Hurrah! SOSNZ’s investigation into the Teacher Education Refresh (TER) programme has got the attention of the Education Council, and Lesley Hoskin (Deputy Chief Executive of the Education Council) has assured me that they are looking into things urgently.
When I spoke with her, Lesley was very clear that concerns are being taken seriously and that EC is now aware that there are big issues. She said that EC will start by looking into requirements for itinerant teachers and relievers to undertake the TER programme, and will widen the net to look at the criteria in its entirety so that is can be applied fairly, reasonably and with flexibility.
It’s great that they listened, and great that PPTA and NZEI backed up the concerns we raised, but in order for improvements to be made, Education Council need your feedback.
That’s right, it’s over to you.
If you have done the TER, please send your comments to email@example.com or use the online form here. EC needs to know the positives and negatives, in particular regarding the criteria for having to do the course.
If you have not done the course but have concerns, you can also send feedback. Please make it as specific as possible so that the issues are clear. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or use the online form.
I am, of course, happy to receive your feedback re the TER and pass it on to EC for you (anonymously if needs be) but in order to get specific situations reassessed EC will need your full name and registration number, so please bear that in mind.
If you want to have your own situation assessed to see whether you have to do the TER course or not, also email email@example.com or use the online form.
When asking for an assessment, make sure you give them your full name and teacher registration number so they can access your files and get all of your details. This is the only way to get an accurate answer.
If you want to email Lesley Hoskin direct, she is happy for you to do that. You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org,nz
Lesley informs the that Education Council typically responds to email within 48 hours. If you don’t get a reply in that time frame, check your email spam box, and if there’s nothing hiding in there please call the Education Council and follow it up.
We’ve now got the Education Council in agreement that the course requirements are not as they should be; to get things changed, you have to let those with the power to change things know what your concerns are.
You know the drill by now: email email@example.com or use the online form
Over to you.
~ Dianne Khan, SOSNZ
This UK report looks at the true cost of teacher training, taking into account the costs to government and the retention rate of the teacher trainees to work out the true cost per teacher who is still teaching after 5 years.
Since New Zealand also has issues with teacher recruitment and retention, with shortages on some areas and a glut of teachers in others, and since we too have Teach First as a route into teaching, it would be interesting to know how this compares to New Zealand.
Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Alerted to concerns, I met with a teachers as they completed the Education Council’s Teacher Refresher Course to get a sense of what they thought of the course and the need to undertake it. What I heard was unexpected and alarming.
$4,000. Four Thousand Dollars. That’s how much the 12-week refresher course costs. And that’s just for the course. I expected people to raise concerns about that – I’d already had a few on social media – but there were issues I’d not yet considered.
Yes the course is expensive, they said – but why? Compare it with the cost for the full one year graduate teaching programme – it doesn’t stack up, they said. So I did some research:
All of which begs the question, why it is $4,000 for a 12-week course?
It surprised me, too, to hear that attendees could not apply for student loans to pay for the course. Teachers spoke of putting the cost on credit cards or using bank loans, and of overdraft bills being racked up as costs mounted.
They also pointed out that in addition to the course cost, they’d lost a term’s wages, often had to pay for accommodation, had travel costs (many people were from out of town) and had had to pay for childcare (especially those from out of town). Suddenly the actual costs were far in excess of $4k… For a twelve week course.
All of which, many noted, might be just about bearable if you felt the course was necessary…
One teacher explained that he is an itinerant music teacher. He does no classroom teaching at all, working only one-to-one or one-to-two teaching musical instruments in a number of schools across a large geographical area. The schools he goes to, he says, are very happy with his work – indeed he’s been doing this for well over a decade and everyone was just dandy with the set up – the teacher himself, the schools, the students and the Teachers Council. Then came the Education Council (EC).
Suddenly, this teacher was told he must do the Teacher Refresher Course if he wanted to continue working in schools. “Why?” he asked. He explained to EC that he knows of many itinerant music teachers who are not even qualified teachers, and they were allowed to carry on teaching – so why couldn’t he? He was informed that because he had at one time been a fully qualified teacher, he couldn’t do as the other itinerant teachers and work under a Limited Authority to Teach (LAT), but had to regain his fully registered teacher status. Which means, in a nutshell, he is being punished for having once trained as a teacher!
It makes no sense. If other itinerant music teachers can be unqualified teachers and work under an LAT as specialists, then why can’t he?
This teacher doesn’t want to be a full time teacher or a classroom teacher of any sort. He doesn’t want to take relieving work. He has no wish to do any teaching other than the one-to-one or one-to-two itinerant music teaching he has done for well over a decade. Like his itinerant music teacher colleagues do.
So he has undertaken the Teacher Refresher Course to allow him to carry on earning his living – a course that was focused around classroom teaching, National Standards, paperwork requirements and so on – none of which applies at all to the job he does.
How does the Education Council justify that?
Still reeling from the mind-boggling bureaucratic nightmare of the music teacher’s story, I was approached by a teacher who wanted to speak about their situations as a reliever.
This teacher said she has no wish to be employed as a full- or part-time classroom teacher on a contract, content with working as a relief teacher. She explained she is much in demand, has regular schools that she’d worked with for years, and is up to date with changes in the sector such as National Standards. She’d been teaching for decades.
Prior to the change from Teachers Council to Education Council, she had been able to continue relieving year on year with no problems, but with the Education Council, everything changed. Now, she was told, if she wanted to carry on relieving, she must do the Teacher Refresher Course. No ifs or buts.
So she, like the music teacher, had done the course only to find it focused on things that really had little to no bearing on her work as a reliever. “It’s not as if I’ve learned anything I need,” she said, frustrated that she’d been made to jump through hoops only because of what seems to be a lack of flexibility in the Education Council’s rules.
What interested me with the above scenario was how the information she’d been given compared to the information I’d been given not weeks before by two representatives from the Education Council…
I was informed face-to-face in a room full of senior teachers and principals that I wouldn’t have to do the Refresher Course if I was going to continue “only relieving”. The EC staff were very clear that the Refresher Course was necessary only if I wanted to go back to an actual classroom teaching contract. I could carry on with my Subject To Confirmation status and still be a reliever. Yet this teacher had been told something entirely different and was now thousands of dollars in debt… So which information is right?
Just when I thought I’d heard it all – and I can tell you, my head was reeling by this point – I was approached by this lady…
She has been teaching for decades, too. She sustained a head injury towards the end of her teacher training and as a result has never been able to work full time. This means she never completed the two year induction for new teachers. As a result, the Education Council informed her she must undertake the Refresher Course and become a fully registered teacher to continue teaching in any capacity.
This woman has a brain injury. She can only ever work part time. She can only ever work at the most as a reliever. She is, she explained, unable to sustain what is needed to work as a contracted classroom teacher responsible for planning, testing, report writing and so on. She knows this, her schools know this, and all is well; She is a good reliever, with a number of regular schools that she’s worked for for years.
The Teachers Council would, at re-registration time, receive a doctor’s note explaining her condition and information from the schools she works with, and they would accept that she is a fully competent teacher in the role as part-time reliever. Teachers Council would re-register her. No problem. The Education Council, however, insisted on her undertaking the Refresher Course.
The course had been an enormous strain on her. It is full time, with in-class placements overlapping with research, essays and presentations in what is a busy twelve weeks for even an entirely well person. For someone with a brain injury, it was incredibly hard work. And yet, she was faced with either soldiering on at a potential cost to her health or not doing the course and losing her means of income.
Telling me the whole sorry tale, she looked tired, sounded exasperated, and had an air of defeat. “I don’t understand the reasoning,” she said. No, nor do I.
Everyone I spoke to accepted that teachers who never completed their two years as provisionally registered teachers would need a refresher course, having not had time to put their knowledge into practice and grow as a teacher after first qualifying. The course attendees I spoke to that were in those circumstances said the course had been beneficial and their only concern was the financial cost.
But those teachers who had no intention of being classroom teachers ever again and who usually had years (often decades) of classroom teaching experience felt the Education Council needed to look again at both the criteria for doing the course and the course’s content.
If itinerant and relief teachers are being forced to do it, then the course needs to reflect their roles and their needs. If competency is the issue, then the course must address their competency in the roles they undertake. At the moment, in many cases, it doesn’t – making the whole affair a very expensive and extremely frustrating farce.
27/7/16 – EDITED TO INCLUDE LINK TO ARTICLE RE EDUCATION COUNCIL WANTING FEEDBACK:
Details of courses and requirements: https://educationcouncil.org.nz/content/teacher-education-refresh-ter-programme
Itinerant music programme losing teachers due to Education Council requirements: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/81854579/itinerant-music-programme-losing-teachers-due-to-education-council-requirements
Last week, out of nowhere, government added a proposal to the Education Act update that would allow Teach First teacher trainees to be in the classroom unsupervised.
Yes, that’s right – a trainee with no qualifications in teaching would be allowed to be in charge of the whole class unsupervised.
You have to wonder why that would be proposed? What’s the justification?
Before getting to the education issues, I first have to ask, how is it acceptable to add in such an important change to the proposed Education Act amendments without informing people so we have a chance to submit? That’s not democracy; it’s underhand, disingenuous and it’s railroading.
You have to wonder what the process was that led to it being put in at the very last minute, too. The cynic in me can’t help but wonder whether it was purposefully held back just long enough to leave no time for people to put up submissions about the plan. If that’s not the reason, then why the last-minute appearance? Something’s fishy, and this time it’s not MPI’s catch quotas.
As with any proposals, we should ask who this proposal benefits and who it impacts.
We have a glut of well-trained, qualified primary trained teachers as it is, so where’s the need to lower the bar this way? What’s the imperative to have trainees in front of classrooms with no supervision?
I’d love to hear how unsupervised time in the classroom is better for the trainee than supervised training and co-teaching, where a teacher with years of experience observes and gives feedback and where the student can see the teacher at work and reflect on what works well and why.
Good self reflection on one’s pedagogical practice is something that develops over time, guided initially by mentors and becoming deeper and more meaningful as you grow as a teacher. It’s not something you can just do. After all, to begin with, you don’t know what you don’t know.
So how is being unsupervised/unmentored /unsupported a good move?
Teach First often cites that its trainee teachers have high degrees or Masters qualifications. But being a good teacher isn’t just about knowing your subject, and even more so at primary level where your subject will be only a tiny part of what you teach anyway.
Just as important as book smarts is knowing how to engage students, how to create a productive environment, how to plan effectively, how to adapt planning on the fly when you have to, how to deal with upsets, what to do to support those who struggle or who find a task easy, how to spot those who are not pushing themselves and what to do to help them, how to deal with parents’ concerns, what to do about the wriggler or the weeper or the kind that has a tendency to disrupt things. How to teach kids to analyse their own work and improve it, what to do about the kids who never push themselves and the ones who are too hard on themselves. How to help the kid that has started stealing things. How to stay calm and deal with vomit, wees and a’code brown’so that the child involved isn’t stigmatised. What to do when a lunch box is empty or insufficient. Or when a child is taking other kids’ food. How to stick to timings, how to teach students to care for their environment and pack up the classroom equipment properly and efficiently. How to encourage and support reluctant readers. And what to do when the fire alarm goes or when a kid suddenly runs out of your classroom and keeps running.
While you’re learning those things, you need a mentor on hand.
Most pertinently, it is important to ask how this impact students.
Government keeps telling us that to give students the best change of success teachers must be excellently trained. How is this excellence?
I’ve seen some good and great initial teacher trainees but also some absolute shockers, including ones with lots of classroom experience, so it concerns me that this proposal allows not just seasoned trainees but also brand new trainees to go into classrooms unsupervised. How someone with no teaching experience or training (practical or theoretical) can be expected to do a good job of teaching without guidance is mind-boggling.
As a teacher it concerns me: As a parent I am fuming.
My child is not a guinea pig. My child deserves a qualified teacher. And so does yours.
NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter says this situation has been building for a number of years because the Government has continued to ignore what was a very predictable market failure in education.
“The Government has known for years that there has been a growing oversupply of newly graduated teachers yet it has refused to do anything.
“As a result there are now hundreds of beginning teachers who cannot complete their full certification despite investing years of time, energy and money into gaining qualifications.
“This is extremely unfair for those graduates but it will also have long term damaging consequences for education.
“Many new teachers are now employed on day to day or short term relieving jobs where they don’t get the professional development, skills and mentoring required to help them become great classroom practitioners.
“So the long term consequences for quality teaching and learning are clear”.
Paul Goulter says there are solutions.
“Obviously better workforce planning is needed for a start. But graduates should expect to have the right support in place so they can complete their registration process.
“This happens in other sectors such as in medicine where graduates are provided with work and mentoring in order to complete their qualifications”.
He says it is totally irresponsible for the Government to continue to ignore what is becoming a major system crisis in education.
“We accept that finding a job can be challenging for new teacher graduates, and encourage them to look at a range of options when seeking a position, such as teaching in rural areas,”
Graham Stoop (Ministry of Education)
Thank you, Dr Stoop, for your comments. As Basil Fawlty would say, you get an A Level in the bleeding obvious.
Teachers searching for work are doing all they can to secure a job, and such simplistic advice doesn’t help.
It’s easy for Stoop to make these Tebbit-esque “on your bike” pronouncements, but unemployed teachers with bills and student loans to pay don’t want a meme-style answer or a simplistic and ill-considered life hack. What they do want is proper advice based on proper research into the problem and proper help finding appropriate work.
Or here’s a thought – why not stop churning out more and more new primary school teachers year on year into an already flooded market.
So thanks for your advice, Dr Stoop, but let’s be clear – it’s not that teachers are not trying to find jobs, it’s that there is a job shortage.
On his sage advice to look for jobs in rural areas, does Dr Stoop even have evidence that rural schools are crying out for applicants?
I know of well qualified teachers with years of experience who have had trouble finding jobs in rural NZ. So how easy would it be for a BT? Or someone who’s been out of the job market for a few years? I assume Stoop has some clear facts and figures showing that things are better in, say, Matamata or Wanaka, than in Auckland or Christchurch, or why would you make these pronouncements?
NZEI did some research recently and found that over half of new graduates would indeed consider moving to find a job but, as was pointed out, even for those who would move, it’s not that straightforward.
For example, a teacher can’t always just upend their partner from their job in order to move to a rural school. Or does Dr Stoop think, perhaps, that all those struggling to find teaching positions are single, 21 year old BTs, able to go where the wind takes them?
There are many complexities to the problem, but what it boils down to is very simple maths. Lots of job applicants and not many job. It’s really that simple.
And all the bike rides, sage advice and 120gsm vellum paper CVs in the world won’t magically make thousands of unemployed teachers fit into a handful of teaching jobs.
What on earth is happening to teaching? There’s a wave of almost unbelievable practices appearing in classrooms. This is the latest jaw-dropper and, truly, I am stunned:
“Last year, my school contracted with the Center for Transformational Training or CT3 to train teachers using an approach called No Nonsense Nurturing.
I wore a bug in my ear. I didn’t have a mouthpiece. Meanwhile an official No Nonsense Nurturer, along with the school’s first year assistant principal and first year behavior intervention coach, controlled me remotely from the corner of the room where they shared a walkie talkie. (Source)
Where to begin?
The teacher is forbidden to speak in whole sentences.
The teacher must narrate what is happening in the room: ‘Noel is is finishing question 3. Marjorie is sitting silently. Alfredo is on page 6.’
The teacher must speak in a monotone voice.
The teacher must stand on both legs and not favour one over the other.
The teacher, it seems, mustn’t teach but must manage, and do it in the most robotic way possible.
It sounds as though there’s no room for joy, no room for praise, no room for individualisation. No room for the human, personal connections that are vital to a healthy learning environment. Just a teacher with an earpiece being directed from the back of the room by three people selling a product:
But the student, a sixth grader with some impulsivity issues and whose trust I’d spent months working to gain, was excited and spoke out of turn again.
*Tell him he has a detention,* my earpiece commanded. At which point the boy stood up and pointed to the back of the room, where the three classroom *coaches* huddled around a walkie talkie.
*Miss: don’t listen to them! You be you. Talk to me! I’m a person! Be a person, Miss. Be you!*”
Teachers, when you look back ten, fifteen or twenty years, did you ever imagine it could ever come to this?
And yet it has.
New Zealand teachers please don’t be complacent and think this is just the Americans, we wouldn’t ever do this. We are not immune to madcap and ill-thought-out education reforms, nor are we immune to the lure of the chance to make a dollar or two from selling snake oil. This will especially be a danger once the TPPA is signed and free trade overrides education policy.
KIPP charter school chain, who sell this method, have their beady eye on NZ and have been here to visit business groups and the Minister…
Like it or not, one way or another, US education
reforms deforms seem to eventually find their way to Aotearoa, no matter how far away they seem at the start.
Unless you want an earpiece, three coaches and a complete castration of your teaching skills, you must actively resist.
Kia kaha, teachers. Stay strong.
NZEI National President Judith Nowotarski says this will go a long way to ensuring that teaching remains highly professional and that the best and brightest enter the profession.
“In recent years there has been virtually no oversight of teacher training and this has led to too many courses, too many students and not enough emphasis on quality.”
“There needs to be a very high standard of entry into such an important profession. Our children deserve only the best.”
Ms Nowotarski says Labour’s policy is a welcome shift from the current government’s policy of “dumbing down” the teaching profession by allowing unqualified and unregistered people into charter schools and early childhood education.
“It is ironic that the government constantly talks of improving teaching quality while at the same time allowing untrained and unregistered people to act as teachers in charter schools and early childhood education centres.”
Quality of education in early childhood would also get a big boost under Labour.
“We welcome Labour’s plans to require early childhood education centres to employ at least 80 percent qualified staff at early childhood centres.
“Once again, this is a big point of difference between the current government’s quantity over quality approach to early childhood education.
“Labour’s policies, including smaller class sizes, will go a long way towards improving education for New Zealand children, especially those who are vulnerable and struggling.”
The article below highlights concerns with Teach For America (TFA) and speaks to many of the concerns regarding Teach First NZ:
“Have you ever found yourself trapped in the insufferable position of having to tolerate a Teach For America true believer relentlessly bombarding you with justifications for Teach For America’s placement atop the corporate org chart of educational excellence?
Teach For America is a $300 million “non-profit” organization that executes a highly sophisticated integrated marketing communications strategy that includes traditional and digital advertising, a wide range of experiential and special event initiatives, and plenty of public and media relations.
With millions spent on corporate communications, it’s to be expected that Teach For America has crafted a concise list of focus-group tested talking points. With discipline matched only by GOP pundits, Teach For America’s “brand evangelists” (from the corporate communications team all the way down to the on-campus recruitment interns) stay “on message” by relentlessly repeating the same lines. The only problem? Many are deceptive at best, while others are downright false.
Here are some suggested replies for eight of Teach For America’s most tried arguments.
1. When a Teach For America supporter says: ”Teach For America might not be the answer, but it’s a part of the solution.”
This is how you might respond: To overcome the challenges associated with educational inequity, Teach For America’s standard of training would require it to be vastly superior to any school of education or alternative route – not less. Corps members would need the ability to deconstruct their own privilege, fully understand their own role in historically oppressed communities, and develop strong relationships with true veteran teachers (not Teach For America corps members who only taught 2 or 3 years). Unfortunately, with only a few weeks of training, and often zero student-teaching hours within the placement community or assigned grade, Teach For America corps members receive nothing close to the unparalleled training that would be required to systemically reduce educational inequity. In all likelihood, by providing the least prepared teachers to the students with the greatest needs, Teach For America corps members may be doing more harm than good.
2. When a Teach For America supporter says: “Teach For America corps members are more effective teachers. The Mathematica study shows that Teach For America corps members produce gains equal to 2.6 extra months of learning.”
This is how you might respond: This is how you might respond: First, there is no such thing as a test that measures months of learning. That would mean all students learn at the same pace. As any parent or teacher knows, that’s not true. In fact, the “gain” was just .07 standard deviations (miniscule in statistics). By comparison, reducing class size can increase learning by .20 standard deviations (3x more effective). Second, the study only included Teach For America secondary math teachers (136 of them), but claims that this is true for all Teach For America corps members regardless of whether they teach secondary math or not. In most communities, the majority of Teach For America corps members teach elementary, not secondary. Therefore, the miniscule test score gains in this study do not apply to the vast majority of Teach For America corps members. Using the Mathematica study to imply that all Teach For America corps members are more effective than other teachers is patently deceptive. (This entry was edited on 3/19/2014 to make a correction in response to a critiqued levied by Teach For America)
For more information on the Mathematica study check out:
This is how you might respond: School districts run by politicians who are pushing for the corporate takeover of public education sign contracts with Teach For America to hire Teach For America corps members each year regardless of whether there is a qualified teacher shortage in the region or not. Chicago is a perfect example. In 2013, after closing 49 schools and laying off 850 teachers and staff because of “budget concerns”, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s hand-picked school board authorized an increase of 325 new Teach For America corps members at a cost to Chicago taxpayers of $1.6 million in addition to the salaries that the schools will pay Teach For America corps members. Teach For America corps members are now in direct competition with displaced teachers for available jobs at district schools and charter schools. Similar situations have occurred across the country includingBoston, New Orleans, and Newark.
4. When a Teach For America supporter says: “Teach For America doesn’t take jobs from other teachers. Teach For America just provides teachers for subject areas that have teacher shortages.”
This is how you might respond: Teach For America’s school district contracts make clear that Teach For America teachers are to be considered for all open teaching positions in a district, not just hard to staff subject areas. Teach For America’s contract with Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish Public School System explicitly states, “Teach For America Teachers will be hired by School District for vacancies across the full range of grades and subject matters and not restricted or limited to so-called ‘critical’ or ‘shortage’ subjects or grade level vacancies.”
5. When a Teach For America supporter says: “One third (33%) of Teach For America corps member alumni are still teaching.”
This is how you might respond: Teach For America’s data comes from their annual alumni survey. Unfortunately, Teach For America won’t provide that survey data to outside researchers to verify their claims. However, peer-reviewed research studies show that roughly only 20% of Teach For America corps members are still teaching anywhere after five years (the national average is approximately 50%).
6. When a Teach For America supporter says: “Two-thirds of Teach For America alumni remain in education”
This is how you might respond: Teach For America’s data comes from their annual alumni survey. Unfortunately, Teach For America won’t provide that survey data to outside researchers to verify their claims. However, it is widely accepted that many Teach For America alumni, including those who only taught for two or three years, go on to become principals at privately managed charter schools and run school districts. This begs the question, “Are novice teachers with 2-3 years experience really qualified to be running schools and districts?”
This is how you might respond: In districts across the country, pro-business politicians are closing down public schools and replacing them with privately managed charter schools. Many recent court decisions have concluded that charter schools are not public schools even though they receive public money. A public entity is accountable to the public. A private enterprise is accountable to its board of directors and shareholders. Therefore, as public schools are closed and replaced by privately managed charter schools, the public school system is becoming privatized.
Teach For America’s role in this privatization agenda is by providing corps members to teach at the newly opened charter schools for wages that are often well below the first-year salary of local public school teachers. Recent documents revealed that many charter school management organizations are so dependent on Teach For America to provide them cheap labor that charter managers are reluctant to open new schools without Teach For America.
For more information on Teach For America’s connections to other agents in the privatization and corporate takeover of public education, read the report Mapping the Terrain: Teach For America, Charter School Reform, and Corporate Sponsorship by Teach For America alums, Kerry Ketchmar and Beth Sondel.
8. When a Teach For America supporter says: “Teach For America corps members will now have one year of training.”
This is how you might respond: This is a step in the right direction, but no details have emerged. Furthermore, it is being launched as a pilot program and will most likely not include all corps members. Therefore, Teach For America will still send thousands of the least prepared teachers into classrooms with children who have the greatest needs.
For all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts on Teach For America click here.