Nikki Kaye has joined her colleague David Seymour in making misleading statements about charter schools.
In a stuff.co.nz story, written by Jo Moir and published on Tuesday 7 November, she is quoted as saying that the six new charter schools were “publicly notified in February”, meaning the wheels had been in motion for many months for those schools.
This is incorrect.
The public announcement of the two Fourth Round schools, due to open in February 2018, was made on Tuesday 11 July this year.
The public announcement of the four Fifth Round schools, due to open in February 2019, was made on Thursday 7 September, only 16 days before the election.
No documentation relating to either the Fourth or Fifth Round schools has yet been released. This is in contrast to the Third Round schools, when documentation such as the applications, evaluations and contracts was released publicly on the day of the announcement.
Further scrutiny of the minutes of the Partnership Schools Authorisation Board confirm that at the meeting held on 11 April 2017, the Board agreed to delegate to the Chair and Deputy Chair the authority to make the final decisions on the outstanding due diligence matters for the Fourth Round applications. The Ministry of Education was to then confirm the communications plan ahead of the Round 4 contracts being signed. So, that implies that as at April, the final decisions had not even been made and the contracts had not yet been signed. But without any documentation, who knows?
As for the Fifth Round applications, they were even further behind. The 11 April meeting agreed the following dates for Round 5:
According to that timetable, the Fifth Round recommendations were not even going to be finalised until late June!
So, Nikki, where does the “publicly notified in February” comment come from?
As for David Seymour, he was up to his usual mischief over the weekend, when he made this statement in his press release:
“The Sponsors of these schools are passionate educators who were required to demonstrate community support for their schools before their applications were accepted.”
Not so, as least as far as the Wairakei community is concerned, where one of the Fourth Round schools is due to open next year.
Two recent articles in stuff.co.nz have covered the anger and frustration that Wairakei residents have expressed about the proposed new school. In the second article, dated only 2 days before the election, Taupō Mayor David Trewavas called for a halt to plans for a partnership school at Wairakei Village, saying the complete lack of consultation is “unacceptable”.
But the article also quoted David Seymour, who responded to a query from local MP Louise Upston, saying that while community consultation was not required to establish the school it was an “essential component” of a school’s preparation for opening.
So, Mr Seymour, why do you now say that demonstrating community support for the school was required before the application was accepted?
The appalling lack of transparency has been an unfortunate feature of the New Zealand charter school experiment from the outset.
Save Our Schools NZ calls on the new government to instruct the Ministry of Education to release all documentation relating to the Fourth and Fifth Round applications with immediate effect.
Only then can the false and misleading statements of opposition politicians be called out as they should be.
– Bill Courtney, SOSNZ
New Zealand Charter (or Partnership) Schools are private businesses that are fully funded by your taxes. They are funded at a higher rate than comparable state schools.
Charter Schools can employ untrained staff to work in classrooms as teachers.
Charter Schools are free to pay staff, advisors, etc whatever they choose. Charter schools need not declare pay levels or any other aspect of what their funding is spent on.
It is not possible to get use the Official Information Act to access information from a Charter School, as they are private businesses.
Charter Schools need not have parent representation on the Board.
With that basic overview done, here are the charter school policies of the main New Zealand political parties.
Despite charter schools being driven by ACT, their education policy web page has no mention of charter (or partnership) schools at all.
Despite bringing in the legislation for charter schools, the National’s education policy web page has no mention of them at all.
“We believe in a quality, comprehensive, public education system, not the corporatised, privatised system that the current government is driving us towards. Taxpayer funding for education should be directed towards learning and teaching, not creating profit-making opportunities for private businesses.”
“Labour will protect and promote our quality public education system by: Repealing the legislation allowing for Charter Schools” (Source)
“The Green Party will: Oppose charter schools, repeal the enabling legislation around charter schools, and maintain the current flexibility to support/create some state schools designated special character.” (Source)
“New Zealand First is strongly opposed to “charter” or “partnership” schools; public funding for these privately owned profit making opportunities would be ended by New Zealand First.”
“New Zealand First will: Repeal the 2013 amendments to the Education Act 1989 that allowed the creation of Charter Schools.” (Source)
Mana will: “Cancel public private partnership contracts for schools and abolish the charter schools policy” (Source)
“Question: You seem to be staunchly against specialist schools like charter schools and even private schools. Shouldn’t parents have the right to do best by their child, and be less concerned about the plight of other less fortunate children?
Answer: You’d have a point if there was any evidence that these specialist schools are producing better overall results for their students. There is no such evidence. There is however strong evidence that ghetto-ising the residual schools is doing real damage to the students there, entrenching disadvantage and raising the costs to society of the rising inequality that results. There is a case for specialist schools or at least classes for children with special needs, or for children of various ethnic communities. But the trend under Tomorrow’s Schools of “affluent flight” shows no benefit and plenty of costs.
As for charter schools, they could easily be accommodated within the state system – there is no need for them to sit outside.” (Source)
The Maori Party
The Maori Party’s education policy does not mention charter schools. (Source)
No school-level education policy at all can be found on the web page of United Future (Source)
If you note any errors or missing information relating to this post, please comment below and I will edit as quickly as possible.
Dianne Khan – SOSNZ
Edited 10/9/2017 3.34 to update TOP’s policy and add link.
NZEI Te Riu Roa is demanding the National/Act Government say how much it’s spending on four new charter schools, adding its money that should have gone on education of children with additional learning needs.
“It’s immoral to spend huge amounts of public money on schools that aren’t even needed, when children with additional needs are being denied the support they need to learn,” NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart said.
This week it was revealed that three and four year olds were waiting up to a year for an initial appointment with Ministry of Education specialists when they were identified with special needs.
“These children are being robbed of their right to an education, at the very time when it can have the greatest impact.
“The money being spent on charter schools would change the lives of thousands of children missing out on an education because this Government won’t properly fund learning support.
“The charter school experiment has not worked to raise achievement, according to recent analysis of school leaver results.
“It’s time to put an end to political interference in education, and focus on what works for all our children. That’s a strong public education system designed to ensure every child, not just some, achieve their full potential.”
Figures just released by the Ministry of Education show that only 59.7% of charter school leavers left with NCEA L2 or above in 2016. (School Leavers Stats.xlsx – Sheet1)
This compares to a system-wide figure of 80.3% across all schools within the system in 2016.
Looking more closely at specific groups, the system-level result for decile 3 schools was 74.3% and for Maori students, across all deciles, it was 66.5%.
The School Leavers metric is used as the performance standard in the charter school contracts. Former Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, made her intentions clear when she said:
“There is to be no compromise on the system level benchmarks”.
(Source: Hand-written comment from the Minister on a Ministry of Education paper, dated 24 May 2013)
The decile 3 system-level result for 2012 had been used as the baseline for the charter schools in their first year, i.e. 66.9% for the 2014 year. The contracts then set out a series of performance standards for subsequent years, culminating in the target of 85% of School Leavers attaining NCEA Level 2 or above by 2017. *
Worryingly, even this poor performance masks a weak set of results overall.
There were 124 School Leavers from charter schools in 2016 and this is the breakdown of the highest qualification they left school with:
Qualification # students % of total
Below Level 1 25 20.2%
Level 1 25 20.2%
Level 2 45 36.3%
Level 3 14 11.3%
UE 15 12.1%
Given the hype around charter schools, it is disappointing to see that 20.2% of students left school in 2016 without even attaining NCEA Level 1.
And at the top end, numbers above Level 2 fall away quite markedly:
As we await this year’s Ministry of Education evaluation of the charter schools, we are minded to note Hekia’s comment from 2013. Clearly, the New Zealand model of charter school is currently not achieving at anywhere near the system-level benchmarks that have been set for it.
~ Bill Courtney
* Note: There were no contract performance standards set above NCEA Level 2. The contracts for primary and middle schools are based on performance standards using National Standards for years 1 to 8.
For more information on charter schools, you may wish to read Charter School Report Card by Shawgi Tell
1. The introduction of charter schools is both a sop to the ACT Party, with their ideological desire to introduce a privatised, market based model of education, and a follow up to the Step Change Report produced in the term of the previous National Government. [Feb 2010]
2. However, there are significant differences between vouchers, the pure market model usually promoted by ACT, and charter schools, which is privatisation by way of contracting with private sector providers. Treasury calls this “Contracting for Outcomes”.
3. Treasury, in its advice to the Minister of Finance, noted that: “The evidence suggests that schooling systems that use strongly competitive elements such as vouchers, avoiding school zoning and ‘charter’ schools do not produce systematically better outcomes.” [July 2012]
4. “School Choice” is the phrase used in America to describe the market model. But New Zealand already has “arguably the most aggressive school choice system in the world” in the view of one overseas commentator. [Marc Tucker, Washington Post, October 2012]
5. NZCER surveys over the years consistently show that the vast majority of NZ parents already believe they send their children to the “school of their choice”. [NZCER]
6. Overseas evidence on charter school performance is inconclusive, at best. A wide range of individual school performance is evident but with little system-wide effect across the model as a whole. [CREDO and Hattie]
7. This purely quantitative analysis is then subject to further criticisms of many aspects of US charter school practices, including: student selection, including the effect of “self-selection” amongst parents; the proportions of English language Learners and special needs students; student attrition; school discipline and behaviour management practices; the apparent lack of backfilling, i.e. the tendency to not replace students as they leave; and the drive for what is commonly called “test prep”, in contrast to a genuine focus on the quality of education.
8. The promotional pack from the Authorisation Board boasts that the New Zealand charter school model represents “Freedom from constraints imposed on regular state schools in exchange for rigorous accountability for performance against agreed objectives.”
9. It then identifies the following factors, but without any evidence that these are likely to lead to higher student achievement: Cashed-up per student funding; school day & year; school organisation; curriculum; teacher pay / teaching practice; privately provided / secular or faith based. [PSKH Authorisation Board, 2016]
10. The argument that “freedom” will encourage/facilitate “innovation” is weak. It is not supported by overseas evidence [Lubienski 2003] and one US charter school industry’s overview even conceded that “… most charters do not employ particularly innovative instructional approaches”. [Bellwether 2015]
11. The combined roll of the 10 schools now in operation was 1,257 as at 1 March 2017, an average of about 125 students per school. The combined Maximum Roll across the 10 schools is 2,112 students. [MoE Schools Directory, April 2017]
12. The original funding model has already been changed, as it soon became clear how much operational funding these schools were receiving compared to their local state schools. Small schools are expensive and the government was fully funding the First and Second Round schools with no Sponsor capital input required.
13. Even in their 4th year of operation, the two largest First Round charter secondary schools are receiving cash funding of over $14,000 per student, compared to a system-wide weighted average for all schools, including property, of $7,046.11. [2015 system data]
14. The Third Round funding model now uses an approach more oriented to funding the student than funding the school, as the roll grows. But the government still provides the property and insurance funding for what is essentially a private sector organisation.
15. Cabinet was told: “A strong evaluation programme will be put in place that thoroughly examines the impact and effectiveness of the first such schools. This will enable us to make informed decisions about whether or not to open further such schools in the future.”
16. This promise has not been carried out. The roll-out of the model has proceeded well ahead of the release of any evaluation. At the time of writing, the Third Round schools have opened this year and applications are being processed for the Fourth and Fifth Rounds!
17. The first two reports from the Martin Jenkins Evaluation Programme are weak and do not rigorously examine school performance or the impact these schools have had. The Evaluation has also completely ignored the failure of the First Round school at Whangaruru.
18. Student achievement outcomes to date have been mixed but difficult to analyse thoroughly given the delays in the Ministry releasing accurate information.
19. By May 2017, the Minister has still not announced her decision on the release of the performance based funding for the 2015 school year! No operational reports for the entire 2016 year have yet been released, along with supporting documentation such as contract variations and Ministry advice to the Minister.
20. There was a major problem with the interpretation of the original secondary schools’ contract performance standard, which is “School Leavers” and not NCEA pass rates. This resulted in incorrect reporting of the true state of the 2014 and 2015 secondary performance. [MoE advice to the Minister, July 2016, obtained under the OIA]
21. Superficially high NCEA pass rates are published by Vanguard Military School but NZQA data obtained under the Official Information Act (OIA) reveals issues around the quality of the credits gained, the high proportion of unit versus achievement standards entered and large differences between internal and external pass rates. [NZQA]
22. Primary and middle schools assessed against National Standards have not performed well. In the 2015 year, only one school out of five – the Rise Up Academy – met its NS student achievement standard targets. [MoE initial analysis, 30 May 2016]
23. Some schools, including Vanguard and the two Villa middle schools, have failed to meet their Student Engagement contract standards relating to stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions. This is of concern, given the US charter school practices noted above.
24. Charter schools are not more accountable than public schools, simply because they operate under a contract. Whangaruru was not closed for failure to achieve contract standards; it was dysfunctional from the start.
25. Public school accountability includes parent-elected Boards of Trustees, which must hold open meetings, maintain open records and be subject to the Official Information Act. Board finances are subject to audit under the supervision of the Auditor-General.
26. No such requirements apply to charter schools, which are organised under a commercial contract between the government and the private sector Sponsor.
27. Public funding must go hand in hand with public accountability. State and State-Integrated schools both abide by this principle but charter schools do not.
The cover up of the true picture of student achievement in charter schools continued today with the belated release of the second Martin Jenkins Evaluation Report.
The report, with a final publication date of 28 November 2016, was released on Friday 5 May 2017, a delay of over 5 months.
However, even now, the report contains a massive caveat in the section discussing student achievement, which indicates there are still major problems behind the scenes.
Here is the footnote set out under the Evaluation Report’s analysis of Student Achievement:
The ratings in the May 2016 advice were based on the best information available to the Ministry at that time (and are indicative of the reports that the Ministry had received from schools/kura by then). They reflect the most up-to-date information provided to the evaluation team at the time of writing this report, but are not the Ministry’s final assessments of schools’/kura performance for 2015.
Source: Ministry of Education (2016) Education Report: Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua: 2015 Quarter Four and Annual Reports, 30 May 2016
So, a formal policy evaluation signed off in November 2016, cannot go to print in May 2017 with a clear statement of exactly what represents the “Ministry’s final assessments of schools’/kura performance for 2015”?
The same problem is holding back the Minister of Education’s decision on whether or not to release the retained operational funding that is performance related, in respect of the 2015 school year. And this is now May 2017!
The major problem relates to the issue which surfaced last year, when the Ministry acknowledged that the interpretation of the secondary schools’ contract performance standards had been incorrect. As a consequence, the schools had also reported incorrectly against their contracts.
These incorrect figures had been used to determine the Ministry’s ratings in its May 2016 advice, referred to in the footnote. While the Ministry has now acknowledged that these figures are incorrect, nothing further has since been released.
The poor performance of the primary and middle schools is also evident in the Evaluation Report. Of the five primary and middle schools, which have contract targets set against National Standards, only one school, the Rise Up Academy, was assessed as having met its contract targets.
And problems are also clearly evident in the assessment of performance against the Student Engagement standards. Vanguard Military School and Middle School West Auckland performed very poorly against the standards for Stand-downs, Suspensions, Exclusions and Expulsions.
Overall, the main takeaway from the Evaluation Report is a fairly damning indictment of performance to date.
But the continued cover up of the true picture should not be tolerated any longer.
~ Bill Courtney
For a Minister so obsessed with data and, in particular, the sharing of data, it is interesting how little we know about charter schools.
Bill Courtney writes:
The game of delaying the release of a vast range of information on the charter schools continues.
The Ministry has promised to release a lot of material, including the formal evaluation of 2015 student achievement, in “April” but has refused to state exactly when. They also need to release all of the 2016 quarterly reports, the 2016 contract variations and the second “annual” installment of the Martin Jenkins evaluation of the charter school initative.
In short, lots of information is being withheld for no apparent reason.
When it is finally released, we will go through it and post our thoughts on what it reveals.
In the meantime, propaganda and marketing material fills the void.
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
David Seymour has made a clearly incorrect statement to the media about his beloved charter schools and contradicted his Minister in the process.
The question at issue is the incorrect interpretation and measurement of the student achievement targets used in the original charter school contracts for the first and second round charter schools.
Save Our Schools NZ has been involved for over a year in the battle to get the Ministry of Education to acknowledge that both the reporting by the schools and the performance evaluation by the Ministry have been incorrect.
Radio NZ reported on Thursday that Seymour defended the incorrect interpretation by making the following statement:
“The reason that there is a difference, just remember, is that we have been pioneering holding schools to account through a contract, and it was necessary if you wanted to do that to have a different system of measurement.”
This statement is rubbish!
The original contracts did not have a different system of measurement at all.
The performance standards used in the original contracts were stated as “School Leavers with NCEA Level 1” and “School Leavers with NCEA Level 2”.
But both of these performance standards have been interpreted incorrectly and not calculated in the normal way that the Ministry does so for all other schools in the system.
These School Leaver statistics are published in the Ministry’s Education Counts database for every school: state, state-integrated, private and now the charter schools.
The error was obvious once the Education Counts “School Leavers” figures for the first round charter schools were released and it was clear that these were different from both the schools’ own reporting and the Ministry’s evaluation.
But it was also clear that they were not what the Minister had intended when the contracts had been put together in 2013.
Under the Official Information Act, Save Our Schools NZ obtained Ministry reports to the Minister in 2013 that set out the basis for the contract performance standards and the metrics that would be used to measure performance.
These documents included one where the Minister, Hekia Parata, made a hand-written comment on one of the papers in May 2013, discussing the principles behind the contract standards:
“There is to be no compromise on the system-level benchmarks.”
This makes a mockery of David Seymour’s claim that it was necessary to have a different system of measurement.
The Minister then signed off the contract metrics in September 2013. These included the following:
“n. Agree that performance standards for 2014 NCEA Level 1 and 2 should be based on 2012 system-level results for decile 3 state schools.”
So the Minister had clearly intended that the normal system-level benchmarks should be used and the charter school targets for 2014 should be the same as the results of decile 3 state schools in 2012.
It is the incorrect interpretation and measurement of those performance standards that has been revealed and is now being corrected.
Seymour is simply wrong to argue that a “different system of measurement” had always been intended.
~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ
Save Our Schools finds little evidence to support the claim by the Māori Party that charter schools are “delivering for our people”.
Closer scrutiny of the schools’ performance against their contracts suggests that none of the three schools with predominantly Māori students is actually meeting their main targets.
The Ministry set targets for student achievement using National Standards as the metric for the primary schools and the “School Leavers with NCEA Level 2” metric as the main target for secondary schools.
But Ministry analysis released in May this year showed that both of the primary schools, Te Kapehu Whetu-Teina in Whangarei and Te Kura Māori o Waatea in Mangere, were evaluated as “Not Met” for student achievement.
Whetu-Teina achieved only 2 of its 18 targets and Waatea achieved none of its 12 targets in 2015 according to the Ministry analysis.
The secondary school based in Whangarei, Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa, reported high NCEA participation-based pass rates but its School Leavers stats showed a different picture.
The Education Counts database showed Paraoa as having 84.6% of School Leavers in 2015 leaving with NCEA Level 1 or above against a target of 84.0%; but its School Leavers with NCEA Level 2 or above figure of 69.2% did not quite reach its contract target of 73.0%.
The Ministry has not released its revised evaluation of the school’s performance against target, as it has only recently acknowledged an inconsistency in how the secondary school contract performance measures have been interpreted.
But on the surface, Paraoa has not reached the key NCEA Level 2 School Leaver target that the Government focuses on.
Finally, we have to keep in mind that the fourth school with predominantly Māori students, based at Whangaruru in Northland, was closed earlier this year by the Minister.
So, on balance, there seems to be little evidence at this early stage to support the claims being made.
– Bill Courtney. Save Our Schools NZ
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.
The 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
This is the second in a series of postings following up an op-ed written by Don Brash published in the NZ Herald.
Our first response discussed what motives might lay behind what we feel is a concerted PR push by Villa Education Trust, the Sponsor of South Auckland Middle School.
In this piece we will look at the statement made in the op-ed about funding, as this remains one of the real sticking points about the early charter schools.
Ah yes, critics argue, but partnership schools get a lot more money from the taxpayer than other schools do. Absolute nonsense.
Sorry, Dr Brash, but charter schools do get more OPERATIONAL FUNDING than the local schools get. Especially when their funding is compared to the larger schools in South Auckland, where SAMS is located.
In a nutshell, SAMS received total operational funding of approx. $12,800 per student in 2015 compared to Manurewa Intermediate (the intermediate school used in the article) which received approx. $5,600 per student.
To understand how this large discrepancy arises, we need to look at the original charter school funding model. The single biggest policy mistake it made was to try and work out the equivalent funding that a stand alone State school of the same size and type might receive.
But, in practice, the charter schools are being created in places like South Auckland where there are larger, more established schools that receive much lower average per student funding. This means that the larger schools could not possibly recreate the conditions such as class sizes of 15 that the smaller charter schools can.
One recent story on Radio NZ described the pressure on some South Auckland schools that saw many of them using their libraries and halls as teaching spaces. One school had plans to start teaching next year in the staffroom!
So, is it any wonder that when given the option of class sizes of 15, free uniforms and free stationery, that parents may be choosing the charter school?
Let’s look briefly at the original charter school funding model, noting that this model has already been changed for the third round schools that have just been announced.
The original model had two essentially fixed components per school: Base Funding and Property & Insurance. The property component is fixed for the first 3 years (unless the school changes size or teaching year levels) and the base funding component varies by type of school (secondary, middle or primary) and is indexed each year.
Variable Funding comes in two parts: a Per Student Grant and Centrally Funded Services. The two variable components are then multiplied by the number of students on the roll or the Guaranteed Minimum Roll (“GMR”) whichever is the greater. So, if the actual school roll is less than the GMR, the Sponsor gets paid for at least the GMR number of students.
In 2015, SAMS operated at its Maximum Roll, which was originally 120 students.
So, putting all the components together the SAMS financial statements show revenue from Government Grants of $1,536,016, or an average government funding figure of approx. $12,800 per student, in 2015.
So let’s walk through the SAMS financial statements for 2015 and see what Villa does with its $1.5 million of funding.
First, it pays the rent, which is $150,000 per annum. If we are generous, and include all Property expenses, including utilities, we find these amounted to $194,776 in the 2015 financial statements.
This would then leave a total of $1,341,240, or $11,177 per student after we have acquired and maintained the school premises.
What do we do next? We would look to hire the teachers necessary to deliver on the 1:15 class size ratio.
For a school of 120 students, we would need 8 teachers, at a round number cost of $75,000 per annum each. That should cost us approx. $600,000 and we find that teacher salaries in the 2015 SAMS accounts came out at pretty much that amount: $584,883. Add in the other curriculum related costs, such as classroom resources – including those free school uniforms and stationery – and total Learning Resources amounted to $869,846.
That leaves us with $471,394 to pay for the administration of a 120 student school.
Plenty of money to pay for a full-time Community Liaison Manager – nice if you can afford it – pay for all the office and other admin costs and allow for depreciation and you spend a total of $263,906.
And what does that leave room for?
That’s right: the Management Fee payable to the Sponsor of $140,000. That’s the cost of hiring a full-time principal at a much larger school!
For comparison, let’s see how Manurewa Intermediate is getting on.
The Find A School application on the Education Counts website has summary financial information for State and State-Integrated schools.
In 2015 Find A School showed Manurewa Intermediate’s Staffing Entitlement figure was $2,510,958 and its Operations Grant figure was shown as $1,431,808. So, let’s cash this all up and make an OPERATIONAL FUNDING total of $3,942,766.
But straight away we have a problem. Manurewa Intermediate has 704 students. So we start our comparison with average per student government funding of only $5,600 per student.
Its property is owned by the Crown, so it doesn’t pay rent in cash. So we can skip straight to the teacher costs.
To engineer class sizes of 15, we would need to buy 47 teachers. At a cost of $75,000 each we would need $3,525,000.
That would leave us with only $417,766 or $593 per student to pay for everything else necessary to run a school of 704 students which is nearly 6 times the size of SAMS!
Out of that amount, we would need to pay for all classroom and curriculum resources, all the non-teaching staff, all the administration costs, the utilities and property maintenance costs and the depreciation to cover the replacement of all the furniture, equipment and ICT resources.
Hopefully you can see from this comparison that it would be virtually impossible for Manurewa Intermediate to have class sizes of 15 with the level of government operational funding it receives.
You could also arrive at the same conclusion with a simple rule of thumb calculation.
Based on a teacher cost of $75,000, in a class size of 15 each student needs to contribute $5,000 to pay for their teacher. SAMS had $11,177 after paying for the premises; Manurewa Intermediate started with $5,600.
In summary, what readers interested in understanding charter schools funding need to appreciate is the significant influence of the fixed cost components of their funding model.
Even at its initial maximum roll of 120, the fixed components of SAMS’ funding comprise 57% of its total funding: base funding was $578,021 and the property component was $303,681. That is why the charter schools are proving to be more expensive than their local counterparts: they are small schools with high fixed cost funding.
But they are being compared to larger, longer established schools where the fixed costs are spread over a much greater number of students.
This is what economists call economies of scale.
It is a major reason why direct comparisons between schools with significantly different funding streams should be treated with real caution.
Research shows that the effects of smaller class sizes are positive and of real help, especially when dealing with students who need more intensive support.
Smaller class sizes are an expensive policy to engineer; but wouldn’t it be great to see class sizes of 15 in all our low decile schools, not just those favoured by the flawed charter school funding model.
~ Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ
The NZ Herald ran an op-ed piece yesterday written by former ACT Party leader, Don Brash. It sang the praises of South Auckland Middle School, one of the two charter schools run by Alwyn Poole of Villa Education Trust.
The piece contained statistics of all sorts including figures purporting to compare the National Standards results for SAMS to local Manurewa schools. I will write separately on the thorny topic of comparing schools and how this might fit in to how we see the charter school concept playing out here in New Zealand.
We will also look again at the much higher operational funding that SAMS receives compared to local schools. And we will also deal with the silly comment that Dr Brash made about Rototuna Primary receiving “$40 million for start-up”, which is a ridiculous statement to make.
[If you want a summary of this year’s charter school funding read our piece from earlier this year]
But, in the meantime, let’s focus on the current PR push.
We have seen this push several times recently in the right wing blog sites Whale Oil and Kiwiblog and it even appeared in a piece in the National Business Review, written by another former ACT Party leader, Rodney Hide.
Alwyn is well known to many of us in the charter school circle. He is very aggressive in his marketing and communications, looking to push both the charter school concept and his own schools at every opportunity.
While there’s nothing really wrong with that, I suspect the motivation for this current push was that SAMS has fallen short of the student achievement performance targets in its contract.
This was confirmed last week when the Ministry’s evaluation of the 2015 charter school performance was published. SAMS met only two of its six Targets and was rated as Almost Met. However, its sister school out west, Middle School West Auckland, met only one of its six Targets and was rated Not Met.
Mind you, the Ministry report, dated 30 May 2016 but released in the last week of August, was buried on the charter school section of the Ministry’s website and not even put at the top of a long list of documents. No press release, no website announcement – nothing. I wonder why?
The Ministry report did not make any recommendations on the release of what is termed the 1 per cent retention amount of each school’s operational funding. This is supposed to be released only when a charter school has met all of its performance standards. [See charter school Agreement, Schedule 7: Payment, clause 1.4 (i)]
However, the Minister fudged this decision last year and released the retention payment to Villa, even though SAMS failed to meet its student engagement performance standard, due to having too many Stand Downs, Suspensions and Exclusions.
Just out of interest, we should also note that the two Villa charter schools have so far generated $640,016 in management fees to the Sponsor. And these are on top of any expenses incurred within the schools to cover both teaching and administration costs.
The charter school love-in group, known as the Authorisation Board and headed by another ACT Party ideologue, is in recruitment mode now for the Fourth Round. They have a slide pack that promotes the charter school concept as “Rigorous Accountability for performance against agreed objectives”.
Both SAMS and Middle West have not met their student achievement contract performance standards in the 2015 year.
We shall see what the Minister decides…
~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ
The Education Ministry reported that some of last year’s new charter schools are not doing so well, but says there are good reasons for this.
The reasons given include students arriving at school far behind age-appropriate levels, student transience, the high rate of referrals from Child Youth and Family and the Police and referrals of difficult students from other schools.
Indeed, those are valid reasons for any school struggling to help students.
What I would like the Education Minister and the Undersecretary for Education to explain is how these factors are considered sound reasons for charter schools to struggle to help students and yet are considered excuses for public schools.
Sources and further reading:
Charter schools are privately run, publicly funded, and irregularly regulated.
John Oliver explores why they aren’t at all like pizzerias.
NZ, don’t say you haven’t been warned. We’re already seeing some of this here, and we only have NINE!