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Campaign launched to reverse school funding freeze

nzei logoNZEI will tomorrow launch a nationwide campaign to reverse the Government’s freeze on school operations funding in order to secure sustainable resourcing for school support staff.

In its May Budget, the National Government snuck through a freeze to the school operations grant that pays for support staff wages and all other essential school running costs.

“This funding freeze is unprecedented. No Government as far back as 1999 has ever frozen school funding before, so this will put already strained school budgets under more pressure,” said NZEI President Louise Green.

“…this year’s budget freeze actually equates to a 0.5% per-student cut in operational funding for schools next year because of roll growth”

Research done by Infometrics shows this year’s budget freeze actually equates to a 0.5% per-student cut in operational funding for schools next year because of roll growth. It’s an even bigger cut when you take inflation and other costs into account.

“This cut will force schools to make trade-offs between support staff and other running costs. More pressure will go on parents to pay larger donations to cover the funding shortfall.

“We support more funding for the most disadvantaged students, but it should be in addition to adequate funding levels for all schools.”

“While the Government has put in a small amount of additional funding for the most disadvantaged children they have done this by cutting the per-student ops grant funding across all schools, creating winners and losers.

“We support more funding for the most disadvantaged students, but it should be in addition to adequate funding levels for all schools.

“Support staff like administration staff, teacher aides, technicians and others are most at risk of having their hours cut due to the funding freeze.

“Support staff already suffer from poor pay and precarious hours of employment despite their crucial role supporting children’s learning. The funding freeze puts them under greater stress and threat.

“We need better operational funding for schools that allows them to meet children’s educational needs. We also want support staff to be paid centrally like teachers are, so they are not competing with other costs and resourcing needs,” said Green.

The support staff campaign is part of the wider Better Funding Better Learning campaign being run with the PPTA to respond to the government’s proposal to introduce global funding, which could result in fewer teachers and larger class sizes.

“This funding freeze highlights the perils of bulk funding. We need to reject bulk funding for support staff and ensure it is not extended to include teaching staff,” said Ms Green.

Support staff will be starting their campaign by launching an online petition on Monday calling for parents and communities to message the Education Minister to reverse the funding freeze.

~ENDS

#betterfunding

Government playing politics with education announcement, says NZEI

nzei logoNZEI says the Government is playing pre-Budget politics with its announcement today that it is building new schools and classrooms to cope with population growth.

National President Louise Green says this is money that it was going to have to spend anyway because of population growth and demographics.

“Where is the new funding for education initiatives that will help build a quality public education system and improve quality teaching and learning for all children?

“Parents know that quality education includes smaller class sizes, more funding for children with special needs, targeting vulnerable learners, as well as better funding for support staff and quality early childhood education.

“We know that many schools are struggling financially. In many cases this means having to make tough choices between competing needs such as new equipment, employing more teacher aides or providing opportunities for teachers to upskill to respond to kids’ needs.

“We also need to ensure that teaching remains an attractive career choice so that we continue to encourage good people into the profession and ensure that, once there, they stay in the job.

“There is nothing new in today’s announcement. We want to see a real Budget announcement with new money to help all children get a great education.”

– ENDS

Differing positions on IES – PPTA and NZEI – an overview

lightbulb

As most of you will know, PPTA and NZEI (the two teachers’ unions) have approached Investing in Educational Success (IES) proposal differently.

This is an overview of the different views and an outline of where NZEI and PPTA are currently at.

The post aims to give bald details in the unions’ own words where possible, without commentary, so that you can think further about the issues yourself.

DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO INITIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

  • NZEI stepped out of negotiations believing the policy to be flawed to the extent that it could not be made to work for primary schools
  • PPTA stayed in negotiations believing the could renegotiate a policy that was more workable than the original.

CURRENT SITUATION

  • NZEI members have rejected IES by a 93% vote (of a 70% voter turnout)
  • PPTA has renegotiated the terms of IES and have an interim agreement that PPTA members will vote on, probably in term 4.

NZEI’s VIEW (in NZEI’s words)

  • Teachers want the money to go to much-needed frontline resources for students, not into another tier of management.
  • The relationship and continuity of learning between primary students and their teachers is very important for effective learning. Taking an Expert Teacher out of their classroom for 40 per cent of the time, to be replaced by relievers, could have a negative effect on students’ learning.
  • This policy proposes a radical shift in schooling through a top-down one-size-fits all model,  without any consultation with schools or parents. It will impact on the role of boards of trustees,  school/community relationships, teaching practice and the autonomy of individual schools, and  could end up being a huge distraction from student learning.

WHAT NZEI WANTS INSTEAD OF IES (in NZEI’s words)

  • Parents and teachers said they wanted to see smaller class sizes to support individualised learning and 100% qualified teachers in early childhood education to ensure all children get the best start.
  • better funding for children with special needs so that all children can reach their potential. Currently, special needs funding is rationed and far too many children with moderate-to- significant needs do not get enough support.
  • more sustainable funding for teacher aides and other support staff, so that children get quality support and teachers can focus on teaching and learning.

PPTA’s VIEW (in PPTA’s words unless indicated by * in which case I have paraphrased)

  • The IES interim agreement is vastly different to the initial proposal from government *
  • The roles outlines have changed *
  • The role names have changed *
  • The payments for those in the roles has been reduced *
  • This [IES] money is to fund a government policy initiative. It is not available to fund anything else, even though we would all prefer it spent otherwise. Spending it on other things was never an option.
  • The teacher may be released more flexibly than this implies. While the teacher is away the staffing allowance could be used to employ a specialist teacher to teach the class music, a language, etc.
  • [S]chools will choose whether to be part of a CoS [Community of Schools] or not. It is not being imposed.

 

I hope that overview helps teachers, parents and others.

I welcome comments and clarification from NZEI and PPTA on the factual content above, as needed, and would be very happy to receive any additional information they have and would like to share.

At the end of the day, and despite different approaches and disagreement on the way forward, I believe we all have the best interests of the students at heart,  and so it’s important that all parties are clear on what unions and their members want, where they differ, why that might be, and so on.

Kia kaha,

Dianne

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Other Sources:

IES_factchecker_27aug2014.pdf (found on PPTA site http://www.ppta.org.nz/events/consulting-on)

 

 

 

Teacher Voice: We’re not in it for the money, by Jenine Maxwell

Kia ora. My name is Jenine Maxwell and I have been a teacher for 31 years, with only the odd year off here and there for babies.

Although most of my career has been spent in New Entrant classrooms, I’ve taught at all levels and at different management levels. I am currently a D.P. with both curriculum, Senco and classroom responsibilities.

Everyday I am grateful for a job that I am still passionate and hungry for, one that allows me to connect with, and make a difference in, people’s lives. Schools are the centres of their communities and as such we engage not just with students, but also with the parents and whanau of our precious charges.

Batman - teachers aren't in it for the moneyI work hard, with long days and many hours put in at home, on weekends, evenings and holidays, both devising programmes that will help my students succeed and keeping up to date on relevant research.

Can receiving an increased wage motivate me to work harder, magically find more hours or an enchanted potion to meet all of my students’ needs in the minimum time?

Absolutely not, particularly as I, along with most teachers I know, have never been in the job for the pay packet anyway.

If I am identified as an excellent teacher, dragged away from the students and school that needs me to go and help another, supposedly less successful school, I would then have only half the amount of time and energy to devote to two settings.

Common sense, not politics, tells me that I would soon have two failing settings, as well a nervous breakdown, to show for my hard work.

For the Prime Minister to accuse NZEI of political motivations is disingenuous to say the least.

If Key were offered the same conditions, an increased pay packet to spend half of his time across the ditch fixing their economic woes, I doubt he would accept the challenge. And if he didn’t, would it be because he was in the back pocket of the unions. He would consider such an accusation preposterous.

Yet for some reason he views teachers as so naïve and malleable, that we would follow NZEI’s recommendations without any research, thought or common sense of our own.

As a taxpayer, I find it astonishing that he is so determined to pay government employees more money, while failing to increase spending on resources and staffing within schools. I wonder how many parents would be happy with that equation?

Teacher Voice: We won’t get fooled again, by Carrie Sherring

won't get fooled againI’ve seen this all before.

The Standards, the Expert Teachers from Beacon Schools, the Super Head.

I was a Beacon Schools teacher. I led in-service for Deputy Principals and Teachers on using assessment effectively to target children.

I worked with teachers to better analyse data. Organise their systems and interpret info they had.

My kids from a low decile school did as well as kids from affluent areas because as a staff we worked our socks off together, collaborating, sharing info, communicating.

When we became one of the first Beacon Schools it seemed important to share our practice with others. We went corporate. We hosted other teachers from a range of schools. They loved coming to see our school.

We saw it as a positive at first.

Then we started to get tired. We were still full time teaching and this was extra-it didn’t matter that we were paid a bit extra-time is finite in a week. The advisors who used to support schools vanished and we seemed to be taking over their role without the full support needed to do the job well. No secondments, just fit it all in.

Extra cash yes but only for me and not for the classroom (like many teachers I spent it on my class though).

I worked at weekends, I slogged and planned and delivered.

Did I make a difference-to my children in my own class-yes, they started to fail.

They were Reception Age kids (age 4 to 5)-the upheaval of other teachers coming in and me being out disrupted their education. I began to lose my creativity. I began to teach only to a test. I became a narrow educator.

So I worked harder to make sure I didn’t fail them.

I watched as my own children at home went out for the afternoon with someone else at the weekend because mum was too busy. Still I worked hard, believing I was doing some good.

Then one day I looked in the mirror, looked at my class, looked at my own 2 children and questioned WHY!

Why was I working every hour I wasn’t sleeping?-the answer, so schools could meet their government targets.

The children were not benefiting from a broad experience, they were being jumped over hurdles.

I had never been motivated by the money.

I stopped, gave up my responsibilities and had 3 months off, moved to a cottage in Scotland.

I was not about money; I was about growing great kids.

I was happier and so were my kids.

Then I missed the classroom and back I went.

Then I heard of a place where innovation and creative thinking were still valued in teaching, where there was a holistic approach, where discussion and dialogue between professionals was encouraged-so I came to NZ.

I loved it.

Then… we all know what happened next.

The Who summed it up ‘We won’t get fooled again!’

More outstanding teachers resign

i quit

Every week the list grows longer as great teachers resign and leave the profession forever due to the crazy path that education is being pushed down by politicians.

In England and the USA there have been many highly public resignations outlining just exactly why the reforms have pushed teachers to say “No more.”

It’s sad not just because these good teachers are lost to the profession, and not just for them personally, but because these teachers are leaving because what they are being forced to do in the name of education  is not beneficial to students.

It makes me both incredibly cross and very sad to know that unless something drastic changes, it’s only a matter of time before New Zealand starts to see a flurry of the same.

Here is Lucy Fey’s resignation letter:

” Dear Mr Gove,

I am writing to thank you for teaching me so much about education. I have been a primary school teacher for 14 years and have always worked in challenging, inner city schools with many children who have complex behavioural and emotional needs. According to my performance management, I am an ‘outstanding’ teacher. I feel that over the last few years my skills have diversified considerably.

I am proud to be able to say that each year my pupils’ achievement and attainment have improved. I have become skilled at pinpointing what they need to learn and prioritising their experiences to ensure they succeed in the core subjects. Sacrifices have had to be made but, despite what they would like you to believe, there is not a single pupil who has not wanted to achieve and be successful.

The last few years in particular, my job has become even more varied. As we no longer have any external support and advice to help us, we have learned ‘on the job’ how to be counsellors, behaviour specialists, social workers and mental health workers.

We use our instincts when dealing with children with complex emotional and behavioural needs. We do everything we can, but you never can tell without the training. Hopefully those children experiencing extreme difficulties will pick up how to become good citizens and be able to live within, and contribute to, the community.

I can only hope that they will know how to create a supportive and nurturing environment for their own children to succeed in the future. Maybe they will feel confident and proud of their achievements despite the lack of professional, quality specialists available to support their own complex needs in their formative years.

Until recently, I was not adept at data analysis. I now know that the pupils we are teaching are not simply children, they are numbers, percentages. The hours I have spent analysing data to decide which children need intensive afternoon intervention groups, those who need that extra ‘boost.’ Those children do not take part in the afternoon history, geography, art, science, music, PE or RE lessons as they are struggling with maths, reading and writing.

They understand that they must miss out on subjects they are more likely to engage with, feel confident in, so they have the opportunity to achieve the required level in writing, reading and maths. They spend all day, every day struggling. Slowly feeling more and more like a failure, becoming more and more disengaged.

It is amazing that every one of my pupils knows what level they are working at and what level they need to be at the end of the year. Children are so desperate to achieve and to please others that they naturally put themselves under a huge amount of pressure. If they are not working at age related expectations they believe they are not doing well despite the amazing progress they have made.

They are in tears. They feel the pressure. They know they are not where they ‘should’ be. They know already, at primary school, that they may not be ‘successful’ in the future. They know that the only subjects worth anything are reading, writing and maths. They know that their options are limited.

A big part of teaching is, and always has been, acting. You draw your audience in; encourage them to take part and to be inspired, challenged and enthusiastic about what they are discovering.

There is nothing better than a class full of buzzing pupils, excited about what they are learning, taking ownership of the lesson. This is becoming increasingly hard to achieve when we expect so much from them. There is little time to have fun, to enquire, to be intrigued, to be children. They have too much pressure. They must, “compete with the world’s best.”

Why are we not letting them grow as individuals? Why are we damaging their self-esteem and confidence by trying to make them all fit into the same box? To ensure a successful future for our country we need to give children a broad, balanced curriculum which enables everyone to excel at what they are good at. They need to feel empowered and valued for their individual skills to be able to take risks and push the boundaries to be successful.

How is that possible if they have had a restricted education? How will all those talented people who are not necessarily ‘academic’ excel in their different industries if they were not given the opportunity to hone their skills throughout their education? How will this improve our country? What sort of adults will they turn in to? I know I never had those pressures when I was a child.

I handed my notice in last week. I can’t do this to them anymore.

Lucy Fey”

How sad that New Zealand is following on with reforms that are wreaking this kind of havoc.

We need to be asking who is driving this push and why, before there are no more Lucy Feys left.

 

_____________________________________________________________________

Sources:

https://www.facebook.com/TeacherRoar

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationopinion/10864313/Education-in-the-hands-of-teachers.html

http://dianeravitch.net/2014/06/07/josh-waldron-explains-why-he-is-leaving/

http://mcorfield.blogspot.co.nz/2014/05/in-honor-of-retiring-educators.html

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/why-are-so-many-head-teachers-resigning-worldwide/

NZEI: Government continues costly charter school experiment despite public rejection

A recent poll has found that two-thirds of New Zealanders are concerned at the amount of taxpayer money that is being diverted into charter schools.

Yet despite this, NZEI Te Riu Roa Immediate Past President Ian Leckie says the government is clearly committed to this expensive ideologically-driven experiment.

Yesterday the Ministry of Education released the names of 19 new applicants hoping to set up charter schools next year. The list includes a number who failed in their bid for funding last year.

vote now - poll - speak outIan Leckie says time and again the government has been told that New Zealanders want to retain a quality public education system and do not want education funds diverted into propping up costly charter schools.

“Money to charter schools means less money in public schools.  That’s not fair and it must have an effect on kids’ learning.”

He says a recent NZEI survey found that 63 percent ranked the diversion of taxpayer money to charter schools as either a “top concern in education” or were “somewhat concerned”.

The government has set aside more than $12m over two years to support charter schools – money that is not being used to support quality public education.  Currently there are five charter schools operating with a total of just 367 children.

“This is an incredibly high per-head cost compared to the amount of funding the government pays for students in the public sector.

So far the five charter schools operating receive an operational payment per student of between $11,500 and $40,300 compared to an average of around $5,800 at lower decile public schools.

“Clearly the government is not letting up in its path towards privatising our education sector despite the overwhelming view of the education sector and the wishes of the New Zealand public.”

Networkonnet: directions for primary education as a basis for budget and election year demands

no moneyThis 2014 budget is one of the worst in recent history – especially for election year.

The 2 per cent increase in the school operations grant after taking inflation into account, the needs of present-day education, and the increase in immigration, is actually a cut; the small allocations for the ‘Reading Together’ programme and digital literacy (a little over $4 million altogether) are miniscule in scope though well directed; and the small increase for support teachers pathetic.

As we know the $359 million for the cluster programme (for secondary and primary and over four years) will do nothing for children, indeed it will represent if it occurs, a plunge to an education cataclysm. The budget also points to a possibly less than 1 per cent rise in salaries for teachers – compare that to the wrongness of the salaries for expert teachers.

Yet the president of NZPF has virtually nothing to say.

Where is the programme of budgetary needs and system changes the NZPF should be demanding? Surely, a programme of budgetary needs and system changes carefully set out and widely distributed is a fundamental role of a teacher organisation – but it seems to be a fundamental role unfulfilled.

These are perilous times for school education; these are terrible times for schools wanting to address satisfactorily the real needs of children.

In my view, as suggested above we are on the precipice of an education cataclysm.”

via Networkonnet: directions for primary education as a basis for budget and election year demands.

When PISA meets politics – a lesson from New Zealand

by Martin Thrupp,first published in The Conversation

conversation

“PISA shock” is the term that has been coined for the sense of political crisis and knee-jerk policy reaction that typically occurs when a country drops in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s international education rankings.

Almost 100 education experts, including several of us from New Zealand, recently sent an open letter to the OECD’s chief education spokesperson, Andreas Schleicher, pointing out that the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings have become more of a problem than a solution.

In many ways the concern of New Zealand educators is also around the wider influence of the OECD education programme on New Zealand educational politics and policy – perhaps as much “OECD hangover” as “PISA shock”.

New Zealand’s government led by prime minister John Key often draws on the authority of the OECD to endorse its policy direction, using both PISA findings and the related arguments of Schleicher. New Zealand’s minister of education Hekia Parata regularly quotes Schleicher, saying, “Without data, you are just another person with an opinion.”

Data problems

But Schleicher is not close enough to the New Zealand context to correct any misuse of the OECD’s results by the Key government, and this causes problems. One example has involved the impact of poverty on student achievement.

Shortly after the latest PISA results came out in 2013, Parata started to say that New Zealand’s PISA results showed that socio-economic status accounted for only 18% of student achievement. This was surprising, to say the least, when a powerful relationship between social class and student achievement has been a theme of international research in the sociology of education for more than 50 years.

Further investigation revealed that the 18% claim was based only on PISA’s narrow definition of family socio-economic influence. Using PISA’s wider criteria that include neighbourhood and school socio-economic factors, about 78% of New Zealand’s latest results became explained by socio-economic conditions. But it is worth noting that some academics, such as Harvey Goldstein at Bristol, point out that PISA is not a long-term study, and so can’t estimate factors like this.

But downplaying the impact of poverty in order to emphasise the responsibility of teachers to raise achievement has been a regular strategy of the Key government. And when faced with the corrected figure by opposition parties in parliament in January, the prime minister still fell back on the authority of Schleicher to argue for the greater importance of teachers and schools.

Adding insult to injury, Schleicher himself started arguing that “poverty isn’t destiny” and arrived in New Zealand for the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in March stressing the power of high expectations in the face of social contexts.

Some of the points Schleicher has been making might be useful if the arguments were employed carefully. Unfortunately, in the national politics of New Zealand – and probably in many other countries – any such subtleties are quickly lost. Instead the OECD/Schleicher arguments become fertile ground for the politics of blaming teachers for the underperformance of students from poor backgrounds.

Political positioning

The OECD hangover in New Zealand goes far beyond PISA. In January, the Key government’s latest school policy proposal called “Investing in Educational Success” was announced. This is intended to introduce a number of new teaching and leadership roles into New Zealand’s schools, providing extra payments for carrying out the required roles as part of a NZ$359m (£184.4m) investment plan.

By February, a four-minute video of Schleicher endorsing the policy had appeared on Parata’s National Party website. This was concerning as although the OECD tries to be non-partisan, here was Schleicher, featuring on a party-political website and endorsing the governing coalition’s announcement of new education spending in an election year.

Watching the highly scripted video clip it also becomes apparent that Schleicher was willing to endorse the new policy without entering into the controversies it would cause in New Zealand.

He leaves out how the policy was announced by the Key government after a cabinet decision, without prior consultation and only subsequent input into the detail rather than the thrust of the policy. Not mentioned are worrying shifts in the power relations between the New Zealand government and teachers and between New Zealand teachers themselves that are likely to be caused by the policy.

Also not mentioned is the involvement and reinforcement of other New Zealand education policies that have been causing concern such as the new National Standards for primary schools, as well as many practical considerations. Instead, Schleicher discusses the policy only in an abstract, non-contextualised way. As the Quality Public Education Coalition pressure group said, his endorsement evokes the “best of all worlds”.

With Schleicher’s endorsement of the policy there can be no claim of misinterpretation by the Key government. It is more that Schleicher is not being careful enough about how the OECD’s support would be used in a local setting.

Our open letter concluded by suggesting the OECD had become the “global arbiter of the means and ends of education around the world”. In New Zealand, the OECD risks becoming known as a stick to beat educators with. Its reputation is unlikely to improve until it starts genuinely listening and acting on local concerns.

by Martin Thrupp, first published in The Conversation

Charter schools cost a fortune – cartoon by Tom Scott

charter schools by Tom Scott

 

– and the money was shuffled from other areas of education, so others lose out.

Cartoon By Tom Scott

Originally published in The Dominion Post 20/5/14

Underwhelmed with ‘Investing in Educational Success’ plans

When John Key announced the Investing in Educational Success (IES) plans to spend $359 Million creating new teaching and principal roles, the education sector was cautiously hopeful.  More investment is needed in so many areas, so teachers, principals and parents waited with bated breath.  Sadly, the announcement left many underwhelmed, and this is why…

 

WHAT DOES IES PLAN TO DO?

The Government plans to invest $359 million over four years in a highly paid cadre of new management roles in schools.

Change principals will be paid $50,000 a year to turn around “failing” schools.

Executive principals will oversee 10 schools and get paid an extra $40,000 a year.

Expert teachers will also work across schools and get $20,000 extra a year.

Lead teachers will work within their own school and be paid an additional $10,000.On this page are materials to support your discussions about the Government’s “Investing in Educational Success” initiative with colleagues, parents and Boards

 

WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS?

There are concerns about consultation, as the announcement was made without any discussion with the education sector about where best to spend the money. Consultation after the fact has also left many uneasy as to whether it is genuine or for show only, a criticism that some feel is harsh but others feel is justified after so many sham consultations by the ministry of late.

Many parents, teachers and academics feel the IES plan is money being spent unwisely that could have a far greater positive impact on students’ education if spent elsewhere.  There is no research to say this type of intervention will improve student outcomes – and conversely there is research that shows other initiatives would help significantly.  In essence, adding more management is not going to help.

A parent-led petition is underway, that asks “Why not consult teachers and principals who know what is most needed to support children’s learning, as to what they believe will be the best use of this money?”

 

WATCH THE VIDEO FOR MORE INFO

The video below is an introduction to the Government’s planned new teacher and principal roles – Investing in Educational Success (IES).  It explains how IES fits within the wider reforms and what it might mean for children, teachers and schools, and people outline what their questions and concerns are.

 

teachers, what do you think about IES?  Do you think the original plan was good or not?  Do you think government will change the plan after consultation with the education sector?  Parents, how do you feel about it – do you understand the plans, and do you support them or not?  I’d be very interested to know.

~ Dianne

 

Poll shows voters unimpressed with government’s education performance

let your voice be heardA new poll shows that voters are unimpressed with the government’s handling of education so far, highlighting the importance of getting the 2014 Budget right next week.

The NZEI-commissioned poll of 400 people found that 38% of those polled reported being less likely to vote National because of its handling of education. Another 19% were more likely to vote National and it made no difference for 43% of voters.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Judith Nowotarski said that 95% of those polled agreed with the statement: “Investment in education is an investment in our children’s future – public education must be and remain the first priority of any New Zealand Government.”

The poll showed strong levels of concern (41%) about the Government imposing a business model on education.

“New Zealanders have made it very clear that education is their number one priority, but this government seems more focussed on silencing teachers and pushing through policy without consulting those who will have to implement it,” she said.

“This poll shows that when it comes to education, this government has lost not just the confidence of the teaching profession, but the wider public as well. In the poll, 42% of voters rated the government listening to teachers, principals and school boards as a top concern.”

The government’s $359 million Investing in Educational Success policy, which was dumped on the sector without warning in January, is becoming increasingly unpopular.  Based on research of what parents and teachers believe should be priorities, NZEI will be releasing an alternative plan for prioritising investment in education before next Thursday’s Budget.

Academics Worldwide call for the end to PISA tests

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.

Sincerely,

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

Poll shows paltry public support for new school roles

In the lead-up to the 2014 Budget, less than 6% of people think the government’s plan to establish new leadership roles for some principals and teachers is a good use of increased education funding, according to a new poll.

The poll, commissioned by NZEI Te Riu Roa, surveyed a cross-section of New Zealanders last month and found little support for prioritising the $359 million Investing in Educational Success policy, which has also been widely panned by teachers.

Respondents were somewhat supportive of the package (56%), but when asked what were the most important areas of education in which to spend extra money, the components of the policy were bottom of the list by a wide margin (paying $40,000 to executive principals to oversee a group of schools – 1%; paying $50,000 to experienced principals to turn around struggling schools – 6%; paying $10,000 to experienced teachers to work with teachers in other schools two days a week – 3%).

The poll showed that the public was more interested in

  • reducing class sizes (32%),
  • employing only qualified and registered teachers in early childhood centres (31%), and
  • more administrative support so teachers can focus on teaching and learning (29%).

See the poll results here.

NZEI President Judith Nowotarski said the poll showed that teachers were not alone in believing putting the money into frontline teachers and support would be a far more effective way to lift student success.

children“The government dreamed up this policy with the idea that it would somehow benefit students. It’s a great pity they didn’t bother to consult anyone who knows anything about what students need for educational success,” she said.

Parents are starting to ask questions about the lack of consultation in the spending of this significant amount of money.

An Auckland mother has set up an online petition asking the government to consult teachers, principals, boards of trustees and parents before implementing the policy.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 

NZEI National President Judith Nowotarski: ph 027 475 4140
Communications Officers: Debra Harrington ph 027 268 3291,
Melissa Schwalger 027 276 7131

Dear education minister, please don’t send your condolences

Dear Hekia,

I read the letter below with a heavy heart.  Mrs Utting was recently widowed when her husband, a teacher aged 37, died of stress-induced heart attack, and here she writes to Mr Gove, your English counterpart.

Mr Utting was a teacher in England, but could just as easily have been in many other countries, including New Zealand, as the same reforms and policies are pushed on teachers worldwide.

I urge you to change tack.  The levels of stress and feelings of mistrust regarding government policy are reaching epidemic proportions.

Mrs Utting says:

I should be proud that my husband was a teacher. But right at this moment, I’m not. I’m sorry that he was. Because if he had a different job, he might still be with us.

Teachers love their students and care deeply about doing our jobs well – we want support, not workplace bullying.

Regards,

Dianne Khan

SOSNZ

 

29th April 2014

Dear Mr Gove,

I am writing to inform you of the death of Mr Gareth Utting, a teacher of English at a secondary school in Shropshire.

Gareth died at the age of 37 of a massive heart attack. There were a few contributory factors to his death, but looming large was the word ‘stress’. He leaves me a widow with three children, aged fourteen, four and one.

This is not the angry rant of a bereaved person. I haven’t got anywhere near angry yet. I am still reeling with shock and wondering if there was anything I could have done to prevent my husband’s death. When these thoughts beset me, I keep coming back to the fact that I should have done more to help him get out of teaching. And how can that be right, to think that? I love teaching. In the few weeks since Gareth died, I have heard and read so many tributes from his students that attest to the positive impact that a good teacher can make. I should be proud that my husband was a teacher. But right at this moment, I’m not. I’m sorry that he was. Because if he had a different job, he might still be with us.

I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the changes that have hit teachers in the last few years. I qualified as a teacher myself but have been at home raising our young children, so have not been directly involved. But I can tell you what I see around me.

Teachers like Gareth have changed.

Their hopes for the young people in their care have not changed. Neither has their willingness to go the extra mile to help those young people to succeed. But the work-load that they struggle under and the pressures that are applied to them from above have greatly increased. If this led to better education for our children, then I would be supporting these changes. But I don’t see better education. I see good teachers breaking under the load. I see good teachers embittered and weary. I see good teachers leaving the profession. I see good teachers never even entering the profession, for fear of what lies ahead. I see pupils indoctrinated with achievement targets, who are afraid to veer from the curriculum in case it affects their next assessment; pupils for whom ‘knowledge’ is defined by a pass mark and their position within a cohort.

Within this atmosphere, my husband struggled to help his pupils in every way he could. The comments that they have left on social media reflect a teacher-pupil relationship that was honest, helpful and mutually respectful. He taught them English, and they did well at it. But he also taught them about life, and love, and self-esteem. But he did this in spite of, not because of, the current state of the education system.

Gareth is at peace now. But I have some difficult choices to make.

Do I return to a profession that takes so high a toll? When my four-year-old son says he wants to be a teacher, do I smile or try to talk him out of it? When I see Gareth’s colleagues, do I congratulate them for being so amazing, or encourage them to explore other career options?

Mr Gove, I don’t envy you your job. I don’t know the best way to achieve a high standard of education for all pupils, everywhere. But I do know this: People don’t become teachers to be slackers, for the pension or for the name badge.

Here’s an interesting theory of mine that I was discussing recently with my husband. If you took away all external inspection and supervision, all targets and reviews, if teachers were left to themselves to teach what they wanted to teach, the way they wanted to teach it, what do you think would happen?

This is what I think: Every teacher that I know cares deeply about their subject and their students. They would teach marvellously. They would share knowledge and encourage each other. They would deal with problems (including less-than-perfect pupils and teachers) with the professionalism that they possess in spades.

Of course we cannot remove all monitoring of teachers and schools. But it seems to me that you have forgotten this basic fact: Teachers love to teach, and they want to do it well.

I don’t know what I want to ask of you. All I know is that the situation as it stands is wrong. On behalf of all the teachers and pupils out there, I beg you to go back to the drawing-board. Learn from your mistakes. Gain knowledge.

And please don’t send me your condolences.

Yours,
Alison Utting.

 

Related articles:

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/teacher-stress-depression-and-suicide/

 

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