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Teachers Propping Up the NZ School System With Their Own Money

SOSNZ surveyed New Zealand teachers about the amount of their own money they spend on school supplies, and the results are astonishing.

In reply to the question “Have you ever spent your own money buying supplies for your own class?”, 100% of respondents said yes.

A huge 86% of teachers said they have spent their own money on supplies every year they have worked, an additional 12% said they have spent their own money most years, and 2% said they had done it a few years. Nobody said they had never done so.

In short, NZ teachers are propping up the school system with their own money.

How much are teachers spending?

The survey asked “How much do you estimate you have spent on essential work supplies over your entire teaching career?”, and a stunning 32% of teachers responded that they SOSNZ Teacher Spend Survey, May 2018have spent over five thousand dollars of their own money so far. $5000! That’s a significant sum, especially when we consider the large proportion of teachers that don’t stay in the job for more than 5 years.

A total of 69% said in their teaching careers they have so far spent over $1000, 19% said it was $501-$1000, 10% said $101-$500, and one lucky respondent said they had spent ‘only’ $1-$100. All respondents had spent something.

When asked what they had spent on supplies this year alone (bearing in mind we have only had around 14 school weeks so far), 65% of teachers have spent between $100 and $500. A lucky 4% had spent nothing, and 24% up to $100. But a worrying 4% have spent $501-$1000 and an alarming 2% have spent over a thousand dollars.

What are teachers buying?

Respondents were asked to “Tick all of the things you have spent your own money purchasing for any school while you were employed there”. According to their responses:

93% bought small in-class storage (e.g. tubs, buckets, containers)

91% bought display materials (e.g. borders, background materials, pegs, clips, etc)

88% bought baking and cooking supplies for student use

87% bought pens and pencils for students, and 85% bought them for their own use

Over 80% bought highlighters/vivids/board pens for their own use, posters for display, and maths supplies such as games, dice, cubes, flashcards, clocks, measuring jugs etc.

74% had bought reading books for their classroom, and 74% had bought art supplies. Purchases for topic studies also came in at 74%.

Almost three quarters of teachers are buying modelling books for group and whole-class activities, and over half of teachers have bought students workbooks.

In addition to own-class supplies, 45% of teachers responded that they had spent their own money on supplies for the wider school – e.g. for the library, office, copier room or resource room.

This is a breakdown of all responses:

Pens/pencils for students’ use

85%

Pens/pencils for your own use

87%

Rulers/glue sticks for students’ use

64%

Rulers/glue sticks for your own use

68%

Highlighters/vivids for students’ use

65%

Highlighters/vivids/board pens for own use

84%

Work books for students’ use

56%

Teacher modelling books

72%

Display materials (e.g. borders, background materials, pegs, clips, etc)

91%

Posters for display

84%

Art supplies (e.g. felt tips, crayons, jovis, pastels, paints, paint pots, brushes, glue, craft materials etc )

74%

Small in-class storage (e.g. tubs, buckets, containers)

93%

Large in-class or office storage (e.g. filing systems, cupboards, shelves, drawers)

53%

Soft furnishings (e.g. cushions, rugs, curtains etc)

66%

Seating  (e.g. seating pads, chairs, sofas, beanbags etc)

46%

Maths supplies (e.g. games, dice, cubes, flashcards, clocks, measuring jugs etc)

81%

Topic-specific supplies 

74%

Cookery/Baking supplies 

88%

Te Reo supplies

54%

Reading books (fiction, non-fiction, reference)

 72%

Furniture & Furnishings

The above figures show that teachers are even buying furniture for their classrooms.

Just over 50% said they had bought large in-class or work office storage such as filing systems, cupboards, shelves, and drawers. 66% had also bought soft furnishings such as cushions, rugs and curtains, and almost 50% said they had bought seating such as seating pads, chairs, sofas, beanbags for their classrooms.

It’s alarming that so many teachers are having to buy their own essential work-space furniture. Does Ministry account for teachers’ administrative needs when new classrooms are designed? Are insufficient operational budgets being propped up by teachers’ own funds? What’s going on?

Do Teachers Mind?

The final question in this short survey asked teachers to rate on a sliding scale how they felt about paying for these supplies. The scale was:

(0) Don’t mind at all  ——————————————————— It infuriates me (100)

The mean average response was 61 points showing a large level of dissatisfaction with this situation overall, but there was quite a range in the responses: Ten percent said they don’t mind at all (responding 0 or 1), whilst 18% were infuriated (responding 90-100). Of the 18% that were most infuriated, 8% responded 100, the maximum option.

Impact on New Teachers

The SOSNZ survey didn’t ask how long the respondents had been in the profession, but it would be interesting to look into whether there is a link between yearly spend and length of service. My suspicion is that new teachers (that are paid the least) are spending most. If that’s the case, it could be a contributing factor in overall job dissatisfaction. This is an important consideration given most teachers leave the profession within the first five years, and may be worth further and deeper investigation.

Imagine…

Teachers are clearly spending significant amounts of money propping up our education system in order to give students what they need in class and to have adequate supplies for themselves, and have been doing so for quite some time.  Some overseas teachers responded to this phenomena by removing from their classrooms everything they had paid for, with startling results. I wonder, New Zealand, what would our classrooms look like if we did the same?

Fact Checker: David Seymour and “School Choice”

The ACT Party’s ideological bent for privatisation is clear when David Seymour talks about the government’s decision to “take school choice away” from kids if his charter school model is abolished.

But the New Zealand system already has a remarkable variety of options available without the need to privatise the provision of public education.

US commentator, Marc Tucker, had this to say on “school choice” in an article that appeared in the Washington Post, in October 2012:

“The country with the most aggressive school choice system in the world is probably New Zealand”

And that was before we introduced the charter school ideology!

Mr Seymour might also want to check the views of parents a bit more widely than asking the National Party pollster, David Farrar, to run a poll for him.

Regular surveys of New Zealand parents carried out by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER), have consistently found that around 90% of both primary school and secondary school parents state that their child is attending the school of their choice.

And these numbers have hardly changed over the 25 years or so that NZCER has run these surveys.

Most New Zealanders understand that the phrase “School Choice” was used by Milton Friedman to advocate for the privatised, market model of education provision that he believed should replace the institution of public education.

Fortunately, the vast majority of New Zealand families do not support either the ACT Party or its ideology.

~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ

Further reading:

Parent and whānau perspectives on their child’s schooling: Findings from the NZCER national survey of primary and intermediate schools 2016, by Linda Bonne and Eliza Stevens

 

David Seymour and his charter school “facts”

David Seymour needs a reality check if he thinks that charter schools are not in trouble overseas.

Here is how Save Our Schools sees some of the key evidence:

1. Professor John Hattie, in his quantitative studies, ranks charter schools at number 183 out of the 195 policy interventions that he examined in his paper “The Politics of Distraction”.

Hattie based his analysis on no less than 246 studies and concluded that within a year or so, the “different” school becomes just another school, with all the usual issues that confront all schools.

2. Popular support for charter schools is falling in the United States. A nationwide poll conducted by the “Education Next” magazine, published by Stanford University, found that public support for charter schools has fallen by 12 percentage points, with similar drops evident among both self-described Republicans and self-described Democrats.

3. The experience in New Orleans is that the locals do not believe that the charter school miracle has worked for them. This editorial by the African American newspaper, the New Orleans Tribune, in November 2017 doesn’t pull any punches:

“It’s been 12 years since our schools were hijacked. And 12 years later, many of them are performing just as poorly as they were before they were stolen. To learn that charter operators set up goals they knew were unattainable just to get their charters approved and their hands on public money and facilities is indefensible. Unless and until these pilfering reformers are ready to admit what they did and that it was wrong and then actually return public schools to real local control without charter organizations and unelected boards that come with them under the current model of return anything else they have to say sounds pretty much like sounding brass and tinkling cymbals—a whole bunch of noise.”

4. David Seymour mentions the CREDO studies but fails to mention their main finding.

In the CREDO 2013 nationwide study, less than one hundredth of one percent of the variation in test performance is explainable by charter school enrolment. Specifically, students in charter schools were estimated to score approximately 0.01 standard deviations higher on reading tests and 0.005 standard deviations lower on math tests than their peers in traditional public schools. “With a very large sample size, nearly any effect will be statistically significant,” the reviewers, Maul and McClelland, conclude, “but in practical terms these effects are so small as to be regarded, without hyperbole, as trivial.”

The reality is simple: there is no genuine educational merit in the charter school model. As John Hattie observes, “these new forms of schools usually start with fanfare, with self-selected staff (and sometime selected students) and are sought by parents who want “something better”. But the long-term effects lead to no differences when compared with public schools.”

~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ

What’s the real reason National are implementing progress tracking via PaCT?

Saturday morning, while all sensible people were eating second breakfast and procrastinating about the weekend chores, Nikki Kaye snuck out a little education policy announcement about National Standards.

That it came out in such an understated way was made even more odd when, on Sunday, National gave us a second three-pronged education policy announcement – and this one was an all-singing, all-dancing affair with hundreds of waving, cheering National supporters in tow.

Leaving Sunday’s announcement to one side for now, I want you to ask yourself  why was one single policy put out separately? Why the day before the bigger announcement? Why not include it in the main announcement? is it that bad that it has to be hidden away? Ponder that as you read on.

The policy announced on Saturday is that National will implement ‘National Standards Plus’. This will require teachers to input National Standards data into the ‘Progress and Consistency Tool’ (PaCT), a computer programme that ostensibly exists to take test results and use them to spit out a child’s attainment level against National Standards. PaCT will then, we are told, use students’ data to calculate their progress so that we can see the ‘value added’ to any student over a given time. It sounds quite sensible on the face of it. Who wouldn’t want to know how a child is progressing?

Input the data and voila!

And it might be good if it weren’t for a couple of pesky details.

First of all, if the data going in is not reliable then the data coming out isn’t either. Or as computer folk like to call it, GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out.

GOGI Dilbert

Problems with the unreliability of National Standards are well known. Professor Martin Thrupp outlined these issues and how they relate to PaCT in his second Research, Analysis and Insight into National Standards (RAINS) Project report, saying:

“If the Progress and Consistency Tool [PaCT] to be made mandatory by the Government is mainly intended as a form of national moderation for [Overall Teacher Judgement] -making, then it can be expected to be an expensive failure. This is because it will not be able to address many of the various influences and pressures schools and teachers face, illustrated by this report, that will lead schools to take different ‘readings’ of the National Standards and of OTJs. “

So, issues with the reliability of National Standards data relating to students are the first key problem: GIGO.

The other elephant in the room, glaring over from the sidelines, is PaCT’s role in teacher evaluation.

The announced change in how PaCT is used will see students’ data being recorded against their teachers. Again, this seems useful at first glance. Surely, people say, that would help evaluate which teachers are doing the best job? But it’s not that simple.

One issue is that students often have a burst of learning after work by many teachers over a number of years, and to attribute that only to the teacher they are currently with would be incorrect. For example, for year 0-2 teachers, it can be quite some time before the fruits of their labours come to fruition, and to attribute all gains made, say, in Year 3 to just the Year 3 teacher would be erroneous.

So GIGO problems apply as much to PaCT data relating to teachers as to students, rendering it far too unreliable to accurately judge a teacher’s impact on a student’s learning.

Nikki Kaye assured me today via Twitter that PaCT will not be used to implement performance pay, but as one of the software engineers that built PaCT warned me almost a decade ago that the capacity for this has been built into the system, this remains a concern.

All in all, this new policy seems to be a poorly thought out move. While National Standards continue to be anything but standard, PaCT will only ever be the lipstick on the National Standards pig. In other words, you can pretty National Standards up any way you want, they are still just plain shonky.

So the question remains, what’s the real reason for National implementing progress tracking via PaCT?

~ Dianne

Further reading:

Research, Analysis and Insight into National Standards (RAINS) Project – Final Report: National Standards and the Damage Done, by Martin Thrupp & Michelle White, November 2013

The Search for Better Educational Standards – A Cautionary Tale, by Martin Thrupp, (ISBN 978-3-319-61959-0)

 

 

 

 

On the Saga of Misinterpreting Student Achievement Performance Standards at NZ Charter Schools

Bill Courtney

Bill Courtney

The purpose of this report, prepared by Bill Courtney of Save Our Schools NZ, is to document several matters relating to the various quantitative measures that have been used to report student achievement in the charter secondary schools, across both 2014 and 2015.

The main observation is that, in respect of 2014 achievement, the performance standard originally set out in the charter school Agreement, the Ministry’s interpretation of this, the achievement reported by the schools and the reported achievement in the Ministry’s publicly available database, Education Counts, are all different! (See Reporting Summary table on p. 2 of full report)

One of the most significant implications of these differences in interpretation is that, on the recommendation of the Ministry, the Minister approved the release of the 1% operational funding retention amount, relating to the 2014 year, for both Vanguard and Paraoa. However, Vanguard did not meet its NCEA L2 Target and Paraoa did not meet either its Level 1 or Level 2 Target.

In July 2016, the Ministry finally acknowledged that there were “issues” related to the current NCEA performance standards as being applied to charter schools. This admission raises serious concerns about the mantra underpinning the charter school approach, which is described as: “Rigorous accountability against clearly agreed objectives.

In a paper to the Minister, it recommended a new set of performance standards be utilised in the Third Round contracts that were signed in August 2016. These will use two new roll-based NCEA pass rate measures along with a clearly stated “School Leaver” measure, calculated in the normal manner.

However, the same paper redacted the sections referring to “Next Steps” that might suggest how the Ministry is going to evaluate the performance of the existing First and Second Round schools on an on-going basis.

At time of writing, the Ministry has published its initial analysis of the schools relating to the 2015 year using what it has described as the “current” interpretation of the performance measures. But it had not yet made any recommendations regarding the 1% retention amounts for 2015.

In order to provide a more comprehensive overview of performance, I have included in the full report data from the Education Counts system-wide data spreadsheets, based on the “School Leavers” metric. These show charter school achievement compared to decile 3 schools and for Maori students.

I have also included an initial analysis of information relating to the “quality” of the NCEA credits being earned by students enrolled at charter schools, based on data provided by NZQA.

Finally, I conclude with some thoughts on the implications of this bizarre outcome in what is supposedly being sold to the country as a “Contracting for Outcomes” arrangement.

You can view the full report here.

~ Save Our Schools NZ

PISA circus time again

graphYes, it’s that time again, when the OECD releases the PISA test results and Education Ministers everywhere frantically start to spin the information to justify whatever plans they already had. Statisticians in government departments everywhere lurch across desks in darkened rooms, poring over the data, eagerly cherry picking the bits that serve their Minister’s purpose. Such fun!

Then there are those dedicated researchers who put out articles quick-smart explaining why PISA is flawed and unreliable. They explain in great detail the ins and outs of data collection and test setting and statistical analysis and, despite our best efforts, maybe one in a thousand of us can follow what they are saying. But we read anyway and nod sagely. Because there are graphs and there is data, so it must be good stuff.

The media, of course, enter into some kind of Nirvana, gleefully whipping up a hoohah about countries “slipping down” or “surging up” the tables. Heaven forbid a country has the temerity to stay in the same place – how’s a journo meant to get a headline out of that kind of carry on?

Of course, in all of this madness, we could take the Yong Zhao route and denounce PISA altogether – say no to the sausage factory. But that doesn’t sell papers or make for rousing Ministerial pronouncements, or even attract blog readers, so, yeah nah.

Instead, yet again, we will be treated to the PISA circus, like it or not, so please remember to engage your critical thinking skills.

~ Dianne

Online Charter Schools – the research


Research
conducted by three independent research institutions looked into online charter schools, and their findings were released in October 2015.

The press release, with links to the full report, is here.

Report findings conclude that:

“…students of online charter schools had significantly weaker academic performance in math and reading, compared with their counterparts in conventional schools.”

Referring specifically to the question of whether the schools had helped students from low socio-economic backgrounds and/or those from minority groups, the report states that:

“This pattern of weaker growth remained consistent across racial-ethnic subpopulations and students in poverty.”

Mathematica’s analysis found:

• Student–driven, independent study is the dominant mode of learning in online charter schools, with 33 percent of online charter schools offering only self-paced instruction

• Online charter schools typically provide students with less live teacher contact time in a week than students in conventional schools have in a day

• Maintaining student engagement in this environment of limited student-teacher interaction is considered the greatest challenge by far, identified by online charter school principals nearly three times as often as any other challenge

• Online charter schools place significant expectations on parents, perhaps to compensate for limited student-teacher interaction, with 43, 56, and 78 percent of online charters at the high school, middle, and elementary grade levels, respectively, expecting parents to actively participate in student instruction

The Mathematica report concludes:

“Challenges in maintaining student engagement are inherent in online instruction, and they are exacerbated by high student teacher ratios and minimal student-teacher contact time, which the data reveal are typical of online charter schools nationwide. These findings suggest reason for concern about whether the sector is likely to be effective in promoting student achievement.”

CREDO (Stanford University)’s report concluded that:

“While findings vary for each student, the results in CREDO’s report show that the majority of online charter students had far weaker academic growth in both math and reading compared to their traditional public school peers. To conceptualize this shortfall, it would equate to a student losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math, based on a 180-day school year.”

In other words, most students lost the equivalent of just under half a year’s learning in reading and made absolutely no progress in maths at all during an entire school year.

id-10055380The research was funded by The Walton Foundation, which has funded a huge drive for reform.  Even so, they couldn’t find much of a positive spin to put on the findings, concluding only that the research is valuable as:

“[k]nowing the facts helps parents, educators, policymakers, and funders make smarter, more informed decisions that benefit children.”

I do hope policymakers proposing the Communities of Online Learning (COOLs) in New Zealand have read the reports thoroughly and are indeed using this information to make better and more informed decisions. Sadly, at this stage, we have no evidence that this is the case.

You will find the press release and linked full reports here.

~ Dianne Khan, SOSNZ

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Education: Are we counting what counts?

Yong ZhaoYong Zhao spoke to a packed house full of educators (in the holidays, no less) about how the purpose of education has changed and what educators have to do prepare students for the future.

Zhao asked some challenging questions, inviting us to think why we do what we do and how it might be different. He questioned the growth in testing and measuring learning, asking why it happens and what value it has.

Some of the thought-provoking things that Zhao asked us to consider included:

  • What must we teach and what is optional?
    • Why?
  • What is success?
    • Failure?
  • Is the focus on a ‘growth mindset’ a good thing?
    • What are the alternatives?
  • What do we need to do to equip students to meet future employment needs?
    • Is it the same for everyone?
  • If someone is missing skills in ‘the basics’, at what cost do we ‘fill the gap’?
    • What could we do instead?
Giving us much to think about, the talk is an excellent prompt for further discussion, perhaps at staff meetings, or even in class.
Zhao isn’t just knowledgeable and informative – he’s very entertaining, too. He’s a great speaker and a would-be stand-up comedian, which makes this an enjoyable talk.
.
It’s definitely worth any educator’s time to watch.
 .

About Yong Zhao: Zhao is an expert on educational models, and has published 30 books and over 100 articles on education. His full bio is here. You can read more about his thinking here.

This talk was part of a Wellington forum that took place on 20th July 2016, sponsored by NZEI Te Riu Roa.

What is really stressing NZ teachers?

This is the first of a series of posts looking at the data from the full Health and Wellbeing Survey conducted earlier in 2016. Our earlier posts looked at the survey’s first 100 responses, but this series considers all 684 responses and looks at the written feedback teachers shared in the open comments sections.*

How many teachers are suffering from stress & anxiety?

Teachers report high levels of stress, with over 80% of respondents saying they felt stressed or anxious at work half of the time or more.  Over 35% said they felt this way most of the time, and a staggering 7% said they felt like this always.

Only three respondents said they never felt stressed, representing 0.44 of respondents.

wellbeing survey q 1 graph

What causes teachers’ stress and anxiety?

Teachers were then asked what they judged to be the main causes of any stress, anxiety or depression they felt due to work. A comments box was included. There were 2028 box ticks and hundreds of comments from the 670 respondents to this question.

 

wellbeing survey q 2 graph

Summary of the findings of Question 2

Clearly workload is a key contributor to teachers’ workplace stress with 79.4% of people identifying it as a main contributor. Pressure from Management was identified by just over half of the respondents, and Students’ needs and students’ behaviour were identified by 44.8% and 45% of respondents respectively.

Lack of support in school was identified as a contributor to stress by just over 31% of respondents; Changes in educational policies stressed over 28% of respondents, and ERO/audit  almost 23%.

Interestingly, the comments were sometimes weighted quite differently.

Workload

Overwhelmingly, teachers identified workload as a key issue, with 532 respondents ticking that box and a 29 comments specifically mentioning it as a concern.Comments included:

“Not enough time in the day to complete everything that needs to be done. Increase[d] load of paperwork and assessment.”

“Too many meetings… 3 a week…”

“The requirements for tracking student progress; reporting to parents; and engaging family involvement in student learning (to name but a few)…”

“The paperwork (sometimes in duplicate) takes over.”

“Too many tasks to complete in an eight hour day.”

“I feel stressed that I cannot be both a good mum and a good teacher because of workload and being exhausted most of the time.”

“Paperwork, meetings, balance of work and family time”

“When a 55-60 hour week is the exception, not the norm”

Alongside these and other general comments on workload, some specific areas were mentioned:

Professional Development: Comments identified Professional Development as a specific source of pressure, either because of the volume of it (5 comments) or because it is done and then never implemented (3 comments) which staff said left them feeling that precious time was wasted.

“…so little time to create meaningful lessons because of professional development. Always navel gazing and not producing results…”

“we do what is asked of us then it kind of goes nowhere”

“…our school doing every initiative going…”

National Standards and Testing: Also mentioned were National Standards and the volume of testing (11 comments) and fast-changing education policies (3 comments).

“Seemingly back-to-back testing”

“having to assign a below OTJ [Overall Teacher Judgement] to children at 40 weeks, when I know that they will be totally fine by 80 or 120 weeks, they just need a little more time”

“too much assessment of 5 year olds”

Management and Colleagues

A large number of respondents commented on the negative impact of colleagues, mentioning staff bullying (25 comments), poor leaders (16 comments), pressure from management, poor teamwork and disrespectful behaviour (7 comments) and overly negative colleagues (3 comments) as causes of stress and anxiety.

Comments on management:

“Not enough realistic support from management.”

“Principal blaming poor ERO report on teachers… Seeing colleagues depressed and talking of suicide”

“Unrealistic expectations from management that teachers say yes to because they are all scared to tell the truth.:

“We have a dysfunctional senior management…”

“Poor management … lack of communication, lack of follow up…”

“Bullying Principal who has systematically gotten rid of teachers who support the policies and work of the previous principal…”

“Bullied by Principal, DP and AP”

Comments on teams and colleagues:

“Leading a frustrating team…”

“Trying to work with adults who don’t want to change their practice.”

“Being made to feel inadequate by teaching colleagues”

“Workplace bullying”

“I am an experienced teacher… I have had derogatory comments… considered a ‘dinosaur'”

“Politics between staff.”

“… have an extremely difficult staff member in my team and am continually handling complaints from parents and other staff about [that person]”

Parents: Perhaps surprisingly, the factor most frequently mentioned in the comments as causing teacher stress was pressure from parents (35 comments), with only two mentions of the lack of parent support being an issue and 33 commenting on this. Comments included:

“unrealistic expectations from parents”

“pushy aggressive parents”

“…expectation from parents that teachers should be able to ‘fix’ students who are not meeting standards… that it’s not part of a parent’s role to assist students in their learning”

“parental gripes”

“Parents … not allowing their children to develop their key competencies”

“Parents not reading emails, paper newsletters or notice boards and then getting frustrated that they were not well informed.”

“Parent behaviour”

“Parent demands”

“Parent expectation/pressure/lack of support has also been a factor at times.”

“Overbearing parents”

Students: It is, perhaps, telling that student behaviour was very rarely identified in the comments as the cause of stress (3 respondents), with much more focus on concerns about meeting students’ educational, emotional and health needs adequately (over 20 respondents). Of these, eight specifically mentioned special educational needs, five mentioned lack of funding or resources to support students as being of concern, and three mentioned out-of-school factors such as poor housing and health concerns.

(This feedback should be considered alongside that relating to testing and National Standards (above), which also had at its heart concern regarding the impact on students.)

Comments included:

“It’s about the lack of adequate funding to resource the support systems we need.”

“We need a calm space in the school…that is manned by a counsellor for our students whose lives are just too challenging today.”

“5 students, 1 supported… others not diagnosed”

“…teachers are parenting, feeding, psychoanalysing children as well as getting the child to national standard”

“hugely diverse needs of my learners … never enough time to plan and deliver a fully differentiated programme…”

“No help for children who come from a terrible home life to school…”

“children with special needs or high learning needs taking ages to be diagnosed at CDC and even longer… before funding is available for extra assistance…”

“Social issues in families and the wider community”

“Having children with special needs who don’t get funding or a diagnosis quick enough to help support them.”

My thoughts on what needs to change?

Clearly there are many and diverse, often overlapping, causes of teacher stress and anxiety, but certain themes are evident. Workload is the most glaring issue, closely followed by internal and external pressures on teachers who do not always feel adequately equipped to deal with those pressures or supported in doing so.

Management, you should be querying your own practice and asking where you can make changes to limit stress and also build collegiality. make sure your staff are properly supported and not overloaded, and ensure PD is targeted to actual needs.

Parents, you must work with teachers. They cannot solve all of society’s ills, and it isn’t reasonable to expect them to do so. Also, bear in mind that they are at the mercy of systems and processes usually outside of their control. It’s easy to become frustrated with the messenger, but it isn’t productive. Most importantly, talk to your children’s teachers – form relationships, be present where you can – truly that is a huge step towards helping your child achieve the best they can.

Teachers, please support each other. Teaching can be the most collegial job in the world, and teamwork can be what makes a difficult work situation otherwise bearable. So actively build those relationships. Where you do have concerns, you can call your union’s helpline, contact EAP (if your school is a member), or call one of the other available helplines.

Whatever you do, please reach out for support. You are worth it.

~ Dianne

* Thank you to NZEI Wellington Council for providing financial support to allow us to access the full data set and undertake this analysis. 

Image of woman with red folders courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Related Posts on this Survey:

https://saveourschoolsnz.com/2016/05/04/stress-anxiety-and-depression-in-the-teaching-profession-part-1/

https://saveourschoolsnz.com/2016/05/07/sosnz-teacher-stress-survey-part-2/

Stress, anxiety and depression in the teaching profession – part 1

In this invited Blog post – one of a series of three – I explore some of the global issues related to teachers’ well-being and present an analysis of the preliminary findings from a short, informal exploratory questionnaire from Save our Schools NZ about levels of stress, anxiety and depression reported by New Zealand teachers.  

 

ID-100389931

Image courtesy of radnatt at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A recent report from a major UK teachers’ Union (NASUWT) illustrated the high levels of stress, anxiety and depression among the teaching profession.  

 

  • 22% of respondents to that UK survey reported increased use of alcohol
  • 21% increased use of caffeine and 5% increased use of tobacco to help them manage work-related stress
  • 7% of the teachers reported how their use or reliance upon prescription drugs has increased to help them cope
  • Almost half (47%) of these teachers had seen a doctor in the last 12 months as a result of work-related physical or mental health problems.

Perhaps understandably, staff turnover is high, with many UK teachers leaving after the first year.

But what of the New Zealand context?

History shows the inevitability of audit cultures so prevalent in the UK and US influencing policy and practice in New Zealand, as indeed some already have in the form of National Standards and other initiatives . It’s the introduction of previously alien business models, including Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) within state provision services that creates challenges. So, do New Zealand teachers also suffer high levels of stress, anxiety and depression?  And if their emotional  health is being negatively impacted by their work, are the causes similar to those highlighted in the UK and elsewhere? To what extent does stress impact upon the individuals and the institution concerned and what could be learnt from the international research in this area?

How often are teachers feeling stressed or anxious?

In a very short survey, Save Our Schools NZ asked teachers: ‘In a typical week, how often do you feel stressed or anxious at work?’  

  • 72% responded either that ‘most of the time’ or ‘about half the time’ they felt stressed or anxious (about 35% for each category). 
  • 20% commented that ‘once in a while’ they felt these symptoms.
  • Perhaps most worryingly, 7% commented that they ‘always’ felt stressed and anxious at work.

stress survey pic 1

Causes

Another question focused on some of the possible causes of this stress and anxiety. It presented a number of options based on the outcomes from other research data in this area and asked which of the terms best defined the main causes of the stress, anxiety and depression.

  • The most prevalent choice of the participants was ‘own workload’ with a result of 73%.
  • The next closest answers were three equally-ranked responses with approximately 50% of participants choosing these:
    • Pressures from management’
    • ‘Students’ needs’ and
    • ‘Students’ behaviour’  

(The latter two causes were highlighted in the comments section as being as a result of teachers not feeling they had adequate support from their school for students with complex needs.)

  • The next two closely-ranked (and interconnected) answers were ‘Changes in educational policy’ and ‘Lack of support in school’, which each scored approximately 30%.

Interestingly for me personally – because of my research interests – the lowest-ranking answer of all the choices provided was ‘Audit and inspection’ which often ranks very highly for teachers in the UK under pressure from accountability measures. In line with research by Prof Martin Thrupp, this potentially indicates a stark contrast between the negative impact of Ofsted on UK teachers’ lives and the more sensitive (if somewhat ambiguous) approach from New Zealand’s Education Review Office (ERO).

This question also had an ‘other’ comments box which revealed a series of other relevant issues: 10% commented that bullying – either from management or parents or both – was a major cause of their stress and anxiety. This links to commonly debated cultural issues of the New Zealand workplace, for instance the phenomenon of Tall Poppy Syndrome (something I’ve written briefly about elsewhere and will return to later.)

In conclusion, the outcomes from this initial survey indicates that stress is clearly having a significant, negative impact on New Zealand teachers, and perhaps warrants a closer and more in-depth investigation. For instance, how widespread is this problem and what are the lived experiences of New Zealand teachers?

You can read the full article about the preliminary outcomes from the initial 100 participants to the exploratory survey here.

– Dr Ursula Edgington

 

NZ Mood of the Nation Review: Education

 
New Zealanders are generally confident and happy with their teachers and schools, confirms the annual Mood of the Nation Review.

well-done-starTeachers came 4th in the occupational respect ratings,with doctors, nurses and the police in the top 3 spots.

NZEI report that “[p]ublic confidence in primary schools increased by 4 percent in 2015, with 69 percent of those surveyed expressing a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence.” Only GPs topped that rating.

This is excellent, and shows again that Kiwis feel teachers and schools are doing a great job.

However, it’s not all good news:

Asked to look ahead 10 years, New Zealanders were not as positive as in 2014…

The biggest fall was for education which had been trending upwards. The number expecting education to improve over a ten year time frame fell from 43% to 35%.

People are concerned that education is going to go downhill. They are not confident that the policies in place are moving education in the right direction. Why not, I wonder.

It might pay for academics, teachers unions and the Education Ministry to investigate this further and find out what is concerning parents.

Right now, we have people’s confidence – together we must ensure we keep it.

 

 

Unreliable research leads to students being used as guinea pigs

guinea pig.jpgTo make sound education policy, we need sound data – isn’t that what we keep hearing? Then why do we continue to rely on research that hasn’t been verified?

Valerie Strauss notes that “For more than a decade, school reformers have said that education policy should be driven by “research” and “data,” but there’s a big question about how much faith anyone should have in a great deal of education research. “

The Washington Post article continues: “This is so not only because the samples are too small or because some research projects are funded by specific companies looking for specific results, but because in nearly all cases, it appears that nobody can be certain their results are completely accurate.” (my emphasis)

If we are to use research findings to making policy (which seems entirely sensible), then any research surely should first be replicated and deemed reliable and trustworthy before being accepted as correct? Otherwise we are opening ourselves to using research that could be skewed for all manner of reasons.

Students (and teachers) deserve better than to be used as guinea pigs.

~ Dianne Khan

Sources and further reading:

A shocking statistic about the quality of education research –  The Washington Post

Facts Are More Important Than Novelty: Replication in the Education Sciences –  Matthew C. Makel1 and Jonathan A. Plucker

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/

Does poverty impact student achievement? The research says yes.

Hekia Parata today wheeled out her favourite trope “decile is not destiny” in a bid to convince us that poverty has little to no impact on a student’s educational and life success.  She quoted (or misquotes or misrepresents, take your pick) OECD research, saying poverty only has an 18% impact on students. Source

Whether the Minister truly believes her own rhetoric, one can only guess, but it is safe to say that for most students the socio-economic background in which they grow up has a life-long impact on their chances of success.

And whilst we disagree on many things, I believe Ms Parata and I agree on this: the current situation isn’t good enough and needs to change.  So here’s some further research for her to consider:

  • Because of the socio-economic gap, there is an “enormous disparity in children’s home backgrounds and the social and cultural capital they bring to the educational table” (Benn & Millar, 2006 p. 23).
  • The “gap” is not restricted to one society (e.g. USA or NZ) or to one type of society (e.g. English-speaking); it occurs in every developed society. Students with good family resources out-perform those without (Biddulph, et al, 2003).
  • Most significantly, the OECD having studied 25 school systems (not including New Zealand) to determine the determinants of school achievement, found that, “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” (OECD, 2005, p. 2).
  • “The evidence from empirical research is that education and social disadvantage are closely connected and that people from less advantaged family backgrounds acquire significantly less education than their more advantaged counterparts.  This translates into significantly reduced life chances as individuals’ economic and social outcomes as adults are significantly hampered by lower education levels owing to social disadvantage.” (Machin, OECD Social, Employment and migration Working Papers No. 32 – Social Disadvantage and Education Experiences, p. 26 – Source).
  • Even the US Office of Education, despite its support for “accountability based programmes”, having reviewed the international evidence, admitted that it was clear that “most participating countries do not differ significantly from the United States in terms of the strength of relationship between socioeconomic status and literacy in any subject”  (Lemke, et al, 2002, p. 35).
  • When children attend schools which are widely different in social class composition, the gaps between the aggregate achievement of schools mirrors closely the gaps between the social classes which predominate in them.  Based on his research in New Zealand (and consistent with many overseas studies) Richard Harker has claimed that “anywhere between 70-80% of the between schools variance is due to the student ‘mix’ which means that only between 20% and 30% is attributable to the schools themselves” (Harker, 1995, p.74).

And a final sage word from David Berliner:

“People with strong faith in public schools are to be cherished and the same is true of each example of schools that have overcome enormous odds. The methods of those schools need to be studied, promoted and replicated so that more educators will be influenced by their success.

But these successes should not be used as a cudgel to attack other educators and schools. And they should certainly never be used to excuse societal neglect of the very causes of the obstacles that extraordinary educators must overcome.

It is poor policy indeed that erects huge barriers to the success of millions of students, cherrypicks and praises a few schools that appear to clear these barriers, and then blames the other schools for their failure to do so.”

If we truly want to improve the chances for those with lower socio-economic backgrounds, we must stop the soundbites, blaming and ideology and turn our minds to the wealth of quality research, which must then be read without agenda and applied honestly. Our students deserve nothing less.

Dianne Khan

SOSNZ

Sources and Further Reading

The Gap – EXCUSES, EXCUSES: SOCIAL CLASS AND EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT, by Massey University Emeritus Professor Ivan Snook

Berliner, David C. (2009). Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit.    http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential.

Chenoweth,Karin. (2007). It’s Being Done: Academic Success in Unexpected Schools. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Ministry of Education (2009). National Standards and Reporting to Parents. Wellington: NZ Government.

Lemke,M et al (2002). Outcomes of Learning:Results from the 2000 Program for International Student Assessment of 15-year-olds in Reading, Mathematics and Science Literacy. Washington: US Office of Education

OECD (2005). Teachers matter: Attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers. Overview. Paris: OECD.  http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/39/47/34990905.pd

Rothstein, Richard (2004). Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap. Economic Policy Institute, Teachers’College, Columbia University.

Tunmer, W. and J. Prochnow (in press). Cultural Relativism and Literacy Education: Explicit Teaching based on Specific Learning Needs is not Deficit Theory.

Wilkinson,R. and K.Pickett (2009). The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always do Better. Allen Lane, an Imprint of Penguin Books, London.

SOCIAL CLASS AND EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT: BEYOND IDEOLOGY. Ivan Snook Massey University, October 2009

Charter School Evaluation Report: The Ultimate Example of Rhetoric Trumping Evidence?

charter-schools-look-before-you-leapThe initial report into the evaluation of New Zealand’s version of charter schools is the ultimate example of how rhetoric trumps evidence in modern education policy making.  It makes a mockery of the current fad that “evidence based policy” is what the Government says it is seeking.

The report makes several glowing references to the beneficial impact of small class size and/or small school size.

Surprise, surprise! 

Small class sizes are a direct result of flaws in the original funding model, which saw the first round schools funded with high levels of Base Funding together with Property Funding that was in excess of their actual property related costs.  These flaws were particularly noticeable for the three secondary schools but the middle school also gained from being perceived as part secondary / part primary in how the amount of its funding was determined.

This additional funding has either been shared with the students (small class sizes) or gone into the bank accounts of the Sponsors.  These observations were clear in the analysis of financial statements that was published in August 2015.

But these benefits will disappear if the schools were to grow to any reasonable size.  It is hardly surprising that one of the Sponsors was quoted in the report as saying: “Our success is related to our size – we don’t want to grow our roll too high”.  Too damned right, they don’t!

It is hardly surprising that one of the Sponsors was quoted in the report as saying: “Our success is related to our size – we don’t want to grow our roll too high”.

Too damned right, they don’t!

Here are our observations on some of the key of the report:

  • The evaluation report has completely ignored the failure of the Whangaruru school.Surely, it must dawn on people that you often learn more from your mistakes than you do from your successes.  So the lessons learned from Whangaruru must become part of the overall evaluation of the initiative.
  • The report makes reference to various factors that it claims enable the charter school model to succeed.But on almost all of those same factors, Whangaruru provides a worked example of how they can also fail.  For example, simply saying that a Sponsor has a strong vision means nothing.  The original Sponsor’s vision for Whangaruru was praised by the Ministry during the evaluation phase but they have completely failed to deliver the substance of what good quality learning entails for students.
  • It is nonsense to claim that “innovations” in governance and management are the key early highlights.These are not innovations – they are simply the reality of the model itself.  It is Parliament that made these changes and not the schools.  They were always going to be governed differently because that is the essence of the model. Likewise, the ability to hire administrators, so as to free up the Principal’s time, is a direct result of the abundant funding.  Wouldn’t we all like to be able to do this?
  • The intent of the charter school idea was that these administrative changes would enable innovation to occur where it really counts: in the classroom. But the report makes it clear that the reviewers have not seen any significant innovations in curriculum or teaching practices.  This is a major indictment of the model and its first proponents.   The report meekly suggests that perhaps these will surface at some time in the future.  But, if the innovators are supposedly in place now, then why on Earth have they not unveiled their stunning new approaches already?  Why would they be holding back?
  • There is no attempt in this first report to examine student achievement outcomes.Early press releases from the secondary schools, in particular, have attempted to highlight superficially high participation-based pass rates.  But further examination into both quantitative and qualitative aspects of their NCEA achievement results suggests a different story may be unfolding.  Students at Whangaruru seem to have gathered most of their NCEA credits from Fencing and Possum Trapping.  More work is needed to understand if the other two charter secondary schools have gone down a similar path.

But overall these initial findings are entirely consistent with John Hattie’s analysis of charter schools, based on no less than 246 underlying pieces of research.  He concludes that the overall system effect will be “miniscule”.  Why?  Because changes in structure/governance/funding method etc, that simply create another “type” of school do not, in the end, make meaningful differences in achievement in scale across the system.

The propaganda machine will no doubt press on regardless, attempting to spin this evaluation in a positive fashion.  But the clear conclusion of the initial report, regardless of its own inherent flaws, is that there is nothing here that is significant where it really counts: in the classroom.

Bill Courtney

Save Our Schools NZ

2 November 2015

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