NZ’s charter school experiment is proving to be even more expensive than first thought, as two schools have experienced falling rolls since the start of the 2014 school year and three remain below what is termed their “Guaranteed Minimum Roll” for funding purposes.
As a result, the number of students enrolled has fallen to 358 across the 5 charter schools and the schools will now receive an average of $20,878 in funding this year.
Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, discussed the controversial initiative on TV’s Q&A programme last weekend, describing it as a “…niche sort of thing…”
But the argument that this is only a “niche” is in stark contrast with ACT Party policy.
The ACT Party wants to expand the charter school programme and ultimately convert all state schools into privately operated charter schools.
The arguments behind the establishment of NZ charter schools have always been weak and the Working Group led by former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac, never produced a written report.
This is in contrast to former ACT MP John Banks’s claim in parliament that we could learn from the successes and failures of charter schools overseas. But with no written report from his former party president, we simply don’t know how the NZ model supposedly does this.
Two charter secondary schools, Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru and the Vanguard Military School, have seen their rolls fall by around 10% between March and July:
Whangaruru from 63 to 56 and Vanguard from 104 to 93.
Students may well have left the schools for justifiable reasons, such as joining the military, in the case of Vanguard, but the funding implications are clear.
Under the terms of the charter school contracts, each school is funded for the full year at a minimum level set in advance at the start of the year. Whangaruru is funded for 71 students and Vanguard is funded for 108 students. In addition, the primary school, Rise Up Academy, is funded at a level of 50 students but has only 46 students as at 1 July.
Based on the 1 July roll returns, Whangaruru will now receive $26,939 per student in 2014 and Vanguard will receive $22,837 per student (see table below):
So across the 5 charter schools, total student enrolment has fallen to 358 and the average minimum operational funding cost per student for 2014 has increased to $20,878.
In practice, actual funding per student may be higher than these estimated figures, if the school roll has exceeded its “guaranteed minimum roll”, as the contract stipulates funding will be set at the greater of the two.
One further aspect that disturbs us, is that the Vanguard Military School is sponsored by a for-profit family owned company. Will the fixed revenue stream be spent on the remaining students or will it fall into the Income Statement of the Sponsor?
QPEC reiterates its call for a review of this controversial policy as it is clear that it is nothing more than a political stunt.
QPEC also wants to see a major review of school funding take place after the election. It is time to re-examine all aspects of school funding and to seek a more equitable basis for funding our most deserving students and the community schools that serve them.
We have an opportunity to help level the playing field for the most disadvantaged children.
Let’s give all our children the greatest possible opportunity to succeed.
Look at the job the power companies have done – Privatisation is not necessarily better for the consumer.
And in this case, the consumers are our children – the next generation.
And whilst some politicians and businesses are all for a privatised education system, teachers and parents are not. Ask yourself why that might be? Last time I looked, teachers and parents weren’t in it for the money…
Look to what has happened and is happening in overseas public education systems that have been ‘reformed’:
“The Swedish school system is often cited by Michael Gove as a model of best practice. However, like America its experiment with for-profit education has had disastrous consequences.
In May, JB Education, one of the largest for-profit education providers in the country went bust leaving the future of 10,000 pupils in limbo.
Ibrahim Baylan, the education spokesman for Sweden’s opposition Social Democratic party, says closures should come as a warning to the UK not to slavishly adopt the Swedish model, where private companies can set up profit-making free schools, paid for by the state but with little government oversight:
“Before you do something like this you have to really, really think about how you set up the system. The system here is not working as it’s supposed to work. Nobody could foresee that so many private equity companies would be in our school system as we have today.””
“Despite consuming billions every year in taxpayer-funded student loans for-profit universities have a terrible record of success. Only one in five students graduate, and students at for-profit colleges are much more likely to default on their loans. This is partly a result of their recruitment practices, with for-profit colleges often targeting people (including the homeless) who simply do not have the financial resources to pay loans back.
The US’ experience of allowing for-profit companies to run schools (often described as the CharterSchool movement) has also been mired in controversy.
Former Under-Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch, who served under George Bush and Bill Clinton and was an initial supporter of Charter Schools, came up with the following summary:
“Charter schools are leading us to having a dual school system again. We’re going back to the period before Brown v. Board of Education, but the differentiation in the future will be based on class instead of race.
“Corporations aren’t going to put more money into the school, they’re only going to make money. This should make people in America angry. There ought to be a public uprising about this effort to destroy public education.””
“[The Agency] needs to do more to address potential conflicts of interest in academies.
We were concerned that individuals with connections to both academy trusts and private companies may have benefited from their position when providing trusts with goods and services. The Agency has reviewed 12 such cases but it is likely that many more exist and have gone unchallenged”.”
Be very clear that what is happening in New Zealand is part of the global education reform movement (GERM) and is not isolated.
Worldwide, education systems are being broken up and handed over to businesses so that your taxes can go into private hands. Education does not improve, Students do not fare better.
A fragmented, secretive, and privatised system is not the best way.
“We are deeply concerned that measuring a great diversity of educational traditions and cultures using a single, narrow, biased yardstick could, in the end, do irreparable harm to our schools and our students.“
Dear Dr Schleicher,
We write to you in your capacity as OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) director of the Programme of International Student Assessment (Pisa). Now in its 13th year, Pisa is known around the world as an instrument to rank OECD and non-OECD countries (60-plus at last count) according to a measure of academic achievement of 15-year-old students in mathematics, science, and reading. Administered every three years, Pisa results are anxiously awaited by governments, education ministers, and the editorial boards of newspapers, and are cited authoritatively in countless policy reports. They have begun to deeply influence educational practices in many countries. As a result of Pisa, countries are overhauling their education systems in the hopes of improving their rankings. Lack of progress on Pisa has led to declarations of crisis and “Pisa shock” in many countries, followed by calls for resignations, and far-reaching reforms according to Pisa precepts.
We are frankly concerned about the negative consequences of the Pisa rankings. These are some of our concerns:
While standardised testing has been used in many nations for decades (despite serious reservations about its validity and reliability), Pisa has contributed to an escalation in such testing and a dramatically increased reliance on quantitative measures. For example, in the US, Pisa has been invoked as a major justification for the recent “Race to the Top” programme, which has increased the use of standardised testing for student-, teacher-, and administrator evaluations, which rank and label students, as well as teachers and administrators according to the results of tests widely known to be imperfect (see, for example, Finland’s unexplained decline from the top of the Pisa table).
In education policy, Pisa, with its three-year assessment cycle, has caused a shift of attention to short-term fixes designed to help a country quickly climb the rankings, despite research showing that enduring changes in education practice take decades, not a few years, to come to fruition. For example, we know that the status of teachers and the prestige of teaching as a profession have a strong influence on the quality of instruction, but that status varies strongly across cultures and is not easily influenced by short-term policy.
By emphasising a narrow range of measurable aspects of education, Pisa takes attention away from the less measurable or immeasurable educational objectives like physical, moral, civic and artistic development, thereby dangerously narrowing our collective imagination regarding what education is and ought to be about.
As an organisation of economic development, OECD is naturally biased in favour of the economic role of public [state] schools. But preparing young men and women for gainful employment is not the only, and not even the main goal of public education, which has to prepare students for participation in democratic self-government, moral action and a life of personal development, growth and wellbeing.
Unlike United Nations (UN) organisations such as UNESCO or UNICEF that have clear and legitimate mandates to improve education and the lives of children around the world, OECD has no such mandate. Nor are there, at present, mechanisms of effective democratic participation in its education decision-making process.
To carry out Pisa and a host of follow-up services, OECD has embraced “public-private partnerships” and entered into alliances with multi-national for-profit companies, which stand to gain financially from any deficits—real or perceived—unearthed by Pisa. Some of these companies provide educational services to American schools and school districts on a massive, for-profit basis, while also pursuing plans to develop for-profit elementary education in Africa, where OECD is now planning to introduce the Pisa programme.
Finally, and most importantly: the new Pisa regime, with its continuous cycle of global testing, harms our children and impoverishes our classrooms, as it inevitably involves more and longer batteries of multiple-choice testing, more scripted “vendor”-made lessons, and less autonomy for teachers. In this way Pisa has further increased the already high stress level in schools, which endangers the wellbeing of students and teachers.
These developments are in overt conflict with widely accepted principles of good educational and democratic practice:
No reform of any consequence should be based on a single narrow measure of quality.
No reform of any consequence should ignore the important role of non-educational factors, among which a nation’s socio-economic inequality is paramount. In many countries, including the US, inequality has dramatically increased over the past 15 years, explaining the widening educational gap between rich and poor which education reforms, no matter how sophisticated, are unlikely to redress.
An organisation like OECD, as any organisation that deeply affects the life of our communities, should be open to democratic accountability by members of those communities.
We are writing not only to point out deficits and problems. We would also like to offer constructive ideas and suggestions that may help to alleviate the above mentioned concerns. While in no way complete, they illustrate how learning could be improved without the above mentioned negative effects:
1 Develop alternatives to league tables: explore more meaningful and less easily sensationalised ways of reporting assessment outcomes. For example, comparing developing countries, where 15-year-olds are regularly drafted into child labour, with first-world countries makes neither educational nor political sense and opens OECD up for charges of educational colonialism.
2 Make room for participation by the full range of relevant constituents and scholarship: to date, the groups with greatest influence on what and how international learning is assessed are psychometricians, statisticians, and economists. They certainly deserve a seat at the table, but so do many other groups: parents, educators, administrators, community leaders, students, as well as scholars from disciplines like anthropology, sociology, history, philosophy, linguistics, as well as the arts and humanities. What and how we assess the education of 15-year-old students should be subject to discussions involving all these groups at local, national, and international levels.
3 Include national and international organisations in the formulation of assessment methods and standards whose mission goes beyond the economic aspect of public education and which are concerned with the health, human development, wellbeing and happiness of students and teachers. This would include the above mentioned United Nations organisations, as well as teacher, parent, and administrator associations, to name a few.
4 Publish the direct and indirect costs of administering Pisa so that taxpayers in member countries can gauge alternative uses of the millions of dollars spent on these tests and determine if they want to continue their participation in it.
5 Welcome oversight by independent international monitoring teams which can observe the administration of Pisa from the conception to the execution, so that questions about test format and statistical and scoring procedures can be weighed fairly against charges of bias or unfair comparisons.
6 Provide detailed accounts regarding the role of private, for-profit companies in the preparation, execution, and follow-up to the tri-annual Pisa assessments to avoid the appearance or reality of conflicts of interest.
7 Slow down the testing juggernaut. To gain time to discuss the issues mentioned here at local, national, and international levels, consider skipping the next Pisa cycle. This would give time to incorporate the collective learning that will result from the suggested deliberations in a new and improved assessment model.
We assume that OECD’s Pisa experts are motivated by a sincere desire to improve education. But we fail to understand how your organisation has become the global arbiter of the means and ends of education around the world. OECD’s narrow focus on standardised testing risks turning learning into drudgery and killing the joy of learning. As Pisa has led many governments into an international competition for higher test scores, OECD has assumed the power to shape education policy around the world, with no debate about the necessity or limitations of OECD’s goals. We are deeply concerned that measuring a great diversity of educational traditions and cultures using a single, narrow, biased yardstick could, in the end, do irreparable harm to our schools and our students.
Andrews, Paul Professor of Mathematics Education, Stockholm University
Atkinson, Lori New York State Allies for Public Education
Ball, Stephen J Karl Mannheim Professor of Sociology of Education, Institute of Education, University of London
Barber, Melissa Parents Against High Stakes Testing
Beckett, Lori Winifred Mercier Professor of Teacher Education, Leeds Metropolitan University
Berardi, Jillaine Linden Avenue Middle School, Assistant Principal
Berliner, David Regents Professor of Education at Arizona State University
Bloom, Elizabeth EdD Associate Professor of Education, Hartwick College
Boudet, Danielle Oneonta Area for Public Education
Boland, Neil Senior lecturer, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand
Burris, Carol Principal and former Teacher of the Year
Cauthen, Nancy PhD Change the Stakes, NYS Allies for Public Education
Cerrone, Chris Testing Hurts Kids; NYS Allies for Public Education
Ciaran, Sugrue Professor, Head of School, School of Education, University College Dublin
Deutermann, Jeanette Founder Long Island Opt Out, Co-founder NYS Allies for Public Education
Devine, Nesta Associate Professor, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand
Dodge, Arnie Chair, Department of Educational Leadership, Long Island University
Dodge, Judith Author, Educational Consultant
Farley, Tim Principal, Ichabod Crane School; New York State Allies for Public Education
Fellicello, Stacia Principal, Chambers Elementary School
Fleming, Mary Lecturer, School of Education, National University of Ireland, Galway
Fransson, Göran Associate Professor of Education, University of Gävle, Sweden
Giroux, Henry Professor of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University
Glass, Gene Senior Researcher, National Education Policy Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Glynn, Kevin Educator, co-founder of Lace to the Top
Goldstein, Harvey Professor of Social Statistics, University of Bristol
Gorlewski, David Director, Educational Leadership Doctoral Program, D’Youville College
Gorlewski, Julie PhD, Assistant Professor, State University of New York at New Paltz
Gowie, Cheryl Professor of Education, Siena College
Greene, Kiersten Assistant Professor of Literacy, State University of New York at New Paltz
Haimson, Leonie Parent Advocate and Director of “Class Size Matters”
Heinz, Manuela Director of Teaching Practice, School of Education, National University of Ireland Galway
Hughes, Michelle Principal, High Meadows Independent School
Jury, Mark Chair, Education Department, Siena College
Kahn, Hudson Valley Against Common Core
Kayden, Michelle Linden Avenue Middle School Red Hook, New York
Kempf, Arlo Program Coordinator of School and Society, OISE, University of Toronto
Kilfoyle, Marla NBCT, General Manager of BATs
Labaree, David Professor of Education, Stanford University
Leonardatos, Harry Principal, high school, Clarkstown, New York
MacBeath, John Professor Emeritus, Director of Leadership for Learning, University of Cambridge
McLaren, Peter Distinguished Professor, Chapman University
McNair, Jessica Co-founder Opt-Out CNY, parent member NYS Allies for Public Education
Meyer, Heinz-Dieter Associate Professor, Education Governance & Policy, State University of New York (Albany)
Meyer, Tom Associate Professor of Secondary Education, State University of New York at New Paltz
Millham, Rosemary PhD Science Coordinator, Master Teacher Campus Director, SUNY New Paltz
Millham, Rosemary Science Coordinator/Assistant Professor, Master Teacher Campus Director, State University of New York, New Paltz
Oliveira Andreotti Vanessa Canada Research Chair in Race, Inequality, and Global Change, University of British Columbia
Sperry, Carol Emerita, Millersville University, Pennsylvania
Mitchell, Ken Lower Hudson Valley Superintendents Council
Mucher, Stephen Director, Bard Master of Arts in Teaching Program, Los Angeles
Tuck, Eve Assistant Professor, Coordinator of Native American Studies, State University of New York at New Paltz
Naison, Mark Professor of African American Studies and History, Fordham University; Co-Founder, Badass Teachers Association
Nielsen, Kris Author, Children of the Core
Noddings, Nel Professor (emerita) Philosophy of Education, Stanford University
Noguera, Pedro Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education, New York University
Nunez, Isabel Associate Professor, Concordia University, Chicago
Pallas, Aaron Arthur I Gates Professor of Sociology and Education, Columbia University
Peters, Michael Professor, University of Waikato, Honorary Fellow, Royal Society New Zealand
Pugh, Nigel Principal, Richard R Green High School of Teaching, New York City
Ravitch, Diane Research Professor, New York University
Rivera-Wilson Jerusalem Senior Faculty Associate and Director of Clinical Training and Field Experiences, University at Albany
Roberts, Peter Professor, School of Educational Studies and Leadership, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Rougle, Eija Instructor, State University of New York, Albany
Rudley, Lisa Director: Education Policy-Autism Action Network
Saltzman, Janet Science Chair, Physics Teacher, Red Hook High School
Schniedewind, Nancy Professor of Education, State University of New York, New Paltz
Silverberg, Ruth Associate Professor, College of Staten Island, City University of New York
Sperry, Carol Professor of Education, Emerita, Millersville University
St. John, Edward Algo D. Henderson Collegiate Professor, University of Michigan
Suzuki, Daiyu Teachers College at Columbia University
Swaffield, Sue Senior Lecturer, Educational Leadership and School Improvement, University of Cambridge
Tanis, Bianca Parent Member: ReThinking Testing
Thomas, Paul Associate Professor of Education, Furman University
Thrupp, Martin Professor of Education, University of Waikato, New Zealand
Tobin, KT Founding member, ReThinking Testing
Tomlinson, Sally Emeritus Professor, Goldsmiths College, University of London; Senior Research Fellow, Department of Education, Oxford University
Tuck, Eve Coordinator of Native American Studies, State University of New York at New Paltz
VanSlyke-Briggs Kjersti Associate Professor, State University of New York, Oneonta
Wilson, Elaine Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
Wrigley, Terry Honorary senior research fellow, University of Ballarat, Australia
Zahedi, Katie Principal, Linden Ave Middle School, Red Hook, New York
Zhao, Yong Professor of Education, Presidential Chair, University of Oregon
Next time you hear someone moaning about public school teachers or the education system in general, take a minute to ponder who exactly is behind those words and what they might have to gain from them.
Because when we have huge media giants in charge of our TV news and our newspapers, our online information, and our publishing companies, and those same moguls have a fist in the education money pot, it’s safe to say they are not unbiased. Quite the contrary.
Murdoch, Gates, Fox News, Pearson Publishing … these are not reliable sources of information about education.
“Here is the key issue. These companies see success in terms of dollars and profit, not academic success and achievement. Education start-ups fail all the time, including ones backed by the giants like Pearson. Once investors start to see diminishing returns or trouble on the horizon they will pull the plug regardless of how well students may be performing with their product. Vetting new teaching methods for success takes years of research, observation and review. ” Source
Who is saying this?
Why would they say it?
Are they qualified to speak on this issue?
Do they have anything to gain?
It’s all the more interesting then, to read that “One of Sweden’s largest free school operators has announced it will shut down, leaving hundreds of students stranded“.
19 schools will be sold, three closed**, leaving hundreds of students having to find new schools in the most important education years of their lives.
Why are they closing?
Because “Danish private equity group Axcel, which bought the chain in 2008, decided it could no longer continue to cover the company’s losses.”
This is what happens when you allow for-profit schools – if they can’t make enough moolah, they bail out.
Tough luck to the students.
Because they are not in it for education, they are in it to make money.
Compare that to Christchurch public schools who fought to carry on through quake after quake, caring for their students and communities no matter what. Staff who lost their homes, still turning up to work.
Compare that to Novopay. Staff not being paid correctly, some not paid at all – not a single cent. Some unpaid for months. And yet on they went.
Why? Because they became teachers to educate children, and they care about their students. Simple as that.
Kiwis should take note of the warning from Sweden to the UK “not to slavishly adopt the Swedish model, where private companies can set up profit-making free schools, paid for by the state but with little government oversight.”
Because this is where it can lead: students without schools.
* for more on why Swedish schools are not the bee’s knees, read these…
** Update – possibly four closed. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/may/31/free-schools-education
According to the government’s plans for charter schools:
It is the biggest scandal ever.
The Parents, The Politician and the Carpetbagger is a short film that follows parents and teachers from Downhills School, England as they try to stop Education secretary, Michael Gove, forcing their school to become part of the Harris academy chain. The parents, teachers and community fight to prevent it happening. Watch it now.
The film challenges Department of Education claims that academies out perform non-academies, which they don’t.
It reveals how local authorities are being bullied into serving up schools for forced academisation, just to keep the Minister sweet.
How they were made to sound like raving Communists.
How they were inspected and found to have good teachers and governance and be improving – then at the behest of Gove they were suddenly re-inspected and found to be failing in all areas.
It shows who is set to profit from the privitisation of schools.
This is a must watch for anyone wanting to know what New Zealand is letting itself in for.
We give them our tax dollars.
They spend it wherever they want.
And, well, that’s it.
They do not have to account for where the money goes
– no public accounts
– no Board of Trustees
– and they do not have to be answerable under the Official Information Act.
With that in mind, it doesn’t take a PhD to work out why they are so appealing to some sectors, but just in case this is all new to you, let me make it plain…
PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT
You might be thinking that charter schools do better for kids, and that the money is well spent and the secrecy and skimming off of money as profit is all worthwhile if it gets kids a better education.
As Prof Peter O’Connor said “Charter schools are part of an international Right-wing attack on progressive and humanist traditions of education… The attack is not driven by a genuine desire to remedy the ills of the education system, but by the desire to create a cheaper teaching force, one that is shackled by narrow-minded, test-based accountability measures, and one that has less union power to fight back.” Source.
Oh I could go on all night (and in my head, I do), but you get the drift: Undervalued teachers, dollar signs flashing left, right and centre, and the kids caught in the middle.
Do you truly think handing schools over to money-makers and marginalising educators will help our students learn?
Does this really and truly sound like the answer to you?
Be afraid. Be very, very afraid. Charter schools may sound like a miracle from heaven, but a little research shows the truth is not nearly as rosy.
Here’s just a selection of the articles I’ve found that make me concerned about charter schools:
MORE GIRAFFES, THAT’S WHAT WE NEED
“If u posted a blog about the need 4 more giraffes in elementary school lunch rooms, 57 charter advocates would post comments about charters.
Charter cheerleaders are relentless; evangelical soldiers in the reform wars, they are absolutely convinced that charters are laboratories full of innovation and creativity.
Read more here
“A West Oakland church school that makes its students ask for money at BART stations appears to have vastly inflated its enrollment (sic) numbers to collect extra taxpayer funding, some of which goes to a teacher who former students say physically abused them and other children.And for years, St. Andrew Missionary Baptist Church and private school has operated with virtually no government oversight despite repeated red flags. The K-12 school is run by Robert Lacy, 79, a pastor who pleaded guilty in 2007 to theft of government money for taking his deceased father’s Social Security payments.”
Read more here.
COMPARING APPLES AND BANANAS AND DECIDING THE MANGO IS BEST
“It’s New Jersey School Choice Week. Gov. Chris Christie signed a proclamation encouraging all citizens to “join the movement for educational reform.”
Or, at least, his brand of reform, one that includes cutting $1 billion from traditional public schools while spending taxpayer money on independent schools that have somehow failed to enroll New Jersey’s neediest children, those with handicaps, language problems, and very low income…”
Read more here.
OVER-TESTING IS DAMAGING EDUCATION
“Carol Burris, who was recently named to the honor roll as a hero of public education, wrote a letter to President Obama. Carol understands how excessive testing is harming students and demoralizing teachers. She warns the President how this policy–at the heart of Race to the Top–will do increasing damage as it is institutionalized.”
Read more here.
STANFORD UNIVERSITY’S RESEARCH (CREDO)
“The group portrait shows wide variation in performance. The study reveals that a decent fraction of charter schools, 17 percent, provide superior education opportunities for their students. Nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are no different from the local public school options and over a third, 37 percent, deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their student would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools.”
Read more here.
AND FOR HEAPS MORE LINKS SO YOU CAN RESEARCH YOURSELF, MAYBE START HERE…
“Charter schools have taken on an almost mythic quality. Touted by politicians, the subject of Hollywood films, the darlings of Wall Street: listening to the marketing, you would think charter schools were the saviors of American children…”
Read more here.
ARE YOU WORRIED YET?
Little or no accountability, weaker kids dumped, schools as businesses massaging the figures to keep the business going, huge attrition rates, and for all that they still don’t do very well.
Whatever you believe, you owe it to your children and yourself to learn more about charter schools before it’s too late for New Zealand.