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Teacher Voice: We’re not in it for the money, by Jenine Maxwell

Kia ora. My name is Jenine Maxwell and I have been a teacher for 31 years, with only the odd year off here and there for babies.

Although most of my career has been spent in New Entrant classrooms, I’ve taught at all levels and at different management levels. I am currently a D.P. with both curriculum, Senco and classroom responsibilities.

Everyday I am grateful for a job that I am still passionate and hungry for, one that allows me to connect with, and make a difference in, people’s lives. Schools are the centres of their communities and as such we engage not just with students, but also with the parents and whanau of our precious charges.

Batman - teachers aren't in it for the moneyI work hard, with long days and many hours put in at home, on weekends, evenings and holidays, both devising programmes that will help my students succeed and keeping up to date on relevant research.

Can receiving an increased wage motivate me to work harder, magically find more hours or an enchanted potion to meet all of my students’ needs in the minimum time?

Absolutely not, particularly as I, along with most teachers I know, have never been in the job for the pay packet anyway.

If I am identified as an excellent teacher, dragged away from the students and school that needs me to go and help another, supposedly less successful school, I would then have only half the amount of time and energy to devote to two settings.

Common sense, not politics, tells me that I would soon have two failing settings, as well a nervous breakdown, to show for my hard work.

For the Prime Minister to accuse NZEI of political motivations is disingenuous to say the least.

If Key were offered the same conditions, an increased pay packet to spend half of his time across the ditch fixing their economic woes, I doubt he would accept the challenge. And if he didn’t, would it be because he was in the back pocket of the unions. He would consider such an accusation preposterous.

Yet for some reason he views teachers as so naïve and malleable, that we would follow NZEI’s recommendations without any research, thought or common sense of our own.

As a taxpayer, I find it astonishing that he is so determined to pay government employees more money, while failing to increase spending on resources and staffing within schools. I wonder how many parents would be happy with that equation?

Boards and Principals United in Statement to Peter Hughes

speak up not silenceFollowing the announcement of the Government’s Investing in Educational Success (IES) policy in January, Upper Hutt School Principals and Boards of Trustees were concerned about the direction of spending for the $359,000,000. We are excited about the prospect of a large sum of money being injected into education, but we question the use of this going mainly into salaries for just a few teachers and principals. We believe the greatest need for the $359,000,000 is for it to be paid directly to schools to support children’s learning.

In order to be proactive and informed, principals and boards have since met with representatives from NZ School Trustees Association, NZ Educational Institute and the Ministry of Education. We have also kept up to date with all information coming from the NZ Principals’ Federation and the latest (limited) information from the Ministry of Education about the policy detail.

At this point in time, despite our insistence and perseverance to ensure we are fully informed about the policy, we remain concerned that:

• the Ministry of Education has not actively sought the direct views of BOTs, principals and teachers;

• a substantial amount of funding is going to individual roles and salaries, when our community of Upper Hutt schools has identified other priorities;

• there appears to be a lack of evidence about the effectiveness of this policy on improving outcomes for children in NZ, and in particular, the children of Upper Hutt;

• the policy appears to promote competition within the sector, as opposed to supporting the way in which we currently work together;

• the short timeframe for implementation does not allow for adequate consultation with BOTs, principals, teachers and parents;

• the model appears to be an inflexible ‘one size fits all’;

• experienced, effective classroom teachers may be out of their own classrooms two days a week to perform the role of expert teacher.

After meeting with Graham Stoop from the Ministry of Education, it became apparent the justification for this policy is to create communities of schools who work collaboratively for the benefit of students in their local area. It was acknowledged by Stoop that Upper Hutt schools already work in a collaborative model with a range of networks to support our children. In our view, we do not require executive positions to be established, nor do we want a salary to go to an individual principal. We were absolutely clear that we want and need the money to go towards funding projects to support students in our schools.

We acknowledge that there are some potential strengths with IES, but believe that without a longer timeframe for development, genuine engagement with the profession and communities, and a rethink on the allocation of funds, this policy will not meet the needs of Upper Hutt children.

In our view, this policy represents a significant change in education and has far reaching implications for the way in which our schools are self-managed. Upper Hutt schools are and will continue to be fully committed to working together to support our children, without the proposed financial incentives for individuals. We believe it is really important that the Upper Hutt community is fully informed about this policy and its implications for our community.

If you have any questions, we are committed to answering these as best we can and pointing you in the direction of further information. Please don’t hesitate to contact any of us.

Birchville School Simon Kenny (Principal),

Fergusson Intermediate School Paul Patterson (Principal)

Fraser Crescent School John Channer (Principal)

Hutt International Boys’ School Mike Hutchins (Principal)

Maidstone Intermediate School Kerry Baines (Acting Principal)

Mangaroa School Glenys Rogers (Principal)

Maoribank School Paula Weston (Principal)

Oxford Crescent School Leanne White (Principal)

Pinehaven School Kaylene Macnee (Principal)

Plateau School Nigel Frater (Principal)

St Brendan’s School Nicole Banks (Acting Principal)

St Joseph’s School Peter Ahern (Principal)

Silverstream School Mary Ely (Principal)

Totara Park School Joel Webby (Principal)

Trentham School Suzanne Su’a (Principal)

Upper Hutt School Peter Durrant (Principal)

Ara Te Puhi (Board Chair)

Wendy Eyles (Board Chair)

Rose Tait (Board Chair)

Murray Wills (Board Chair)

Heather Clegg (Board Chair)

Dave Wellington (Board Chair)

Kerry Weston (Board Chair)

Leanne Dawson (Board Chair)

Hayden Kerr (Board Chair)

Darrell Mellow (Board Chair)

Jason Wanden (Board Chair)

Matt Reid (Board Chair)

Margaret Davidson (Board Chair)

Chris O’Neill (Board Chair)

Gavin Willbond (Board Chair)

Poll shows paltry public support for new school roles

In the lead-up to the 2014 Budget, less than 6% of people think the government’s plan to establish new leadership roles for some principals and teachers is a good use of increased education funding, according to a new poll.

The poll, commissioned by NZEI Te Riu Roa, surveyed a cross-section of New Zealanders last month and found little support for prioritising the $359 million Investing in Educational Success policy, which has also been widely panned by teachers.

Respondents were somewhat supportive of the package (56%), but when asked what were the most important areas of education in which to spend extra money, the components of the policy were bottom of the list by a wide margin (paying $40,000 to executive principals to oversee a group of schools – 1%; paying $50,000 to experienced principals to turn around struggling schools – 6%; paying $10,000 to experienced teachers to work with teachers in other schools two days a week – 3%).

The poll showed that the public was more interested in

  • reducing class sizes (32%),
  • employing only qualified and registered teachers in early childhood centres (31%), and
  • more administrative support so teachers can focus on teaching and learning (29%).

See the poll results here.

NZEI President Judith Nowotarski said the poll showed that teachers were not alone in believing putting the money into frontline teachers and support would be a far more effective way to lift student success.

children“The government dreamed up this policy with the idea that it would somehow benefit students. It’s a great pity they didn’t bother to consult anyone who knows anything about what students need for educational success,” she said.

Parents are starting to ask questions about the lack of consultation in the spending of this significant amount of money.

An Auckland mother has set up an online petition asking the government to consult teachers, principals, boards of trustees and parents before implementing the policy.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 

NZEI National President Judith Nowotarski: ph 027 475 4140
Communications Officers: Debra Harrington ph 027 268 3291,
Melissa Schwalger 027 276 7131

Petition: Have your say before New Zealand’s education system changes

A petition has been started protesting the government’s fast-tracking of a policy that will see $359 million spent on changing the management structure of our education system in New Zealand without proper sector and parent consultation.

The petition is not an SOSNZ initiative, but I fully support it.

sign the petition

The petition says:

The Government is fast-tracking an initiative that will see $359 million spent on changing the management structure of our education system in New Zealand.

It goes on:

It would be a shame if this was lost because of an initiative that is pushed through without prior consultation with those who will be directly affected.

It asks:

Why not consult teachers and principals who know what is most needed to support children’s learning, as to what they believe will be the best use of this money?

Why is the voice of parents and Boards of Trustees not being heard about what their schools need to ensure all children get a chance to succeed?

It quotes a letter from four NZ principals, that was shared on SOSNZ:

“While acknowledging the commitment in making New Zealand’s education system second to none, pumping $359 million into schools without transparency and meaningful engagement with the sector is throwing the money away. We urgently ask that the government first lift its constraints already placed around the funding and secondly, consider without prejudice, the overwhelming evidence around what can best be done to support our children and ultimately our society as a whole…

Rather than inject a large single resource at the top via salaries, we say give the money to the kids as early as possible in a real effort to effect long term change that will benefit children, families, and society as a whole.”  (whole letter here)

It says:

Your signature is valued and much appreciated to raise our voice, so that we can have a say in how our schools are managed.

You can read the whole petition here, and sign if you agree.

sign the petition green button

Principals urge government to put our children first

We wish to add our voices to the growing number of New Zealand’s principals expressing concern over the government’s direction, implementation and timeframe of its Investing in Education Success initiative.

While acknowledging the commitment in making New Zealand’s education system second to none, pumping $359 million into schools without transparency and meaningful engagement with the sector is throwing the money away. We urgently ask that the government first lift its constraints already placed around the funding and secondly, consider without prejudice, the overwhelming evidence around what can best be done to support our children and ultimately our society as a whole.

invest wiselyNew Zealand evidence based research provides a clear pathway for governments to follow if they are to effect real change for our children, particularly the ones who comprise the tail. The first three years of a child’s life clearly determines future outcomes for that child and ultimately our nation. Research shows clearly that poor patterns of behaviour, disconnectedness, failure to provide for adequate bonding, limited economic involvement etc., all have an effect on a child’s potential and achievement at school. Targeting resources to developing consistent, sustainable support for our children from birth to three years old will be a better spend than on the leadership proposals of the government. If positive patterns are not supported in these early years then the negative patterns are set for the future.

While the support for schools and the education sector is welcomed, we urge the government to meaningfully and collaboratively engage with the education sector without the straightjacket, in order to determine where best that resource can be applied, to effect real change.

Democracy should not exclude or restrict those who are directly engaged in the delivery of service from informing decisions – decision-making needs to be inclusive and transparent. The government’s willingness to provide significant financial resources to lift achievement around supporting change should be the catalyst to engage with the profession to effect the best possible outcomes. Unfortunately the format for this expenditure has been set with deliberately minimal opportunity for input from the sector – consultation being an ‘added extra after the fact.’

Rather than inject a large single resource at the top via salaries, we say give the money to the kids as early as possible in a real effort to effect long term change that will benefit children, families, and society as a whole.

Kelvin Woodley – Principal, Tapawera Area School

Bruce Pagan – Principal, Kaikoura Primary School

Ernie Buutveld – Principal, Havelock School

Christian Couper – Principal Little River School

Peter King – Principal, Maruia School

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

For more information contact:
Kelvin Woodley – Principal Tapawera Area School

021 024 75147 or 03 522 4337

kwoodley@tapawera.school.nz

NZEI members to vote on new education roles

evidence and governance

NZEI Te Riu Roa wants the Government to produce the details of its $360-million “executive principal” and “expert teacher” package so it can discuss the proposals with members.

NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter says teachers and principals are extremely cynical about the new package because it totally ignores the biggest problem in our education system – the one in four kids who live in poverty and the impact of that on New Zealand’s student success.

The National Executive met this evening to discuss the teachers’ and principals’ reaction to the proposal and the next steps after holding earlier meetings with members around the country.

“The feedback from our members has been very clear.  They have seen no evidence that the proposal will lift student success.

“They are not happy about the process and lack of consultation.

“What happens now is that we expect the Government to make a claim to vary our teacher and principal collective agreements to allow for the introduction of the new roles.

“We will be taking the whole package back to our members so for the first time they can see the whole proposal.

“Our National Executive is asking our members to give a clear direction on whether they want negotiations to vary the collective agreements to commence or whether they want nothing to do with the new roles.

“Our members will decide those next steps at a series of paid union meetings to be held following the receipt of the Government’s claims.”

 

Dyslexia and the new super roles: The perfect storm?

dyslexia chalkboard

Today the Dyslexia Foundation New Zealand (DFNZ), who I have a huge amount of respect for, sent out an email celebrating positive changes for dyslexic students in the education sector.  But the email has me concerned. It tells me:

“There is … a tidal wave of change driven by ultra fast internet access and the “bring your own device to school” model, and a significant financial commitment by government aimed to improve leadership and retain great teachers. This might well signal a “perfect storm” that will further advance changes that will benefit our dyslexic students.”

Fast internet – great.  But, of course, the key is still that there must be a teacher there who understands dyslexia and knows what apps would be best for the student.  The internet without the expertise is of limited use.

BYOD – great. So long as all students have access to a device…..

… and I agree dyslexic students need better support and changes need to happen.

But I’m not sure how DFNZ sees the new roles as supporting this.

Perfect Storm?  Really?

More of a tsunami

Does the Dyslexia Foundation really believe current government initiatives will “improve leadership and retain great teachers”?Because that’s not the feedback I am hearing.

In fact, teachers are saying in their droves they have had it up to the back teeth with the constant reforms hitting the wrong areas and that special needs students are being let down badly by the system.

When the “super roles” were first announced, DFNZ put out a press release in which it said:

“it is critical that the external panel filling these new school roles has recognised expertise in addressing a range of learning differences and preferences. It has welcomed the Government’s intention to work with key sector groups to further develop and finalise details of the new approach.”

DFNZ seems to be unaware that key sector groups are being given incredibly limited say in the roles and that the bones of them have been set by government and are not up for negotiation.  Maybe they could watch and think about this video, which shows that the principals will be chosen by government not by the education sector.  And the roles themselves are to be driven by “achievement”, by which the government mean more National Standards and NCEA results.

National Standards

DFNZ responded to my querying their stance by saying “The DFNZ hasn’t entered the debate around National Standards, and doesn’t plan on doing so.”

But they have.  Unwittingly, maybe, but it doesn’t change the fact that their email essentially shows they are in support of proposals and roles that are to be underpinned by test results, which for primary schools is National Standards.

That would be all well and good if NS helped students.  But having ‘Standards’ for reading and writing does not help teachers do any better job of teaching anyone let alone special needs students.  Nor does it help students learn better.

Teachers already had, before National Standards, plenty of benchmarks and rubrics to refer to.  They already undertook regular testing to check where students were and what to teach next.  Sadly, all National Standards has added is more admin (oh the teacher hours inputting the data), a stick with which to beat schools via league tables, and another damaging label for those most in need.

“Teachers in most of the schools were clear that labelling children ‘below’ or ‘well below’ was unhelpful or damaging. This was considered especially problematic when there were lots of children with ESOL backgrounds or children with special needs…”  

(p.22) Research, Analysis and Insight into National Standards (RAINS) Project: Final Report: National Standards and the Damage Done, Martin Thrupp et al.

Entrenching National Standards further is counter-productive to the goal of ” personalised teaching, multi-sensory and experiential learning, and the opportunity to present alternative evidence of achievement instead of standard written material” that DFNZ wants.

When grades are given such a huge focus, especially at primary school level, the focus inevitably drifts to getting those just on the cusp of ‘passing’, up and over that threshold.  Those deemed to have no hope of getting above or well above often end up faring worst of all.  That shift is not always done intentionally, but it happens.

Is that really a perfect storm?  Or just a storm?

What would really help?

What teachers want is time, resources and support to improve their own understanding of dyslexic and other special needs students.

  • More and better-quality special needs training for teachers and teacher aides;
  • Teacher aide support for severely dyslexic students;
  • Better availability of RTLB expertise;
  • Funds for specialist resources;
  • Less admin and hoop-jumping for teachers, so that there is more time to plan and implement targeted and individual learning for all students.

When I was teaching dyslexic students I had none of that and was left to do what I could by reading up online and learning on the fly. Other teachers told me they were in the same boat. And since I have been out of teaching, I am told things are far worse, with parents and teachers constantly upset by having to fight to get support and help for students, end even then they nearly always end up with nothing.

Hey, look, The Dyslexia Foundation know all of that already, they know that more support and training is needed, and they do a brilliant job advocating for that.  They are great, and I applaud their advocacy for dyslexic students and families.

Why they seem so supportive of the super roles, however, remains a mystery.

.

 

Join the Dots: What government is doing to NZ education

This explains what government policies are doing to public education in Aotearoa.  It outlines the huge and fundamental shifts being put in place and what the oppositions are. It is a must-watch.

What is going on?

Our public school system is being set up for privatisation and a hugely competitive model.  This push is being made via many measures, such as the proposed new lead teacher roles, charter schools, National Standards, performance pay, value-added models for funding, getting rid of the Teachers’ Council and replacing it with EDUCANZ, and so on.

Any suggestion that there is to be consultation with the education sector is misdirection.  The parameters are set, people on panels and committees are hand-picked to push them through, and teachers and parents have little to no voice at all.

Who should watch this video?

It’s a must-watch for all teachers, principals, and support staff.

If you missed your Paid Union Meeting (PUM) or left it unclear or confused, then this is essential viewing.

Anyone still out there that thinks there is not much going on in education at the moment, you owe it to yourself to watch, probably more than once.

You might also want to show it at school in a staff or union meeting, for discussion.

Parents, you may want to watch to help you formulate a list of questions to ask.

 

 

Moving towards businesses and profits as the motivator

Be clear that the shifts being put in place are huge and fundamentally change our education system, especially for primary school students.  No more the holistic approach – all that matters are standards, benchmarks and tests. And for many, profit.

If you are unclear just how drastic this is, look to the USA and England just as two examples of what is happening.  You owe it to our children and yourself to understand what is going on and to start asking questions.

LEARN MORE

Below are some links to get you going:

The Guardian – Education (England)

TeacherRoar Blog and TeacherRoar on Facebook (England)

The Anti-Academies Alliance on Facebook (England)

EduShyster – Keeping an eye on the corporate education reform agenda (USA)

The Network for Public Education (NPE) (USA)

Save Our Schools NZ on Facebook (NZ)

Stand Up For Kids – Protect Our Schools on Facebook (NZ)

There are thousands more.  Just Google ‘global education reform’ or ‘GERM’ or ‘privatisation of public schools’ and read away.

the joy of learning.

 

The List: What National has done to New Zealand education

It is astounding the list of wrongs done to the Kiwi education system in a few short years.  I’m not exaggerating – it is just beyond belief.  To the point that when I try to think of it all, my head hurts and a thousand conflicting issues start fighting for prominence rendering me unable to sort through the spaghetti of information and in need of a big glass of Wild Side feijoa cider.

I live and breathe this stuff, and if I find it bewildering I can only imagine what it does to the average parent or teacher, grandparent or support staff.

So I am truly grateful that Local Bodies today published a post listing the long list of things public education has had thrown at it since National came to power.

This is the list.  It needs to be read then discussed with friends, colleagues, family, teachers, students, MPs and the guy on the train.  Because this is it – this is what has been thrown at education in a few short years.  It is no overstatement to say that New Zealand Public education is under attack.

Take a breath, and read on:

A National led Government was elected and New Zealand’s public education system came under heavy attack:

You can add to the list the change to teacher training that allows teachers to train in 6 weeks in the school holidays and then train on the job in one school without varied practicums, just as Teach For America does to bring in low cost, short term, untrained ‘teachers’. (Coincidentally great for charter schools, especially those running for profit.)

The full Local Bodies article is here.  It is well worth sharing and discussing (share the original, not this – the full article is better)

Please be aware that what has already gone on is just the preamble to far more extensive measures getting increasing more about Milton Friedman’s “free market” than about good, equal, free public education for all.

Unless you want NZ to descend into the horrors being seen now in England and the United States, you need to act.  How?

  1. Speak up. Talk about the issues with others – encourage them to think about what’s going on and what it means in the long run;  and most importantly,
  2. Vote.  VOTE.  Definitely vote. And encourage everyone you know to vote, as well.

Because three more years like this and the list above will look like child’s play.

~ Dianne

one person stands up and speaks out

Ravitch - public schools under attack

Why teachers won’t be blinded by the pot of gold

The glittering $359k pay bonanza National dangled before teachers has failed to impress.  The NZEI is checking in with members about what they want from the roles, and the NZPF has called an urgent meeting with Hekia Parata to discuss mounting concerns.

This should really hit home with people.  Workers turning down money?  Saying no to the yummy carrots being dangled?  Rejecting the pot of gold? Why?

pot of goldWell, it’s simple really.  Teachers can’t see how these proposals will help students.  That’s it, pure and simple.  There is no point at all adding new positions if they aren’t going to serve the very people we are there for – the kids.

Ms Torrey of the Education Institute says the problem is that “…the ministry wants us to sort out a plan that they’ve come up with.”  In other words, it’s another pre-ordained reform and teachers were meant to be so blinded by the cash they wouldn’t ask questions.  

But they have asked question.  Teachers do that.  A lot.

Teachers asked whether the money could be used to make the more important improvements to the education system.  What about the lack of funding for special needs, they asked? What about the shoddy professional development situation?  Surely those should be considered too, before spending such a huge sum of money?

I am so grateful that teachers have stood back and asked these and other important questions.

Thankfully, teachers are quite clever folk, used to analysing ideas and situations and not taking things at face value.  (It’s kind of important to have those skills when you are in charge of helping students learn…) So, rather than rolling on a bed of dollars shouting whoopee, teachers are asking questions, demanding to make changes based on sound research and robust ideas.

However the money is spent, any new initiative must be thought through carefully, honestly and transparently by all concerned so that what is agreed upon is the best for the education system and for the students.

So, Ms Parata, thank you for the acknowledgement that education needs an injection of funds, and thank you for acknowledging that there are some amazing lead teachers out there in our schools.  I hope you listen to the concerns teachers have and understand that we want to be very sure that any proposed new roles clearly and directly benefit children’s learning.  That is what matters to teachers the most.

It’s often said that no-one goes into teaching for the money, and that’s something you really do need to take heed of.

.

Read also:

Support for caution re. Leadership proposals

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/238592/teacher-unease-emerging-about-new-plan

Hekia implies unions agree to performance pay

What the heckDuring Hekia Parata’s interview on Q+A today, Corrin Dann asks “Will National go to a full performance pay scheme in the future?”

Hekia answers (at 11.12 of video) “We already have very strong consensus from the teacher unions as well as the profession, they are on the working group, recommending the design features for this. We are very focussed on getting this implemented from 2015 and fully implemented by 2017″ 

Is she refusing to answer the question posted there, and actually continuing to talk about the new ‘super’ roles, or did she really just imply the unions are on board with performance pay? Because those are two very different things.

So, because she wasn’t clear, I need to check…

NZEI?  PPTA?  NZPF?  What are your positions on performance pay?

Because there is a loud voice from teachers that they do NOT want this.  And with good reason backed by much research.

I want to know exactly where the unions stand.

Is Hekia avoiding, evading, stretching facts, fibbing, or telling the truth?

We really do need to know.

.

“Super” roles won’t bring the intended improvement – Prof. Martin Thrupp

Prof Martin ThruppIn the new teacher and principal roles announced this week, the Key Government is reinforcing its education policy direction through a new mode of control, a new financial incentive to those who will promulgate its messages and through divide and rule of an ‘un-cooperative’ teaching force. The new roles will have different impacts in primary and secondary schools but it is in primary schools where they will be particularly horrendous. This is because of the small size and organisation of primary schools and because these schools will now face greater pressure to embrace unwanted and damaging reforms in this area such as the National Standards.

There are to be four new roles. There are ‘lead teachers’ (10% of teachers paid an extra $10,000 a year), ‘expert teachers’ (2% of teachers paid an extra $20,000 per year) and ‘executive principals’ (about 250 of them paid an extra $40,000 per year).

These are all ‘super’ roles in the sense that those who take them up will be required to work across other schools as well as their own, indeed the executive principals and expert teachers will only be back in their own schools three days a week. It seems to be the plan that there will be enough of these new roles to cover the system as a whole. For instance if 250 executive principals are supervising around ten schools each, this would cover the approximately 2500 schools in New Zealand.

The fourth category is the ‘change principals’ one. These are to be in a full-time role (about 20 of them paid an extra $50,000 per year). This is a ‘super’ role in a different sense, paid more to apply to be principal of a troubled school but ‘super’ in the sense of being expected to turn that school around quickly.

The new super roles are clever politics because they have been presented as a new investment in the sector. This line has been swallowed by most commentators and even by some of the teacher organisations, at least initially. For instance well-known political commentator Bryce Edwards described it as ‘National’s super-smart step to the left’. But no one should imagine the latest reform represents the leopard changing its spots. It is not a move to the left because the politics of the super roles are managerial rather than redistributive.

None of the $359 million to be spent over the next four years around the new roles will go into new resources for schools such as extra teachers or teacher aides or even into general programmes of quality professional development for existing teachers and principals where it could have done great good. Instead the money will mainly go towards lining the pockets of those teachers and principals who are willing to be selected for and prepared for the new super roles and then willing to take them up.

Within the sector, Principals’ Federation President Phil Harding welcomed the proposals as enhancing ‘collaboration between schools’. But the problem is that the new collaborative arrangements between schools will certainly be intended to be of a required ‘on-message’ kind rather than more organic and genuine. The brief for the super roles are likely to require close adherence to Government perspectives, policies and targets and this is what those in the super-roles will then be driving into the classrooms and schools of those allocated to work with them. The new roles would be less of a problem if current education policies were more favourable. But the practices that those in the super roles will have to insist on will continue to be deeply flawed in both educational and social justice terms.

For those working under executive principals or expert teachers it may become something like having an ERO reviewer popping into the school on a regular basis and insisting on adherence to government policy rather than every few years as they tend to now. In fact under these reforms ERO might as well be disbanded: the people in the super roles will effectively be doing much of their work apart from the reporting to the public.

The relationships between school staff will become much less cohesive and trusting as the new roles are developed amidst resentment from colleagues. This resentment will be about problems such as who gets the roles, who seems to be hardly involved in the school these days, and who is intruding on successful practice in a particular setting. Ironically, the day before the release of the policy I was telling a teacher conference in Wellington how important collaborative staff relations had been to the six primary schools I have been studying over the last three years (the RAINS project).

carrot and stickThe super roles proposal is also remarkably naïve about the impact of the different contexts and historical trajectories of schools. It is not that a skilled and knowledgeable teacher or principal couldn’t go into another school or classroom and help, but to get it right this involvement would need to be in the spirit that there would be much to learn and of needing to be slow to comment or judge because schools and classrooms are so different and the differences need to be properly understood in order to provide good advice. This is not at all the model anticipated by the new super roles.

So what will happen now? The new super roles represent deeply cynical politics because well-meaning teachers and principals committed to public education are
going to be bribed to undo it and they will often feel no option but to take up the offer.

Apart from the extra salary, the new super roles will become the markers of career progression, whether one takes up such a role or is looking for a job reference from the super role person to whom they are reporting. Even highly ethical teachers and principals may feel under pressure to take up executive, expert and lead positions on the grounds that if they don’t, unknown (and/or possibly unrespected) others certainly will. Better to take up the role than be working under someone else where you and the children in your care might no longer be as safe.

Actually, teachers and principals who want the best for the children will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t. My advice is not to be first cab off the rank and to be very clear about what the super roles will involve before expressing any enthusiasm and signing up. In the meantime the teacher organisations have a lot of work to do to mediate the worst effects of yet another bad education policy from this Government, its most destructive so far.

Over the longer term, when the substantial money going into the super roles doesn’t bring the intended improvement in PISA achievement (as it surely won’t, most of the problems are outside of the control of schools), the stage will become set for the further privatisation of our ‘failing’ school system. But as I told the conference in Wellington this week, I intend fighting for public education until my dying breath. This is because it is only a public education system that holds the promise of delivering a high quality education to all New Zealand families, regardless of how rich or poor they are.

 

 

Expert Sweepers to identify minor problems in schools such as poverty

Sometimes humour says it best, and this says it brilliantly:

“Outlined sweeping changes to education. It’s my belief that schools will function a lot better once we roll out changes to sweeping. The floors of many of our schools need to be swept regularly. It’s not good enough to run a broom over the floors once or even twice a week; dust and dirt builds up quickly, and it doesn’t look nice.

I came from a family that didn’t have much. But my mother taught me the value of a clean floor.

I went on to have a successful career, and enjoy wonderful and relaxing summer holidays in Hawaii. Unfortunately too few of today’s children will ever pick themselves up off the floor, especially if it hasn’t been swept.

My government will combat the problem by creating four new roles.

Executive Sweepers will provide new brooms.

Change Sweepers will recycle old brooms.

Lead Sweepers will act as role models to students who aspire to join the sweeping workforce.

Expert Sweepers will be responsible for identifying minor problems in schools such as poverty, hunger, violence, and a deep sense of futility, and sweeping them under the carpet.”

Read the whole piece here.

sweeping

Teachers must not be blinded by the loaded promise of gold

No Joke - Kelvin SmytheKelvin Smythe once more hits the nail on the head, identifying that these latest proposals aim to bring in both performance pay and the entrenching of National Standards within NZ education.  If those getting the extra pay do not jump on the National Standards bandwagon and promote it to others, they can say goodbye to the role and the money, and a more compliant puppet will be brought in.

Here are Kelvin’s observations:

“Because the education system is hierarchical, narrow, standardised, autocratic, and fearful – the new proposals will yield meagre gains. The proposals, if implemented within this education straitjacket, will have the appearance of a system suffering from ADHD.

The suggested proposals, because of the difference in the way secondary school knowledge is developed, structured, and presented will work somewhat less harmfully for secondary than for primary.

The proposals are a move by the government to buy its way to an extreme neoliberal and managerialist future for education – one part of these proposals is performance pay, the other, and associated, is a managerialist, bureaucratic restructuring:

There is performance pay to develop a cash nexus as central to education system functioning.

There is performance pay to divide NZEI and eventually destroy it (as we know the organisation), NZPF also.

There is performance pay and the wider proposals to divide NZEI from PPTA (PPTA is dithering).

The information I have is that there will be some obfuscation about the role of national standards but in practice performance pay will, indeed, be based on them.

There is making permanent the national standards curriculum by selecting expert and merit teachers on the basis of their demonstrated commitment to a narrow version of mathematics, reading, and writing and their willingness to promote it.

The proposals are intended to set up an extreme neoliberal and managerialist education system:

The executive principal for the cluster system will usually be a secondary principal, if one is not available, a primary school principal friend of the government will be employed.

This cluster structure will form the basis for the ‘rationalisation’ of schools when that process is decided for the cluster area.

The executive principal will be a part of a bureaucratic extension upward to the local ministry and education review offices then to their head offices, and downward to clusters, individual schools, and classroom teachers.

This executive principal will have the ultimate power in deciding expert and lead appointments.”

Read the rest of Kelvin’s insightful piece here.

This is no way to run education.  If we treat the system and those within it this way, what on earth does it tell our students?  That what matters in bowing down to money even when you know it’s wrong?  That it’s okay to leave behind all that your expertise tells you, so long as you’re okay?  That it’s every man for himself? What great lessons for life they are.  Not.

We must insist our unions tread very carefully here, and not be blinded by the loaded promise of gold.

Disgust over use of National Standards to select “top” teachers

headdeskReports today that National Standards will be used as the benchmark to select and review the performance of an elite group of expert teachers and principals has appalled educators.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Judith Nowotarski said National Standards data remained invalid and unreliable. An NZCER survey published last November found only 7 percent of principals thought they were robust.

“National Standards outcomes do not show the true educational progress of a student and are therefore an absurd and insulting way to identify great teachers.

“Linking large pay bonuses for teachers to narrow student outcomes in this way risks ‘teaching to the standard’, as well as making unfair judgements about teachers of students with special needs or learning difficulties.”

Yesterday the Prime Minister announced the creation of financial incentives for approximately 6000 teachers and principals, with the aim of raising student achievement – a move that fails to address the inequity and poverty that are the key cause of student underachievement.

Ms Nowotarski said this policy was clearly not thought through.

“The Prime Minister has rushed to create ‘good news’ ahead of creating sound policy. He needs to come clean with the full details of this scheme,” she said.

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