New Zealand has Partnership Schools, the USA has Charter Schools, and England has Academies. They’re all much of a muchness, state schools passed off into private hands with the promise of educational improvement for students. But are they all they’re cracked up to be?
In The Guardian, Michelle Hanson questions whether the promise matches the hype.
“If a school needs perking up and fancies a uniform, Latin, Vera Wang tea sets and no national curriculum, fine – but why call them academies?
Why not just schools?
What’s the difference?
We pay for them. Not the sponsors.”
A headteacher who found himself out on his ear when his school was made into an Academy observes:
“They mostly seem to be run by dodgy, spiv businesspeople,” says Fielding, understandably bitter, because the school to which he had dedicated his life became an academy.
In came the sickening corporate mantras, the uber-swanky furniture, the slick management speak, squillion-pound makeover, and out went Fielding, along with everyone else in the NUT [National Union of Teachers], and any heart.
“I smell a rat,” says he, “but I don’t know what it is.”
Hanson thinks she knows what the rat is, and so do I: Money.
She observes that certain parties were quick to capitalise on the money-making potential of Academies :
Capita was fairly quick off the mark to spot “market opportunities” supplying IT systems as schools switched to academy status.
“Leading academy chain” E-ACT had a culture of “extravagant” expenses, “prestige” venues and first-class travel and has been criticised for “widespread financial irregularities”; another academy superhead, Jo Shuter, snaffled up £7,000 of school money to pay for her 50th birthday.
And yet for all that, England’s GCS exam results were lower this year, not higher.
It’s the same for A levels, too – in 2014 the pass level went down.
And England’s PISA results are nothing to write home about, either.
So What’s the Motive for Academies?
If financial irregularities are much more of an issue than when schools were run by local authorities…
and OFSTED (England’s ERO) is under investigation for giving Academies far more notice that they are visiting than the half-day’s notice non-Academies get…
and exam results are going down…
… it’s kind of hard to argue that Academies have brought improvement.
At which point you really do have to start asking yourself what the real motive for Academies and the worldwide push for “charterisation” is.
You might want to start by asking who benefits from them, because it certainly isn’t the education system, teachers, taxpayers or students.
When TIME magazine decided to put out a front page depicting a gavel smashing a shiny red apple, with the tag line “Rotten Apples – it’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher: Some tech millionaires may have found a way to change that” they really didn’t think for one minute teachers would sit by and let that go unchallenged, surely?
Click here to thunderclap TIME to tell them you want an apology.
US teachers have a battle on their hands right now, regarding tenure. Tenure gives teachers the right to due process if they are being disciplines or faced with being let go. It is not a job for life – it’s merely protection from being sacked at the whim of your employer, without any good reason.
You’d think that wasn’t too much to ask in any job? If an employee is not suitable, then you can show that and they can be let go. Fair enough. But you can’t sack someone just because it takes your fancy, or because they disagree with your politics, or because they spoke out.
This is what’s going on in the USA, and this is why there is a push to ‘reform’ tenure – and by reform, I mean remove it so that teachers can be sacked without due process.
Why would anyone want that. You have to ask yourself…
And in New Zealand we are not exempt, small changes here and there in our labour laws, small changes here and there to the Education Act allowing untrained teachers, proposals to have a code of conduct for teachers that expressly states we cannot speak out about our employer (our school, the government, both?).
The Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) is on a mission worldwide, and it’s teachers they have in their sights now.
Tell TIME not to fall for it and to stop sharing GERMers’ lies.
This edited version of the cover is more truthful.
This from the Randi Weingarten:
In just the last 36 hours, more than 30,000 people have signed our petition demanding that Time magazine apologize for its offensive cover.
Next week, we’ll be delivering every petition we collect to Time’s headquarters in New York. Our goal is that they never again try to make money by attacking educators. First, we need to make sure they hear our message loud and clear. Will you help by sharing the petition and asking your friends and family to sign?
Time’s cover suggests that teachers are a problem that must be smashed. We know this image is far out of step with how Americans view our educators. I hope you’ll share the petition with your friends so we can show Time that people don’t think highly of bashing teachers to sell magazines.
Click here to thunderclap TIME to tell them you want an apology.
And well done to Schools Matter for their message to Time, below:
Sent to Time Magazine, Oct. 23, 2014.
Re: Taking on Teacher Tenure, Time, November 3, 2014
“Unassuming” tycoon David Welch is also unformed. He claims he prefers a world of “concrete facts” but still maintains that the American education system is “failing” because of bad teachers who can’t be fired.
The concrete facts are these: When researchers control for the effects of poverty, American students score near the top of the world on international tests. Our unspectacular (but not horrible) performance on tests is because of our high child poverty rate, about 23%, second highest among 34 economically advanced countries, according to UNICEF. High-scoring countries such as Finland have a child poverty rate of about 5%.
Poverty means, among other things, poor nutrition, lack of health care, and little access to books. All of these have powerful negative effects on school performance. The best teaching in the world has little effect when students are hungry, ill, and have little or nothing to read.
Our main problem is not teaching quality, unions, or the rules for due process. The main problem is poverty.
Control for poverty: Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13; Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/Bracey-Report. Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers. Tienken, C. 2010. Common core state standards: I wonder? Kappa Delta Phi Record 47 (1): 14-17. Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012. http://www.epi.org/).
Child Poverty: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre 2012, ‘Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries’, Innocenti Report Card 10, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.
Feel free to right click, copy and share these memes as far and wide as you wish.
Global reforms are just that. Global. The same damage is being inflicted worldwide to schools in large and small communities, causing distress and doing nothing to improve education. Often quite the opposite.
This is Cedar, a small community in Canada. I only heard about Cedar because my gorgeous friend James lives there. James isn’t a political soul. Or he wasn’t … until the GERM arrived in Cedar and started on his local schools:
Our school district wants to close down four schools in our community.
They’ve already voted to do so based on untruths and lack of information regarding the closures on the community as a whole. We’re a rural community.
They used to bus the grades 8-12 out of here to schools in town because there was no high school in Cedar. So they built one. Now they want to close all the elementary schools, merge them into one of 500 students, house them in the high school and bus the high school kids into town again!
It would be a stab in the heart for the community as a whole.
There are a lot of people not happy about this.
Closing schools? Merging schools? Leaving students to travel long distances? And all against the community’s wishes? Cedar, you really do need to speak to the good people of Christchurch, and in particular follow the Phillipstown School court case.
for young children to negotiate the Ferry Rd/Aldwins Road intersection [in Chch] always has me cringe since some years ago I witnessed a 10 yr old girl get crushed under the wheels of a giant truck as she cycled from school— this intersection could not be safely used with out direct supervision and who will the volunteers be — unpaid — because the dept wants to super school and destroy a community
Help Phillipstown School
A Campaign Fund for Phillipstown School legal challenge has been setup It is called WE ARE PHILLIPSTOWN. The bank account for donations is ANZ 06-0807-0114631-75
Help Cedar Schools
You can stay follow and help Cedar schools’ campaign here:
Good luck to all concerned and to everyone out there fighting reforms that put children and learning behind money and politics. The GERM is multiplying fast, but with loud and active enough parents and educators, it can be sterilised.
First they came for the trained teachers,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a teacher.
Then they came for the special needs children,
and I didn’t speak out because my child didn’t have special needs.
Then they came for the schools,
and I didn’t speak out because there were other schools.
Then they came for free public education
and I didn’t speak out because I was exhausted.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
It’s no understatement to say there is an attack under way in education around the world. Corporate reformers have realised how much money there is to be made off the back of our kids’ education, and man are they going to damned well get a finger in that pie.
Global reform goes like this:
- Create the perception of a huge problem in education “Arghghghg the kids are all failing!!!!!!!!!!”
- Use that perception to justify reforms to solve the perceived problem “The only solution is to sell schools off, test more, de-professionalise teaching!!!!”
- Use the reforms to create fear in parents that their child may fail the test “Your child might not pass the standardised test!!!!!”
- Use that fear to sell goods and services to parents “Come buy these great test prep books, apps, tutoring packages, supplements….”
And who profits? Is it the kids? Is it the parents?
Or is it the big companies like Pearson, Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify, The Gates Foundation and so on, who are all so fond of promoting education reforms and just happen to have goodies for sale in that arena, too. (But they only do it for the kids y’all…)
I can’t help recalling the words of Ratchet, the corporation head in the movie Robots:
“Now, let’s get back to the business of sucking every last penny out of Mr. and Mrs. Average Knucklehead.”
Taking Murdoch’s Amplify as an example… the Tablet Plus costs US$349 per device, and requires a two-year contract. That contract will set you back $179 a year. The tablet itself has just a one year guarantee. So, over US$700 per tablet and they want one for each kid in each classroom in the whole school. Yes, that sure as heck looks like a nice money spinner. And oh look! Mr Murdoch has his own newspaper and TV news empire that can promote such ideas. How nice for him.
Sure, sometimes they get caught out, like Pearson did here… but how often do you reckon they get away with it? Walk off with Millions of tax dollars that could have been better spent on the kids’ education?
And it’s interesting how money can be found for these schemes when schools are closing, teachers not being paid, kids are unfed.
But hey, so long as we go whizzing into the 22nd Century and beyond with a couple of Android tablets and some cool apps, who cares. It’s not like we can teach using books and pens, is it…
Is this just happening in America?
Well no, there’s a fair bit going on in England, Australia, and it’s creeping into Aotearoa, too. Let’s look at Aus just last week:
“An urgent inquiry will be held into the impact high-stakes Naplan testing is having on kids, amid growing concern over the pressure applied by schools and parents to students”.
And these are not benign changes and not even just crass for the obvious siphoning off of education dollars. They are not good for kids, either. Children are showing high levels of stress around testing in Aus, and the same thing happens in the UK when SATS take place.
Is this really necessary in order to get a good education? I do have to wonder, when Finnish students have the shortest school days and only one national test at the age of 15 and yet constantly are one of the top 5 in the world for education, whether we are being sold snake oil.
I look forward to seeing what the Naplan report says, at the end of June…
And you might be forgiven for thinking “Wellll, this is not in NZ, this is Australia, this is the USA, we’ll be right…”
But we have our own schools fighting for survival, our own teachers not being paid, our own kids unfed, and our own reforms sweeping through bit by bit by bit.
Speak out about this lunacy.
It is not good education. It does not improve children’s learning (often quite the opposite).
It is not for choice or for equality or for raising the bar: It is for making money for a small select few.
If you sit by and don’t make a stand, sooner or later the reforms will affect you, and who will be left to shout on your behalf?
Further reading & viewing:
Global Education Reform Movement (GERM)
If you want to learn about and understand some of the alternatives to New Zealand’s current education reforms (Charter Schools, endless tests, National Standards, GERM, teacher bashing, and using education as a political football) you need to spend a few minutes watching one of presentations by Pasi Sahlberg (below) and add to your understanding.
Sahlberg is incredibly knowledgeable about education. He is not a politician. He has experience in classroom teaching, training teachers and leaders, coaching schools to change and advising education policy-makers around the world.
He doesn’t say Finland’s system is perfect or that it should be copied. He invites us to ask what the problems are and how they might be remedied. He wants us to consider the issues outside of politics, as anyone serious about improving things should.
What he offers are ideas and food for thought.
“But what is GERM?” you may ask…
Well GERM stands for Global Education Reform Movement, and the best way to learn about it is to watch Sahlberg explain it. So watch below, and then tell your friends and family and colleagues to watch it too…
THE YouTube VIDEOS
TEDxEast Talk: Pasi Sahlberg – GERM That Kills Schools
How Finland remains immune to the Global Educational Reform Movement (GERM) – Hour long talk at Melbourne Uni
A Fifteen Minute Interview
Read (Learn) More…
You might also want to read his book (As an aside, the Auckland library ones have huge waiting list, which is good news and gives me hope.)