Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘donation’ is not charitable (literally NOT a charity) and involves, yet again, someone with the most money using that wealth to influence the path of education with no say from the parents of those students who will be on the receiving end of yet more experimental reforms.
Whatever happened to democracy, I wonder?
First – my sincerest congratulations on the birth of your baby girl. My son (now sleeping in my arms and making typing a bit difficult) was born just over a year ago, so I know quite well the wonder and fatigue of those first few weeks. I hope you and your wife have gotten some sleep since you’ve been home, and if you haven’t – don’t worry, it’ll get better soon.
When you get a chance to come up for air from your new life with little Max, I have another letter for you to read. (I say “another” because, if you’ve not yet seen it, I wrote you this letter a few weeks ago.)
Mark, without question, you said many lovely things in your open letter to your daughter. I know that you – like all parents – truly want this world to be a better place…
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Reading comments below an article on education reformer, Michelle Rhee, I found what might be the best explanation of the connundrum facing education systems worldwide:
“… I have experienced teaching in two environments, the low-performing classroom and the high-achieving classroom.
In the former, much of my energy, both emotionally and intellectually, is spent on so-called classroom management. In the latter, the lesson plan itself takes care of classroom management, as higher-achieving students demonstrate initiative, creativity and academic skills during the 42 minutes or so of classroom instruction.
As a teacher, I try my utmost to educate all kids in my classroom; what I cannot do is change the culture of negativity and failure that seems to permeate all non-performing schools.
In other words, trying to change the culture of poverty, and all that goes along with it, is truly a quixotic task.
I am not fatalistic. Educational reformers must realize that in order to achieve true reform, the inequalities of our broader society must be alleviated, if not eliminated. Otherwise, educators will be caught in a surreal merry- go-round of failed reforms.”
Ignoring what the student does or doesn’t bring to the classroom is to fail to properly evaluate educational achievement issues. Yet education reforms continue to do just that. So what’s the answer?
Reading another worrying report about the New Zealand charter school experiment – this time looking at Villa Education and the Ministry’s poorly negotiated contracts – a friend commented that it’s almost like the Minister will throw any amount of cash at charter schools to make them succeed.
And another mused that in no other area of government would a private business be handed over such huge sums of money from the public purse with no way of reclaiming it should the business fail.
Many ask themselves, just what exactly is going on? But if you try to find out, the Minister, Ministry and Undersecretary will merely offer words to the effect of ‘no comment’.
(And for the love of all that is holy, don’t hold your breath trying to find anything out via the Official Information Act – people have lived and died waiting for those beggars to come through).
I don’t know why, but it all puts me in mind of Nero fiddling while Rome burned.
So is excessive funding of charter schools really such a big problem? I mean, MBIE flings public funds around like money’s going out of fashion, so perhaps it’s just how government funding goes? Are charter schools merely benefiting from government’s lax purse strings? Hmm, nice try – but not all publicly funded entities are so lucky:
Charter schools are given funds for students they don’t have: Public schools are funded only for their exact roll.
Charter schools can and do spend the funds they are given to buy property that they then own and keep even if they fail: Public school land and buildings are owned by the crown and are reclaimed if a school is closed.
Charter school accounts can be hidden by use of a parent Trust company: Public school accounts are entirely public.
It all sounds a little, well, uneven. And not entirely sensible.
As Jolisa Gracewood put it in What’s Wrong with National Standards?:
“By the current government’s logic, it makes more sense to pour money into a brand-new charter school in a lower-decile neighbourhood than to direct that funding towards support programmes at existing schools or kura…”
Exactly. But why?
Some say the Education Minister doesn’t know what on earth she’s doing. I disagree. She knows. But people misunderstand the purpose of these first charter schools. Their purpose is to slowly get people used to the idea that privatising the school system is not such a bad idea. As such, they will be supported and made to succeed (or seem to succeed) come hell or high water.
Of course you don’t have to trust me on this one – we can look to far wiser heads than mine and the conclusions of Massey University’s report, CHARTER SCHOOLS FOR NEW ZEALAND:
“In New Zealand, government initiated or ministry sponsored educational experiments have a long history of ‘success’: all innovations seem to ‘work’. The reason is, of course, that those who introduce them make sure that they are well funded and that the ‘evaluation’ is carefully controlled to ensure favourable outcomes.”
But why would anyone want to ensure the success of charter schools at all costs?
If ACT’s charter school dream comes true, all schools will be given the chance to become charter schools.
Of course, once large numbers of schools, wooed by the glint of better funding, convert to charter schools, the game will change:
The current level of funding cannot be sustained for huge numbers of schools.
The answer is, it won’t matter. Not to ACT or to National, at least, as the mission will have been achieved, which is to move the education system over to a privatised model.
Then the funding can and will drop, because the actual goal will have been met – privatisation of the public school system.
So to answer those wondering what’s going on with excessive charter school funding, the answer is simply this: it’s an inducement to jump the public school ship and board the charter schools cruise liner … but beware, that boat has holes.
~ Dianne Khan
Sources and further reading:
CHARTER SCHOOLS FOR NEW ZEALAND, An investigation designed to further the debate in New Zealand on education policy in general and on charter schooling in particular, EDUCATION POLICY RESPONSE GROUP, Massey University College of Education, April 2012
If you are still unsure why so many parents, students and educators are up in arms about education reforms, watch this clip from a new documentary, Education Inc.
The story “is told through the eyes of parent and filmmaker, Brian Malone, as he travels cross-country in search of the answers and sources behind the privatizing of American public education, and what it means for his kids.”
It looks at the links between the many factions pushing the reform agenda – who’s behind the reforms, and why?
As ever, it transpires that the key to answering this is to follow the money…
“For free-market reformers, private investors and large education corporations, this controversy spells opportunity in turning public schools over to private interests.
Education, Inc. examines the free-market and for-profit interests that have been quietly and systematically privatizing America’s public education system under the banner of “school choice.”
Malone’s doco paints a clear picture of the profit and politics agenda that’s sweeping through US education, right under people’s noses, and is a sage warning to New Zealand.<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/131231293″>Education Inc Cindy vs School Board</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user4369602″>Fast Forward Films, LLC</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Forewarned is forearmed, NZ.
For more information, see edincmovie.com
or, to put it another way…
What I see is kids taught by “drill and kill” methods – GroupThink at its worst.
Detailed academic research into the methods employed by Core Knowledge concluded:
Our analyses did show that students in Core Knowledge schools perform significantly better than their comparison school counterparts on the Core Knowledge Achievement subtests.
This is not surprising, as the students in Core Knowledge schools were taught the Core Knowledge content, whereas students in comparison schools were not.
In other words, the method teaches the children to pass tests – and specifically Core Knowledge’s own tests. Is that learning? Are these students getting real-world transferable skills?
Watch from 5 mins 45 seconds onwards and tell me:
Is this the kind of school you want for your child?
Not in my worst Kafkaesque or Orwellian nightmares would I ever allow a child of mine into a class where this was the norm.
NATIONAL EVALUATION OF CORE KNOWLEDGE SEQUENCE IMPLEMENTATION – Final Report, Sam Stringfield, Amanda Datnow, Geoffrey Borman, & Laura Rachuba Johns Hopkins Unive rsity Report No. 49 December 2000
She says she wants all kids to succeed.
But she also says they need to feel misery if they do not rise to her nearly impossible expectations.
What kind of success is that?”
Your choice – actively work to change the direction of these reforms or accept that you are as much to blame as the reformers.
This from HuffingtonPost:
As I watch the education “debate” … I wonder if we have simply lost our minds.
In the cacophony of reform chatter — online programs, charter schools … testing, more testing, accountability … value-added assessments, blaming teachers … blaming unions, blaming parents — one can barely hear the children crying out: “Pay attention to us!”
None of the things on the partial list above will have the slightest effect on the so-called achievement gap or the supposed decline in [our] international education rankings. Every bit of education reform — every think tank remedy proposed by wet-behind-the-ears MBAs, every piece of legislation, every one of these things — is an excuse to continue the unconscionable neglect of our children.
As Pogo wisely noted, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” We did this to our children and our schools.
We did this by choosing to see schools as instructional factories, beginning in the early 20th century.
We did this by swallowing the obscene notion that schools and colleges are businesses and children are consumers.
We did this by believing in the infallibility of free enterprise, by pretending [our country] is a meritocracy, and by ignoring the pernicious effects of unrelenting racism.
We did this by believing that children are widgets and economy of scale is both possible and desirable.
We did this by acting as though reality and the digital representation of reality are the same thing.
We did this by demeaning the teaching profession.
We did this by allowing poverty and despair to shatter families.
We did this by blaming these families for the poverty and despair we inflicted on them.
We did this by allowing school buildings to deteriorate, by removing the most enlivening parts of the school day, by feeding our children junk food.
We did this by failing to properly fund schools…
We did this by handcuffing teachers with idiotic policies, constant test preparation and professional insecurity.
[The] children need our attention, not Pearson’s lousy tests or charter schools’ colorful banners and cute little uniforms that make kids look like management trainees.
[Our] teachers need our support, our admiration, and the freedom to teach and love children.
The truth is that our children need our attention, not political platitudes and more TED talks.
Read the rest of the article here.
The Green Party is challenging the Government to come clean about how much
it’s planning to spend on the latest round of charter schools, as officials
warn of the serious risks involved in opening more schools without first
seeing whether the existing ones are working.
A list of groups who expressed an interest in applying to run a new charter
school next year was released last night. Many of the organisations are
religious and many failed in their bids to run charter schools in the last
This comes as Ministry of Education officials warn that the Government has no
idea how charter schools may be hurting other schools, that there are
inconsistencies in the size of charter schools and what’s considered
efficient for other state schools, and that there is a risk of continuing to
fund them every year before evaluating whether they’re working well.
“Officials are warning of considerable risks associated with ploughing
ahead with more charter schools without knowing whether the existing ones are
working for kids, whether they’re hurting other schools in their
neighbourhood, or are even good value for money,” Green Party education
spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said today.
“It is amazingly arrogant to plough ahead with plans to open more charter
schools when the ones already open have not been proven to be successful,
could be damaging other schools in the area, and are sucking up so much
“The existing five charter schools are already set to cost $9 million more
than was budgeted last year and the Government is keeping secret how much it
is planning to spent on the entire next round of new schools.
“The total amount being spent on the current round of charters is now $26
million over their first four years – a staggering amount – which is probably
why the Government is keeping secret how much it plans to spend on the next
“There was no mention at all in the budget about how much National and Act
were planning to spend on the new round of charter schools. Instead the
amount is buried somewhere in the overall contingency fund.
“Public schools throughout the country can only dream of being given the
amount of money that charter schools get. Imagine what schools could achieve
with five times the amount they currently receive.
“No wonder charters can afford to feed their kids, don’t need to ask for
parent donations and can provide free transport to and from school.
“Charter schools were sold as an alternative to ordinary state schools,
which didn’t need to follow the curriculum, meet quality standards or
employ trained teachers.
“But how is it possible to see how well these schools are really doing when
they’re getting five times as much money as other state schools?
“Charter schools are an extreme right idea that’s rooted in the belief
that the state does not have a role in running schools. They’re an attack
on public education which use children in poorer communities to experiment
on,” said Ms Delahunty.
Link to official advice listing the concerns about the Partnership School
The effect of rising neoliberalism and globalisation on education will be discussed at a public lecture at the University of Auckland next week.
Professor Christine Sleeter’s lecture; “Confronting neoliberalism; Classroom practice and social justice teaching,” will show how and why neoliberalism has gained ascendancy, how it is impacting on society and schooling, and what teachers can do to prepare an active citizenry who can advocate for their own rights as a diverse public.
Professor Sleeter, of California State University Monterey Bay, will use examples from the United States to critique briefly the kinds of market-based school reforms neoliberalism supports, and argue how a democratic and socially aware society can counter such changes. Because the market-based and privatised-based reforms have gone global, New Zealand is affected as well.
Professor Sleeter will argue that neoliberalism increasingly drives education reform internationally. While public schools face increasingly constrained funding, especially in the wake of the economic recession, market-based reforms that emphasise competition, standardisation, and accountability have expanded, driven by the corporate sector and private venture philanthropy. Who stands to benefit most from such reforms?
She uses three examples of classroom practice from the US – two illustrating what classroom teachers she has worked with do in their classrooms, and one being of a new curriculum resource in Chicago that directly takes on these issues.
Professor Sleeter is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading scholars of multicultural and anti-racist education.
She is Professor Emerita in the College of Professional Studies at California State University at Monterey Bay and remains actively involved in the ongoing development of teacher education programmes there.
Her speech will be held on Thursday 29 May at 5pm in J1 Lecture Theatre, Epsom Campus, Gate 3, 74 Epsom Ave.
This explains what government policies are doing to public education in Aotearoa. It outlines the huge and fundamental shifts being put in place and what the oppositions are. It is a must-watch.
Our public school system is being set up for privatisation and a hugely competitive model. This push is being made via many measures, such as the proposed new lead teacher roles, charter schools, National Standards, performance pay, value-added models for funding, getting rid of the Teachers’ Council and replacing it with EDUCANZ, and so on.
Any suggestion that there is to be consultation with the education sector is misdirection. The parameters are set, people on panels and committees are hand-picked to push them through, and teachers and parents have little to no voice at all.
It’s a must-watch for all teachers, principals, and support staff.
If you missed your Paid Union Meeting (PUM) or left it unclear or confused, then this is essential viewing.
Anyone still out there that thinks there is not much going on in education at the moment, you owe it to yourself to watch, probably more than once.
You might also want to show it at school in a staff or union meeting, for discussion.
Parents, you may want to watch to help you formulate a list of questions to ask.
Be clear that the shifts being put in place are huge and fundamentally change our education system, especially for primary school students. No more the holistic approach – all that matters are standards, benchmarks and tests. And for many, profit.
If you are unclear just how drastic this is, look to the USA and England just as two examples of what is happening. You owe it to our children and yourself to understand what is going on and to start asking questions.
Below are some links to get you going:
The Guardian – Education (England)
The Anti-Academies Alliance on Facebook (England)
EduShyster – Keeping an eye on the corporate education reform agenda (USA)
Save Our Schools NZ on Facebook (NZ)
Stand Up For Kids – Protect Our Schools on Facebook (NZ)
There are thousands more. Just Google ‘global education reform’ or ‘GERM’ or ‘privatisation of public schools’ and read away.
Every now and then someone will confront me with the accusation that I am against change, innovation and new ideas in education. They have the impression that anyone fighting some changes must be against them all.
Innovation in the classroom is one of the most exciting things about education. There’s nothing better than the freedom to teach to children’s interests and teachers’ strengths, and make learning engaging and exciting as well as relevant. Plenty of public schools are doing this.
Oddly, it didn’t seem innovation and quality learning was much of a consideration for government when they wanted to cut technology classes and had to back down. Maybe ask them what their problem is?
Roll Over, Rover?
People also ask, why don’t I just get on with supporting charter schools now they are here anyway?
Well, to say that once something is in place, one should support it whether it is right or wrong is an odd argument to say the least. Look to history at the many wrongs that have been overturned.
Rolling over is the easier path, I grant you that. I have given well over a year of my life to researching, reading and learning about charters and other reform measures. It’s taken a significant amount of my time. Ignoring it all would have been easier – and at times I have been sorely tempted.
But our education system needs people fighting its corner. And nothing I have found makes me believe charters are anything more than a cover story for privatising the public system.
The very existence of charter schools in NZ is part of a slippery slope of creeping change that is for the worse.
And it’s the same problem with National Standards.
The Tail Wagging the Dog
A child’s reading level or numeracy level, and how they are doing at writing, should certainly be tested and checked, yes. It should all be done regularly and in the classroom by the teacher, shared with others in the school and considered for where to guide the child next and how, so that feedback is fast and to the point, and the child is moved on in a positive way.
Testing in the classroom with timely feedback to students so they know where they are and what goals are next – that is what is needed and what happens. Not league tables. Isn’t the aim for students to learn?
Well, if you are a child, a parent or a teacher that’s the goal – Maybe not so much if you are a politician.
The truth is, National Standards are there to be used as a political bullying stick to ‘prove’ other measures are needed. This has been the pattern repeatedly overseas; Imply there is a big problem so that changes can be justified.
The Teachers Council is being reviewed and changed. PaCT assessment tool with its many underlying worries, is being brought in. Teacher training can now be done in just a few weeks over the summer holidays.
And all of this leads to creeping changes throughout the system, slowly morphing it into a different beast, until one day you look back and think “How the hell did it get to this?”
Watch Out For The Quiet Ones – They Bite The Hardest
Anyone doubting the sneaky and underhand way changes are being pushed through need only look at treasury’s own advice to Education Minister, Hekia Parata in Quiet change – a Treasury guide:
“Overseas experience in education reform suggests focusing on communicating a positively framed ‘crucial few’ at any one time … while making smaller incremental changes in a less high profile manner across a range of fronts”.
“More harder-edged changes could be pursued in parallel, incrementally and without significant profile.”
Treasury asking Bill English to ask Hekia Parata to scale things back and do things less publicly does not mean she is being asked to do them better, oh no.
Rather, she is being asked to do them more sneakily.
Ask yourself: If these and other changes are for the better, if they are honest, if they are based on sound research and best practice, then why the sneaky dog attack?
No animals were hurt in the making of this post.
Finland is a country with an education system that scores highly on PISA tests, but has no high stakes testing programs [e.g. NAPLAN,NCLB,NS] of its own.
It does not believe in the kinds of blanket testing carried out in GERM countries such as Australia, New Zealand, U.K. and U.S.A., all parts of the Global Education Reform Movement.
With little interest and no stake in the outcomes, Finland offers to undertake PISA tests just for fun.
The term GERM was constructed by Pasi Sahlberg of Finland, who has a mission to share the schooling accomplishments of Finland with world educational leaders who are prepared to think about what they are doing to their children. Australia is not included in that category; we Aussies don’t like to strain ourselves too much thinking about the things that really happen to kids at school.
Sahlberg’s book, Finnish Lessons, and his advice have been totally ignored by Australian politico-testucators and given the ‘silence treatment’ by the Australian press. No reason has ever been provided for giving such a prestigious educator the short shift. Anyhow, who cares?
In PISA scores, Finland is ‘up there’ with Singapore, Japan and South Korea for very different reasons.”
Read more here at The Treehorn Express…
Trust me, it’s worth the time – he has some very interesting points and gives lots to think about
About Pasi Sahlberg
He is Director General of CIMO (in the Ministry of Education) in Helsinki, Finland, and has experience in classroom teaching, training teachers and leaders, coaching schools to change and advising education policy-makers around the world. Dr. Sahlberg has lived and worked in the United States (World Bank in Washington DC) and Italy (European Commission). He is an international keynote speaker and has published over 100 articles, chapters and books, among them “The Fourth Way of Finland” (2011), “Rethinking accountability in a knowledge society” (2010), “Creativity and innovation through lifelong learning” (2009), and “Education Reform for Raising Economic Competitiveness” (2006). He earned PhD from the University of Jyväskylä (Finland) in 1996. Dr. Sahlberg is a member of the Board of Directors of ASCD and Adjunct Professor at the University of Helsinki and the University of Oulu. His latest book is “Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland?”
Visit www.pasisahlberg.com for more information.