforms and The Shock Doctrine

friedman

Read that meme again:  Only a crisis actual or perceived produces real change.  That is the heart of global education reforms – Creating a perception.

Below is a hard-hitting and disturbing documentary, outlining how disasters are constructed or manipulated to justify far-reaching reforms and economic take-overs. I will warn you, it is not for the faint hearted but is well worth watching.  But first, an outline of how the Shock Doctrine applies to schools.

How does The Shock Doctrine play out in education?

  • New Orleans’s residents, scattered from Hurricane Katrina, discover that their public housing, hospitals and schools will never be reopened….  
  • Rhetoric about schools failing 
  • Mainstream media repeats and repeats the claims, ignoring communities and academics who argue differently
  • A crisis is made
  • Public schools are closed
  • Charter schools open in their place
  • The move from public to privatised education is complete.

And in New Zealand?

  • Create a crisis that kids are being failed.  
  • Mainstream media repeats and repeats the claims, manufacturing a crisis
  • Bring in students testing so that the levels can be manipulated to support current plans (look the tests show ‘they’ the teachers are failing the students, look the tests show ‘we’ the government are improving things)
  • Oust and undermine anyone who resists government plans
  • Remove or ignore community voices
  • Take over the teachers’ professional body – give them no representation
  • Destabilise teachers’ jobs by bringing in test-based pay and allowing untrained teachers
  • Close public schools 
  • Open charter schools

 

Disaster Capitalism – shock and reform

So, here is the documentary, The Shock Doctrine.  Again, I warn you, it is very hard hitting.

If you watch, pay close attention to the beliefs of Milton Friedman and the then Education Minister, Margaret Thatcher, as a lot can be understood about what is happening right now in education by analysing their views and actions.

 

About The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein

The Shock Doctrine book and documentary: an investigation of disaster capitalism, based on Naomi Klein’s proposition that neo-liberal capitalism feeds on natural disasters, war and terror to establish its dominance.

Based on breakthrough historical research and four years of on-the-ground reporting in disaster zones, The Shock Doctrine vividly shows how disaster capitalism — the rapid-fire corporate re-engineering of societies still reeling from shock — did not begin with September 11, 2001.

The films traces its origins back fifty years, to the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman, which produced many of the leading neo-conservative and neo-liberal thinkers whose influence is still profound in Washington today.

New, surprising connections are drawn between economic policy, shock and awe warfare and covert CIA-funded experiments in electroshock and sensory deprivation in the 1950s, research that helped write the torture manuals used today in Guantanamo Bay.

The Shock Doctrine follows the application of these ideas through our contemporary history, showing in riveting detail how well-known events of the recent past have been deliberate, active theatres for the shock doctrine, among them: Pinochet’s coup in Chile in 1973, the Falklands War in 1982, the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Asian Financial crisis in 1997 and Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

Source

Nothing to see here: blinkers and bullcrap

nothing to see hereI went to a union meeting yesterday.  I’m not working at the moment, but wanted to know more about what is being discussed and how teachers on the ground are feeling, so off I trundled.  I must say, I was so taken aback by some of what I heard that I came home and fell asleep for most of the night, shocked into stupor.

The first shock was when we were asked to quickly list with others on our tables what is going on in education at the moment. As I didn’t know anyone and was there to listen more than speak, I waited.  There was a pregnant pause, then one someone quietly said:

Well, nothing’s going on in education at the moment, is it …. because it’s an election year and they want to stay safe.”

Huh?

For real?

Stunned, I paused to see what others thought…

“There’s performance pay,” said one.

“No, she was misquoted,” someone replied.

Silence.

… and still I stayed quiet. (It was killing me, but I needed to listen not talk).

Silence.

And that was it.

There seemed to be more talk at other tables, so this may not be representative, but it still made me want to cry.

I just kept thinking, is this really all the knowledge, interest and passion this group of 7 teachers has between them about their own profession?  Do they truly not know any more than that, or do they not care?  How on earth do we get them to care?

If there had been a bar, I’d have turned to drink.

A better list (but not the whole list)

Luckily, when the rep went around the room asking what people had identified, the list was long and people sounded more outraged by it all.  Not all, but many seemed frustrated.

Between them, this smallish group of about 60 teachers listed National Standards, charter schools, PaCT, charter schools, the killing off of the Teachers Council, performance pay, decile ratings, funding of schools, change principals and the $359 for new roles.

The teacher that had said nothing much was happening in education was nodding – she had known about all of those things at the back of her mind.

Hekia’s school propaganda tour 2014

wonka asks Hekia have you got an answerThe meeting went on.  Performance pay was mentioned again. Two lots of teachers said they had asked Hekia Parata face-to-face when she had visited their schools in the past couple of weeks whether she was considering performance pay and Hekia had responded that she was misquoted and not to believe all they read.

This is when my cork popped.  Performance pay, I pointed out, is something Hekia Parata has talked about since 2012 and they should perhaps not believe all they hear from the Minister either.

People looked a bit stunned. They had fronted up and asked the Minister first hand whether she was considering performance pay and they felt she had said no it wasn’t.

But, I asked, did she say it was OFF the table or merely say she was misquoted?  And di they teachers realise she has been mooting performance pay since 2012?

The teachers were now confused as they had felt they had gotten an answer from the horse’s mouth and now it seemed maybe not. They asked the rep to ask the union to ask the Minister for clarification – is there to be performance pay or not?

No point, I mused inwardly. Because this is how she answers straightforward questions about performance pay (and anything else, in fact):

On the meeting went… and the horrors unveiled later are best saved for another post…

Meanwhile, concerned teachers and whanua reading this, you have colleagues, friends and family who believe nothing much is happening in education.  Maybe you need to start some conversations to counter that belief, before it’s too late.

 

Further reading on Hekia’s performance pay stance:

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1205/S00293/hekia-parata-on-the-nation-police-on-pay-for-teachers.htm (in 2012)

http://www.3news.co.nz/Parata-defends-performance-pay-scheme/tabid/1607/articleID/254861/Default.aspx (in 2012)

http://imperatorfish.com/2014/03/19/hekia-parata-on-being-misquoted/

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10803148

http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2014/03/08/the-problem-with-performance-pay-for-teachers/

http://publicaddress.net/hardnews/what-hekia-parata-actually-said/

http://boonman.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/hekia-parata-and-national-you-are-disgusting/

http://boonman.wordpress.com/tag/performance-pay/

http://www.3news.co.nz/Paratas-funding-plan-crazy-stuff—NZEI/tabid/1607/articleID/336162/Default.aspx

 

NZ Political Parties’ Education Policies – a guide

vote buttonAs it’s election year, you will want to know the education policies of the people clamouring for your vote.  The rhetoric and mainstream media reporting doesn’t always give a clear picture.  Mind you, policies sometimes don’t either… but it’s still a good idea to read, think and discuss them.

After reading, I’d love to hear what your thoughts are.  Is there anything more you would like to ask?  Anything you want to challenge? Anything you’re pleased to see, or think is missing?  Also, feel free to add your comments or links to additional party policies at the bottom.

IMPORTANT NOTE

** ALL THE LATEST POLICIES AS AT 5/9/14 ARE HERE

The policies below may be out of date.

 

ACT logoACT

While education for many children is among the best in the world, we have a well-known “long-tail” of underachievers, who become the next generation of under skilled, unemployed, disengaged citizens.  After 70 years of state controlled and mandated education, we have a situation where around 20% of our children left school last year unable to read or write sufficiently to fill out a job application.

ACT believes that if we continue to do what we’ve always done, we will continue to get the same results that we’ve always had.  The education system must do better for these New Zealanders.  What we have done for too long is run education as a centrally planned, Wellington-dictated bureaucracy that gives little autonomy to schools and little choice to parents.
Meanwhile, education policy in Australia, Sweden, parts of Canada and the United States, and Great Britain is showing the benefits of making education more market-like and entrepreneurial.  Such policies lead to a wider range of education opportunities being available.   ACT supports decentralisation in education, giving more autonomy to principals and teachers and more choice to students and parents.
In the last parliamentary term, with ACT’s pressure and support, the government:
 Introduced Aspire Scholarships, allowing disadvantaged children to access any school of their choice, public or private;
 Undertake a review of education in New Zealand, leading to the ACT Party’s minority report Free to Learn, a comprehensive roadmap for reforming education towards a more market-like and entrepreneurial service;
 Increase the subsidy for private schools, to reduce the extent to which those who send their children pay twice (once in taxes and once in school fees);
 Value the special education sector more, with a special education review resulting in new directions described in the report Success for All: Every school, every child.
ACT will keep working for a more vibrant and dynamic education system.  A Party Vote for ACT is a vote to:
 Continue awarding Aspire scholarships to underprivileged children;
 Increase the autonomy that local principals and staff have in running their school.  Boards and principals should be able, for example, to set teacher remuneration at their discretion like any other employer, rather than having a rigid, seniority based pay scale;
 Further increase the subsidy for independent schools so that parents who choose independent schools for their children do not lose so much of their child’s share of education funding;
 Encourage choice in assessment systems, whether they be NCEA, Cambridge International Examination, International Baccalaureate, or other qualifications.

IMPORTANT NOTE

** ALL THE LATEST POLICIES AS AT 5/9/14 ARE HERE

The policies here may be out of date.

 

Green party logoGreen Party 

Key Principles

  • A free education system that fosters participation, sustainability, equality and peace.
  • High quality teaching, learning environments, and curriculum that fosters peace in our communities.

Specific Policy Points

  • Ensure state schools are fully funded such that high quality education is not dependant upon fees, private donations, fundraising, nor private investment.
  • Increase the Operations Grant to reflect the real cost to schools of educating children.
  • Change the staffing formula to enable incremental reductions in class sizes, and improved teacher-child ratios in early childhood services.
  • Centrally fund all teacher and key support staff salaries.
  • Review the governance structure in Tomorrow’s Schools and trial alternative models of school governance.
  • Support pay parity for early childhood, primary and secondary educators.
  • Support the continued improvement of the NCEA, and work with teachers to review the three levels of NCEA assessment.
  • Retain and support local and rural schools.
  • Better and safer transport services to rural schools.
  • Set standards and guidelines for healthy food provided in schools.
  • Incorporate ecological sustainability into the core curriculum at all levels.
  • More funding for Maori language, immersion and bilingual programmes.
  • Work towards te reo and tikanga Maori being available to all learners.
  • Ensure that Correspondence School has the capacity to deliver quality education to its diverse students.
  • Use an independent authority for appeals in the case of enrolment, stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions.
  • Allocate Special Education Grant based on numbers of enrolled children with special needs, and increase ORS funding.
  • Resource schools and Group Special Education to fulfill government obligations to children with special education needs.
  • Ensure schools have adequate provision to meet the needs of their ESOL students.
  • Establish support for networks of ‘not for profit’ early childhood services, including playcentre, kohanga reo, Pacific Island language nests.

IMPORTANT NOTE

** ALL THE LATEST POLICIES AS AT 5/9/14 ARE HERE

The policies here may be out of date.

 

Labour party logoLabour

Labour on dyslexia and learning difference

The Labour Party stands for an inclusive education system in which every New Zealander is given the opportunity to achieve to their full potential. We recognise that everyone is different, we all learn at different rates, and we all have different strengths and abilities.

Every school a great school
Every New Zealand child has the right to attend their local school and to have any individual learning needs they may have catered for at that school. Labour wants to ensure that every school is a great school, and every teacher a great teacher. We will invest heavily in teacher professional development, including programmes that equip teachers to cater to the diverse range of learning needs our students have.

Equal opportunity for all
Labour is increasingly concerned about the growing inequality within our education system. No one should have their options limited because of the part of society they are born into. Labour is committed to addressing the issue of child poverty.

Equal access to support 
We have been vocal in raising concerns about unequal access to Special Assessment Conditions for NCEA candidates and have made clear out commitment to ensuring that every student gets the support they need, regardless of what school they attend. No student should be denied access to SAC because their parents are unable to pay for the specialist assessments required to apply for it.

A change to special education funding
Labour is concerned that the current funding system for special education relies too heavily on individual learners meeting the criteria imposed by the system, rather than the system catering for the individual needs of each learner. We want to turn that around so that every student with an identified learning need gets the support necessary for them to achieve to their full potential.

Chris Hipkins
Education spokesperson
March 2014

IMPORTANT NOTE

** ALL THE LATEST POLICIES AS AT 5/9/14 ARE HERE

The policies here may be out of date.

 

National party logoNational

National’s unrelenting focus is on raising achievement for all our students.  Most of our kids are successfully getting the qualifications they need from school and going on to enjoy the opportunities a great education provides.  But our plan is about getting all of our kids achieving education success and raising achievement for five out of five.

We believe high-quality education is vitally important. It provides the opportunity for any child from any background to get ahead and make the most of their life. Research and experience show that providing an intensive package of support for students with complex needs in their local schools results in better outcomes for students.

National’s aim is to achieve a fully inclusive education system with confident schools, confident parents, and confident children.  We want to see all schools demonstrating inclusive practice.

The wraparound service approach supports the findings in the Special Education Review 2010, the Government’s key themes for special education, and the Ministry’s commitment to achieving inclusive practices through improved systems and support as outlined in the Positive Behaviour for Learning action plan.  This plan focuses on supporting parents and providing teachers in all schools with the skills and knowledge to deal with behavioural issues.

IMPORTANT NOTE

** ALL THE LATEST POLICIES AS AT 5/9/14 ARE HERE

The policies here may be out of date.

 

NZ first logoNZ First

UPDATED – Latest policy as at 5/9/14 is HERE: http://nzfirst.org.nz/sites/nzfirst/files/manifesto_2014_final_version_3.pdf

New Zealand First is very aware of the current lack of support for students with the educational challenges faced by those with Dyslexia.  And while there have been some steps towards providing support for these students at NCEA level.   It is our view that not only should these supports in the later educational years be strengthened but that these solutions must be delivered down into the earlier education years.

New Zealand First is a strong advocate for “front ending the spend”.  And I am currently working on a policy presentation around enhancing the collection of School Entry Assessment data so that children with educational needs can be identified earlier and provided with these supports, along the lines of the Finnish education system, earlier rather than later when damage to self-esteem has already taken place.

It is our view that it is inappropriate for any students family to have to privately fund an educational psychologists report in order for their child to access academic support for dyslexia.  At a recent financial review of NZQA I raised the topic of digital independence from human reader/writers for our NCEA students.  For example, a screen reader is an essential piece of software for a blind or visually impaired person which could be also be of use to those with dyslexia. Simply put, a screen reader transmits whatever text is displayed on the computer screen into a form that a visually impaired user can process (usually tactile, auditory or a combination of both).  It does not take a large stretch of the imagination to see that this technology could be used to “read” for those with dyslexia.  And the fact that there are several screen reader programmes that are free to the user and we see that cost now no longer becomes a factor.  What about the challenge of writing for our dyslexic students – well voice recognition has been around for a very long time now and with many schools moving to a “bring your own device environment”  a headset microphone and cool earphones should not even raise an eyebrow in a modern learning environment.

It is our view that National Standards has not identified anything new for these or other New Zealand students.  New Zealand Teachers were already aware of those children who were having difficulty due to a variety of reasons.  New Zealand First would have preferred to spend the close to $38 million budgeted to date for National Standards on the actual identification of children with challenges and providing the appropriate resources to support them participate to their best ability inside our schools.   While current and recent governments have finally acknowledged that Dyslexia exists they have taken no concrete steps to assist these students as early as possible through the appropriate resourcing of schools to support these students with identification testing (as you are aware dyslexia has an enormous range and require very individual assessment) and digital resources so that the student, at the earliest possible time in their development, can learn alongside their peers with pride, can meet success inside an educational environment that supports their specific challenge while celebrating the alternative and creative perspective these same students bring to the classroom environment.

Should New Zealand First have influence after the 2014 election this is an area we would seek to invest in. (end)

So there you go – the main parties’ policies and statements on education.  What are your thoughts after reading them?  Anything more you would like to ask?  Anything you want to challenge? Any other policies or information to add? Comment below.

If it inspires to you to ask more, or to share your thoughts, you can use these links to reach your local MP and the main NZ newspapers:

Click here for a list of  New Zealand MPs’ email addresses

Click here for email addresses of NZ Newspapers

And last but not least … do remember to VOTE.

IMPORTANT NOTE

** ALL THE LATEST POLICIES AS AT 5/9/14 ARE HERE

The policies here may be out of date.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sources and further reading:

Party policy information and links

Labour Party – Education

Why do corporations want to take over public schools?

Why corporations want to take over education

From: http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/education-uprising/why-corporations-want-our-public-schools

Diane Ravitch’s View of PISA Scores

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch notes:

In my recent book, Reign of Error, I quote extensively from a brilliant article by Keith Baker, called “Are International Tests Worth Anything?,” which was published by Phi Delta Kappan in October 2007. Baker, who worked for many years as a researcher at the U.S. Department of Education, had the ingenious idea to investigate what happened to the 12 nations that took the First International Mathematics test in 1964.

He looked at the per capita gross domestic product of those nations and found that “the higher a nation’s test score 40 years ago, the worse its economic performance on this measure of national wealth–the opposite of what the Chicken Littles raising the alarm over the poor test scores of U.S. children claimed would happen.”

He found no relationship between a nation’s economic productivity and its test scores.

Nor did the test scores bear any relationship to quality of life or democratic institutions.

Read the rest here: My View of the PISA Scores.

via My View of the PISA Scores.

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PISA 2012 – Ministry’s main observations

OECD PISA logoSo, the PISA results are in, and everyone is jumping in to claim they prove their point somehow.

Fair enough, I understand that – I am passionate too, and immediately want to know what the results do or do not tell us about how NZ is doing, educationally.

But surely it’s a time to read, reflect, research, and discuss the findings and the study itself, and try to eke out something meaningful form it, rather than just jump in and score Brownie points?

The goal is to see where we can improve things for our learners, after all.

Below are the Ministry’s main take away points from the study, copied verbatim from their web site.

I am going to refrain from commenting or adding my own observations or thoughts for now, as I would rather people read them with an open mind and ask questions of them.

Here goes – get your thinking caps on:

In New Zealand, over 5,000 students (4,291 for core PISA subjects, 958 for financial literacy) from 177 schools took part in the study, in July 2012.

  • New Zealand students scored above the OECD average in mathematics, reading and science.
  • Australia had similar scores in mathematics and reading but had a higher science score.
  • New Zealand student performance remained relatively stable up to 2009. Between 2009 and 2012 performance in mathematics, reading and science declined.
  • The proportion of New Zealand students (below Level 2) increased between 2009 and 2012 in mathematics and science (eg, up from 15% in mathematics in 2009 to 23% in 2012). These are students who struggle to do mathematics or science and whose lack of skills is a barrier to learning.
  • Students who achieve Level 5 or 6 have advanced skills in mathematics, reading or science. In particular, New Zealand has a high proportion of students who are top performers in reading (14%).
  • New Zealand has a relatively high proportion of all-rounder students who are top performers across mathematics, reading and science even compared to the top performing countries (21% are top performers in at least one subject area and 8% are “all rounders”).
  • New Zealand has a relatively large proportion of both top performers (Level 5 and 6) and low performers (below level 2) in mathematics. In addition, New Zealand is counted among the 10 PISA countries and economies with the widest spread of achievement in mathematical literacy.
  • New Zealand students demonstrated relative strength in the mathematical area of uncertainty and data (statistics) and weaker achievement in space and shape (geometry and measurement). Their performance on change and relationships(aspects of algebra) and quantity (number and measurement) was close to the overall New Zealand average for mathematics.
  • Overall boys did much better than girls in mathematics, girls continued to do better than boys in reading and there was very little difference in science.
  • Overall New Zealand European/Pākehā and Asian students scored above the OECD average in mathematics and Māori and Pasifika students scored below the OECD average. However, students from all ethnic backgrounds attained scores right across the achievement spectrum.
  • The average scores in mathematics for boys and girls and for New Zealand Pākehā/European, Māori and Pasifika students all declined between 2009 and 2012, but there was no change for Asian students.
  • Overall, New Zealand is a country characterised by relatively high achievement (when compared to the OECD average) but the distribution of student performance shows that we have relatively low equality (equity) in learning outcomes.
  • New Zealand is a country where the variability of student PISA mathematics scores within a school is high while the variability in scores across schools is relatively low. However, the variability in scores across schools is increasing.

I’d love to hear others’ observations, in the comments below or on the Facebook page.

Regards, Dianne

____________________________________________________________

Sources:

http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/series/2543/pisa-2012/pisa-2012-top-line-results-for-new-zealand

http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/series/2543/pisa-2012/what-is-pisa

Other reading:

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/latest-oecd-findings-point-to-major-failure-of-government-education-policies/

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/oecd-pisa-scores-which-countries-are-beating-nz/

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/a-strangely-schizophrenic-stance-on-nz-education/

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Education Minister & Ministry: Ombudsman Unimpressed

The Ombudsman’s annual report is out, along with a summary in the Office’s spring newsletter, and it makes for some rather disconcerting reading.

OIA - Official InformationTo my mind, it speaks volumes about the workings of this current government that the Ombudsman’s Office is dealing with “a 29 percent increase in complaints and other work coming in compared with the previous reporting year”

and that the Office “received and completed the highest ever number of complaints and other contacts about state sector agencies.”

Add to that the fact that “Official information complaints increased overall by 92% this year” and you have yourself something to seriously ponder over.

The complexity of the issues regarding the way Christchurch school closures and mergers have been dealt with is such that the Ombudsman has had to extend its review period in order to gather all the relevent information:

“Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem is continuing her investigation into the way in which the Ministry of Education undertakes consultation on school closures and mergers. 

While the information gathering stage is mostly completed, and many affected schools have taken the opportunity to meet with investigators assisting the Chief Ombudsman, the complexity of the issues have necessitated an extended period of review. Dame Beverley is currently working with the Ministry of Education in order to assure herself that she has all information needed to form robust conclusions. This requires a number of further meetings and interviews with key Ministry staff.

It is important to bear in mind that any aspects of the processes which occurred at the Minister’s direction, including actual decisions about individual schools, are outside the scope of the Chief Ombudsman’s investigation. Rather, the focus is on whether, over a range of closure and merger processes, the Ministry undertook fair and meaningful consultation within the confines of its role.”

Also of interest is the Ombudsman’s findings on the government’s refusal to release funding information relating to charter schools.  With a swift rap on the knuckles, the Ombudsman points out that, seeing as the decisions about how charters would be funded had been made when the request was made, there was no good reason to withhold the information.

Good to know the government is working honestly and openly for the good of all New Zealanders, isn’t it…  Tui.

Sources:

http://www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/ckeditor_assets/attachments/295/spring_ombudsman_oqr_2013_aw.pdf?1385454228

http://www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/newsroom/item/ombudsman-quarterly-review-spring-2013

KIWI PARENTS OPTING OUT

noI need help here.  I need experts.

Parents Opting Out

As a mother, I want to opt my child out of National Standards testing.  I am not the only one.

I also intend want to refuse to have any data on my child entered into the PaCT system where it will be held by government and stored in the cloud.  Given the government’s record on IT systems, I have no faith it would be safe.  I also have no faith it would not be shared with agencies I disapprove of.

do not keep calmLegally?

So, experts, where do parents stand legally on those two issues?

I would not want to put my child’s teacher in a difficult position, nor the school, so need to know exactly what my rights are.

If you can help or advise me, please comment below.

How true is the mythical “20% tail of underachievment”?

NZ“One in five students is failing” is a catch cry used so often that PPTA commissioned research to get to the bottom of it. 

The results, presented by researchers Liz Gordon and Brian Easton today, reveal the simplistic nature of the claim and the complex issues being ignored every time it is made.

PPTA president Angela Roberts said the overlapping issues of ethnicity, gender and socio-economic status were ignored when simplistic figures such ‘1 in 5’ or ‘20% of students are failing’ were bandied about.

“The message of there being a crisis in schooling is being used to drive through radical policies, but there is not a crisis. There are challenges and we need to deal with these by recognising the complexity of the issues,” she said.

The government’s practice of separating out a single factor – such as ethnicity – and comparing one sub-group to other whole populations was “statistically grossly misleading” and failed to recognise many of the factors contributing to underachievement, Roberts said.

The closest to the politically popular 20% figure the researchers were able to find was that 14.3% of students failed to achieve proficiency level 2 on PISA reading – and a closer examination of this group showed that 74% were male and that socio-economic factors such as parental income and the number of books in the home were clearly contributing issues.

“Constantly focussing on ethnicity as a single factor fails to recognise these overlapping issues,” Roberts said.

A companion report by Easton also contains data that suggests the constant labelling of ‘underachiever’ has had an impact on how students identify themselves ethnically.

Roberts hoped the research would enable the government to take a more sophisticated and nuanced approach to educational achievement and recognise the dangers of over-simplification.

“We hope that politicians and editorial writers will stop throwing around figures like ‘1 in 5’ and ‘national disgrace’ when in reality the issues are much more complicated.”

For links to the full reports and summaries, go here.

The SOS Edu-speak Translation Dictionary – part 2

Owl and dictionaryThe SOSETD is the next best thing to a Babel Fish this side of the galaxy.  Use it and all will become clear.

This is Part One.

Here are new additions to help you make sense of the nonsensical:

PaCT (noun): a computer programme being implemented to keep an eye on Professional and Creative Teachers.  It will be used to Promote any Codswhallop Theories that Politicians and Corporates Tout and convince people that it is essential we Pay and Control Teachers according to arbitrary and random criteria.  It will also be used to Promote additional Crappy Testing.

Select Committee (noun): a person or group of persons appointed to pretend to investigate and report on a particular matter for the Government.  The Committee’s main job is to make it seem that they will take into consideration the views of the general public whilst studiously avoiding actually incorporating any of those views in the final (pre-ordained) plan.

Charter School (noun, pl):  An invention sold to the public as the cure for all ills, including Poverty, cancer and world peace.  This is achieved by giving private companies money to run schools and has worked well in the USA where it has increased corporate profits immensely.  It has also led to a meteoric rise in the number of people learning the meaning of the words ‘attrition’ and ‘corporate fraud’.  Sadly it has not led to any such jump in student achievement.

Do you have any to add?   Just share your gems in the comments section below and I will compile the best in a later post.

I’m sure your combined genius could lead to quite a sizeable tome!

Meanwhile, here are more by That Way Madness Lies, that I found in part 2 and part 3 of their original US version.  Enjoy!

Poverty (noun): The worst, most vile, vulgar, scandalous curse word ever known to Reformers.  Never, never, ever, ever say the word “poverty” out loud.  If nobody ever mentions it again, it will magically cease to exist.

Achievement Gap (noun): Synonym for wealth gap.  Achievement correlates to poverty. SHHHH! Don’t say poverty!

Transparency (noun): the act of allowing computer and software companies to data mine children for undisclosed reasons without parental approval or notification while also refusing to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests regarding information hidden from the public about budgets, oversight, claims made in the media and other issues of interest to taxpayers and voters.

Don’t forget to add yours in the comments (or email them to SOSmail@gmail.com)

Thank you.  Keep the faith.

~ Dianne

Unpacking the sound bite “quality teaching eliminates socioeconomic disadvantage”

Picture 1Hekia Parata this weekend said that experts had found that four consecutive years of quality teaching eliminated any trace of socio-economic disadvantage.

In her now typical teacher-bashing way, she went on to say “In New Zealand we provide 13 years. You’d think it would not be too much to expect that four of those are good quality.”

Ignoring the snarkiness, just think about what she said:  Four consecutive years of quality teaching eliminates any trace of socio-economic disadvantage.  Override poverty.

That’s a mighty big claim.

Where did it come from and does it stand up to scrutiny?

Where did they find their catchy soundbite?

Neither The Southland Times nor Hekia Parata provide a reference for their claim.  You’d think someone making bold statements like that would be more than happy to cite their source, wouldn’t you?

They merely use it to end their article with a flourish.  After all, it sounds good, doesn’t it?  Very catchy. And they’re not alone – many newspapers and online publications including The Boston Globe used the same quote, also with no reference,

Whatever.  I searched on.

A Bit of Digging

diggingA flicker of something I read on Twitter came to mind, and a quick search led me to an article called The economic case for sacking bad teachers.  Nice title.  I felt sure this would be a clear, research-based, unbiased article…

The article largely ignores the actual report it is supposedly based on and, indeed, misrepresents its conclusions. But wait!  They manage to get a nice soundbite out of their expert, Eric Hanushek.  I sense he is going to prove interesting.

In the article, Hanushek is quoted as saying:

‘A good teacher can get 1.5 years of learning growth; a bad teacher gets half a year of learning growth.’

The article goes on to say:

Having four consecutive years of high-quality teaching, [Hanushek] says, can eliminate any trace of economic disadvantage. (5)

That issue  is not discussed at all in the OECD paper the article is meant to be about.  Why throw it in?  Did the journalist just find Hanushek’s most famous tidbit and throw it in for good measure?  Who knows.

And again, no reference.

Just an acceptance that this bold statement is fact.

And why would the journalist question it?  It sounds good doesn’t it?  And look at the great headline it gave them.

large_digger

Further Digging

Still no clearer as to where this assertion had come from, I enlisted the combined research abilities of the experts I  know. With their help, I found some very interesting stuff.

Take this quote from Diane Ravitch:

[Eric] Hanushek and Rivkin projected that “having five years of good teachers in a row” (that is, teachers at the 85th percentile) “could overcome the average seventh-grade mathematics achievement gap between lower-income kids (those on the free or reduced-price lunch program) and those from higher-income families. (7)

Ravitch goes on to say that, at the conference where they claims were presented, they were fervently disputed. Richard Rothstein  said they were “misleading and dangerous.” (7)  Criticism continued after the conference, and the debate of the statement’s validity raged.  

New reports came out, suggesting that 3, 4 or 5 years in a row with a good teacher could override the socioeconomic status (SES) of a student.

And despite being incredibly contentious and there being many experts arguing against the claims and plenty of research to say otherwise, it is too good a headline grabber and too utterly irresistible  for journalists.

Ravitch tells us that:

Over a short period of time, this assertion became an urban myth among journalists and policy wonks in Washington, something that “everyone knew.” 

This is the danger.

The sound bite wins the day.

reading-newspaperYour Average Newspaper Reader

Do you think the readers of The Southland Times will stop to wonder how rigorous was the research that lead to that soundbite?

Do you think they will ponder whether it has been challenged?

Do you think they will have eight solid hours and a goodly handful of experts to help them look into it, like I did?

No, me neither.

Luckily, I had the time.  And even more fortuitously, some anti-GERMers with a larger platform that I did, too.

A Fallacy and a Rebuttal

Renowned education expert, Pasi Sahlberg tackled the “four consecutive years of quality teaching” fallacy:

“This assumption presents a view that education reform alone could overcome the powerful influence of family and social environment mentioned earlier. It insists that schools should get rid of low-performing teachers and then only hire great ones. This fallacy has the most practical difficulties.

The first one is about what it means to be a great teacher. Even if this were clear, it would be difficult to know exactly who is a great teacher at the time of recruitment.

The second one is, that becoming a great teacher normally takes five to ten years of systematic practice. And determining the reliably of ‘effectiveness’ of any teacher would require at least five years of reliable data. This would be practically impossible.

Everybody agrees that the quality of teaching in contributing to learning outcomes is beyond question.  It is therefore understandable that teacher quality is often cited as the most important in-school variable influencing student achievement.

But just having better teachers in schools will not automatically improve students’ learning outcomes.” (8)

As Sahlberg says, there are many other factors that lead to students. success, and global reforms tend to ignore those that the most successful countries have implemented, namely

“… freedom to teach without the constraints of standardized curricula and the pressure of standardized testing; strong leadership from principals who know the classroom from years of experience as teachers; a professional culture of collaboration; and support from homes unchallenged by poverty.” (8)

Controversial Expert

Eric Hanushek

Eric Hanushek

But back to the original statement.  Who is Eric Hanushek, that made the claim?

Hanushek is an economist. He is not without controversy, and his research methods have been called into question in the past. (6)

However, disputes with his methods and conclusions have not stopped him from promoting his views widely in professional and public media, nor have they prevented the US administration and now our very own Education Minister, Hekia Parata, using his work and his words to justify further education reforms that education experts argue are not in the best interest of students. (3, page 40-42) and (4)

What does Hanushek say makes a Good Teacher?

His measurement of a good teacher is one whose students get high test scores.

One wonders what this means for a teacher of special needs students of lower cognitive ability, or students with English as a second language, or students who have a low educational ethic.  Are those teachers bad because their scores are lower than a teacher with more able students?

It’s a tad disconcerting, isn’t it?

You will have your own ideas on what makes a good teacher.  Anecdotal evidence tells me that for many Kiwi parents, it is more than test results.  I shall tackle this in detail some other time.  Meanwhile, you might want to read this and ponder the issue further.

rich kid poor kidFact or Snappy Sound Bite?

Back to the sound bite, then.

Quality teaching is, of course, of huge importance.  But the best that can be said for the assertion that four consecutive years’ quality teaching eliminates any trace of socio-economic disadvantage is that it is contentious.

Certainly there is evidence out there that supports the view that poverty has an impact on student achievement.  And great teachers are likely to do more than just improve test scores.

One thing I know for sure: Whether even the best teachers can completely override the impact of a student’s socioeconomic situation is not something that can or should be tackled by a sound bite.

~ Dianne

With sincere thanks to the many experts who were kind enough to help me today.

References and further reading:

(1) The high cost of low educational performance

(2) The Market for Teacher Quality  Eric A. Hanushek, John F. Kain, Daniel M. O’Brien and Steven G. Rivkin* December 2004

(3) School Reform Proposals: The Research Evidence (Research in Educational Productivity) by Alex Molnar (Mar 1, 2002)

(4) Minister: I don’t like deciles

(5) The economic case for sacking bad teachers – The Spectator

(6) Does Money Matter?  A meta-analysis of studies of the effects of differential school inputs on student outcomes, by Hedges, Laine, and Greenwald (1994)

(7) The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, by Diane Ravitch

(8) What if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. schools? by Pasi Sahlberg

(9) The Washington Post – The Answer Sheet – The “three great teachers in a row” myth

(10)  The Boston Globe Gets It Wrong on Teacher Evaluation

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