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A shameful shadow of an education system

The article below is about the saddest thing I have ever read about education, and fits exactly what I saw starting before I left the UK to come to New Zealand.  Sadly, this government is following the UK with this madness, and this horror is now here too.  I am devastated.  This is a shameful shadow of education and in years to come will be reflected on as a period of utter and total disgrace.

Secret Teacher, writes in The Guardian (UK):

speech marks blue bubbleWhen I began teaching I worked in early years. Back then, personal, social and emotional development was factored into every aspect of the curriculum. It was understood that to become a successful learner you needed to develop a love of learning and feel secure in your abilities to overcome challenges.

I remember rejoicing the first time a painfully shy child answered their name in the register and when another proudly taught the class to say hello in their home language. But these normal everyday achievements did not happen by magic; the children only achieved these things because they felt secure in their school environment and the right opportunities were available to them.

Roll on a few years and I recently found myself teaching key stage 1 in a new school rated good, and aiming for outstanding. But in this quest, levels and targets have become more important than anything – more important than the children, it seemed.

One Autumn morning I was summoned to the assistant headteacher’s office for the first round of target setting for the year. I was asked to predict the levels my year 1 class would get in their year 2 Sats. I should mention that 70% of my class arrived in year 1 below the expected reading age, which posed a problem; my literacy levels did not meet the targets and could not be submitted to the borough. Apparently, my predictions were “not ambitious enough” and were up levelled. The new targets were accompanied by a speech making the pressure of these expectations clear.

As a new member of staff, I was interested to see what approach the school would take to ensure the levels were met. Their preferred method was manipulation, making sure no one had access to enough information for a full picture. Parents were held at arm’s length and assistant headteachers were present in all formal meetings to monitor what information was shared and how. If a teacher was seen talking to a parent for too long in the playground, an assistant head would appear and join??????????????????????????????????????? the conversation. Nothing quite says you’re not trusted like being watched constantly.

In one meeting I was horrified to witness just how far they were willing to push the pursuit of targets at the expense of the children. My year group included four children that were in the learning support centre. Although they weren’t taught in mainstream classes, they were included in our all-important levels, which unfortunately meant our “quota” of children not at expected levels had already been accounted for.

One child who came under particular scrutiny had been a “problem” in reception. He fidgeted and struggled to manage his behaviour in certain circumstances. Compared to other children I had taught, he had minor behaviour needs, but he was behind academically. With a little bit of nurturing he was improving – the other children were not being affected by him and he was making academic progress. Even so, I was told to put pressure on his parent to take him elsewhere. At the sight of my horrified expression this softened to nudging them gently. Officially, the reason given was behaviour, but I have no doubt that unofficially levels and the extra time he required were the biggest factors in this decision.

When I didn’t follow orders, meetings began taking place that I was not invited to or informed of. I have no idea what the parent was told, but several secret meetings later they must have got the message and made the decision to move him to another school.

Read the rest here.

Food for Thought:

The comments below the article are food for thought. Below are some of the ones that stood out for me.

“This problem is now worsening due to the pressure being put on us by unrealistic performance management targets. If we don’t get the children to a certain place by the end of the year, we now don’t move up the pay scale. Horrid.”

“You aptly sum up why I, with deep regret, turned my back on headship. Loved the job but the conflict between doing what was morally right and what was demanded politically had moved beyond an uneasy compromise and into the territory of being expected to sell one’s soul.”

” This target driven culture comes directly from the DfE (past and present) and is enforced with an iron fist by Ofsted. If a school fails to meet targets it gets taken over, the head will be sacked as may be many other teachers. The only people willing to become heads and deputies now a days are those who are willing to play this game and whose ambition (and often limited talent) drives them to fiddle figures, bully and coerce others into making often impossible targets.”

“It’s obvious that the education system is broken to varying degrees across the country and in many schools. I have seen the type of behaviour, described by the secret teacher, towards children who ‘won’t make the grade’ happening more and more as the performance management has been directly linked with pay rises or lack of them, and the need for more and more children to make targets that are at best challenging but for many completely impossible. Those teachers who don’t get their quota of children to the grades required are not just not getting pay award but also in danger of the competency procedure. It’s a very very sad and bleak world for those children who for one reason or another cannot/ or will not make the expected grades and gain the results schools need to keep ofsted et al off their backs.”

Final Word

And the last word goes to this commentator, who I think speaks for so many of us when they say “This is just terrible. It’s not what we went into education to do.”

 

 

 

 

My favourite April Fools joke this year – thanks NZEI

1 April 2014 – for immediate release before midday

Adopt the Shanghai approach to improve student learning – NZEI

NZEI Te Riu Roa agrees that New Zealand could match Shanghai’s PISA test score of student achievement by adopting a similar strategy of excluding results that make us look bad.

President Judith Nowotarski says that if New Zealand politicians can revere such blatant manipulation of test scores she has a revolutionary idea that could transform New Zealand education forever.

“We could initiate a public private partnership to build a super partnership school in the back blocks to cater for the 250,000 children that are pulling our rankings down. They could all be in one mega barn class with a super good quality teacher. We then can exclude this school from our PISA results and New Zealand would once again lead the world.”

Shanghai tops the charts in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment because it has a greater concentration of China’s elite with wealthy parents who invest heavily in education inside and outside school as well as the effects of the hukou system that forces many children of migrants back to their rural villages to attend school.

“Identifying children for this new school would be a breeze. They would be the ones that live in poorly insulated housing, in low income families that can’t afford nutritious food or health care.”

“We could call it ‘Inequality Academy’ and it would have the best inter-school sports teams in its region.”

This idea is backed by leading international education expert John Potty-Tester who defends Shanghai’s scores against accusations that the results are meaningless because of the hukou system.

“If we could ensure that only the top achievers were tested, then, like Shanghai, New Zealand would be education champions of the world”.

Twain on fools

Not choice, bro – I want to opt out

I am a mother.  My banshee is 5.  He just started school.  He was excited – I was excited – school is fabulous.  We both knew he would have a ball, learning new things, meeting new friends, having super experiences – and indeed he is.  He loves it.

Thankfully has no idea of the GERMy things infecting his happy world of learning:

Tracked

He has been allocated a National Student Number to track him throughout his education.  His results, standards, and lord knows what else is being stored against this number. I can’t opt him out of this – trust me I have asked.  He and every child in or entering the system as of the 2014 school year has an NSN, and god only knows what they are recording about him.

The data can be passed on by government to anyone they deem suitable.  See that little bit there on the Ministry page that says the “National Student Number (NSN) is a unique identifier that can be used by authorised users for .. research purposes.”  Yes, about that..

barcode freedomJust who decides who is authorised and what constitutes research?

Because given this government’s record with our private data, and given its record on favouring business over academics, I have to say I worry. In the USA, student data is given to private companies and the likes of The Gates Foundation without any permission sought from or given by parents.  And Mr Gates has his own agenda.

But it’s okay, because “The Education Act 1989 includes an offence provision, with a penalty up to a maximum of $15,000, for a conviction of misuse of the National Student Number (NSN).”  Oh that’s fine then – a hefty fine like that is sure to scare off your average education reformer billionaire.

So, should we worry?  Well, hell yes.

Of student data collection,  Diane Ravitch said “If anyone thinks for one New York minute that the purpose of creating this database is simply for the good of teachers and students then that person is credulous in the extreme.”

My child and yours are now a government commodity.

Labelled

labelled national standardSoon, he will be deemed well above, above, at or below standard for numeracy, reading and writing.  Those labels will be added to the above data set. They are not there for him or for his teacher (who is marvellous, I might add).  They are there for politicians.  Make no bones about that.

And what joy for those students in small communities where they are easily identifiable, who find themselves highlighted in the national press as failing.  What a treat when a student’s results are displayed in the classroom for all to see.

That must be a real inspiration for them.

Because nothing motivates someone to improve more than telling them they are below standard and then sharing that information far and wide.

Pushed

Sooner or later, there will be pressure for the banshee to get up to speed with anything he is “behind” with.  I don’t mean encouragement – I mean pressure.  The majority of teachers will resist political pressure and carry on teaching to his interests and strengths, moving him forward appropriately from where he is to the next level.  But when the message teachers are getting is that all that matters is National Standards levels, eventually pressures come to bear:

“So a couple of weeks ago when his new teacher told me he had to stay in at lunchtime to complete his writing, I was shocked. I understand he is a dreamy and imaginative child, and that he needs supervision to complete tasks sometimes (which drives me mad), but I have no idea how any teacher EVER thinks it’s ok to keep a five year old in at lunchtime. Really, what kind of system thinks punishment is a motivator?” Source

These are children, not robots.  They learn like they grow – in fits and bursts, not on an easily measured path.  Of course their learning needs to be tracked – in fact teachers always have tested in-class and tracked growth, so that students and teachers know what the next goals will be. But to be pushed to learn at a certain speed, as if all kids should hit targets at the same time, is not sound practice.

jump through hoop of fireSadly, National Standards is encouraging just that, and this is the type of thing we will see more and more of: Whether his teacher or school tries to mitigate it or not, education establishments are under pressure to hit politically-motivated targets, and this will inevitably filter down.  Most schools do a great job of not letting students see the pressures on the school to hoop jump, but if things carry on the way they are going, teachers may not find it so easy to keep that pressure out of the classroom, even for new entrants.

The USA is years down this data-obsessed, privatisation-motivated path of lunacy, and this is what successive reforms have reduced them to:

“My kindergarteners had their standardized computerized test today. There were over 100 questions. Answers were selected by drop and drag with a trackpad, no mouse is available. One class took five hours to finish. Kids crying in 4 of 5 classes.” Source

How long until this is the fate of Kiwi kids?

Choice, bro

You might be thinking “Oh, well, it sounds dodgy, but you can always opt out of the National Student Number and/or National Standards if you dislike them so much.”

Well, you would think so, eh?  The child being mine, and all.

But no, you cannot opt out.

No, You Can't.

No, You Can’t.

Just let me say that again – you, the parent, or you the student cannot opt out of having a National Student Number and having your data collected and stored and shared around by the government with whoever they see fit without your permission.

You the parent or you the student cannot refuse to be part of National Standards.

So, next time government tell you all of these changes are about parental choice, ask them about your choice to opt out.  Where did that go? **

Possibly the same place it went for these US children who were pulled out of classrooms by CPS investigators for individual interviews about this month’s test boycott —  without teacher or parental permission.

Intimidating children?  Ignoring parents?  This is where 20 years of reforms has got the USA.  New Zealand is only a few years down the line of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), but already we are seeing the same disregard for what parents want.

I ask again, where is my choice to opt out?

The GERM is upon us, New Zealand

There is a good reason this post listing the things this government has imposed on the New Zealand education sector is going viral.

People – many for the first time – are joining the dots and seeing that it’s not a few little things here and there but a concerted plan to change the face of our education system to an increasingly privatised one.

A crisis is being manufactured that just does not exist.

You want to now who’s pulling the global strings behind the GERM?  You could start by reading this to see Bill Gates’ part in it all.

Like Monkeys at a Tea Party

Whanau and Educationalists want to improve our education system.  It’s good but it could be better, and they recognise that. They do not want it to stand still.

  • They want to help groups that they system has not best-served by finding sound ways to give them their best chance.
  • They want students with special needs to have access to appropriate assistance, to give them their best chance, too.
  • They want all children, of all skills, interests and abilities, to have quality teachers and useful resources.
  • They want all students to become life-long learners with a sound ability to adapt to changes.
  • They want to be able to use innovative methods and resources in their teaching.
  • They want to learn from each other and share best practice.
  • And they don’t just want to teach – they want to carry on learning, so they grow as professionals and serve students well.

Students and teachers have much in common: they do their best work when supported, encouraged and know that what they are doing is of value. And neither achieves their best when pressured, bullied and given unsound hoops to jump through, like monkeys at a tea party.

who benefits

 

So, when next Hekia Parata tells you that what she is doing is in the interests of the children, ask yourself this:

Is it really for the children?  

Who else stands to benefit? 

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** NOTE:  “”Differences from state schools:
Private schools are not required to follow the Government’s National Education Guidelines. This means that they do not have to follow the New Zealand Curriculum or comply with the National Standards’ requirements.”” http://www.ero.govt.nz/Review-Process/For-Schools-and-Kura-Kaupapa-Maori/Reviews-of-Private-Independent-Schools – which rather begs the question of why not, if they are meant to be sooooo darned useful?

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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

My submission to Stuff Nation, by Boonman

“They are developing policies not to benefit children but to benefit those who wish to invest heavily in a privatised education system.”

Since the current National government slipped through a policy on charter schools as part of their deal with John Banks and the ACT Party, the education system in New Zealand has started to resemble a chaotic mess.

This chaotic mess was started not to benefit New Zealand children but to open the education system up to wholesale privatisation. It has nothing to do with education children or improving standards or anything of that nature. These current education policies are drawn directly from Neoliberal Education Policy 101. They are utterly ideological and utterly doomed.

Their policies are full of contradictions. On the one hand the government say teacher quality is the single most important contributor to student success yet they are allowing unqualified and unregistered teachers to front classes in charter schools….”

A brilliant letter to the editor by Boonman.  Read the rest here: My submission to Stuff Nation.

via My submission to Stuff Nation.

Schools concerned about ERO plans to judge them on National Standards results

STOPSerious concerns are being voiced that government’s ever-increasing emphasis on National Standards is leading to a narrowing of the curriculum for students, with reading, writing and mathematics becoming the be-all and end-all, to the detriment of other subject areas.

This concern has grown with the news that ERO (the Education Review Office) will from this year explicitly use schools’ National Standards data and compare it with local and national averages in order to judge schools.  

Principals argue that the move will lead to  schools to “neglect science, the arts and other aspects of children’s development” as they become more concerned with how they fare on league tables than about quality, broad education.

There are concerns that it will lead to a focus on those students who are deemed to be just below the “at” level, with those who are “below”*, “well below”* or “above” standard losing out because they are either already over the “at” hurdle or are deemed to be too far away from it to reach in time for data collection.

There are also very valid concerns that the pressure of such a Big Brother system (especially if paired with performance pay as it has been elsewhere) could lead to either conscious or subconscious inflation of test results, as teachers and schools begin to work in fear.

The Research, Analysis and Insight into National Standards (RAINS) project found that National Standards:

“…are having some favourable impacts in areas that include teacher understanding of curriculum levels, motivation of some teachers and children and some improved targeting of interventions. Nevertheless such gains are overshadowed by damage being done through the intensification of staff workloads, curriculum narrowing and the reinforcement of a two-tier curriculum, the positioning and labelling of children and unproductive new tensions amongst school staff.”

Those concerns are clearly not being taken seriously, and instead a new level of pressure is being layered on.

Of course ERO say there is nothing to worry about, as does Hekia Parata.  But given this government’s repeated bullying of schools, failures to properly consult, and dishonesty about matters pertaining to education, it’s safe to say most teachers and parents will take that assertion with a large pinch of salt.

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Sources:

(1) http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/237269/schools-nervous-over-ero-review-plans

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/ED1311/S00199/rains-final-report-national-standards-and-the-damage-done.htm

http://www.education2014.org.nz/wp-uploads/2013/04/RAINS-1st-report.pdf

http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/perspective/9702883/Education-its-not-that-simple

http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/eastern-courier/9760568/Parata-unravels-education-plans

http://assessment.tki.org.nz/Overall-teacher-judgment/Definitions-of-achievement

* (Note, “below standard” and “well below standard” are government’s terms, not mine. I find them incredibly distasteful.)

Teachers told who to teach in order to pass benchmarks

pass failWe already have teachers, principals, academics, and the RAINS Project all warning us how National Standards are leading to a narrowing of the curriculum,  but if you still doubt the effect of benchmarks on WHO teachers are pushed to focus on, then read no further than this warning from a colleague in the USA:

Today we had a grade level meeting about the NWEA scores for the fourth grade students at my school. We teachers were all given printouts of our students’ most recent scores: RIT bands, percentiles, the whole shebang.

Then we were instructed to highlight the students in our classes who had scored between the 37th and 50th percentile. These students, the admin informed us, are the most important students in the class; they are the ones most likely to reach the 51stpercentile when students take the NWEA again in May.

Making the 51st percentile is VERY important to CPS [Chicago Public Schools], and thus to principals, literacy coordinators, test specialists and teachers-who-don’t-want-to-lose-their-jobs.

It might not be important to individual students, their parents or anyone else, but it is life or death in Chicago Public Schools.

We nodded, wide-eyed. These students, our guide continued, should be your primary focus. Make sure they get whatever they need to bring them up to that percentile. Sign them up for any and all academic programs, meet with them daily in small groups, give them extra homework, have them work with available tutors…whatever it takes.

What about the kids at the very bottom, one teacher wondered, the kids under the 20th percentile…shouldn’t they be offered more support too? The admin squirmed a bit. Well, they don’t really have any chance of hitting the goal, so for right now, no. There was silence.

Left unsaid was what might, could, will happen to any school that does NOT have enough students meet that magic number. No one really needs to say it. We all saw the 50 schools that got closed down last year. We see the charters multiplying around us. We’ve also seen the steady stream of displaced teachers come through our school doors as substitutes. We know that we could be next.

Source

This is what happens when politicians take over the education system and it become more about benchmarks, milestones and arbitrary standards rather than being about educating each and every child so that they can achieve their best.

It’s not education, it hoop jumping.  And it stinks.

Change Principals – must have own cape

super hero change principals

I am all for helping struggling schools.  So the idea of Change Principals seems okay, even positive. What concerns me a little, however, is who decides what constitutes a failing school and what the Ministry says these principals will be recruited to do.

Is it to improve children’s love for learning?

Is it to foster lifelong learning?

Is it to engage the community in the children’s learning?

Well who knows – None of those things are mentioned.

Just how is student achievement to be defined, I wonder?

Wait, it says on the MoE web site that the principals “will be particularly focused on lifting student achievement”.   Achievement … is that some sort of measured thing, some kind of score-based doohicker?  It rings a bell… tip of my tongue … wait… almost there…

lightbulb

Ahhhhh, I”ve got it:

National Standards!

 

Okay.  So they are going to improve schools by improving their National Standards scores.

Is now a good time to mention that the NS data from the first two years was so shonky that even the PM admitted they weren’t up to much?

Or to mention that this year results for whole subjects were moved down, en bloc, despite the levels returned by schools?  No?

Maybe instead I could mention the RAINS report from the University of Waikato, that showed a narrowing of the curriculum in order to focus on the areas NS looks at…

No?  Okay.

Well look, let’s be positive – we all want schools to do the best they can for their students, and there are indeed always going to be some schools that need help and guidance.  That much is not a bad idea.

But there is scope here for political bullying such as that we have already seen around National Standards, with principals and boards harangued by Ministry.  It’s essential that any move to improve a school is done as a cooperative thing, not forced on a community or done by someone with a big stick to wave, but how can we be sure that’s not going to happen?

And to focus improvement only on higher scores in standards that are unreliable is very dicey.

I note that nowhere in John Key’s speech today nor on the MoE web site about the new roles is there any mention at all of the effects of home life, of poverty, or unemployment and despondency on student achievement, and consequently there is nothing to address those issues.  It’s as if  someone would like us to buy into the idea that somehow schools stand alone in a bubble and can magically erase all other social problems. This is of course, another farcical notion.

But the message is clear, no matter who sends them in, or why, we are to accept the caped crusaders – and as long as they push up scores, everything will be good in the world…

 

Sources:

http://www.minedu.govt.nz/theMinistry/EducationInitiatives/InvestingInEducationalSuccess/Questions.aspx

http://www.waikato.ac.nz/wmier/research/projects/the-rains-research-on-national-standards

http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/raw-data-transcript-john-keys-state-nation-speech-january-23th-2014-dc-150956

 

Beware the sneaky dog

Every now and then someone will confront me with the accusation that I am against change, innovation and new ideas in education. They have the impression that anyone fighting some changes must be against them all.

Wrong.

7057083Innovation in the classroom is one of the most exciting things about education. There’s nothing better than the freedom to teach to children’s interests and teachers’ strengths, and make learning engaging and exciting as well as relevant.  Plenty of public schools are doing this.

Oddly, it didn’t seem innovation and quality learning was much of a consideration for government when they wanted to cut technology classes and had to back down.  Maybe ask them what their problem is?

Roll Over, Rover?

People also ask, why don’t I just get on with supporting charter schools now they are here anyway?

Well, to say that once something is in place, one should support it whether it is right or wrong is an odd argument to say the least.  Look to history at the many wrongs that have been overturned.

Rolling over is the easier path, I grant you that.  I have given well over a year of my life to researching, reading and learning about charters and other reform measures. It’s taken a significant amount of my time.  Ignoring it all would have been easier – and at times I have been sorely tempted.

But our education system needs people fighting its corner.  And nothing I have found makes me believe charters are anything more than a cover story for privatising the public system.

The very existence of charter schools in NZ is part of a slippery slope of creeping change that is for the worse.

And it’s the same problem with National Standards.  

The Tail Wagging the Dog

A child’s reading level or numeracy level, and how they are doing at writing, should certainly be tested and checked, yes. It should all be done regularly and in the classroom by the teacher, shared with others in the school and considered for where to guide the child next and how, so that feedback is fast and to the point, and the child is moved on in a positive way.

Testing in the classroom with timely feedback to students so they know where they are and what goals are next – that is what is needed and what happens.  Not league tables.  Isn’t the aim for students to learn?

Well, if you are a child, a parent or a teacher that’s the goal – Maybe not so much if you are a politician.

sneaky dogThe truth is, National Standards are there to be used as a political bullying stick to ‘prove’ other measures are needed.  This has been the pattern repeatedly overseas; Imply there is a big problem so that changes can be justified.

The Teachers Council is being reviewed and changed.  PaCT assessment tool with its many underlying worries, is being brought in.  Teacher training can now be done in just a few weeks over the summer holidays.

And all of this leads to creeping changes throughout the system, slowly morphing it into a different beast, until one day you look back and think “How the hell did it get to this?”

Watch Out For The Quiet Ones – They Bite The Hardest

Anyone doubting the sneaky and underhand way changes are being pushed through need only look at treasury’s own advice to Education Minister, Hekia Parata in Quiet change – a Treasury guide:

“Overseas experience in education reform suggests focusing on communicating a positively framed ‘crucial few’ at any one time … while making smaller incremental changes in a less high profile manner across a range of fronts”.

“More harder-edged changes could be pursued in parallel, incrementally and without significant profile.”

Source

Treasury asking Bill English to ask Hekia Parata to scale things back and do things less publicly does not mean she is being asked to do them better, oh no.

Rather, she is being asked to do them more sneakily.

Nice!

Ask yourself: If these and other changes are for the better, if they are honest, if they are based on sound research and best practice, then why the sneaky dog attack?

~ Dianne

No animals were hurt in the making of this post.

That new tool for school

hammer

Blunt instrument: the new tool

Fairfax-owned stuff.co.nz launched its expanded School Report this morning – more than a little sad to see Auckland’s Faculty of Education uncritically advertising the tool as helpful on its Facebook page.

Stuff say they’ve matched National Standards and NCEA data with “key demographic details to provide users with a quick, easy-to-understand snapshot of every secondary, intermediate and primary school in the country”.  No mention of how many children have English as their second language, so, nope, I didn’t see a picture of my school with all its challenges and charm. No attempt to go deeper and give readers reasons why.

Stuff’s reader forums are probably better value on the question of what makes a good school and the decile debate – and how much of a child’s success is down to parental involvement.

And there was some attempt to report on/acknowledge the widening gap between students from rich and poor backgrounds.

Hekia Parata, however, apparently said that “decile funding had not been an effective way of directing resources at where they could do the most good”.

“The decile system has a good intention in that it takes into account the different backgrounds students come from but has increasingly become the explanation for everything. It is not. Quality teaching and school leadership make the biggest  difference so that is where we think our resources are best directed.”

Quality Public Education Coalition national chairperson Bill Courtney, however, hits the nail squarely on the head: “You’ve got to change as much as you can about the quality of these children’s lives outside the school system. Why don’t those kids right down the bottom with top level needs have much smaller classes, more resources and a much stronger focus on helping them to accelerate? The parents are doing the best they can, but some of them are out at 7am cleaning your office. These kids don’t necessarily have people to help them study.

”What happens to your learning when every night you go home and sleep in a garage? Think about that compared to a decile 10 kid.

”The education our rich kids get is literally the best in the world. Why is that? Didn’t our teachers all go to the same university? Don’t we have the same curriculum? What’s the difference?”

~ Lena

How Bad Can It Get?

How Bad Can It Get?.

Let’s get something very clear here and now.

The role of the kids is to pass the tests so the schools are accredited and the district isn’t penalized.

The students’ task is to make sure the district doesn’t look bad.

This is how bad it can and has become.”

When children become source data and teachers feel pushed to teach to the test, it’s all gone to hell in a hand basket.  Read more …

via How Bad Can It Get?.

Hekia, John, come out, come out, where ever you are…

Hekia, Hekia come out where-ever you are...

Hekia, Hekia come out where-ever you are…

Cock-up after cock-up, mess after mess, disgrace after disgrace.  Yes, it’s National’s Education policies.

Not satisfied with the shambolic technology teachers/class sizes debacle, nor the way they have flouted due process and in some cases the law (Salisbury School and Christchurch), and trying to ignore the Official Information Act, or even National Standards and league tables and – oh wait – let’s not forget NovaPay… no, not happy with those bouts of complete ineptitude, now we have Gangnam Key refusing to front up to the country and answer questions about the recent resignation of Education Secretary Lesley Longstone.

This is shameful.

I’m not going to argue that Longstone should have stayed.  But let’s face it, we all know she’s just the fall guy.

The resignation was given and accepted three weeks ago, and yet it was kept secret until after Parliament went into recess and both Longstone and Parata were on holiday.  How convenient.  And Parata, a Minister of the crown, refuses to pop her head above the parapet and say a word, like a kid found with her hand in the candy jar who decides keeping schtum is the best option despite being caught red handed.

Meanwhile Key is far too busy dancing on radio stations and having mock gay weddings to, well, do any actual Ministerial duties like, say, answering the millions of people of his country demanding to know what the hell is going on.

It really is too disgraceful for words.

Mr Key, Ms Parata, you cannot merely go into hiding and refuse to explain yourselves.  You are employees of the state, voted into government by the people, and the New Zealand public want answers.

Now grow up, front up, and stop being ridiculous.

——————————————————————

If you want to know more about National’s recent bunglings, see below:

OIA:  Parata’s mishandling of Official Information Act requests

Christchurch:  Chch teachers and principals call for a review after bungling of proposed changes to schools

Novapay debacle:  Staff still not paid properly, and it’s getting worse  and  Paying $11Million/hour?!

Salisbury School:  School closure deemed unlawful

Class Sizes:  Backdown on proposed changes to class sizes after National admit they calculated incorrectly!

League tables:  National standards are used to create league tables, despite data being shoddy.

A Way to Test the “Bad Teacher” Theory

…a reader suggests a simple way to evaluate the oft-repeated assertion that low test scores are caused by bad teachers:

I wonder why the reformers don’t try this experiment: Take the staff of an underperforming school and switch them for a year with the staff in a high performing school. Let’s see if the results are that different.

I say try it for three years. Compare the results in both schools. Good idea.”

A fabulous �idea from Diane Ravitch’s blog -�A Way to Test the “Bad Teacher” Theory.  Would you be willing to do it?

via A Way to Test the “Bad Teacher” Theory.

Warning: Tea and Biscuits Required Before Reading

In my meanderings through the interweb this week, I had the misfortune to discover the worst education article I’ve read in a long time.  It began:

“Across much of the English-speaking world, a struggle is raging over control of education. The good news is that politicians, the people we elect to make decisions on our behalf, seem to be winning.

The pattern is remarkably consistent. Governments, both of the Left and the Right, are wresting control back from teachers’ organisations. They have realised that education is too important to be left in the hands of teachers.”

EH!  Are you serious!  I had to pause there and go make a chamomile tea and get a TimTam – I figured I would need calming and comfort food for this one, and I was right.

As I read on I truly – not being facetious here – TRULY thought that maybe the article was ironic and a big joke. With comments like “Politicians, the representatives of the people, are quite properly reclaiming the right to decide how schools should be run“, surely it had to be?

Nope.  Not a joke.

He went on to tell us what a grand job Australia, the USA and the UK are doing in introducing merit based pay, opening charter schools, breaking the unions, employing unqualified and untrained ‘teachers’, and relishing the thought that New Zealand would soon follow.

Crimminy, I thought!  This warranted more biscuits and a whole pot of tea.

He trumpeted towards his grand finale by telling readers that “The common theme across all these countries is that governments, dissatisfied not only with performance in the education sector but also the lack of transparency and accountability, are forcing through changes in the face of determined opposition from teachers’ organisations which are understandably reluctant to relinquish their power”  ending with a flourish gleefully jumping up and down at the wonderful prospect  ” of how things might be in an education sector where schools are no longer, in Ms Parata’s words, “a secret society”.

After a short rest to bring down my blood pressure, I penned a reply and waited to see what other people would have to say…

What did I find?

A day and a half later the responses disagreed with the article.  All of them.  And they were well reasoned.  And calm.  With facts.

And it gave me hope.

So I asked one respondent if I could share his response here, which he kindly agreed to…

Dylan Braithwaite responded:

“The problem I have with the article is that it positions teachers as essentially hostile to change in education requiring a winner-takes-all approach to policy making. Teachers and teacher unions are so caricatured in the article as to barely resemble normal people. That’s the problem of how the article is constructed.

The second problem with the article is with evidence. As in, there isn’t any evidence to support the argument that the reforms the writer is arguing for make any positive difference to underachievement as an issue in the education systems mentioned in the article. Indeed, all the evidence points in the opposite direction.

Since establishing a charter schools system, performance pay systems and league tables, achievement statistics in the USA has declined.  Since instituting academies, achievement statistics in the UK have declined.  Since instituting free schools in Sweden, achievement statistics have declined.

There’s no doubt in my mind that once the reforms Gillard has introduced in Australia take hold that a similar pattern will emerge.

You see, the real problem that the politicians are responding to is not an achievement issue. Were that the case then they would look at the policies of leading countries such as Finland and institute reforms undertaken there – which are polar opposite to the kinds of reforms discussed above.

No, the real problem that the politicians are responding to is an economic crisis, one in which more areas of previously protected public markets need to be made readily available for capital exploitation. All the evidence, most especially US evidence, points to the fact that charter schools are more expensive to run, with less spent per-pupil despite state agencies delivering higher per-pupil funding.

You can guess where the difference goes – that’s right, it lines the pockets of private providers in the form of profit.

I’d like to finish by saying, as a teacher, how scared I am of where the kinds of politics Du Fresne is espousing, could take us.  I’m reminded of the old adage that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.  It should not be lost on anyone that unions were at the forefront of the democratization of our society. And that just as workers won the right to vote, so too that went hand-in-hand with the right to collectivize and bargain terms and conditions of employment on their own behalf. Rights that workers hitherto did not have, and are quickly losing in our de-unionised economy. In other words, I find DuFresne’s approach anti-democratic.

I will speak up against these reforms for as long as this country remains a democracy – and beyond if it comes to that.”

If you want to read the original article and maybe even respond, you will find it here.

But I totally recommend getting the tea and biscuits first.

National Standards in Numbers

It’s really wonderful for me to see an analysis that has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the (admittedly shonky) data. Well worth a read even if you have to skim read the mathsy bits 🙂

Jeremy Greenbrook-Held

DISCLAIMER: I’m a student of statistics – I wrote a Masters thesis in geography which used many statistical methods which I literally picked up along the way, and I’m currently studying towards a Graduate Diploma in Applied Statistics at Massey University. I’m also learning to use R as a go. I like to use this blog to explore things that interest me and stuff that I learn, including statistics. Some of the methods used here are still very new to me and my methodology may be flawed, and I welcome any feedback you might have on my methodology or my R script – the R script is here, and the dataset is here.

A lot has been written in the political stratosphere regarding last week’s release of National Standards lecture. Those on the right of the political spectrum have defend National Standards as a meaningful release of information that…

View original post 1,057 more words

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