This tag is associated with 8 posts

Is David Seymour changing the rules for his charter schools?

David Seymour ACTIs David Seymour changing the rules for charter schools to make it easier for them to meet their contract performance standards?

Seymour’s bizarre press release (9 December 2015) contained the extraordinary statement that “David has reformed the funding formula for the schools and is tweaking the assessment regime.”

What on earth does “tweaking the assessment regime” mean?  And why would a politician be involved in a technical matter such as assessment?

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority is the entity responsible for the qualifications framework in this country not David Seymour.

But is Seymour taking action to change the rules for the charter secondary schools, given they appear to have failed to meet the 2014 standard set out in the charter school contract?

This states quite clearly that the standard is “School leavers with NCEA Level 2” with a 2014 target of 66.9% eventually climbing to 85% in 2017.  This is the Government’s main target for the school system.

However, the Education Counts database published by the Ministry shows both Vanguard Military School and Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa fell short of that target in their first year of operation.  Vanguard had 60.0% and Paraoa 55.6% of their School Leavers leaving with NCEA Level 2 or above.

So, what is Seymour up to?

Followers of the charter school initiative will also laugh at the comment that “David has reformed the funding formula.”  While problems with the original funding model were clear from the outset, Seymour denied this was the case.  A quote from his op-ed published in the Sunday Star-Times (8 February 2015) states that: “Why do some claim partnership schools are overfunded?”

So, which level of funding is correct Mr Seymour?

The amount produced by the original model or the amount now on offer after you “reformed the funding formula”?  The Ministry document presented to cabinet clearly sets out how much less the “reformed” model produces for a new charter school in its early years compared to the original model.  But that cannot stop the overfunding that already applies to the first round of schools, as the Ministry is bound by the original contract.

So, are the schools also being held to account for their side of the same contract?  Or is the parliamentary under secretary riding to their rescue and “tweaking” the rules?

– Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ

Northland schools should be praised – Te Tai Tokerau Principals

poverty and school reform“Northland Schools should be praised and recognised for the hard work and expertise of their teachers and principals”, says Pat Newman, President of Te Tai Tokerau Principals Association.

He continues, “I’m actually amazed at how well we are doing. Northland leads NZ on every negative socioeconomic indicator available, yet despite this, despite the simple fact that resourcing for Special Education, behaviour, truancy, health, and wrap around support for families is totally inadequate, teachers and principals in Northland continue to teach to an extremely high level of expertise and dedication.

“Principals up here for many years, have told the Ministry, that whether the Ministry/Minister believes we have the necessary help based on their paper shuffling in Wellington, it is totally inadequate to cover the glaring needs of our children. Now instead of recognising we were correct, instead of providing the help we need, the Minister continues to refuse to acknowledge this and offers more talk as the solution! Northland again short changed!

“As a principal, I spend most of my days as a principal, screaming and fighting the agencies set up to help these children, who are themselves hamstrung by the resourcing levels set for Northland.

“It is soul destroying. Schools up here are dealing on a daily basis, with children who regularly throw furniture around, abuse teachers verbally, hit out at others, threaten, have no lunches, come from homes where drugs are rife etc. We know none of this is the kids fault, but it is impossible to get adequate help for them. Lots of assessment but little “dooey”!

“The Ministry itself has research that is kept quiet that clearly shows that absenteeism is the biggest factor in school success.

“The Minister continues to trumpet how she has improved learning in NZ, based upon what is widely recognised as based on shonky National Standards Data.
What is her answer? To send in more advice! More talking! More assessment.

“I know words are powerful, but we don’t need this. What we need is less talk, and more realistic resourcing to support to cover the needs of the children in Northland!”

Special Assessment Conditions in NCEA – improvements to system announced

Hundreds more could get special NCEA assessment support, says the Ministry of Education.

The NZQA and the Ministry of Education are moving to ensure hundreds more students get extra help for NCEA assessments to meet their special learning needs.

“It’s important that students at all schools have access to special help if they need it at exam and internal assessment time,” says Brian Coffey, group manager of special education at the Ministry of Education.

child sitting a testThe agencies today released a review of the use of Special Assessment Conditions in NCEA. The review found lower decile schools were much less likely to apply for NCEA exam help for their students with special learning needs, and that the $400-$700 cost of an independent expert assessment was one of the major barriers. Assistance during exams can take the form of a reader and writer, technology support or extra time.

Two major changes are to be made, in time for this year’s exams.

Firstly, NZQA has redesigned an alternative application process that is free to students. The application process has been made quicker and easier to use. Applications made this way use teacher observation and assessment information rather than an independent expert’s report.

“This option hasn’t been as widely used, or as easy to use as it should be. So we’ve streamlined the process and we will urgently be reminding schools this option is available.” says Richard Thornton, deputy chief executive, qualifications, for NZQA.

Secondly, the Ministry of Education will target 250 of the country’s 518 secondary and composite schools to ensure eligible students apply for special assessment. These are schools, many of them lower decile, that are being supported by the Ministry to achieve better NCEA results.

“Our NCEA facilitators will work with these schools to help identify students who could benefit from Special Assessment Conditions for their exams and other assessments this year,” says Mr Coffey.

In 2013 nearly 4000 students were granted access to Special Assessment Conditions, 3% of students in Years 11 to 15. Hundreds of extra students are expected to get help through targeted schools, and through an easier application process.

New technology for students with special learning needs is a priority in the medium term.

“At NZQA we are trialling special headphones so that students with reading difficulties can listen to a recorded exam. If the trial is successful, special headphones will be available in 2015,” says Mr Thornton.

The Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand (DFNZ)

The Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand (DFNZ) responded to the news positively, saying the review gives credit to the recognition of dyslexia as the cause of the increased demand for SAC applications over the last few years. Furthermore, what is also clear from the comprehensive review is that where schools are addressing the needs of students that learn differently [by way of accommodations] they are achieving higher student achievement in areas of language, literacy, numeracy and overall academic achievement.

The DFNZ said the review also highlights the critical need for accommodations to be activated in the primary years, and for great transitioning between primary and secondary, and outlined these additional important things to note:

1. NZQA have extended the official SAC deadline from Fri 10th April to Friday 17th April (the last day of Term 1)

2. NZQA will allow a case by case further extension to the deadline of Monday 5th May for any schools that want to complete their application over the Term 1 holiday. The only requirement, to get the extension, is for the school to contact NZQA so that they are able to manage the anticipated increase in volume and follow up.

3. All RTLB clusters have been contacted and asked to make contact with their local secondary school to see how they can help with identification of students who may be eligible for SAC and to support schools in gathering of alternative evidence.

4. The Ministry’s NCEA advisors who are in schools can help with identification of eligible students and work with RTLB and school staff to support the alternative evidence process.

5. NZQA will meet with and provide workshops for schools, parents, or groups about the Special Assessment Conditions process on request.

Don’t forget – This Sunday, March 16 at Noon on TV3. This is when the acclaimed documentary “The Big Picture; Rethinking Dyslexia” screens.

You may wish to like the Dyslexia Foundation on Facebook to keep up with the latest news from them.

For information on this year’s Dyslexia Awareness Week (DAW) starting Sunday 16th March, see here.



The National Standards Dilemma

Parents and teachers continue to report their dismay at National Standards and how it is narrowing the curriculum, how some children are being overlooked in favour of others, and how the stress of it all is even upsetting Year 1 students.

This is from Russel Norman, Leader of The Green Party.

Over the weekend I got a first hand account of the disastrous impact of “national standards” on poor kids’ education. I spoke with some young teachers at a low decile primary school. I have known them for some time. The kids at the school are really struggling and most are failing the standards due to things like transience, poverty, lack of food etc. The principal and teachers are getting it in the neck from central govt because their kids aren’t making the standard.

So now they have been forced to focus their efforts on the small number of kids who are close to meeting the standard but just below it. If they can get this small number of kids over the line then they will get a tick from the government. But what it means is that those kids who are well below the standard get less teacher attention than ever before, and those very small number of kids well over the standard also get neglected.

In practical terms, one of the teachers has a class of well over 30, none of whom are over the standard but less than 10 of whom could make it. So now this teacher is being directed to put his effort into the small number of kids who might make it to the detriment of the rest.

How is this good for our kids and our society? And it is very demoralising for the teachers who went into the profession, and specifically into low decile schools, to make a difference.

We need to support our teachers to be great not force them to neglect our most vulnerable. And we need the Green party’s community hubs program to give kids the basics so they have a chance to get a good education.


This is not what education should be about.

The trouble is, this government will not listen to teachers or principals, not even to Professors of education.  The only people that can force an end to this is parents.  Together, parents can force a rethink.

don't panic - organise

The performance pay paradox

The performance pay paradox

More wise words from Diane Ravitch.

Let us frame our message correctly then act with unity, By Kelvin Smythe

Kelvin Smythe

Kelvin Smythe

Let us frame our message correctly then act with unity

Congratulations to all concerned in bringing together nearly all the primary teacher organisations.

Now we have to frame our message correctly then act with unity.

To understand how significant this recent declaration of unity is, we need to look at the past. By looking there we will better understand our present to act more surely in the present and the future. I spoke to my friend and former NZEI president, Frank Dodd, about the matter.

What the teacher organisations have done is unique in its comprehensiveness and its focus. There was organisational unity in working with the government over the integration of Catholic schools – but that was a partnership with the government. The bulk funding issue sort of brought the organisations together in a kind of way around aims, but the unity was ragged as a result of a few right-wing principals (mainly from Auckland) undermining that sort of unity, indeed, a group of them undertook direct negotiations with Lockwood Smith taking some addle-brained principals with them. That fractiousness still remains a possibility with the present unity.

If genuine unity can be developed and maintained, it signals a huge change in the balance of power of education politics. But be warned, Hekia Parata and John Key will use a combination of the sirens and Caligula (to mix my cultural mythology). They will use seductive arguments, blandishments, and raw threats. Their attention will, in particular, be to the kind of grouping referred to, that is right-wing principals bringing along some addled-brain principals. (They are not really addled-brained just appearing to be so to avoid having to display a bit of moral courage.)

But we must frame our message correctly.

The stand is against national standards not PaCT. Teacher organisations should not be voluntarily involved in anything to do with national standards, and PaCT is national standards. This stand is not industrial action as Key has called it but moral action: we are not refusing to obey the law; we are refusing to be involved in the development of something that will be harmful to children. The stand against having anything to do with PaCT is because of our stand against national standards. And our main objection to national standards is not that they are flawed but because they are bad.

That must be the rock of our argument.

We should have nothing to do with ministry in relation to the development of national standards.

There is nothing about national standards we could learn that could possibly make any material difference.

A policy is that is harmful to children is made even more harmful in being made more efficient (not that PaCT has a snowball’s chance of being so).

There is only one message to deliver to the ministry and PaCT: national standards are bad, very bad for children. End of story.

And now to peripheral matters. Could I enumerate them?

  1. Fifty pages of a 155-page Treasury report gained under the OIA lists a host of policies dependent on PaCT; policies from performance pay and dismissal of teachers to controlling classroom programmes. Hekia Parata is moving through the report, systematically putting the items contained into policy. Fears about PaCT aren’t conspiracy theories they are putative policies.
  1. This from an alarmed South Island teacher observer: ‘During the first few minutes we were guided to a webpage set up by the developers of the PACT tool. I had a few minutes before the workshop started so I started clicking around on the website. I came across a webpage that had three columns. The first column had the students MOE identifying number, the second column had their teachers MOE identifying number and the third had the students PACT score. When I asked what this was going to be used for the organisers said that the developers had to build this into the Tool. This is common practice for the Ministry as many of the SMS developers will tell you the Ministry makes strict guidelines about data. To me it was the next step in National’s educational reforms and what we all know is to come. It was a performance pay mechanism.’
  1. This from Marilyn Gwilliam, secretary Papatoetoe Principals Association to Phil Harding: ‘The ministry adviser was unable to tell us if the illustrations in the PaCT tool are aligned to the national standards or to the NZC …
  1.  ‘The PaCT illustrations are not aligned to [any to national standards, the NZC and their OTJs]’

In other words, what is being developed is a tool for national testing; a tool for results being sent to a computer in Wellington to establish its own judgements on child and teacher performance.

On the morning after the historic unity between teacher organisations I received many e-mails from principals telling me how excited they were, and an especially large number were from rural principals who said they felt much more protected as a result of these happenings. I don’t want comfortably ensconced city principals playing silly games and eroding that unity

When the next elections come round for positions in whatever organisation, voters should be looking for a clear policy statement not against PaCT but against national standards.
On the day after the historic unity was announced, the president of the Auckland Primary Principals Association (APPA) sent out a press release saying (would you believe) that ‘the NZPF position re PaCT… does not change our key statement which we made earlier in the year. That is, principals need to be informed regarding whether it will improve student learning in their schools.’
In other words, for the president, there is the possibility of him being in favour of national standards.
Unfortunately, following the declaration of organisational unity, the statements from spokespeople, by focusing on PaCT and not national standards, left the opportunity open for this addled thinking.
A lot of gibberish followed in the APPA press release about the tool not being made mandatory or accessible to the ministry: this is the siren argument of capitulation.
We should boycott PaCT’s development not because of PaCT but because of national standards. And from that rock, long may unity reign.
by Kelvin Smythe.
Reproduced with kind permission by Kelvin Smythe.  
You can read this and many more posts by Kelvin on his web site, Networkonnet

National Standards will make their (skid) mark…

A warning about National Standards data – reblogged from The Daily Blog

“There is a unanimous expert opinion

– even among those championing the potential of the National Standards –

that it would be very foolish indeed to make judgments about any school

on the basis of their results.”  (Source)

Soon we will be treated to another battery of shonky data from The Ministry of Education.

John Key trumpets that “National Standards in education are a critical part of the National-led plan for securing a brighter future for New Zealand children”.   Just how, Mr Key?  Tell us how crappy data, poorly reported, helps us towards a brighter future.

Because it doesn’t give us a whole lot of faith when some assessment tools are widely reported to give inflated results and one this week announced that “new mapping has been applied to existing test results… you will notice that the curriculum levels have moved down – usually by one or two curriculum sub-levels. ”  What?

So let me get this right…  Teachers are spending hours and hours assessing kids’ work using tools approved by the Ministry.  The Ministry then decides the tools are not accurate or reliable. The end grades are then moved up and down by the Ministry (seemingly more often than whore’s drawers, and possibly with less shame).   And then the results are published as if they mean something useful…

Give me a break…

by Dianne Khan, reblogged from The Daily Blog

Read the rest here: A warning about National Standards data – reblogged from The Daily Blog

Articles on Charter Schools and Assessment

Here are links to a small selection of interesting articles about charter schools in their many guises.  They are worth a read.

Charter Schools and Kudzu

by David Morris –


14 Wacky “Facts” Kids Will Learn in Louisiana’s Voucher Schools


for the love of learning : Assessment is not a spreadsheet – it’s a conversation.


Public achievement Information

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