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GERM (Global Education Reform Movement)

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What National Has Done To Education in 2016 (so far)

id-100435177It’s been a year of non-stop changes and proposals. Some call it a war on free public schooling in NZ – indeed it feels like a continuous battery of skirmishes with little to no break between attacks.

If the Minister is purposefully undertaking psychological warfare to break teachers down, then she’s doing it well, because we’re worn out; We just want to teach.

So far this year, NZ public education has faced:

  • COOLs – out of nowhere and with no consultation at all, Hekia Parata announces plans for online charter schools for 5-18 year olds.
  • Global Funding – a raft of proposals to bulk fund schools, including giving schools a set payment to fund teachers with the provision for schools to spend that money any way they want (including not spending it on teachers).  This means government would cease to guarantee to maintain teacher/students ratios at current levels.
  • Special Educational Needs – the Minister has proposed significant changes, but appears to have largely ignored the information collected at select committee. It was confirmed that there will be no additional money for SEN, despite a real issue with under-funding. There are proposals to divert current funding towards early childhood education and reduce funding for 5-18 year olds. Proposal to stop ORS funding at age 18 rather than 21. (And Hekia lied in the house saying the proposals have support where none exists.)
  • Operations budget frozen – schools’ operations funding is frozen despite a hike in power and water bills, meaning a net loss of funds to schools. This means less money for things such as libraries, equipment, specialist classes, and teacher aides.
  • Teacher Education Refresher course – ill-thought-out and inappropriate targeting of teachers for retraining costing $4k (and no student loans available for the course) causes huge amounts of stress for teachers and put pressure on schools as it gets harder to find relievers.
  • Charter Schools – two more, despite the current ones missing targets set by Ministry of Education
  • National Standards – the ‘National Standards: School Sample Monitoring & Evaluation Project 2010-2014‘ report was published and reported that “evidence strongly suggests that [Overall Teacher judgements (OTJs)] lack dependability, which is problematic as OTJs are a central element of the National Standards system”.  Despite this, National Standards are still being pushed and continue to be used by government as if they are reliable.
  • Pushing PaCT – schools being pressured to adopt the Progress and Consistency Tool for National Standards. This includes workshops that give school staff very biased  and one-sided information. There are still concerns PaCT is being pushed in order to later use the data for performance pay, despite research and experiences showing  that teacher performance pay does not improve student outcomes and in some cases lowers it.
  • Education funding diverted to private sector – proposal to give a larger portion of the education budget to charter schools and private schools, leaving less for public schools
  • Untrained Staff unsupervised in classes – Minister proposed a law change to allow untrained ‘teachers’ to work unsupervised in public school classrooms (this while at the same time forcing trained teachers to spend $4k to upskill if they are deemed to have not done enough classroom teaching over the past few years).

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things – there have been so many – so please comment below if there’s anything that needs to be added.

Meanwhile, look after yourselves – there’s still one whole term to go and, as we know, a lot can happen in a few short weeks.

~ Dianne

PS, more added below!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Principals frustrated by charter school bonuses

Double StandardsMore much-needed teacher aide time, providing more digital devices in the classrooms and supporting the cost of outdoor excursions are just some of the ways principals at public schools would spend a $20,000 bonus if they received one.

NZEI Te Riu Roa executive member and school principal Lynda Stuart says revelations that $60,000 of bonuses have been given to three charter schools, despite not meeting performance targets, is another example of taxpayer money going to support private enterprise instead of public education.

“Why aren’t charter schools more accountable?

This is very frustrating when we’re constantly being told to cut corners to save money and told to take short term solutions when we know they will be more costly in the long run.”

She says she would have spent a $20,000 bonus on supporting more children with digital devices and subsidising the costs of outdoor activities.

“We do this because these are beyond the budget of many parents at our school. We try very hard to put our children on a level playing field and give them experiences and opportunities that many other children can take for granted.  But as a school, we struggle to pay for the provision of an equitable learning environment for our students.”

Wanganui Intermediate principal Charles Oliver says if he had a $20,000 bonus he would fund an extra teacher aide for 25 hours a week for an entire year.

“This would be enormous benefit to many of our kids who are struggling because we simply can’t afford to provide enough one-on-one support for struggling students.”

He says the $60,000 charter school bonuses seem like another insult to the public education sector, especially as they come on top of reports last year that the privately-run schools were overfunded by nearly $900,000 more than if their funding was strictly roll based.

TPPA threatens quality public education in New Zealand

TPPANew Zealand public education will be seriously undermined once our government signs the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

NZEI Te Riu Roa National Secretary Paul Goulter says the deal puts at risk the rights of sovereign nations to enact laws and regulations that stop foreign edu-businesses from setting up in New Zealand, maximising their profits and dominating New Zealand education.

“This is a major threat to our fee-free, high quality public education system.

“The TPPA wording is ambiguous but analysis of the documents clearly shows the agreement would allow international corporates to move into the education sector in New Zealand.  In no country has that ever worked.

“Unlike Singapore, which carved out a clear exemption, it appears that New Zealand’s negotiators have put at risk the rights of future governments to protect public education against any changes that would disadvantage global edu-businesses.

“Sitting beside the government’s plans for private education to be included in the TiSA (Trade in Services Agreement), there is now a clear threat to our quality public education system.

“Let’s be clear, the TPPA is an international trade agreement aimed at ensuring that global corporates can trade and make profits – it is not about providing free good quality public education for children and future generations.

“We have asked the government, even at this late stage, to reconsider signing the deal in its current form.”

`-ENDS

Update of the Education Act 1989 – some observations

Bill CourtneyI attended the “open to the public” MoE consultation workshop last Friday about “Updating the Education Act 1989.” As a parent and former school trustee I have maintained a keen interest in education policy and wanted to see first-hand how I would be “consulted”.

After all, the foreword in the public discussion document from our Minister of Education clearly said that she was asking the public for our input into the process.

But it was hard on days like last Friday to not come away concerned about how education policy is being developed in a land that has traditionally been very good at educating its young people.

In many ways the consultation reinforced concerns about what many of us call GERM, i.e. the Global Education Reform Movement, as it is popularly known overseas.

Most Kiwis probably don’t understand what we mean by GERM and may even call us cynical and ideological.  But in recent years we have seen too many examples of policy initiatives that have come off the GERM agenda, as Finnish education leader, Pasi Sahlberg christened it.

And here we are again, this time looking at the Education Act itself, but leaving out most of the contentious policy development of the past decade, such as National Standards, charter schools, IES, Education Council, etc, etc.

Let’s list a few things that rankled me:

  • Timing.How can anyone take seriously a Government that opens a consultation process on education at this time of year and allows a mere 6 weeks for responses – closing on 14 December?  Our session had a total of two school principals as the only school-based education professionals in the room.  I wonder how many teachers and principals will get the opportunity to attend any of these sessions?
  • Scope.You can usually tell when a process has a not-so-hidden agenda when the scope of the review excludes most of the controversial topics!
  • Honesty.Why does the foreword from the Minister of Education say “It is time to take a fresh look at it [the Act]”?  I would have thought that a “fresh look” started with a clean sheet of paper, wouldn’t you?  Also, you would think from reading Hekia’s foreword that the Act had not changed in 26 years.  Yeah Right!
  • Double Speak.Hekia again: “We want an Act and a system that puts children at the centre of learning.” “This discussion document outlines a number of proposals for raising educational achievement.”  Note how “learning” and “achievement” are often interchanged, as if they are the same thing?  In the GERM world, only that which is counted – normally by way of standardised testing or assessment – is deemed to be “achievement”. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, in a child’s life there’s a lot that Counts that cannot be Counted.  Learning is much broader than test scores in Reading and Maths.

So, we began our consultation session with the mandatory PowerPoint pack.  The very first slide got me uptight:

“The Act is no longer doing the job it was designed to do.”

Hang on!  The “job” it was designed to do was to implement the competitive model of education that Treasury promoted in its Briefings to the Incoming Government after the 1987 general election!

What are we really saying here?  Is it time to ditch the much despised competitive model, or not?  If so, then what might replace it?

Given the significance of the changes that the introduction of Tomorrow’s Schools entailed, the Act was completely rewritten in 1989 to create the structure of self-governing schools, Boards of Trustees and so on.

So, are we really changing our minds on the competitive model, or not?  If we were, then the process to evaluate a replacement model would be significant, as it was in 1987 to 1989.  And, for good measure, it would probably require another substantial rewrite of the Act.  So is it getting a “fresh look”, or a mere cursory glance?

Next up was another bugbear of mine!  Apparently we want to “… make sure everyone knows the goals for education.”  Really?  And have we worked out how we are all going to contribute into a powerful and meaningful statement that will endure?

Or, I wonder if it really means another set of Hekia’s infamous 85% achievement targets?

And another one… “How a graduated range of responses could be developed to better support schools when difficulties arise?

How about taking a different tack?  How about supporting schools better now with greater resources targeted where they are most needed, backed up with support services that are needed today?  Why focus instead on how efficiently we can deliver ambulances to the bottom of the cliff tomorrow?

The concerns continue to flow as we progress through the public discussion document.

“How should schools and kura report on their performance…? What should the indicators and measures be for school performance…?”

More data, in other words, right out of the GERM Handbook for Standardised Education.

But, don’t worry, if your numbers are high, then “… what freedoms and extra decision-making rights could be given to schools, kura and Communities of Learning (Hekia’s new clusters) that are doing well?”

It’s hard not to feel cynical, as I said at the outset, but recent developments overseas, such as the testing Opt-Out movement in the USA, give us hope that GERM policies are under scrutiny for one powerful reason: they just don’t work.

My final thought, and the saddest aspect of Hekia’s consultation, is that, 26 years on, we are just going to tinker.  Where is the genuine major rethink on education that we really need?

In the meantime, what collateral damage will GERM continue to inflict on current and future generations of children?

– Bill Courtney

Make a submission online here. You have until 5pm on 14th December 2015.

Why so many education reforms fail

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?

~ Dianne

Public schools starve as charter schools get funded for “ghost students” – NZEI

dollar deskMany school principals are appalled at reports that charter schools are receiving funding for students they don’t have enrolled while public schools are desperately short of resources for vulnerable children.

It’s been estimated that more than a million dollars has been lost to the public sector to fund up to 180 so-called “ghost students” at charter schools.

Principals say public schools are finding it increasingly difficult to find resources for the growing number of special needs students.

“That’s public money going straight to the private sector – money that we need for our public schools,” says May Road School Principal Lynda Stuart.

She says that while new public schools are set up in areas of population growth, charter schools are being established to compete with nearby schools. This requires huge amounts of unnecessary establishment funding in addition to funding for children that don’t even attend.

In Whangarei, Maungatapere School Principal Judy Eagles says that in the public sector, schools lose funding if students don’t come to school for 20 days.”

“So where’s the equity in that?”

She says extra funding siphoned off for charter schools could create more programmes and provide extra support in her school for teachers and students with special needs.

“What’s particularly galling is there is just not enough resourcing to deal with the increasingly high needs of children coming into our schools, or for much-needed building upgrades,” says Lynda Stuart.

Auckland’s Fairburn School Principal Frances Nelson says the bar for receiving extra support is getting higher while at the same time there has been a big increase in the number of children starting school with major learning difficulties.

“This includes children starting school with conditions such as autism that have not been picked up earlier. Five years ago, we could have got funding for many students that we can no longer get funding for.”

Between them, New Zealand’s nine publicly-funded charter schools are guaranteed funding for at least 860 students but enrolment figures have shown they have fewer than 700.

Reducing teachers to remote-controlled robots

What on earth is happening to teaching? There’s a wave of almost unbelievable practices appearing in classrooms. This is the latest jaw-dropper and, truly, I am stunned:

“Last year, my school contracted with the Center for Transformational Training or CT3 to train teachers using an approach called No Nonsense Nurturing.

It c3powas supposed to make us more effective instructors by providing *immediate, non-distracting feedback to teachers using wireless technology.* In other words, earpieces and walkie talkies.

I wore a bug in my ear. I didn’t have a mouthpiece. Meanwhile an official No Nonsense Nurturer, along with the school’s first year assistant principal and first year behavior intervention coach, controlled me remotely from the corner of the room where they shared a walkie talkie. (Source)

Where to begin?

The teacher is forbidden to speak in whole sentences.

The teacher must narrate what is happening in the room: ‘Noel is is finishing question 3. Marjorie is sitting silently. Alfredo is on page 6.’

The teacher must speak in a monotone voice.

The teacher must stand on both legs and not favour one over the other.

The teacher, it seems, mustn’t teach but must manage, and do it in the most robotic way possible.

It sounds as though there’s no room for joy, no room for praise, no room for individualisation. No room for the human, personal connections that are vital to a healthy learning environment. Just a teacher with an earpiece being directed from the back of the room by three people selling a product:

robot teacher Jetsons“*Give him a warning,* said the voice through the earpiece I was wearing. I did as instructed, speaking in the emotionless monotone I’d been coached to use.

But the student, a sixth grader with some impulsivity issues and whose trust I’d spent months working to gain, was excited and spoke out of turn again.

*Tell him he has a detention,* my earpiece commanded. At which point the boy stood up and pointed to the back of the room, where the three classroom *coaches* huddled around a walkie talkie.

*Miss: don’t listen to them! You be you. Talk to me! I’m a person! Be a person, Miss. Be you!*”

Teachers, when you look back ten, fifteen or twenty years, did you ever imagine it could ever come to this?

And yet it has.

New Zealand teachers please don’t be complacent and think this is just the Americans, we wouldn’t ever do this.  We are not immune to madcap and ill-thought-out education reforms, nor are we immune to the lure of the chance to make a dollar or two from selling snake oil. This will especially be a danger once the TPPA is signed and free trade overrides education policy.

KIPP charter school chain, who sell this method, have their beady eye on NZ and have been here to visit business groups and the Minister…

Like it or not, one way or another, US education reforms deforms seem to eventually find their way to Aotearoa, no matter how far away they seem at the start.

Unless you want an earpiece, three coaches and a complete castration of your teaching skills, you must actively resist.

Kia kaha, teachers. Stay strong.

______________________________

Source: http://edushyster.com/i-am-not-tom-brady/

Further readings:

https://saveourschoolsnz.com/2012/10/28/nacts-vision-for-nz-education-you-scratch-my-back-and-ill-scratch-yours/

http://dianeravitch.net/2012/08/23/a-challenge-to-kipp/

Charter school funding comes with a sting

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.

Meanwhile someone else commented on the stark contrast with state schools that are mouldy and falling apart and yet wait for ages to see any sign of being sorted out.

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.

Uneven Playing Fields

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.”

Indeed.

But why would anyone want to ensure the success of charter schools at all costs?

Privatisation Achievement Unlocked

shiny carrot

Oh, the shiny carrot

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.

What then?

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:

What’s Wrong with National Standards? By Jolisa Gracewood – Metro Magazine

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

Educations reforms explained…

Education reforms explained - shock doctrine

or, to put it another way…

Neoliberal political strategy 101

Charter School reforms just one big con

charter schools look before you leapGrand rhetoric and promises that are not realised are the order of the day for charterisation. Failures are papered over, successes exaggerated, and public schools demonised. All of this to push charter schools over public schools.

Ask yourself why anyone would do this.

Who does it serve?

And my advice… follow the money.

No Better

After 9 years, only 4 of the 107 schools taken over by the Recovery School District and made into charters are above the state average.

No Choice

Now parents have to enter a lottery for a school place and hope for the best. Their children can be bused all over the city. One mother is reported to have 5 children in 5 different schools. She did not choose this. The system forced it upon her.

Who Does Charterisation Serve?

Charterisation has not brought choice or improvement. Nothing has improved. The promise of a better system was a lie. The promise of choice was a lie. The only people to benefit here are those running the charter schools.

Watch This

A Perfect Storm: The Takeover of New Orleans Public Schools reveals the real story behind the creation of the USA’s first all-charter school district.

Part 1

Part 2

A Perfect Storm Episode 2: The Illusion of Choice from Phoebe Ferguson on Vimeo.

“The lie is simply this: ‘We want you to have choice….  But we are going to

set the parameters of the choice and then convince you you have it’.”

~ Steve Monaghan, President, L.A. Federation of Teachers

Selling charter schools as the great hope while all the time undermining public schools should act as a red flag to parents.

Again, ask yourself why anyone would do this and who it serves.

~ Dianne

No to Ideological Education Reforms.

Public education all over the world is under attack from corporate entities that wish to turn our schools into profit-making centres for their own benefit.

On January 9th and 10th 2015, let’s raise our voices together.  Join parents and educators worldwide in this thunderclap to say with One Voice:

NO to the global education reform movement (GERM)

Join the Thunderclap here

Be heard

OneVoice

https://www.facebook.com/BadassTeachersAssociation
https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurSchoolsNZ

Hoping for some honest answers on charter schools

 

bagbreatheTeachers don’t often switch off.  A good friend refers to holidays as “non-contact” time. And given our government’s habit of pushing through major education legislation during the holidays, you start to feel like those kids in Jurassic Park, sheltering and hyper-aware of every movement as the velociraptors keep testing for gaps in the perimeter.

Saturday’s the one morning I do try to disengage the teacher brain and enjoy a meander round our local farmers’ market with my mum. But this weekend, the Act party were on the “community group” stall – including the Epsom candidate, David Seymour, who assisted John Banks with the drafting of Act’s charter schools policy.

I’ve read and archived more than 500 articles and op-eds on the decimation of American public schooling in favour of charter schools; that virtual pinboard records the same cynical treatment of state schools in the UK – and now here. It fills me with a cold anger that this is being done to students, teachers and schools. Community as a concept is avidly being unpicked. And schools are some of the nicest communities I’ve ever experienced, held together by a lot of personal sacrifice. Targeting them seems like the educational equivalent of harp-seal clubbing.

So this was a chance to talk to the people who are doing things to education – and fair play, Seymour was fronting up in public. Some other politicians who are neck-deep in this aren’t very good at that.

The charter schools pilot makes me want to grab a paper bag and breathe into it vigorously. Part of my job is to promote scientific thinking in children. It’s the simplest of bottom lines: you keep all variables but the one you’re examining the same for it to be a fair test. Charter school students were receiving more funding per head than public school students, and class sizes were 12-15 compared to 28+ in public schools. So that was one of the questions I put to Mr Seymour – how can this test be called “fair”?

The information on funding is “untrue”  and class sizes “will grow,” he said. But, I said, that’s not what some charter schools are advertising on radio.
I was then informed that it was a “natural experiment”, and results would be “corrected”, controlling for covariates after the trial.  I did a bit more reading later on – yes, they are an option when testing in science. The following gave me slight pause:
“Natural experiments are employed as study designs when controlled experimentation is extremely difficult to implement or unethical, such as in several research areas addressed by epidemiology (e.g., evaluating the health impact of varying degrees of exposure to ionizing radiation in people living near Hiroshima at the time of the atomic blast) and economics (e.g., estimating the economic return on amount of schooling in US adults.”

(Also see this paper  and this paper for a deeper discussion of this type of test.)

Apparently I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist’ for believing that charter schools are the beginning of privatisation by stealth, no matter how much evidence there is for it in America and the United Kingdom. But you heard it here first, and I asked if I could quote him on it: schools will not be forcibly privatised against the wishes of their communities, as is happening in Britain. I look forward to following that up.

I asked him about the effect of competition on the thing that makes good education: sharing of knowledge and resources. He hadn’t heard of the charter school in New York visited by a New Zealand teacher, where all doors, windows and cupboards are locked – not because it’s a dangerous neighbourhood, but because teachers are worried about others “stealing” their ideas.

Seymour challenged me on what I would do with a middle school like the one he attended, where children were apparently allowed to run around and do whatever they liked. (Aren’t there mechanisms in place already? Commissioners?) He also asked if I had visited any of the charter schools myself – the people behind them were all good people, doing good things. I asked him if he’d visited any of the schools in the area where I work to see the good things they were doing, too.

Seymour was lukewarm on the idea of National Standards – shock! common ground? – but it’s because they run counter to Act’s ideas of “freedom” from government control. It was my first real-life encounter with someone who believes so fervently in decentralisation, and it was a strange feeling. Like standing on opposite sides of a Wile E Coyote canyon and trying to make ourselves understood.

It was also fairly heartbreaking to hear an older supporter on the stand, someone kind enough to volunteer to read with children at a school in an area of very high need, ask “Why can’t we just give it a go? Why can’t we have a choice?”

If it really was just about choice, and getting the best deal for our kids, and the public system wasn’t steadily being undermined at the same time, maybe I wouldn’t be so angry.
So I left, feeling like I’d engaged in some harp-seal clubbing of my own in directing that beam of fury at the two ACT supporter ladies. (And embarrassed that I’d lost track of time and stood Dianne up for breakfast.)

Funny how a day can pan out, however. Later at the Quality Public Education Coalition forum, chairman Bill Courtney caused heads to swivel when he greeted Alwyn Poole in the audience before giving an update on charter schools. Poole is the principal of Mt Hobson Middle School. He’s also a member of the Villa Education Trust, whose South Auckland Middle School is one of the first in the charter schools pilot.

What a magnificent thing it was to be able to ask questions openly of someone involved in this, and to receive frank answers. (At last!) And to know that this person has extensive experience in education (and multiple teaching qualifications).

Courtney’s talk used South Auckland Middle School’s figures to explain how funding has been allocated. He also made the point that the charter school model has been hijacked by the privatisation movement. One of the first proponents of the idea, Albert Shanker, saw it as a way to allow teachers greater autonomy, to engage the students who weren’t being served by normal schools.

This sounds like what Poole’s schools have been able to do: Poole said he works with children with needs like dyslexia or Asperger’s, or kids who need a “boost” at middle school level. He was asked why couldn’t he achieve it within the system as a special character school. In 2002, that option was “blocked”. They were looking for “ways of expanding what we do”, so applied for the partnership school option.

The school doesn’t carry the same infrastructure as state schools, principals do admin and teach, and they have “a nice lease agreement”. They also have qualified teachers and teach to the New Zealand Curriculum.

Poole was also asked if some of the biggest barriers to learning faced by many schools in Manukau, such as transience, were problems for his school. Transience, less so, but they have had a small degree of truancy (10 hours), and two students had a conflict and left during the school day.

 

Chest

Class size, and the basic mathematics of time for giving one-to-one support, seems to me to be the elephant in the educational tent. It’s splitting it at the seams as most politicians studiously try to avoid treading in its dung.

Unlike many politicians, Poole openly acknowledges that their 1:15 ratio is part of their success in helping students. Why not campaign for the same ratio for state schools? an audience member asked.
Poole:  “We love our 1:15 ratio and we would advocate for it very strongly.”

Poole said that they’ve also applied to the Ministry for funding to evaluate their model with the help of the University of Florida.

I went up to him afterwards to say thank you, and realised he must have seen some of my trail of articles on charters on the SOSNZ Facebook page (eek).

We touched on something that came up when he spoke to us: dyslexia. When I was a BT, I had a fantastic student who was also dyslexic.  I also had a fairly big class and very basic training in how best to support him, but fortunately, he had a proactive mum who could share her knowledge. I still collect resources now based on what I wish I could have done for him.
Poole started to talk about the things they do, and there was that moment, that neat spark you get when you meet another teacher who might have the solution for the child that you want to help, who will no doubt share it with you, because that’s what we’re both here for, after all.

And that’s what I find hardest to accept: we have educators being pitted against educators in this. Experience, training and knowledge is being dissed.

When stuff like this is happening, the problem is now having faith that the current Ministry of Education is “getting out of bed every morning”, as Courtney put it, with their main aim being to guarantee every child a quality education.
But as Courtney notes, there is no official, publicly available ‘Isaac Report’ to enlighten us on the findings of Catherine Isaac’s working party.  There is no attempt to be scientific and explain how the government intends to evaluate the pilot schools, and the concept. Instead there’s a second round of schools funded before any meaningful data has been generated by the first.

There’s not a recognition that public schools overseas are still managing to deliver results, even though they’re being treated like the Black Knight in Monty Python, battling on and squirting blood as another limb gets lopped off.

I got a lot of answers on Saturday. Now I have a new question. Will all educators – partnership school and state – be willing to dare to do what annoyed Tau Henare so much about the Problem Gambling Foundation: stand together to “bag the hand that feeds them” and oppose the secretive development of policy that serves ideology – not kids?

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When does 367 equal 1150? When it involves charter school funding

charter schools this-does-not-add-up

(WALT) We are learning that 367 can equal 1150.

Success criteria: We will know we understand this when we recognise the difference in funding rules for state schools and privately run charter schools.

Here is your numbers story:

The Ministry of Education releases its March 2014 school roll returns online. There are 367 students attending charter schools:

  • South Auckland Middle School has 108 students
  • Vanguard Millitary School has 104
  • Te Hura Hourua ki Whangaruru has 63
  • Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa has 50, and
  • The Rise Up Academy has 42.

367 pupils represents around 0.049 percent of the total student population (753,952).

The government is funding 367 charter school students to the tune of $7.5 million this year.

Now this bit is tricky, so listen carefully, Eric.  Leave the Velcro, mate, yes, well done, nice listening. Ready …

Nelson College for Girls gets the same amount of funding as the 367 charter school students but Nelson College for Girls has around 1150 students.

$7.5 Million for each.

Therefore 367 = 1150.  

Or at least when it comes to accessing government funds for education.

Yes, I know Eric, it makes no sense to me either.

Yes, the charter schools are private businesses – please leave Belinda’s pigtails alone.

What was that, Kyle? Can we find out how the charter schools are spending the money? No, sweetie, we can’t, because they are private businesses and can spend it any way they like but we can’t ask under the Official Information Act.

Fair?  Well the thing is … ermmm….

Oh there’s the bell, off you run ….

Tomorrow it’s more magic government numbers!  We’ll look at how how $23 Million in welfare fraud is bigger than $6 Billion in unpaid taxes…

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Your homework: Read more about charter schools.

Sources: Ministry of Education school rolls info

More Info on “Kindy kids tested – 100 questions, all on computer”

Here is the longer and more in depth story of the test the kindy kids had to take, blogged here.

The kids are five years old, and it’s a Californian kindy.  Even aside from how wrong testing kids at this age is or how ridiculous it is to test them this way – where how they do the test is a barrier to showing what they know –  and the fact that the tests were not administered the same for all classes, thereby undermining the argument that they are indeed standardised …. the big question is this: is administering any test in a way that stresses teachers, parents AND students really and truly necessary?  Of course it isn’t.

This is not education, this is data collection.  It does not serve learners – it serves the companies that make the tests and the administrators and politicians that promote them. They should all be totally and utterly ashamed of themselves.

robot children

Testing the kindy kids – more details emerge

“”Today my kindergarten took a test called the Common Core MAP.

We had been told to set up each child with their own account on their numbered Chromebook. The Teacher on Special Assignment came around and spent about an hour in each class doing this in the previous weeks.

We didn’t know exactly when the test would be given, just that some time on Thursday or Friday, the proctors would come and test. I set out morning work for my kids today but before the bell rang, the proctor arrived. I quickly swept off the tables and she said we’d begin right away. I went out to pick up my class.

While the proctor set up the computers (disregarding what we had done — that hour the TOSA spent in each class was unnecessary), I went through the usual morning routine. Parents who happened to be in the room scrambled to unpack the headphones, which had arrived in the office that morning, and distribute the computers. We started a half hour later. The kids were excited to be using the computers. That didn’t last for long.

The test is adaptive. When a child answers a question, the next batch of questions is slightly harder or easier depending on the correctness of their answer. The math and language arts sections each had 57 questions.

The kids didn’t understand that to hear the directions, you needed to click the speaker icon. We slipped around the room explaining.

Answers were selected by drop and drag with a trackpad, no mouse was available. A proctor in one room said that if a child indicated their answer, an adult could help. Other proctors didn’t allow this. I had trouble dragging and dropping myself on the little trackpads.

Kids in one class took five hours to finish. Kids were crying in 4 of 5 classes. There were multiple computer crashes (“okay, you just sit right there while we fix it! Don’t talk to anyone!”).

There were kids sitting for half hour with volume off on headsets but not saying anything.

Kids accidentally swapped tangled headsets and didn’t seem to notice that what they heard had nothing to do with what they saw on the screen.

Kids had to solve 8+6 when the answer choices were 0-9 and had to DRAG AND DROP first a 1 then a 4 to form a 14.

There were questions where it was only necessary to click an answer but the objects were movable (for no reason).

There were kids tapping on their neighbor’s computers in frustration.

To go to the next question, one clicks “next” in lower right-hand corner…..which is also where the pop-up menu comes up to take you to other programs or shut down, so there were many instances of shut-downs and kids winding up in a completely different program.

Is this what we want for our youngest children?””

Data at any cost?

So, New Zealand, this is where the madness will lead us if we let the reformers carry on their merry path of obsession with DATA DATA DATA collection at any cost.

Testing children to find out where they are at is necessary – teachers test all the time – we always have done.  The teacher should do it routinely and without stress as a normal part of learning, so that both teacher and student can see what needs to be learned next.    The abomination outlined above is something else entirely.

Ask yourself …

When you next hear about some supposedly essential reforms or changes to our education system, ask yourself who is pushing the changes, who stands to benefit financially before assuming they are for the good of the kids.  Often, they are for the benefit of business.  Just ask Pearson, or Gates, or Murdoch.  Or Banks.

Don’t let your child become a data point in a business plan.

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Teachers in the USA –  join BATs in fighting these reforms.

Teachers in New Zealand – join the Kiwi BATs to raise your teacher voice.

Kindy kids sit standardised tests – 100 questions, all on computer

Be very, very clear on this, New Zealand parents – this is where National Standards, charter schools, performance pay and all of the other Global Education Reforms (GERM) lead.  It is no accidental path.  Stay quiet if this is what you think is right – if this is what you want.  But if it’s not, then you really do need to start learning what is happening and start speaking out.

 UPDATED WITH MORE INFORMATION HERE (22/3/14)

This from a fellow teacher in California.

“My kindergarteners had their standardized computerized test today.

crying childThere were over 100 questions. Answers were selected by drop and drag with a trackpad, no mouse is available. One class took five hours to finish. Kids crying in 4 of 5 classes. Multiple computer crashes (“okay, you just sit right there while we fix it! Don’t talk to anyone!”). Kids sitting for half hour with volume off on headsets but not saying anything. Kids accidentally swapping tangled headsets and not even noticing what they heard had nothing to do with what they saw on the screen. Kids having to solve 8+6 when the answer choices are 0-9 and having to DRAG AND DROP first a 1 then a 4 to form a 14. Some questions where it was only necessary to click an answer but the objects were movable (for no reason). No verbal explanation that you must click the little speaker square to hear the instructions. To go to the next question, one clicks “next” in lower right-hand corner…..which is also where the pop-up menu comes up to take you to other programs or shut down, so many shut-downs or kids winding up in a completely different program.

If this is not what you want for your kids and grandkids, you’d better start making some noise. Ten years ago we would’ve thought this would be literally impossible.”

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Teachers in the USA – you may want to join BATs in fighting these reforms.

Teachers in New Zealand you may wish to join the Kiwi BATs to raise your teacher voice.

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