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Mythbuster: Privatisation does not increase Education Choice

Myth:

“We believe that students will get better educations if their parents have more choice and educators face more competition.”

Source: ACT Party Education Policy 2014, p.1

 

ACT Party Leader, Dr Jamie Whyte, keeps saying that his party would privatise the public education system and believes this will provide increased “Choice” to parents.

But a quick look at the New Orleans “Recovery School District” website will reveal that Dr Whyte is deluded and that privatised systems do not work as he thinks. And besides, New Zealand parents already have more choice in education than he acknowledges.

 

The Recovery School District in New Orleans is the best worked example of a system where all the schools have now been privatised. This followed the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which accelerated the process of establishing privately operated charter schools and closing public schools.

Unfortunately, in the new fully privatised system, there are three things that parents cannot now choose:

  1. They cannot choose their school, as the system “assigns” their child to a school;
  2. Once assigned, they cannot choose to just leave their school;
  3. And most importantly, they cannot choose to send their child to a public school.

Because the charter schools are privately operated parents initially had a nightmare trying to enrol their children. As enrolment applications usually exceed the number of places available at each school, parents needed to apply to many different schools, as they did not know for certain whether their children would get accepted. This caused a backlash and a centrally operated enrolment system was developed, called One-App.

One-App allows parents to apply once on one application form and to designate their top 3 preferred schools. The process is not easy and the form is nearly 20 pages long!

But any suggestion that parent choice prevails goes out the door pretty quickly.

 

No choiceThe enrolment system assigns each child to a school. If the parents are happy with the school they have been assigned to in the main round, then they do no more. But, if they are unhappy, then they may apply again in the second or third rounds.

Here’s what the RSD website reveals:

“The system matched 90 percent of entering kindergarten and rising ninth grade applicants to one of their top three school choices In non-transition grades, 70 percent of applicants were matched to a top choice; and in pre-kindergarten, where the demand for seats is greater than the supply, 75 percent of students were matched to one of their top choices.”

Source: http://www.rsdla.net/apps/news/show_news.jsp?REC_ID=310270&id=0

 

So, let’s be very clear.

  • The system assigns children to schools. Parents do NOT choose;
  • In total, 80 percent of applicants were assigned to a top 3 school choice, of which only 61% were assigned to their Rank 1 selection.

But, it’s even harder, in some ways, to leave your school. Why? Because once everyone has been assigned there are very few available places.

“Prior to the beginning of the third week of August and after February 1, a family requesting admission to a school other than the one they were assigned to or currently attend can submit a Placement Exception Request (PER).”

So, parents need to complete a form and seek permission to leave their school.

Call that parent choice?

 

Here’s what the website says:

“All PER requests must be approved by the RSD and are pending seat availability. PER requests must address a particular “hardship” and must be submitted with accompanying paperwork. The hardship criteria are Medical Hardship, Safety Transfers, Travel Hardship, Childcare Hardship and Transfer to a Specialised Program.”

So, being disappointed with the school and wanting to vote with your feet is not an option!

Finally, we come to the last choice that is missing: the right to send your child to the local, neighbourhood public school. That right has been taken away by the privatisation movement.

 

In New Zealand, parent survey research shows that only 6% of New Zealand primary and intermediate school parents say their child was attending a school that was not their family’s first choice; and the equivalent figure for secondary parents is 9%. [Source: NZCER Surveys: 2013 (Primary and Intermediate) and 2012 (Secondary)]

So, 94% of New Zealand primary/intermediate school parents and 91% of secondary parents are satisfied with their first choice school.

Contrast that to the 61% first choice figure achieved in the RSD in New Orleans and you can readily see that New Zealand parents already have more effective school choice options available to them than their counterparts in a privatised system.

 

Martin Thrupp talks National Standards and RAINs

What did the RAINs project find about National Standards?

The Increasingly Murky World of “Public” Funding but “Private” Operation

QPEC logo no borderPress Release: Quality Public Education Coalition – QPEC.

The issues behind the referral of the Te Kohanga Reo National Trust subsidiary to the Serious Fraud Office by the Minister of Education illustrate the growing complexities of where, how and by whom public funds are ultimately spent.

Recent trends in how public services are delivered have highlighted the problems that are more likely to arise because privately controlled and operated entities are not subject to the same level of scrutiny as public operations.

As the Minister, Hekia Parata said in her press release:

“The challenge remains in all of this for the trust to provide more transparency and accountability, and to do so in a way that allows the Government, the public and its movement to have confidence in it.’’

QPEC supports this principle. But QPEC also feels strongly that the same principle should apply to other instances where public funds make up the majority – if not all – of the income of a privately controlled entity.

This applies to charter schools, which, by definition, are publically funded but privately operated and fall outside of the full ambit of public sector transparency and scrutiny.

State and state-integrated schools have parent-elected Boards of Trustees that must hold open meetings and maintain open records, as our local body governments do. All such meetings are open to any member of the public to attend.

In addition, these schools are subject to the Official Information Act, whereas charter schools are explicitly exempt from the OIA.

The Minister of Education should be consistent and insist on greater transparency from her charter school experiment.

Charter School Arrogance versus the Public Interest – QPEC

QPEC logo landscape larger

The release yesterday of the parties interested in establishing a charter school has, yet again, signalled an utter contempt for the public interest, says QPEC (Quality Public Education Coalition)

Only last year, Ombudsman Professor Ron Paterson ruled that a more informed public discourse about the creation of such schools is in the public interest.

In particular, the Ombudsman stated:

“I do not accept the Ministry’s position that later disclosure of the information at issue will satisfy that public interest. Disclosure after the Minister has taken decisions on the applications may serve the public interest in accountability, but it would not satisfy the public interest in the public being informed, and being able to participate in the debate, about the creation of partnership schools prior to those decisions being taken.” [emphasis added]

Yesterday the Ministry of Education named the parties who have lodged applications to run a charter school.

It also released the minutes of a meeting held by the “Partnership Schools Authorisation Board” held on 5 February 2014. It contained the timetable for evaluating second round applications, which closed on 11 March.

Disturbingly, it is clear that applications have been evaluated, shortlisted and clarified all behind closed doors. Shortlisted applicants were scheduled to be interviewed during the week of 12 to 16 May.

Once again, there is no opportunity for any public engagement with the Authorisation Board and no chance for those affected by the opening of a new charter school to have their say.

In contrast, in many jurisdictions in the USA, charter school applications are subject to far greater scrutiny. For example, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education requires public hearings in the areas where charter schools are proposed to be located and invites written submissions from the public on shortlisted applicants.

This example is streets ahead of the secrecy and lack of accountability that has characterised the introduction of this ideology in New Zealand.

It shows an utter contempt for the democratic process and the right of the public to have a say in how their considerable funds are being spent.

 

QPEC Release: 60th anniversary of Brown v Board of Education:  One of the landmark civil rights cases of our time

segregation brown v board of education

Saturday 17 May marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark civil rights case, Brown v Board of Education, the US Supreme Court’s 1954 decision that prohibited Southern states from segregating schools by race.

In a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the Court annihilated the “separate but equal” doctrine previously sanctioned by the Supreme Court in 1896 that permitted states and school districts to designate some schools “whites only” and others “Negroes only”.

The decision fuelled a wave of freedom rides, sit-ins, voter registration efforts and many other actions leading ultimately to major civil rights legislation through the late 1950s and 1960s.

The plaintiffs’ chief attorney, Thurgood Marshall, later became the first African-American justice appointed to the Supreme Court, in 1967.   He served on the Court for 24 years in a fruitless struggle to prevent the perpetuation of school segregation.

So, as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the decision, has the promise of Brown v Board of Education been met?

The unequivocal answer is No.

  • Initial school integration gains following Brown stalled and black children are more racially and socio-economically isolated today than they were in the late 1960s.
  • The academic achievement of African Americans has improved dramatically in recent decades, but whites’ has as well, so racial achievement gaps remain large.
  • Inequalities in resources between schools has reduced but resource equality is insufficient; disadvantaged students require much greater resources than middle-class white students to prepare for success in school.
  • Schools remain segregated today because neighbourhoods in which they are located are segregated.

As we consider the current wave of “education reform” ideas that is now unfolding in New Zealand, one of the most controversial is charter schools.

One unfortunate finding, that is not widely discussed, is the observation that charter schools in the USA are more segregated than traditional public schools, according to a 2010 report by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The Report found that seventy percent of black charter school students across the USA attended “racially isolated” schools, twice as many as the share in traditional public schools.

A “racially isolated” school is where more than 90% of the students are from disadvantaged minority groups.

It is important to reflect back on the finding in Brown v Board of Education that “separate education facilities are inherently unequal”.

Proponents of charter schools in the USA believe they are giving opportunities to low-income and minority students that they otherwise would not have had.

But we need to be very clear that both the PISA international assessments and the work of the OECD on teacher quality underline very strongly that the socio-economic status of students and schools explain the vast majority of the variation in student performance.

That finding alone is certainly not a strong recommendation for policies that further increase the segregation of schools.

It is not that governments have an agenda to increase segregation.  But it is important that government does not exacerbate the problem of segregation by ignoring the unintended consequences of its policies.

New Zealand has a proud record of quality public education for all.  We must guard against any policy initiative that has the potential to fragment and weaken our education system.

– QPEC (Quality Public Education Coalition)

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

Note: this release is based mainly on releases in the USA written by Richard Rothstein, of the Economic Policy Institute, and Iris C Rotberg, of George Washington University.

separate not equal

 

NZ’s Charter Schools Small and Expensive – QPEC

NZ’s charter schools are proving to be small and expensive, according to figures obtained under the Official Information Act.

The 1 March roll returns confirm a total of only 367 students were enrolled in the first five charter schools, which makes this an expensive experiment”, says QPEC Chairperson Bill Courtney.

In contrast to their small size, there is a high level of cash funding, as detailed payments obtained under the Official Information Act show quite clearly.”

Over $6 million has been paid out to the sponsors of these schools in one-off, non-recoverable Establishment Payments.

In addition, the regular Operational funding is proving to be higher than local State schools in the same area.

If the purpose of charter schools was to create alternatives in places such as South Auckland, then the funding comparisons need to be fair.

Our point is simple: if the government is prepared to throw that much funding at charter schools, then why aren’t they prepared to do the same for ALL the children of South Auckland? Give them all a chance!”

Small Size

The first five charter schools commenced operation this year. Sponsor contracts and the Roll Returns as at 1 March 2014 (released on the Education Counts website) reveal the following:

School

Establishment Payment

(one-off)

Guaranteed

Minimum Roll

Maximum

Roll

Actual Roll

@ 1 March

South Auckland Middle School

$1,019,533

90

120

108

Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru

$1,379,150*

71

128

63

Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa

$1.880,693

50

300

50

Rise Up Academy

$391,945

50

100

42

Vanguard Military School

$1,611,534

108

192

104

Total

$6,282,855

369

840

367

* The Whangaruru school also received part of its operational property funding in advance to assist with property development.

So, to date, the Ministry of Education has paid a total of $6.28 million in one-off Establishment Payments to the Sponsors of the schools. Costs have also been incurred, no doubt, inside the Ministry to assist the schools to open.

Based on the 1 March roll returns, two schools have opened at or above the contractual Guaranteed Minimum Roll for 2014 while three are below.

A significant proportion of the Operational funding for each school comprises Base Funding and allowances for Property and Insurance, to ensure the schools are viable. These figures are based on the Maximum Roll for each school, i.e. what is estimated as necessary to fund the schools as they grow towards their target roll.

The “Per Student” and the “Centrally Funded” components of the Operational Payment are based initially on the Guaranteed Minimum Roll and will vary in future as the school roll changes.

The following breakdown of the annual Operational Payment for 2014 paid to each school has been obtained from the Ministry of Education under the Official Information Act.

School

Property / Insurance

Base Funding

Centrally Funded

Per Student

Operational

Payment ($ p.a.)

$ per student based on 1 March Roll

South Auckland Middle School

303,684

571,448

24,840

440,972

1,340,944

12,416

Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru

111,574

997,044

19,596

380,347

1,508,561

23,945

Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa

737,936

997,044

13,800

267,850

2,016,630

40,333

Rise Up Academy

91,236

145,856

13,800

233,552

484,444

11,534

Vanguard Military School

518,396

997,044

29,808

578,556

2,123,804

20,421

Total

$7,474,383

State School Funding

Comparisons between the funding model for charter schools and the funding for State schools are not straightforward. Differences arise in how several of the component parts of the funding model are treated.

Charter schools receive all of their funding through a “cashed up” approach, where every component is paid in cash direct to the Sponsor on a quarterly basis.

State schools receive their funding in various ways, with only the Operations Grant paid directly to the school as a cash sum. In addition, each State school receives a Teaching Entitlement, based on its size and roll. Boards of Trustees employ the principals and teachers, who are paid through the centrally operated payroll system but with their costs charged back against the Board’s accounts.

Funding for property maintenance is paid in cash through the Operations Grant but funding for property development and capital works is funded centrally through an allocation set every 5 years for each school.

It is possible to make a direct comparison between one of the charter schools, The Rise Up Academy, and local state schools. Rise Up is a Year 1 to 6 primary school located in Mangere and its funding can be compared to the other local state primary schools in the Mangere/Otahuhu area.

The following table shows the detailed information shown for each school on the Education Counts website, under the information tab “Find A School”.

School

Decile

Roll

Operations

Teacher Salaries

Total

Funding per student

Fairburn

2

687

1,162,552

2,750,490

3,913,042

5,696

Favona

1

451

748,067

1,932,585

2,680,652

5,944

Jean Batten

2

450

838,490

1,976,040

2,814,530

6,255

Kingsford

1

394

744,573

1,508,605

2,253,178

5,719

Mangere Bridge

4

388

498,868

1,555,867

2,054,735

5,296

Mangere East

1

513

852,429

2,064,544

2,916,973

5,686

Mountain View

2

280

559,773

1,308,006

1,867,779

6,671

Nga Iwi

1

423

738,361

1,841,137

2,579,498

6,098

Otahuhu

1

480

873,042

2,128,749

3,001,791

6,254

Waterlea

6

421

467,392

1,737,709

2,205,101

5,238

Total

4,487

$26,287,279

$5,859

This table does not include capital property funding or the access that State schools would have had to Centrally Funded services, such as Resource Teachers. But it must also be noted that State school property expenditure will be on assets that the Crown owns and retains after development. Boards of Trustees have significant influence over how this property development takes place at their school, but in the end, the asset is on the Crown balance sheet and not that of the Board of Trustees.

~ QPEC (Quality Public Education Coalition)

Hoping for some honest answers on charter schools

 

bagbreatheTeachers don’t often switch off.  A good friend refers to holidays as “non-contact” time. And given our government’s habit of pushing through major education legislation during the holidays, you start to feel like those kids in Jurassic Park, sheltering and hyper-aware of every movement as the velociraptors keep testing for gaps in the perimeter.

Saturday’s the one morning I do try to disengage the teacher brain and enjoy a meander round our local farmers’ market with my mum. But this weekend, the Act party were on the “community group” stall – including the Epsom candidate, David Seymour, who assisted John Banks with the drafting of Act’s charter schools policy.

I’ve read and archived more than 500 articles and op-eds on the decimation of American public schooling in favour of charter schools; that virtual pinboard records the same cynical treatment of state schools in the UK – and now here. It fills me with a cold anger that this is being done to students, teachers and schools. Community as a concept is avidly being unpicked. And schools are some of the nicest communities I’ve ever experienced, held together by a lot of personal sacrifice. Targeting them seems like the educational equivalent of harp-seal clubbing.

So this was a chance to talk to the people who are doing things to education – and fair play, Seymour was fronting up in public. Some other politicians who are neck-deep in this aren’t very good at that.

The charter schools pilot makes me want to grab a paper bag and breathe into it vigorously. Part of my job is to promote scientific thinking in children. It’s the simplest of bottom lines: you keep all variables but the one you’re examining the same for it to be a fair test. Charter school students were receiving more funding per head than public school students, and class sizes were 12-15 compared to 28+ in public schools. So that was one of the questions I put to Mr Seymour – how can this test be called “fair”?

The information on funding is “untrue”  and class sizes “will grow,” he said. But, I said, that’s not what some charter schools are advertising on radio.
I was then informed that it was a “natural experiment”, and results would be “corrected”, controlling for covariates after the trial.  I did a bit more reading later on – yes, they are an option when testing in science. The following gave me slight pause:
“Natural experiments are employed as study designs when controlled experimentation is extremely difficult to implement or unethical, such as in several research areas addressed by epidemiology (e.g., evaluating the health impact of varying degrees of exposure to ionizing radiation in people living near Hiroshima at the time of the atomic blast) and economics (e.g., estimating the economic return on amount of schooling in US adults.”

(Also see this paper  and this paper for a deeper discussion of this type of test.)

Apparently I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist’ for believing that charter schools are the beginning of privatisation by stealth, no matter how much evidence there is for it in America and the United Kingdom. But you heard it here first, and I asked if I could quote him on it: schools will not be forcibly privatised against the wishes of their communities, as is happening in Britain. I look forward to following that up.

I asked him about the effect of competition on the thing that makes good education: sharing of knowledge and resources. He hadn’t heard of the charter school in New York visited by a New Zealand teacher, where all doors, windows and cupboards are locked – not because it’s a dangerous neighbourhood, but because teachers are worried about others “stealing” their ideas.

Seymour challenged me on what I would do with a middle school like the one he attended, where children were apparently allowed to run around and do whatever they liked. (Aren’t there mechanisms in place already? Commissioners?) He also asked if I had visited any of the charter schools myself – the people behind them were all good people, doing good things. I asked him if he’d visited any of the schools in the area where I work to see the good things they were doing, too.

Seymour was lukewarm on the idea of National Standards – shock! common ground? – but it’s because they run counter to Act’s ideas of “freedom” from government control. It was my first real-life encounter with someone who believes so fervently in decentralisation, and it was a strange feeling. Like standing on opposite sides of a Wile E Coyote canyon and trying to make ourselves understood.

It was also fairly heartbreaking to hear an older supporter on the stand, someone kind enough to volunteer to read with children at a school in an area of very high need, ask “Why can’t we just give it a go? Why can’t we have a choice?”

If it really was just about choice, and getting the best deal for our kids, and the public system wasn’t steadily being undermined at the same time, maybe I wouldn’t be so angry.
So I left, feeling like I’d engaged in some harp-seal clubbing of my own in directing that beam of fury at the two ACT supporter ladies. (And embarrassed that I’d lost track of time and stood Dianne up for breakfast.)

Funny how a day can pan out, however. Later at the Quality Public Education Coalition forum, chairman Bill Courtney caused heads to swivel when he greeted Alwyn Poole in the audience before giving an update on charter schools. Poole is the principal of Mt Hobson Middle School. He’s also a member of the Villa Education Trust, whose South Auckland Middle School is one of the first in the charter schools pilot.

What a magnificent thing it was to be able to ask questions openly of someone involved in this, and to receive frank answers. (At last!) And to know that this person has extensive experience in education (and multiple teaching qualifications).

Courtney’s talk used South Auckland Middle School’s figures to explain how funding has been allocated. He also made the point that the charter school model has been hijacked by the privatisation movement. One of the first proponents of the idea, Albert Shanker, saw it as a way to allow teachers greater autonomy, to engage the students who weren’t being served by normal schools.

This sounds like what Poole’s schools have been able to do: Poole said he works with children with needs like dyslexia or Asperger’s, or kids who need a “boost” at middle school level. He was asked why couldn’t he achieve it within the system as a special character school. In 2002, that option was “blocked”. They were looking for “ways of expanding what we do”, so applied for the partnership school option.

The school doesn’t carry the same infrastructure as state schools, principals do admin and teach, and they have “a nice lease agreement”. They also have qualified teachers and teach to the New Zealand Curriculum.

Poole was also asked if some of the biggest barriers to learning faced by many schools in Manukau, such as transience, were problems for his school. Transience, less so, but they have had a small degree of truancy (10 hours), and two students had a conflict and left during the school day.

 

Chest

Class size, and the basic mathematics of time for giving one-to-one support, seems to me to be the elephant in the educational tent. It’s splitting it at the seams as most politicians studiously try to avoid treading in its dung.

Unlike many politicians, Poole openly acknowledges that their 1:15 ratio is part of their success in helping students. Why not campaign for the same ratio for state schools? an audience member asked.
Poole:  “We love our 1:15 ratio and we would advocate for it very strongly.”

Poole said that they’ve also applied to the Ministry for funding to evaluate their model with the help of the University of Florida.

I went up to him afterwards to say thank you, and realised he must have seen some of my trail of articles on charters on the SOSNZ Facebook page (eek).

We touched on something that came up when he spoke to us: dyslexia. When I was a BT, I had a fantastic student who was also dyslexic.  I also had a fairly big class and very basic training in how best to support him, but fortunately, he had a proactive mum who could share her knowledge. I still collect resources now based on what I wish I could have done for him.
Poole started to talk about the things they do, and there was that moment, that neat spark you get when you meet another teacher who might have the solution for the child that you want to help, who will no doubt share it with you, because that’s what we’re both here for, after all.

And that’s what I find hardest to accept: we have educators being pitted against educators in this. Experience, training and knowledge is being dissed.

When stuff like this is happening, the problem is now having faith that the current Ministry of Education is “getting out of bed every morning”, as Courtney put it, with their main aim being to guarantee every child a quality education.
But as Courtney notes, there is no official, publicly available ‘Isaac Report’ to enlighten us on the findings of Catherine Isaac’s working party.  There is no attempt to be scientific and explain how the government intends to evaluate the pilot schools, and the concept. Instead there’s a second round of schools funded before any meaningful data has been generated by the first.

There’s not a recognition that public schools overseas are still managing to deliver results, even though they’re being treated like the Black Knight in Monty Python, battling on and squirting blood as another limb gets lopped off.

I got a lot of answers on Saturday. Now I have a new question. Will all educators – partnership school and state – be willing to dare to do what annoyed Tau Henare so much about the Problem Gambling Foundation: stand together to “bag the hand that feeds them” and oppose the secretive development of policy that serves ideology – not kids?

Screen-Shot-2014-03-21-at-7.47.40-pm

An Invitation to the Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC): Education Forum, 26th April

QPEC logo no borderYou are invited to attend the Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) Education Forum this Saturday.

It will be a great chance to hear the latest experts such as John O’Neill, Martin Thrupp, Warwick Elley, and the chance to discuss your own concerns at the Teacher Forum – and all for FREE.

The Teacher Forum is focusing on Investing in Success (IES) and, to my mind, is not to be missed.  Many well informed people are attending, including Liz Horgan of St Joseph’s, Otahuhu, who will discuss how a group of principals have joined forces to form the CONCERNED NZ PRINCIPALS GROUP because of serious concerns around IES plans.

You can attend any or all of the forum, so do feel free to drop in even if you have only one speaker you really want to hear.  (But truly, you should stay for more than one session – it’s not often you get to hear from all of these people first hand and for free.)

 

WHEN: Saturday 26 April 2014, from 10am.

WHERE: St Columba Centre, 40 Vermont Street, Ponsonby, Auckland

COST:  FREE to all

 

AGENDA

 

10:00 Bill Courtney

Welcome and Overview

 

10:15 John O’Neill

Treasury Business Process Theory and the Assessment of Teacher Quality

The major research paper, “The Assessment of Teacher Quality” was released late last year by the Massey Education Policy Response Group, led by Ivan Snook. EPRG member, John O’Neill, will give an overview of this major paper, containing a wealth of information on many topics relevant to current discussions: the Treasury Business Process policy agenda; assessing teacher effectiveness; Value Added Measurement; and High Stakes Assessment of teachers.

 

10:45 Teacher Forum

“Investing in Educational Success” – the NZ Government initiative.

What are the potential positives and what are the concerns around the NZ Government proposal to create a new set of positions for principals and teachers? QPEC’s initial position was set out in a release issued in January. Martin Thrupp has also released a personal statement and Warwick Elley has had an op-ed published in the NZ Herald.

Liz Horgan of St Joseph’s, Otahuhu, will discuss the CONCERNED NZ PRINCIPALS GROUP’s views.

Representatives from PPTA and NZEI present different perspectives on how these new positions could impact on schools and teachers.

11:15 Martin Thrupp

National Standards and RAINS: where to now?

Martin’s 3-year case study of six individual schools has now concluded. He presents an overview of his findings and gives an update on other developments, including further publication of NS achievement data last year.

 

11:45 Warwick Elley

What Can PISA tell us about NCEA and National Standards?

Warwick has been a concerned critic of standards-based assessment for many years. He has analysed the recent PISA 2012 results and he has a stark warning: “As professionals, teachers are charged to give highest priority to the needs of their students. If we persist with these ill-starred standards-based schemes, we will surely be neglecting those needs. As a nation, too, we are now heavily involved in a race to the bottom.”

 

12:15 Bill Courtney

Charter Schools: What’s The Buzz?

The first five charter schools have now opened. Bill gives a quick update on current issues that have arisen so far, including details of the funding given to each school, which has received a great deal of media attention. Applications for the next round of allocations closed on 11 March.

 

12:45 General Discussion – Other Sectors

 

LUNCH BREAK 1.15-2.00

 

2.00 Dianne Khan

Using Social Media to Disseminate Information & Encourage Involvement

Dianne has joined QPEC during the past year. Dianne publishes her own website, Save Our Schools NZ, and she is also one of the regular contributors to The Daily Blog. Dianne will talk about her website and using social media to stimulate interest in the site.

 

2:30-3.00 QPEC AGM

Please note that the QPEC AGM 2.30-3.00 is members only.

 

QPEC logo landscape larger

Education and the ACT Party

The Party of American Crackpot Theories, otherwise known as the ACT Party, holds its 2014 Party Conference this weekend.

The Johns

The Johns

The Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) has put together a handy set of pointers to help reporters covering the conference to get to the “nitty gritty” of ACT’s Education policies.

1. Let’s call a spade a spade
ACT hides behind the nice phrase “Choice” when it talks about the charter school model imported from the USA. But Choice is just the euphemism used in America to describe the privatisation of public education. Why don’t they come clean and call it that so we can see what they really mean?

Diane Ravitch, US Education Commentator and author of “Reign Of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools”:

“Reformers don’t like to mention the word “privatisation”, although this is indeed the driving ideological force behind the movement. “Choice” remains the preferred word, since it suggests that parents should be seen as consumers with the ability to exercise their freedom to leave one school and select another. The new movement for privatisation has enabled school choice to transcend its tarnished history as an escape route for Southern whites who sought to avoid court-ordered desegregation in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Rodney Hide op-ed Herald, 18 August 2013: “Magic wand wasted on John Key”

“If you could wave a wand and change overnight one policy to make our country better, what would it be? Mine would be to privatise all schools. I would kick government totally out of anything to do with the schooling of children.

 

2. New Zealand already has loads of “Choice” within our education system.
Two comments by Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy in the USA:

“The country with the most aggressive school choice system in the world is probably New Zealand.” Source: Washington Post, 12 October 2012.

“New Zealand has embraced choice as a value and has developed policies that provide widespread choice for parents and students among public schools. But there is no evidence that these choice and market mechanisms have improved student performance overall and the research that has been done appears to show that there was greater inequality in student performance after such systems were installed than there was before they were introduced. ” Source: Edweek blog: “Choice and Markets: Theory and Practice”, 28 September 2012.

The Treasury ideology of the 1980s drove the introduction of the quasi-competitive model known as “Tomorrow’s Schools”. Add in the State-Integrated, Kura, Special Character and others and we have a host of choices available. But does it work? Has more choice improved student achievement?

3. Where is the Isaac Report?
Former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac, was the perfect political choice to head the NZ Model of Charter School Working Group. She was paid $33,890.31, including reimbursed expenses.

But WHERE is her report?

What has guided the introduction of the charter school concept into New Zealand, when we already have so much “Choice” available? Where is the evidence to support claims that charter schools in New Zealand will lead to better outcomes for students?

Evidence: OIA request response from the Ministry of Education, dated 8 August 2013:

“The Working Group did not produce any reports, advice or recommendations to the aforementioned Ministers. However, their views were captured in four documents that were produced by the Ministry of Education.”

4. “Choice” just doesn’t work – and that’s official!
Andreas Schleicher of the OECD in a UK interview, 3 December 2013:

“My organisation [the OECD] is very strong on choice, enabling citizens to make choices, and you would expect that systems with greater choice would come out better. But in fact you don’t see that correlation… Competition alone is not a predictor of better outcomes. The UK is a good example – it has a highly competitive school system but it is still only an average performer.

Our data doesn’t show much of a performance difference between public and charter and private schools once you account for social background.”

Bill Courtney
Quality Public Education Coalition
27 February 2014
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2012/10/12/why-the-market-theory-of-education-reform-doesnt-work/
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2012/09/choice_and_markets_theory_and_practice.html
http://news.tes.co.uk/b/news/2013/12/03/uk-shows-great-school-choice-does-not-equal-higher-standards-according-to-pisa.aspx

QPEC comment on yesterday’s education policy annoucement

QPEC logo no borderFirst, QPEC (Quality Public Education Coalition) welcomes the government’s intention to increase funding for education. However, we are concerned that the policy on school principals and teachers, while providing some potential positive measures, continues to miss the most important point.

Prime Minister John Key continues to state that “A mountain of evidence shows that the quality of teaching – inside the classroom – is the biggest influence on kids’ achievement.”
But this approach takes the focus away from what we know about student achievement.

As the OECD has made clear before:
“The first and most solidly based finding is that the largest source of variation in student learning is attributable to differences in what students bring to school – their abilities and attitudes, and family and community background.”
Source: OECD 2005 Report titled “Teachers matter: Attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers”.

So, while initiatives that may help improve teaching career paths and keep good teachers in the classroom are a positive step, they may not be sufficient to make a real difference to the students who need our support the most.

Much of the focus of the policy is on school principals. However, the research evidence demonstrates that the most important work takes place in the classroom. It is possible that these policies will offer some top-down skills that will help improve student learning in the classroom further. How widespread that effect will be remains to be seen.

Nevertheless, this is rather a banker’s solution – providing additional top-down expertise, and very highly paid at that, rather than a workforce development approach. As such, its success is not assured.

Much will depend on the quality and focus of the so-called experts. Another problem that comes to mind is location. Many of the schools that need a lot of support are not close to other schools where some of these experts will be based. And how much of the additional funding will simply find its way to the large, affluent urban schools that already post high achievement results?

What is a failing school and where will the Change Principals be deployed? The link between socio-economic factors, cultural factors and schooling outcomes are highly embedded and resistant to change. And what is it that the Change Principals are expected to change? The notion that one person can single-handedly overcome the power of social forces, social inequalities and community deprivation is a bit of a fairy tale.

QPEC strongly encourages co-operation and collaboration within and across schools. But we are concerned that so-called Executive Principals are expected to make a real difference in up to ten schools working only two days a week on this task. Who are these gurus, these exceptional people? Has To Sir with Love come to life in NZ’s education policy? Is this reasonable?

Any policy that values teacher skills and supports the development of their roles is heading in the right direction. But QPEC would prefer bottom up policies to trickle down ones.

We are sceptical of this policy but it may do some good work in practice. If so, it will largely be due to the dedication and determination of educational professionals on the ground.”

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.

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More from QPEC: http://qpec.xleco.com/

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