Maori & Pasifika Education

This category contains 18 posts

Little evidence that charter schools are delivering for Māori

Maori education tui

Save Our Schools finds little evidence to support the claim by the Māori Party that charter schools are “delivering for our people”.

Closer scrutiny of the schools’ performance against their contracts suggests that none of the three schools with predominantly Māori students is actually meeting their main targets.

The Ministry set targets for student achievement using National Standards as the metric for the primary schools and the “School Leavers with NCEA Level 2” metric as the main target for secondary schools.

But Ministry analysis released in May this year showed that both of the primary schools, Te Kapehu Whetu-Teina in Whangarei and Te Kura Māori o Waatea in Mangere, were evaluated as “Not Met” for student achievement.

Whetu-Teina achieved only 2 of its 18 targets and Waatea achieved none of its 12 targets in 2015 according to the Ministry analysis.

The secondary school based in Whangarei, Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa, reported high NCEA participation-based pass rates but its School Leavers stats showed a different picture.

The Education Counts database showed Paraoa as having 84.6% of School Leavers in 2015 leaving with NCEA Level 1 or above against a target of 84.0%; but its School Leavers with NCEA Level 2 or above figure of 69.2% did not quite reach its contract target of 73.0%.

The Ministry has not released its revised evaluation of the school’s performance against target, as it has only recently acknowledged an inconsistency in how the secondary school contract performance measures have been interpreted.

But on the surface, Paraoa has not reached the key NCEA Level 2 School Leaver target that the Government focuses on.

Finally, we have to keep in mind that the fourth school with predominantly Māori students, based at Whangaruru in Northland, was closed earlier this year by the Minister.

So, on balance, there seems to be little evidence at this early stage to support the claims being made.

– Bill Courtney. Save Our Schools NZ

New school on site of closed Linwood school

This weekend the special character school, Te Pā o Rākaihautū, opened in its new site, having been in a different temporary location since opening in January.

It may well be a marvellous school – it certainly looks interesting, and I’ve no reason to think it’s anything but good. That’s not what raised my eyebrows. No.

What made me look twice is that it is on the former Linwood Intermediate School site. You know, one of the schools closed by Hekia Parata.

An article about the school quotes Rangimarie Parata Takurua. as saying:

“Linwood Intermediate was closed after the earthquakes and I came upon the buildings quite by chance,”

The Christchurch schools closed by Hekia Parata

Christchurch schools closed by Hekia Parata

Really?  Is there an educator in Chch that doesn’t know the name of every school forcibly closed by Hekia Parata?

And this from Rangimarie Parata Takurua, cousin of the person that closed the school…

Which was in the media for months…

But she came across it “quite by chance”? ** (Update, I am informed that “Although Linwood Intermediate was closed by the minister the site was reopened in January 2014 for another school that was found to have a black mould problem 7 days before that school was due to reopen for the year. That school returned to their original site Easter 2015. The chairperson of Te Pā went to a fitness class, when it was occupied by the other school, and then proceeded to question MOE of it’s availability.”) Source

The article then quotes Rangimarie Parata Takurua as saying they:

“worked hard with the Ministry of Education to secure [the site]”

Can you see the Ministry putting up much of a fight to give Hekia Parata’s cousin the school site she wants? Perhaps they did…? (UPDATE: the new information above raises a new question  – given the Linwood Intermediate site was deemed to need over $3 Million of repairs to be fit for use, how come two schools have used the site since Linwood was moved out? Was it not as damaged as claimed?)

What am I missing here?

As I said at the start of this post, this school may well be fabulous. It certainly sounds good from the article (and people on the SOSNZ facebook page are saying great things about it). The quality of Te Pa is not what I’m querying.

It’s more that something doesn’t seem to sit right when a school is closed due to unsafe buildings and then the site is used by one, perhaps two, other schools. Did the site miraculously repair itself? I’m sure the community that fought so hard to keep Linwood open would love to know.


Related reading:

(Article edited 10.30pm to remove paragraph containing unclear/inaccurate information on which bilingual units were/weren’t eventually closed as per 2012 Stuff article.)

Destiny Church – so many questions

So, Destiny Church school is eyeing up its options after being turned down as a charter school. Why would that be?  Why would a private school suddenly want to be a charter school and then, failing that, become a public school?

Funding for Integrated Schools

moneyThe Herald report that as at 2011, and in its present form, the school “charges tuition fees from $65 to $85 a week and received a $266,000 operations grant from the Ministry of Education,” but it would be entitled to more tax payer funding should it become integrated.

As a state integrated school, it would get the same government funding for each student as other public schools. In 2013 this was $5,837 per primary student and $7,521 per secondary student.

In addition, it would be allowed to charge fees.  Not donations, but fees – not optional.

So it could arguably be quids in.  (Or is that dollars in?)

And, of course, it would get to retain ownership of its buildings and land.

Transformational Education?

A Destiny spokesperson said that the move would allow the school to take it “transformational model” of education to more children.

I would like to know more about this “transformational model” – what makes it so amazing?  Is it really that amazing at all?  And if it is, then why did the government turn them down as a charter school?

They have tried to become an integrated school before, and were turned down.  And their charter school bid was turned down.  It doesn’t look like the Ministry think anything miraculous is going on there, does it?

So many questions.


Sources and further reading:
Destiny school eyes state aid – NZ Herald

Per student funding in New Zealand state and state integrated schools

Destiny Church school applies for state funding – TV3

Destiny Church’s charter school application declined – NZ Herald

DestinyChurch – Wikipedia

Ngati Porou section of the National Party at work, by Kelvin Smythe

Within a month, unless the two teacher organisations have united, and on an agreed programme, teachers will find themselves near powerless, and at the fate of Hekia Parata, Peter Hughes, John Key, John Hattie, Andreas Schleicher, Core, Cognition, and overseas multi-nationals. For this to happen, Phil Harding will probably need to be pushed aside. But that is up to him.

My ministry source tells me that the ministry coffee talk is all about how Hekia Parata and representatives of Nga-Kura-a-Iwi (Iwi Education Authority) seem to have worked together to harass Judith Nowotarski, president of NZEI.

Delegates at the conference were taken aback at the way Pem Bird and Hekia combined to to put Judith down.

What was that all about delegates asked?

The issue in question was the protest by NZEI in Auckland and Wellington against pay inequities of support staff in schools and the wider community.

Hekia set the tone, saying that ‘she was disappointed with the protest timing, especially given NZEI’s involvement in the organisation of the summit …’

Then a cold threat: ‘We will continue to try to work together but it does take two.’

I interpret this as utu from the National Party section of Ngati Porou. And I connect this behaviour to her behaviour to protect Edie Tawhiwhirangi over the kohanga reo scandal.

In respect to that scandal, I wish the matter had been exposed earlier so it could have been resolved better. Edie is a remarkable person (as an aside I played golf with her but she didn’t find me in great form that day) and deserved some kind of protection, but not the arrogantly absurd clumsy partisan way Hekia went about it.

Co-chairwoman of Nga-Kura-a-Iwi, Arihia Stirling, in a matching arrogantly absurd clumsy partisan way, chimed in about the NZEI marches, saying it was an ‘inappropriate time to be airing dirty linen.’

What? At a conference about inequity and its effects on education performance? Do we still live in a democracy? Or is it now democracy as defined by the National Party section of Ngati Porou?

However, Arihia, at least you agree in a roundabout that it is ‘dirty linen’. As a result, perhaps you could inform Sir Toby Curtis also of Nga-Kura-a-Iwi that the link between inequity and child performance is not ‘lame or dodgy’.

Oh, and Arihia, seeing you recognise the existence of inequity as dirty linen, meaning your criticism was really just the timing of the protest, can we expect you to be a prominent member on the next march about inequity and its effects on education?

Arihia goes on to say: ‘It’s wrong to do this now, we don’t have people in the streets, we don’t have people bleeding at the hands of the education sector … it’s poor judgement of the leadership of the union to do this at this time.’

Arihia, there weren’t people bleeding in the streets when the foreshore and seabed hikoi took place, either. And if you’ll excuse me saying – Maori, and good on them, are past masters at picking the right moments to make their hikoi point. Why shouldn’t they be? They feel strongly about their cause. As do NZEI marchers about theirs. Do you feel strongly about inequity Arihia? Or has something superseded that?

Readers should know that this little clique (with some others) has done a deal with Hekia to set up iwi schools, as a form of charter schools, to be lavishly funded, lightly supervised, and to be paid on ‘performance’.

The only problem is what to do with Kura kaupapa Maori. If only they would disappear in a puff of smoke.

Oh, happy days.

Education today in Aotearoa.

From all this, the lesson to be learned by those in teaching, is the absolute need for unity.

The policy on clusters set out by NZEI in their newsletter of April 2, 2014, is an excellent starting point – why not unite on that or something like it?

If the teacher organisations don’t unite then they will be picked off or made irrelevant. (In regard to the latter, they should know how that feels.)

~ by Kelvin Smythe


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

Pasifika languages in education

pasifikaThe Green Party have called for bilingual learning for Pasifika ECE and primary school children.  As a foreign-born teacher, I would love to have some quality learning in Pacific languages and in Te Reo.  The two courses I tried (in my own time) were woeful and I got no professional development in the schools I worked in.  Surely, it’s logical to support teachers to support students by giving *us* the education *we* need as well.  It will benefit us all.

The Green Party says:

If we are serious about making school more effective for Pasifika kids, then it is logical to consider bi lingual Pasifika education in New Zealand schools.

Researchers have proven that the first years of schooling are much more successful when kids are taught in their mother tongue. Add to that the fact that many Pasifika languages are in danger of dying, parents want more childhood centres and schools to offer their kids bilingual education, and it looks like a fairly compelling case for bilingual Pasifika education options.

Well, I would have thought so. But the National Government sees otherwise.
The Education and Science Select Committee Inquiry into Pacific languages in ECE heard from many experts who called for a special recognition of Pasifika languages in schools and ECE but without undermining the primacy of Te Reo Maori the first national language of this country.

Several languages, including are Cook Islands Maori, Tokelau and Niue are now seriously at risk. These are languages spoken in the Realm Islands, places that are constitutionally part of New Zealand and whose people are citizens of this country. Their languages are thus our languages. Other islands such as Samoa and Tonga also have a strong history in relation to New Zealand and a right to have their language education needs considered.

In rejecting these recommendations, the National MPs on the select committee failed to recognise that we are a Pacific island in the great ocean Te Moana nui a Kiwa.

It’s not good enough to put the onus completely on Pacific communities themselves to save their own languages as the Education Minster has done. A state investment is needed as well.

The Green Party is 100 percent in favour of prioritising Te Reo Maori, but we also need to embrace multilingualism as an educational benefit.. There needs to be a National Languages Policy to support the benefits of language learning before year 7 in Primary school.

It’s a shame we have to fight the Government on this when we should be united in supporting heritage languages and in celebrating our Pacific identity. The rest of the world is multilingual and proud of it while we can barely embrace Te Reo.

One academic told me that we turn the children who start school bilingual into monolingual people by the time they leave. What a waste.

 What do you think?  Good idea?

Minister disingenuous about National Standards support funding

Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, is being economical with the truth regarding the support now being given to support priority students and schools, says QPEC National Chairperson, Bill Courtney.

national standards“The National Party propaganda material, sent to every household in February 2010, clearly stated that $36 million in additional funding was to be targeted at struggling students, and this was a key plank of the controversial policy’s introduction”.

This amount had been set aside as early as the 2009 Budget.

Anne Tolley told parliament, in response to a question from National MP Allan Peachey, that “The $36 million will go towards new intervention programmes currently being developed for students who need extra support in reading, writing and maths.” (Questions for Oral Answer no. 8, 16 September 2010).

But when the big day finally arrived, John Key and Hekia Parata announced on 26 August this year that only $27 million was to be invested in initiatives aimed at priority children.

Furthermore, many of the programmes to be funded included initiatives in place for many years, such as the $8 million earmarked for Ka Hikitia, the Māori Education Strategy first launched in 2008, and the Pasifika Education Plan.

It is clear that the students in most need of support are being short changed by a government hell bent on ideology rather than pursuing what we know works.

The funding commitment of $19 million to develop only 5 charter schools educating a total of less than 800 students is an insult to the students, parents and teachers of the schools who most need our support.

But the last straw was the announcement that a second round of charter schools is to take place before the “pilot” has even begun, let alone been evaluated.

QPEC reiterates its stance that National Standards is conceptually flawed, badly designed and poorly implemented. The data gathered from this system is neither valid nor reliable as an indicator of student achievement or school quality.

The negative impacts of National Standards are beginning to outweigh the positives and the students most deserving of our support are being sold out.


More from QPEC:

Charter School front-runners named

questionThe four proposals being considered as NZ’s first charter schools, to open in 2014, are:

  • A military prep school for 16 and 17-year-olds called Advance Training Centres Ltd
  • C-Me Mentoring Foundation Trust
  • Rise Up Trust
  • Villa Education Trust (applied to open 3 schools)

A few facts and figures on who showed initial interest in opening a charter school:

  • 15 Maori and Pasifika organisations (just over half the list)
  • 7 Christian organisations
  • 5 private schools
  • 2 state schools

Who applied to open a charter school?

  • Seven groups that showed initial interest went on to apply to set up charter schools.
  • Three were rejected
  • Destiny Church was one of those rejected.  The others are not known at this stage (31/7/13)

For more news as it breaks, click to follow the site (top right).

~ Dianne



Just who are the NZ charter school hopefuls?

This is the list of those who showed an interest in opening an NZ charter school.

Of these, it seems 5 applied, and we know that Destiny Church was turned down as they had a good old media tanty about the fact (which was all the more amusing since they had denied they even wanted to open one) – which leaves 4 hopefuls.

It will be interesting to see who they are, where they are and who they plan to serve.

Those ‘winners’ will be announced soon, and will open their doors to students in February 2014.

This is the start of the privatisation of our state school system.


NZ charter school hopefuls




Ombudsman’s findings show need for transparency over charter schools


ombudsmanNZEI Te Riu Roa says the findings of an Ombudsman’s investigation into the process around charter schools shows that there is an urgent need for more transparency.

In a ruling just released, the Ombudsman, Prof Ron Paterson, has found that the Ministry of Education had “no good reason” for refusing to release the names of organisations expressing an interest in setting up a charter school.

The “indications of interest” process was run by the NZ Model of Charter School Working Group, chaired by Catherine Isaac, and preceded the formal authorisation process currently underway by the Partnership Schools Authorisation Board, also chaired by Ms Isaacs.

NZEI National President Judith Nowotarski says it shows that there is a need for more transparency instead of the secrecy that has surrounded charter schools so far.

NZEI took the complaint to the Ombudsman following the Ministry of Education’s earlier refusal to release the names and identities of the organisations.

In its submission to the Ombudsman, the Ministry claimed there was no strong public interest in the release of the information at this stage in the process.

It said it was concerned that those who had expressed an interest would be lobbied by charter school opponents and would receive news media enquiries.  It said that there was no necessity for applicants to submit an initial expression of interest therefore those who did would be at a disadvantage.

The Ombudsman’s report was also critical of the fact that Authorisation Board chair Catherine Isaac had earlier assured two organisations that their identities would remain confidential.

Judith Nowotarski says that the Ministry of Education and charter school proponents need to be reminded that there is strong and valid public interest in this issue, with taxpayer’s money and the health of the public education system at stake.

“We strongly believe it is important to have the discussion and debate before the final decisions were made.  But it would appear that the Ministry preferred to keep public debate and information to as minimum level as possible.”

She says while the Ombudsman’s findings may be a win for openness and transparency in this case, the secrecy surrounding Charter Schools will continue because they will not be subject to the Official Information Act despite being publicly funded.

The Ministry told the Ombudsman it plans to publish the names of the organisations on July 31st on its website, once final decisions on approved charter school applications have been made.

Māori Need More Than Charter Schools

Maori education tuiEducation For Māori Needs More Than Charter Schools – from Education Aotearoa

Heni Collins investigates growing concerns in Māoridom that the promised panacea of charter schools is a false hope.

Key points

  • Minister of Education Hekia Parata is known to be a keen advocate of charter schools being run by Māori education providers. But many in Māoridom are not so sure.
  • The evidence is thin that charter schools will lift Māori achievement levels, while the highly successful Te Kotahitanga programme is being cut back.

Charter schools are not the way forward for the development of education for Māori, says Professor Wally Penetito, of Te Kura Māori at the Faculty of Education, Victoria University.

“I don’t think that’s the way to go for Māori. I want to see the development of köhanga and kura kaupapa, of the kaupapa Māori movement.”

While many whānau struggle with more urgent issues such as poverty, housing, health and employment, the issue of charter schools is creating further division and confusion amongst Māori, and even within the kaupapa Māori education sector.

Professor Penetito was one of several leading Māori educationalists and leaders who signed an Open Letter to the Government opposing charter schools (officially called partnership schools) in late May. Others who publicly oppose the policy include Professor Russell Bishop, Dr Leonie Pihama, Dr Mera Penehira, Cindy Kiro, Ani Mikaere, Metiria Turei and Lesley Rameka.

Political opposition
Both the Labour and Green party candidates in the recent Ikaroa-Rāwhiti by-election (Meka Whaitiri and Marama Davidson respectively) were clear in their opposition at a meeting in Taita. Mana MP Hone Harawira spoke passionately against the charter school bill in Parliament in May.

Māori members of the primary and secondary teachers unions NZEI and PPTA are firm in their opposition, as both unions believe the policy has the potential to under-mine the public education sector. About 85 percent of Māori children attend mainstream schools, with varying levels of Māori language used, and 15 percent attend Māori immersion kura and wharekura.

Te Rūnanga o Ngai Tahu outlined its strong opposition to the schools in a lengthy, well-researched submission to government. It is the only iwi known to have publicly opposed them.

The new schools are being promoted by the government (National, Act, and the Māori Party supported the charter schools Bill) as a means of tackling Māori and Pacific under-achievement but the results of overseas research relating to minorities in charter schools are inconclusive and benefits to Māori are likely to be minimal.

Despite that, of the 35 or so applicants wanting to establish charter schools, about a third of those are from Māori.

Leaders of kura-ā-iwi, designated character schools (section 156 of the Education Act 1989) associated with particular iwi, see charter schools as a way to gain more freedom from centralised bureaucracy.

Dr Toby Curtis, head of Te Maru o Ngā Kura a Iwi o Aotearoa (Iwi Education Authority) and Pem Bird (representing kaiako at these kura) say they represent 23 of 25 kura-ā-iwi in supporting charter schools. Iwi in support include Tuwharetoa, Tuhoe, Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Manawa, Ngāti Rongomai, Tapuika, Waikato and Raukawa ki te Tonga.

Those in favour of charter schools often use the argument that the public education system is failing Māori children: “Too many schools are allowed to continue failing Māori children, without accountability for that failure,” said Pem Bird. “Kura Hourua can be a circuit-breaker for us, an agent of desperately needed change.”

The gap is closing 
But while there is still a gap between Māori and Pakeha achievement levels, policies such as Ka Hikitia, Te Kotahitanga and He Kakano have been achieving success in closing that gap in recent years.

Read the rest of the article here.

Te Karere Maori News – more warnings about charter schools

The Maori faction of the PPTA has issued another warning concerning the government’s charter schools. Although some Maori schools would like to try the system out, Moana Jackson says it’s only another one of the government’s attempts to cut funding.

What are your thoughts?  Are charter schools a genuine attempt to help Maori and Pasifika students achieve higher, or a money saving venture, or something else altogether?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Education and the blame game

Blame the teachers

Who is to blame that some students achieve less than others?

Is apportioning blame and pointing fingers actually helpful for anything other than head-line grabbing?

Admit it – did you click on this because of the headline, hoping for an easy answer?

Well there isn’t one.  It’s a complex issue.

Why we need to consider this

If you see an easy head-line friendly fix for these issues, prepare to sound the alarm.

The truth is, until we put vote-grabbing solutions aside, try to avoid the blame game, and look for genuine research on the issue and unpolitical, unhysterical, practical, research-based solutions, we won’t get very far.

It’s particularly pertinent given some are arguing that there is a long tail of under achievement comprising predominantly Maori and Pasifika students and that schools and teachers are to blame for this.  This argument is then used to promote policy changes such as the introduction of National Standards, Charter (Partnership) Schools, and soon to justify performance pay.  But whether the original statement has any real basis in fact is debatable.   Could other issues be at play as well as teaching?

Until we know what the real issue is, we cannot begin to find good solutions.

So let’s begin to look at what we know.

Disadvantaged from the start

An American study found that “inequalities in children’s cognitive abilities are substantial from the beginning, with disadvantaged children starting kindergarten with significantly lower cognitive skills than their more advantaged counterparts.”  Students are arriving at their first place of education, kindy, already on the back foot.

The study  argues that the “same disadvantaged children are then placed in low-resource schools, magnifying the initial inequality” which certainly has bearing on New Zealand schools with their un-level playing field in terms of funds.(2)(3)

The report has conclusions relevant to education policy:

  • there are substantial differences by race and ethnicity in children’s test scores as they begin kindergarten;
  • race and ethnicity are associated with socioeconomic status (SES);
  • family structure and educational expectations have important associations with SES, race/ethnicity, and test scores;
  • SES strongly relates to cognitive skills;
  • and low-SES children begin school in systematically lower-quality elementary schools than do their more advantaged counterparts. “

This is certainly worth considering carefully.

Decile as an indicator 

Do students really achieve lower results at lower deciles?  And if so, then why?

Robyn Caygill & Sarah Kirkham looked at mathematics for year 5 Kiwi students, and argue that the decile of the student’s school does indeed correlate to the average level of achievement reached by students.  They point out that it “is indicative of a trend demonstrating that students with lower levels of disadvantage in terms of family background and socio-economic background and living in wealthier communities have higher achievement.”(1)

They concluded that, in general, students at lower decile schools tend to have access to fewer resources, stating that “the decile of the school [students] attend, [is] indicative of the level of economic disadvantage in the community in which they live, [and] was positively related to mathematics achievement.”

School funding

Does funding also have an impact on achievement?  And if it does, does that link to the socioeconomic position of the school’s community in any way?

A book just published looks an inequality in New Zealand.  In a survey, it found that decile 10 schools’ total budgets averaged $8,653 per student, whereas it was $7,518 per student in the decile 1 schools.  Can wealthier schools afford more teacher aides, more specialists, better resources, small class sizes and so on, all contributing to a slightly better chance for their students?  If so, what should this mean for the future funding of schools in poorer socioeconomic areas?

If students achieve less because of the socioeconomic status of their family, then this surely needs to be a focus for future research and action.

Parents as a factor

A Danish study last year found that in that country, a student’s parents are a huge indicator of future achievement, being five times stronger than the effect of teachers.  The report was said to”raise questions over the extent to which schools can be expected to make significant improvements to pupils’ results without the necessary backing from mothers and fathers.”  It stated that“[h]alf of the variation in test scores is attributable to shared family factors, while schools only account for 10 per cent,”  It went on to say that the remaining variation was down to pupils themselves.  Notably, researchers said the effect of families on test scores remained the same irrespective of household income. (4)

However, after looking at the research, the headline grabbing here seems to outweigh the scope of the research, which only looked at 16-17 year old students who changed schools at that age.  Another case where the headline doesn’t help us learn much at all.

Whilst I am very sure indeed that parents are a factor, this particular paper is not the one to show the link, at least not for NZ and not for primary schools.

My search for more rigorous local research continues.  If you know of any, please message me below.

Other indicators

Caygill and Kirkham (1) also noted that for mathematics, “books in the home, items in the homehousehold size and mobility” were indicators of  students’ maths scores.

It will surprise no teacher that the more a child moves school, the lower their achievement is.

And consider the results for books: 34% of students reported having  25 -100 books in their homes while 28% said they have 25 or fewer books in their homes. Guess which group got the higher scores?

  • Fewer books in the home = lower score
  • Smaller house = lower score.
  • Less access to a desk of your own, a computer at home, your own room, a calculator = lower score.

In essence, the poorer your family is, the lower your maths score.

So we are back to the socioeconomic status issue again.

Where next?

For my part, I will continue to search out research that will inform the situation and ponder what it tells us.  In this I stand on the shoulders of others, as people wiser and better placed than me are out there researching.

If you are one of those people, I would love to hear from you.

One thing I will leave you with is this – beware easy solutions sold to you in spintastic headlines.  They rarely tell the whole story, let alone a fair one.

~ Dianne

Sources and further reading:

(1) TIMSS 2006/07: Trends in Year 5 mathematics achievement 1994 to 2006

(2) Inequality at the Starting Gate: Social Background Differences in Achievement as Children Begin School.

(3) Fundraising keeps rich schools ahead of the pack – The NZ Herald

(4) Parents, Not Teachers, Key to Education

Forums for the Future Between Rich and Poor (video)


Charter school rhetoric and scaremongering

fearThere was a comment on the blog this morning that covers many of the criticisms myself and others arguing against charter schools face.  The message from Grant says:

“Of course trained teachers would NEVER accept payment should they fail to achieve the results expected of them.

Isn’t it interesting that the Government still leaves children in the care of untrained teachers between the hours of 3pm and 9 am and during school holidays (their parents) and somehow these bumbling fools manage to educate their offspring.

There is a lot of rhetoric and scaremongering going on from a sector of society who I think fears that their monopoly situation being undermined might expose them for what they are.

Let’s review this blog in 5 years time and see if the predictions are realised, or whether your unspoken fears are really what is at stake there. (Maybe you should honestly own up to what you really fear).”

This is my reply:


My concerns are not unspoken – they are spoken loudly and with conviction, and are based on a lot of very detailed research.

change is a good thing chopI do not fear change; I fear ill-thought-out change.

This particular change is for political gain not for children.  I am very happy to keep reviewing the situation, indeed that is just what I do every day – I wouldn’t be much of an educator if I didn’t!  So far, with every passing day there is just more evidence that we should be concerned.


To address your assumptions that I support a monopoly in education I will point out (yet again) that I support Steiner, Montessori, state integrated, kura kaupapa, private schools, special schools,  and so on.   Oh yes, and I do support parents who wish to teach their children themselves.   In fact one of the SOSNZ admins is a home schooler.  Go figure.

Poor Learning Results

What I do not support is public funds being spent on an ideological experiment that does not provide a better education for students.

I would advise you to read through the CREDO research, which is part states that there is a “wide variation in the effect of charter schools upon pupils’ achievement.  At the national level, 17 percent of the charter schools examined, “provide[d] superior education opportunities for their students,” 46 percent produced results that were not statistically different from local schools and 37 percent provided learning results that were worse than their pupils would have achieved if they had stayed in regular state schools.”

This is hardly a compelling improvement, is it?

The Big Question

In the end, it seems some charters perform well, some perform okay, and some perform poorly – just like any other system in fact.

So my big question is this: why throw money at charters instead of improving the schools we have?   Better teacher training, better professional development, more support for children struggling or with special needs, keeping the programmes that have shown to work with Maori and Pasifika, and so on?  All of these things are being cut back.  How does that help improve teaching and learning?

Your Evidence, Please

If you have good quality research and information (not funded by the charters themselves) that shows charters working well for poorer and minority groups and if you have any information whatsoever about what charters in New Zealand are to offer that is so miraculous, then I would ask you to share it so I can review and consider it.

I leave you with this thought:  Given the outrageously negative way you and others speak about Kiwi public schools and teachers, is it not the pro-charter school lobby that are scaremongering, rather than those opposing them?


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