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Hekia Parata: little support for home schooling but full support for COOLs. Why?

The Education Amendment Bill proposes changes to the way Education is provided in New Zealand, and one of those changes is the establishment of COOLs (Communities of Online Learning).

Proponents say COOLs will open the door to more education opportunities, but have yet to explain how or why they believe it will lead to an improvement for students.

You can see me here, along with Megan Woods, Peter Dunne, Ron Mark, and Paul Foster Bell, discussing the issues on Back Benches recently:

I’m all for using technology to advance learning, but just doing a course on a computer does not make it quality learning – even the OECD agrees, saying that “education systems which have invested heavily in information and communications technology have seen “no noticeable improvement” in Pisa test results for reading, mathematics or science”.

Students having quality support readily available is incredibly important. I know this first hand, having worked for a while now with students learning via Te Kura Correspondence School, that a qualified teacher is still very much in need. Students need regular guidance, help and support.  Often a student will be floundering but will not ask for help, and it is down to the teacher to be monitoring and be responsive to the student’s needs. And, as you can well imagine, some students need a fair bit of nudging to stay on task.

We must remember each time the Minister promotes COOLs, that online learning can just as easily be accessed in a school, in a physical classroom, and with a physical qualified teacher on hand for support and guidance. We need to ask, w why the push to make more learning remote? The Minister has not explained the rationale for this at all.

What the Minister is proposing is actually an extension to (and perhaps you might say a distortion of) homeschooling.  I want to be clear before I go on – I fully support quality homeschooling – that is not the issue here.   The issue is how learning is done, how it is delivered, and why this change is being pushed. People should sit up and listen when even home schooling networks have serious questions.

Concerns I’ve heard raised so far include:

  • Will all students be guaranteed full and quality support in a homeschooling environment either by a committed parent, whanau member, or a qualified teacher?
  • How will students’ social and physical welfare be monitored and catered for?
  • How will students’ progress be monitored?
  • Who will be responsible for ensuring students are doing their own work?
  • How will students be supported?
  • Will the curriculum available be rounded and full?

When even home schooling networks are expressing concern about COOLs, people should listen; remember, they are the experts in understanding what is needed for a quality home-based education.

At the bottom of it all, one can’t help wondering this fundamental mystery of the fact that home-schoolers have been given little support or funding for years, but suddenly the Minister thinks learning at home is the bee’s knees. Could it be it’s only of interest to said Minister when it involves privatisation of another part of the education system?

~ Dianne Khan, SOSNZ

 

 

Fraud, mismanagement, lies, failure: John Oliver takes on Charter Schools

Charter schools are privately run, publicly funded, and irregularly regulated.

John Oliver explores why they aren’t at all like pizzerias.

NZ, don’t say you haven’t been warned. We’re already seeing some of this here, and we only have NINE!

~ Dianne

Dearest Hosko, regarding those pesky teacher unions…

heroDearest Mike Hosking,

I hear you’ve been setting the teachers’ unions right on Seven Sharp again tonight. Good on you. I totally get where you’re coming from – they’re to blame for teacher shortages, your receding hairline and the break up of The Beatles. I’m not saying Illuminati, but….

Of course the unions will say that the government are the ones that could sanction additional payments to attract shortage staff, and that housing costs and the price of living are factors outside their control, too, and then they’ll boo-hoo about the shitty 2% pay rise they got.

They’ll not trumpet the huge starting pay teachers get – some stroll on into the job on a whopping $35,267! And ten years later, after barely any work at all, Ministry will kindly have doubled that! All that for just three or four years of full time graduate study and ten years of work and a few upskilling courses every term. That’s nearly as much as the starting wage for an IT bod! Ministry are far too generous – the 2% rise was too good for them. Bloody spongers!

But you and I know the truth, don’t we? Unlike you, who works very hard to sit there on a chair at a desk making pronouncements (a very tiring and demanding job, which they clearly don’t appreciate) and who actually earns your pay, those union bods are only in it for the money and the fame. 

The unions will then rattle off that there’s a mountain of research out there showing how ineffective, and even damaging, performance pay is. Pfffft. A few piffly research studies by a few dozen professors from highly respected universities and they call that evidence. I know what I know, and the reckons of an old, white, guy who has made a sterling career out of being a radio and TV host is much more reliable that all that university crap.

The unions just don’t get it! You’re helping, for heaven’s sake! Nothing encourages more people into teaching than having the media bad-mouth the job and the people every night – it draws them in like moths.

Keep up the excellent work, my good man.

yours etc… 

Stop The Presses: lay person is expert on education!

Dear Mr Plested,

I had no idea that running a freight company gave one such insight, but since you clearly you know all there is to know about managing everything in the world, from trucking companies to education systems, I am hoping you will give me and my documentary making team permission to come and film at Mainfreight to see how perfect everything is there. So we can learn from it. Since you know everything.

We would like to do a one-to-one interview with you about your time as a teacher and principal, the pedagogies you use, your ethos, the professional development you have undertaken and your insight into child development. I feel we could learn a lot from you.

We would ideally like to film in the school you have running at Mainfreight and see the students in action. This will be inspirational for those poor teachers in the state system who don’t know what you know.

The mountains of evidence showing that performance pay for teachers doesn’t work (and not only doesn’t work but lowers student outcomes) needs to dealt to. Research is over-rated – all that peer-reviewed tosh! It’s time to show that none of that has any value by sharing your insightful reckons.

I for one am glad people like you are onto it. The education system needs more back seat drivers – that’s the very thing it’s been lacking all these years. Look how well it went when they handed all those English schools over to mobile phone execs and carpet moguls. It’s not like they had anything to gain from taking over all of those schools and taking the money that would have been wasted on students. Far better that it goes to businessmen such as your good self so that you can spend it on the important things like Vera Wang tea services, $1k meals and top-end Jaguars.

Let’s get this education system sorted. Get your people to call my people and we’ll Skype…

Naku noa,

Dianne Khan & the film team

PS: It’s wonderful that you support experiments on school students, and I’m hoping that – as such an advocate – you will be happy to send your child/ren to the nearest charter school and let us track how they get on there in a fly-on-the-wall stand-alone doco.

 

Collaboration, competition and pitchforks

Another NZ Herald Editorial on education misses the mark. In a bid to explain why most of the money in the Communities of Learners scheme is going to high decile schools, the writer leans on the tired and weary trope “it’s the unions’ fault”.

The writer doesn’t seem to know the history of the Communities of Learners scheme, from its initial incarnation as Investing in Educational Success (IES) to what’s currently in place Communities of Learners (CoLs). Nor that CoLs came about after a long and hard road of teachers’ unions pushing to improve the original IES scheme, which was, in its first incarnation, really quite dreadful. And the article certainly has no real analysis of the widespread concerns with the policy (by any name).

So here, I’ll fill you in.

Pitchforks

Despite the tone of the editorial, teachers (and by extension, their unions) didn’t see the IES announcement and think “Oh yippee, I’ll dust off my pitchfork!” Instead, they looked carefully at the announcement, talked about it in great detail, asked a lot of questions, and found it seriously wanting.

So they did what any co-operative group would – they asked their unions to ask Ministry to go back to the table to make the policy more workable. Not so much mobs with pitchforks, more a hope for the education equivalent of a community farming co-op.

The Concerns

One of the biggest concerns about IES was the plan to pay a select few ‘super staff’ whilst adding to many people’s workloads and giving no extra funds for the students. It takes a team to improve things, and not recognising that was the first mistake. Teachers argued that the money for these select few jobs was over the top and, whilst a bonus for those taking leadership roles may be acceptable, the majority of the IES funding should be directed at the students rather than the staff.

That’s the other big problem educators had: the idea that a few super staff could turn everything around without a cent more for the students. No money for professional development or specialist programmes or teacher aides or therapists or equipment. Really?

Collaboration or Competition?

And what about this notion that IES aims to encourage schools to work together to improve educational standards?

The IES scheme as government proposed it expected schools to work together whilst simultaneously competing against each other. It’s somewhat counter-intuitive, is it not? But since most targets for schools centre around National Standards and NCEA pass rates, the scheme does indeed pose a competitive model. Add to that the fact that both National Standards and NCEA have very well known issues around reliability and parity, and we are opening the system up to all manner of problems.

A Seamless Education System

Another claim was that IES aimed to make students’ transitions through the education system smoother. An immediate question this posed was, why was Early Childhood Education (ECE) completely left out of the equation?

One the one hand, Ministry are extolling the benefits of preschoolers taking part in ECE, and on the other hand they are setting up IES without ECE. The message is contradictory – does ECE matter or not? Is it part of a child’s learning journey or not? Teachers believe it is – in which case any scheme aiming for smooth transitions through the education system and greater collaboration between education providers should include ECE.

So no, unions didn’t dust off their pitch forks for the fun of it. They did what their members asked them to do, which is to go back to Ministry and work to improve this faulty policy. Which, to the best of their abilities and against significant opposition from Ministry and the Minister of Education, they did. And we now have Communities of Learners.

The new incarnation isn’t perfect. It still rests on data that isn’t reliable and still pits schools against each other by comparing pass rates without considering the very many variables at play. But it’s better than it was, and that’s a start.

Trust and Collaboration: Setting the Example

Improvement takes collaboration. Improvement takes a shared purpose. Improvement takes honesty and trust. And while the Minister of Education and her Ministry are asking schools to do those things, they could do far better at leading by example. Perhaps if they had trusted educators and collaborated with them to form the IES in the first place, it could have been better, sooner.

There’s a lesson in there, somewhere, and if it’s heeded perhaps we can make Communities of Learners better still.

~ Dianne, SOSNZ

______________

Further reading/information:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/education/news/article.cfm?c_id=35&objectid=11652326

Pitchfork and farmer image: Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Demonising teachers and mental illness in one hit – well done, Stuff

An angry parent sent me the link to Stuff’s article entitled “Mentally ill teachers investigated by Watchdog“. She was upset at the entire tone of the article and in particular that the ill-informed journalist had declared Aspergers to be a mental illness. It is not.

Then I saw the article shared in a home schooling group as an explanation for why that particular parent chose to home school.

I then heard from a few teachers who have suffered or are suffering with depression, who were very upset that the article implied they might be a danger to children and not able to do their jobs.

This all in the space of half an hour.

So I read the article to see what the fuss was about, and by crikey it was enough to send the best of us into a rant. The journalist makes leaping conclusions that would impress Dick Fosbury himself. He lumps together drug and alcohol addictions, neurological disorders such as Asperger’s, mental illness such as depression and anxiety and more as if they are one and the same. They are not.

At a time when there is such a push to understand mental illness, addiction, and spectrum disorders, Stuff’s article does all a disservice. At best, linking them together as one is inaccurate – at worst it is incredibly damaging.

Stuff faced a barrage of complaints, both on their web page and on social media, and some have sent in formal written complaints.  Stuff’s response was to tone down the title of the article so that it read “Nearly 100 mentally-ill teachers investigated by the Education Council in the past six years” Sorry, Stuff, but that token gesture doesn’t cut it.

As Aaryn Niuapu noted in his article, “Using a 0.099% statistic to demonize teachers and mental health is more than irresponsible or lazy, it is unprincipled.”

The one good thing in all of this is the comments section under the Stuff article. (Yes, you read that right!) Most people could see the flaws in the journalist’s article and were understanding of the various issues discussed in the article. A lot of patience and understanding for mental illness is demonstrated, and many make it clear that Asperger’s is not a mental illness.

It’s not often I say this, but thank goodness for the comments section.

Stuff, you need to apologise.

~ Dianne

Further reading:

Teachers with mental illness investigated, by Al Ingram

The perils of reporting on mental heath, by Jess McAllen

Under Pressure, by John Palethorpe

Teacher stress, depression and suicide, by Dianne Khan

 

Why did the Herald withdraw the ECE ‘War Rooms’ article?

There is much consternation about The Herald withdrawing an education article part way through the day this week and refusing to respond to questions about why that was.

So why was it withdrawn, we wondered? Political pressure? Who knew?

With no real explanation, suddenly, the next day, there was a pathetic (and badly written) “clarification’ in the Herald”

war rooms clarification

But even that doesn’t say the facts were wrong. Just the intference.

And yet reading the released OIA documents, I feel most people with decent reading skills would infer the same.

But don’t take my word for it, take a look at these excerpts (or better still, read the whole OIA request here) and judge for yourselves:

Screenshot (23)

then…

Screenshot (21)

and…

Screenshot (20)

and more ‘war room’ talk…

Screenshot (22)

It seems to be a lot of back and forth and a lot of people involved for something the Ministry is now saying wasn’t an issue, doesn’t it?

It is worth noting that all of this toing and froing includes a whole lot of media staff and not so many education staff. You’d think sharing the undiluted, unspun truth would be better all round …

So was there undue influence or not?

And just how much spin does it take before the spin become untruths?

~ Dianne

Source: http://www.ea.org.nz/what-happened-to-the-nz-heralds-front-page-story/

Do NZ teachers work 44 hours a week?

timesheetI saw in a One News report that the teachers in New Zealand work an average of just 44 hours, and I have to say it came as something of a surprise.

  • That’s roughly 8-4 each day plus 4 more hours…
  • or 8-5 Monday to Thursday and 8-4 Friday…
  • or 8-3.30 Monday to Friday and 2.5 hours on a Sunday arvo…

You get the picture.

I concluded that 44 hours doesn’t match with my own experiences, but I am only one, so I asked other teachers what hours they worked. I only got a few replies, but each one was over 44 hours, and it got me thinking – where did that 44 hour figure come from?

So I went in search of the original report…*

Thanks to the Twitterverse and some hearty teamwork (thanks Tom), I found Insights for Teachers: A profile of teachers who teach Year 7-10 students and their principals, and it didn’t take long at all to see where the problem was:

The report notes that the average working hours number “includes both full and part-time teachers”

Well there you go then!

Throwing around the ’44 hours a week’ statement without mentioning that teensy details renders the information somewhat useless.

Consider this:

  • if one is employed full time and works an average 44 hour week, it could well be considered a win.
  • however, if one is employed to work 16 hours and yet work 44 hours, one would be less impressed. **

Lazy journalism means this finer detail didn’t get an airing.

The report itself notes that:

“There are some limitations with this measure [of hours worked]. In particular, the average includes both full and part-time teachers. It also includes hours for teachers with little or no management responsibility through to those whose time is mostly spent on management. There is a wide variation in the total hours worked reported by teachers…

We are currently doing further analysis to better understand the variation in total hours worked, teaching hours and the factors contributing to this variation.

So for the mainstream media to trumpet that teachers work an average of 44 hours a week and not offer any context is at best shonkey and at worst misrepresentation.

The researchers involved in the original report are looking into the data more closely. Whether the media will report it any more accurately is another thing.

~ Dianne

Sources and footnotes:

* Note to journalists, you really ought to link to the original research you are reporting, especially when you just copy and paste the bullet points without analysing the data in any shape, way, or form. Because, you know, that’s good practice. Thank you.

** I speak from experience

https://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/schooling/insights-for-teachers

John Oliver explains the madness of standardized testing and teacher performance pay, with a dancing monkey thrown in for good measure

American students face a ridiculous amount of testing.

American teachers face ridiculous formulae using test scores to determine their pay.

Certain companies benefit hugely from this set-up.

Welcome to the global education reform movement – GERM.

Here, John Oliver explains how standardized tests impact school funding, the achievement gap, how often kids are expected to throw up. Enjoy.

#OptOut

Thirteen things you should know about Mark Weldon (CEO of Mediaworks), by Rex Widerstrom‎

Mark WeldonMark Weldon…

He’s the man John Key picked to chair the “Summit on Employment” in 2009 (1)

He’s also the man John Key picked to lead The Christchurch Earthquake Appeal (2)

He’s also the man who used that position to breach the Bill of Rights Act and force “the advancement of religion” into the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust’s constitution (3)

And he’s the man Cameron Slater (Whaleoil) characterises as “allegedly a friend of John Key” (4)

Slater also asked on October 15 last year “Who will be the first (of many) casualties under Mark “I’m the boss” Weldon at Mediaworks?” with one commenter on that story saying “The man is a tyrant who doesn’t play nicely with others. Frankly, I love the idea of Weldon and John Campbell having to work together …” (5)

He’s also the man whom insiders were picking as a potential National Party candidate for the safe seat of Tamaki (6)

And he’s a man who praised John Key’s program of asset sales announced in 2011 as “bold, it was clear, it was early – and very positive…” and called those who were cautious about it “fearmongering”. That’s the same assets sales program that had to be drastically cut back and became something of an embarrassment to the government (7)

He’s the man who made a substantial personal gain ($6 million) as a result of Key’s asset sales announcement (8)

He’s also the man who, as CEO of the NZX, characterised those who voiced concerns about aspects of the Exchange’s operations as mentally ill (9)

He’s the man who’s already got rid of two of Mediaworks’s main financial watchdogs – chief financial officer Peter Crossan and company secretary and lawyer Claire Bradley (10)

He’s the man of whom blogger Cactus Kate (business lawyer and commentator Cathy Odgers) noted “Mediaworks currently does not employ anyone on your television or radio with a larger ego than Weldon, even Willie Jackson, Sean Plunket and Duncan Garner combined can’t compete” and that “NZX was the greatest reality soap opera in town under Weldon’s leadership, the casting couch of characters was enormous as disgruntled staff left and new bright eyed disciples were employed” (11)

He’s the man Odgers also described (in a blog post now deleted by referenced by another, also right wing, blogger) as a “weasel word corporate-welfared CEO…” and a “shallow self-promoting tool” (12)

He’s the man who said there was no conflict of interest in allowing the NZX to be the provider of NZX services, the supervisor of its members, a listed participant on its own exchange and the market regulator… a statement one broker described as “utter balderdash” (13)

Weldon was also appointed by Key, or one of his Ministers, the Capital Markets Development Taskforce in 2009/10; the Tax Working Group in 2009; and the Climate Change Leadership Forum in 2007 and the board of High Performance Sport New Zealand (2012) and the NZ Olympic Committee (2004 – 2006). Key gave him a QSO in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Now remember that Slater, Odgers and Cresswell are all considered right wingers. They’re certainly not the type of people who’d be found cheering John Campbell’s advocacy journalism on behalf of the less fortunate. Generally, you might expect them to be quite supportive of a man with Weldon’s background who’s chaired the NZX and is friends withe the Leader of the National Party.

(1) http://pundit.co.nz/content/the-weldon-factor
(2) http://www.johnkey.co.nz/index.php?url=archives%2F1162-Mark-Weldon-to-lead-Govt-Appeal.html
(3) http://norightturn.blogspot.co.nz/2011/03/against-government-promotion-of_18.html
(4) http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2012/05/what-the-national-party-needs-now/
(5) http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2014/10/earth-happening-inside-mediaworks/
(6) http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2011/10/weldon-for-tamaki/
(7) http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/4595769/Key-gambles-on-privatisation
(8) http://werewolf.co.nz/2011/09/ten-myths-about-asset-sales/
(9) http://www.odt.co.nz/news/business/57590/weldon-building-something-empire
(10) http://www.nzherald.co.nz/management/news/article.cfm?c_id=59&objectid=11375250
(11) http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2014/08/mediaworks-chopped-sold-bits/
(12) http://pc.blogspot.co.nz/2011/08/just-like-self-promoting-shallow-tools.html
(13) http://www.chrislee.co.nz/newsletter/display.php?list=2&year=2012&month=May

Sign the petition calling for Campbell Live to be saved.

Representations of the teacher in mainstream versus alternative media, by Leon Salter

My research is looking into how the media discursively constructs ‘the teacher’ in Aotearoa New Zealand; specifically in mainstream media such as newspaper editorials or right-wing blogs, as against alternative media such as teacher-blogs and social media, which confer some degree of control to those represented. At the heart of this is a highly political discursive struggle to define the role of the teacher, and so more broadly, the purposes of education.

The signifier ‘quality teacher’ has become a political tool within Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) policy frameworks. The highly controversial Treasury’s Advice on Lifting Student Achievement in New Zealand: Evidence Brief (2012), stated that class sizes were less important than the quality of teaching, therefore rationalizing that the legal limit on class-sizes could be raised. The government, fortunately, was forced to back down on this. However, what has remained is the reasoned argument within the text:

  • A significant proportion of New Zealand students are achieving poorly (Maori, Pasifika and low socio-economic background students)
  • Within schools, teachers have the greatest influence on student learning
  • The key to improving student outcomes is to ensure consistently high quality teaching for all students, in all schools

mediaThe holes in this nice simple argument have been pulled apart by Massey University’s Education Policy Response Group; namely that the evidence simply isn’t there that New Zealand’s minorities are performing badly in comparison to other OECD nations, especially considering New Zealand’s high-levels of inequality, and that “socio-economic background and prior experience of students are the main influences on learning”.

Nevertheless, the rationale has now taken a life of its own; New Zealand teachers are currently of poor-quality, and that this is impacting both the futures of minority students, and the country’s hopes of being economically prosperous down the line.

This rationale works to legitimize the policies of National Standards and Investing in Educational Success, and also future policy directions such as teacher pay and professional development to be linked more directly to National Standards data (see the New Zealand Initiative’s World Class Education?: Why New Zealand must strengthen its teaching profession).

National Standards as a policy was introduced to the public with a populist rhetoric, which was all about holding the school system and teachers to account to the taxpayer and to empower parents by facilitating their “‘voice’ and ‘choice’ in discussions about their children’s educational progress” (O’Neill, 2014). The neoliberal logic is that teachers could not possibly be motivated by professional ethics or an altruistic concern for students. In today’s ‘audit society’, in order to raise the quality of teaching, teachers must be held accountable through the audit systems of New Public Management; the three E’s of ; ‘economy’, ‘efficiency’ and ‘effectiveness’ (Power, 1999).

This logic is prevalent within mainstream media discourse. Mike Hosking’s 2012 editorial piece National Standards hold schools to account presents a common-sense ‘we the people’ rhetorical position: we are all already held to account by data and work in high-competition environments, so why not teachers? Anyone that refuses to be held to account by numbers (equated with truth), are implicitly lazy, incompetent, and over unionized:

They also don’t like it of course because numbers tell the truth. Numbers are the facts and the facts are that in some schools, in some subjects, in some regions, things aren’t what they should be. Where once you could fill the room with enough hot air to bluster your way through it, numbers bust the myths.

One of the great lessons of life is we need to be held to account. Held to account in all areas and aspects of our lives by all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. These figures start to hold our schools and the systems in which we teach our kids to account. That can be no bad thing.

(Hosking, 2012)

The teacher in mainstream policy and media discourse, therefore, tends to be represented by two extremes (often simultaneously): potential saviour of the economy and/or lazy, incompetent and unaccountable (Taubman, 2009).

The purpose of this research therefore is to explore the potential of alternative media for teachers to take some control over their own representation, which gives them a voice often denied in neoliberalized mainstream media (Couldry, 2010). As Nick Couldry said, in these times of increasing privatization of public spaces, education and broadcasting, voice matters.

Alternative media is therefore defined as oppositional media; a voice which challenges the representations, logics and definitions of the status quo.

As well as blogs such as this one and Kelvin Smythe’s, I want to conceptualize the NZEI’s various media practices such as their website, their magazine Education Aotearoa, and their Stand Up For Kids Facebook group page as alternative media. Such spaces offer vitally important sites for alternative conceptions of what it means to be a teacher and the purposes of education itself going forward.

by Leon Salter, School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, Massey University Wellington

l.a.salter@massey.ac.nz

References

Couldry, N. (2010). Why voice matters : Culture and politics after neoliberalism. London: SAGE.

Education Policy Response Group. (2013). The assessment of teacher quality: An investigation into current issues in evaluating and rewarding teachers. Institute of Education, Massey University

Hosking, M. (2012, September 24). Mike’s Editorial: National Standards hold schools to account. Retrieved from http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/opinion/mikes-editorial-24sep2012

Morris, J., & Patterson, R. (2014). World Class Education?: Why New Zealand must strengthen its teaching profession The New Zealand Initiative.

O’Neill, J. (2014). Rationalising national assessment in New Zealand. International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives, 12(2).

Power, M. (1999). The audit society: Rituals of verification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Taubman, P. M. (2009). Teaching by numbers : deconstructing the discourse of standards and accountability in education. New York; London: Routledge.

The Treasury. (2012). Treasury’s Advice on Lifting Student Achievement in New Zealand: Evidence Brief.

England’s Academy schools – are they all they’re cracked up to be?

New Zealand has Partnership Schools, the USA has Charter Schools, and England has Academies.  They’re all much of a muchness, state schools passed off into private hands with the promise of educational improvement for students.  But are they all they’re cracked up to be?

In The Guardian, Michelle Hanson questions whether the promise matches the hype.

She asks:

“If a school needs perking up and fancies a uniform, Latin, Vera Wang tea sets and no national curriculum, fine – but why call them academies?

Why not just schools?

What’s the difference?

We pay for them. Not the sponsors.”

A headteacher who found himself out on his ear when his school was made into an Academy observes:

“They mostly seem to be run by dodgy, spiv businesspeople,” says Fielding, understandably bitter, because the school to which he had dedicated his life became an academy.

In came the sickening corporate mantras, the uber-swanky furniture, the slick management speak, squillion-pound makeover, and out went Fielding, along with everyone else in the NUT [National Union of Teachers], and any heart.

“I smell a rat,” says he, “but I don’t know what it is.”

Hanson thinks she knows what the rat is, and so do I: Money.

follow-the money

She observes that certain parties were quick to capitalise on the money-making potential of Academies :

Capita was fairly quick off the mark to spot “market opportunities” supplying IT systems as schools switched to academy status.

“Leading academy chain” E-ACT had a culture of “extravagant” expenses, “prestige” venues and first-class travel and has been criticised for “widespread financial irregularities”; another academy superhead, Jo Shuter, snaffled up £7,000 of school money to pay for her 50th birthday.

Exam results

And yet for all that, England’s GCS exam results were lower this year, not higher.

It’s the same for A levels, too – in 2014 the pass level went down.

And England’s PISA results are nothing to write home about, either.

So What’s the Motive for Academies?

If financial irregularities are much more of an issue than when schools were run by local authorities…

and OFSTED (England’s ERO) is under investigation for giving Academies far more notice that they are visiting  than the half-day’s notice non-Academies get…

and exam results are going down…

… it’s kind of hard to argue that Academies have brought improvement.

At which point you really do have to start asking yourself what the real motive for Academies and the worldwide push for “charterisation” is.

You might want to start by asking who benefits from them, because it certainly isn’t the education system, teachers, taxpayers or students.

~ Dianne

follow the money

BATs Respond to Time Magazine Cover

batappleBadass Teachers Association Press Release:

As representatives of an organization that represents the collective voices of 53,000 teachers, we take issue with the image selected for the November 3 edition of Time. We believe that the image is journalistically irresponsible and unfairly paints teachers and teacher tenure in a negative light.

The gavel smashing the apple, the universal symbol of education, reinforces the text that applauds“tech millionaires” in finally figuring out how to deal the deathblow to teacher tenure widely misunderstood as job protection for life for teachers.

In addition, the cover perpetuates the myth of the “bad” teacher and tenure as the prime enablers of larger failures in American education—more borne of structural inequalities and chronic underfunding than teaching professionals.

“Labeling of teachers is hurtful and stigmatizing to teachers, students, and communities”, states Aixa Rodriguez, BAT DREAM Manager and Bronx teacher.

The cover deliberately privileges the “bad” teacher narrative with the misleading statement, “It is nearly impossible to fire bad teachers.” A few months ago talk show host Whoopi Goldberg made similar statements suffering under the same basic misunderstanding of teacher tenure as something akin to what college professors enjoy rather than a simple guarantee of procedural due process which is its function in K-12 education.

In fact, teacher tenure has served as an important protection to allow teachers to advocate for students— especially with regard to maintaining manageable class sizes, safe instructional spaces, ELL and Special needs interventions, and needed financial resources to combat the poverty and inequality that plague public schools and are most to blame for hurting young people.

Terry Kalb, BAT administrator, former Special Education teacher, and Special Education advocate says, “Teachers are whistleblowers- we protect children who are denied IEP services, devices, accommodations- all costly and complicated for administrators looking to streamline budgets and staff.”

Given the massive increase in student enrollments, one of the greatest shortfalls is in the number of teachers themselves. A simple accounting of all the teaching positions lost in the great recessions reveals that the nation would need 377,000 more teachers in the classroom just to keep pace not to mention combat the shameful shortage being teachers of color.

BAT Administrator, historian, author, and college professor Dr. Yohuru Williams states, “More significantly, the cover uncritically situates the tech millionaires as saviors without revealing their own self-interest in the tenure fight— the creation of a nation of corporate-run franchise schools taught by untrained teachers and measured by high stakes test developed and administered by those same millionaires.”

In an age where transparency in politics and journalism is sorely needed, we regret Times decision to proceed with a cover so clearly at odds with the truth.

Dear TIME magazine, we teachers are not happy with your substandard reporting. (F-)

When TIME magazine decided to put out a front page depicting a gavel smashing a shiny red apple, with the tag line “Rotten Apples – it’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher: Some tech millionaires may have found a way to change that” they really didn’t think for one minute teachers would sit by and let that go unchallenged, surely?

Click here to thunderclap TIME to tell them you want an apology.

US teachers have a battle on their hands right now, regarding tenure.  Tenure gives teachers the right to due process if they are being disciplines or faced with being let go.  It is not a job for life – it’s merely protection from being sacked at the whim of your employer, without any good reason.

You’d think that wasn’t too much to ask in any job?  If an employee is not suitable, then you can show that and they can be let go.  Fair enough.  But you can’t sack someone just because it takes your fancy, or because they disagree with your politics, or because they spoke out.

This is what’s going on in the USA, and this is why there is a push to ‘reform’ tenure – and by reform, I mean remove it so that teachers can be sacked without due process.

Why would anyone want that.  You have to ask yourself…

And in New Zealand we are not exempt, small changes here and there in our labour laws, small changes here and there to the Education Act allowing untrained teachers, proposals to have a code of conduct for teachers that expressly states we cannot speak out about our employer (our school, the government, both?).

The Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) is on a mission worldwide, and it’s teachers they have in their sights now.

Tell TIME not to fall for it and to stop sharing GERMers’ lies.

This edited version of the cover is more truthful.

Screenshot (41)

This from the Randi Weingarten:

In just the last 36 hours, more than 30,000 people have signed our petition demanding that Time magazine apologize for its offensive cover.

Next week, we’ll be delivering every petition we collect to Time’s headquarters in New York. Our goal is that they never again try to make money by attacking educators. First, we need to make sure they hear our message loud and clear. Will you help by sharing the petition and asking your friends and family to sign?

Time’s cover suggests that teachers are a problem that must be smashed. We know this image is far out of step with how Americans view our educators. I hope you’ll share the petition with your friends so we can show Time that people don’t think highly of bashing teachers to sell magazines.

Randi Weingarten
AFT President

Click here to thunderclap TIME to tell them you want an apology.

And well done to Schools Matter for their message to Time, below:

The concrete facts about school performance

Sent to Time Magazine, Oct. 23, 2014.
Re: Taking on Teacher Tenure, Time, November 3, 2014

“Unassuming” tycoon David Welch is also unformed. He claims he prefers a world of “concrete facts” but still maintains that the American education system is “failing” because of bad teachers who can’t be fired.
The concrete facts are these: When researchers control for the effects of poverty, American students score near the top of the world on international tests. Our unspectacular (but not horrible) performance on tests is because of our high child poverty rate, about 23%, second highest among 34 economically advanced countries, according to UNICEF. High-scoring countries such as Finland have a child poverty rate of about 5%.
Poverty means, among other things,  poor nutrition, lack of health care, and little access to books. All of these have powerful negative effects on school performance. The best teaching in the world has little effect when students are hungry, ill, and have little or nothing to read.
Our main problem is not teaching quality, unions, or the rules for due process. The main problem is poverty.

Stephen Krashen

Sources:
Control for poverty: Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13; Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/Bracey-Report. Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers. Tienken, C. 2010. Common core state standards: I wonder? Kappa Delta Phi Record 47 (1): 14-17. Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012. http://www.epi.org/).

Child Poverty: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre 2012, ‘Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries’, Innocenti Report Card 10, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.

Ouch! Radio NZ journalist gives Hekia a run for her money on charter schools

ouch baby very ouch Austin Powers

Hekia meets her match here when trying to give one her trademark circumlocutive speeches answers.

Of course, she still doesn’t give anything approaching a decent answer, but it’s refreshing to see a journalist working so very hard to get answers.

Kudos.

All we do know after the interview is that charter schools are another beneficiary of the National Party’s  policy of final, final, final, final, final, final, final chances….

Enjoy.

Listen Here

Addendum – I’ve discovered that the journalist is Mary Wilson.  All hail, Mary.

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