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Charter secondary schools under-perform system-level benchmarks

The 2016 School Leavers statistics paint a grim picture for charter school supporters. Figures just released by the Ministry of Education show that only 59.7% of charter school leavers left with NCEA L2 or above in 2016.

This compares to a system-wide figure of 80.3% across all schools within the system in 2016. Looking more closely at specific groups, the system-level result for Decile 3 schools was 74.3% and for Maori students, across all deciles, it was 66.5%.

The School Leavers metric is used as the performance standard in the charter school contracts. Former Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, made her intentions clear when she said:

“There is to be no compromise on the system level benchmarks”.   Source: Hand-written comment from the Minister on a Ministry of Education paper, dated 24 May 2013

The decile 3 system-level result for 2012 had been used as the baseline for the charter schools in their first year, i.e. 66.9% for the 2014 year. The contracts then set out a series of performance standards for subsequent years, culminating in the target of 85% of School Leavers attaining NCEA Level 2 or above by 2017.

[There were no contract performance standards set above NCEA Level 2. The contracts for primary and middle schools are based on performance standards using National Standards for years 1 to 8].

But worryingly, even this poor performance masks a weak set of results overall. There were 124 School Leavers from charter schools in 2016 and this is the breakdown of the highest qualification they left school with:

Below Level 1 – 25 students, 20.2%

Level 1 – 25 students, 20.2%

Level 2 – 45 students, 36.3%

Level 3 – 14 students, 11.3%

University Entrance (UE) – 15 students, 12.1%

Given the hype around charter schools, it is disappointing to see that 20.2% of students left school in 2016 without even attaining NCEA Level 1.

And at the top end, numbers above Level 2 fall away quite markedly.

The proportion of School Leavers attaining NCEA Level 3 or above, for example, was 23.4% compared to 53.9% for the system as a whole. UE attainment is low, with a mere 15 students, or only 12.1% of School Leavers, attaining UE, compared to a system-wide figure of 40.7%.

As we await this year’s Ministry of Education evaluation of the charter schools, we are minded to note Hekia’s comment from 2013. Clearly, the New Zealand model of charter school is currently not achieving at anywhere near the system-level benchmarks that have been set for it.

SOSNZ

Further Resources:

SOSNZ’s 2017 Charter School Secondary School Achievement 2014-2016 report can be viewed here.

SOSNZ’s 2017 Charter School Rolls (2016) Report can be viewed here.

2016 School Leavers’ statistics paint a grim picture for Charter School supporters

Figures just released by the Ministry of Education show that only 59.7% of charter school leavers left with NCEA L2 or above in 2016. (School Leavers Stats.xlsx – Sheet1)

This compares to a system-wide figure of 80.3% across all schools within the system in 2016.

Looking more closely at specific groups, the system-level result for decile 3 schools was 74.3% and for Maori students, across all deciles, it was 66.5%.

The School Leavers metric is used as the performance standard in the charter school contracts. Former Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, made her intentions clear when she said:

“There is to be no compromise on the system level benchmarks”.

(Source: Hand-written comment from the Minister on a Ministry of Education paper, dated 24 May 2013)

The decile 3 system-level result for 2012 had been used as the baseline for the charter schools in their first year, i.e. 66.9% for the 2014 year.  The contracts then set out a series of performance standards for subsequent years,  culminating in the target of 85% of School Leavers attaining NCEA Level 2 or above by 2017. *

Worryingly, even this poor performance masks a weak set of results overall.

There were 124 School Leavers from charter schools in 2016 and this is the breakdown of the highest qualification they left school with:

Qualification       # students    % of total

Below Level 1            25                  20.2%

Level 1                           25                  20.2%

Level 2                         45                  36.3%

Level 3                          14                  11.3%

UE                                  15                  12.1%

Given the hype around charter schools, it is disappointing to see that 20.2% of students left school in 2016 without even attaining NCEA Level 1.

And at the top end, numbers above Level 2 fall away quite markedly:

  • The proportion of School Leavers attaining NCEA Level 3 or above was 23.4% compared to 53.9% for the system as a whole.
  • UE attainment is low, with a mere 15 students, or only 12.1% of School Leavers, attaining University Entrance, compared to a system-wide figure of 40.7%.

As we await this year’s Ministry of Education evaluation of the charter schools, we are minded to note Hekia’s comment from 2013.  Clearly, the New Zealand model of charter school is currently not achieving at anywhere near the system-level benchmarks that have been set for it.

~ Bill Courtney

*  Note: There were no contract performance standards set above NCEA Level 2.  The contracts for primary and middle schools are based on performance standards using National Standards for years 1 to 8.

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For more information on charter schools, you may wish to read Charter School Report Card by Shawgi Tell

On the Saga of Misinterpreting Student Achievement Performance Standards at NZ Charter Schools

Bill Courtney

Bill Courtney

The purpose of this report, prepared by Bill Courtney of Save Our Schools NZ, is to document several matters relating to the various quantitative measures that have been used to report student achievement in the charter secondary schools, across both 2014 and 2015.

The main observation is that, in respect of 2014 achievement, the performance standard originally set out in the charter school Agreement, the Ministry’s interpretation of this, the achievement reported by the schools and the reported achievement in the Ministry’s publicly available database, Education Counts, are all different! (See Reporting Summary table on p. 2 of full report)

One of the most significant implications of these differences in interpretation is that, on the recommendation of the Ministry, the Minister approved the release of the 1% operational funding retention amount, relating to the 2014 year, for both Vanguard and Paraoa. However, Vanguard did not meet its NCEA L2 Target and Paraoa did not meet either its Level 1 or Level 2 Target.

In July 2016, the Ministry finally acknowledged that there were “issues” related to the current NCEA performance standards as being applied to charter schools. This admission raises serious concerns about the mantra underpinning the charter school approach, which is described as: “Rigorous accountability against clearly agreed objectives.

In a paper to the Minister, it recommended a new set of performance standards be utilised in the Third Round contracts that were signed in August 2016. These will use two new roll-based NCEA pass rate measures along with a clearly stated “School Leaver” measure, calculated in the normal manner.

However, the same paper redacted the sections referring to “Next Steps” that might suggest how the Ministry is going to evaluate the performance of the existing First and Second Round schools on an on-going basis.

At time of writing, the Ministry has published its initial analysis of the schools relating to the 2015 year using what it has described as the “current” interpretation of the performance measures. But it had not yet made any recommendations regarding the 1% retention amounts for 2015.

In order to provide a more comprehensive overview of performance, I have included in the full report data from the Education Counts system-wide data spreadsheets, based on the “School Leavers” metric. These show charter school achievement compared to decile 3 schools and for Maori students.

I have also included an initial analysis of information relating to the “quality” of the NCEA credits being earned by students enrolled at charter schools, based on data provided by NZQA.

Finally, I conclude with some thoughts on the implications of this bizarre outcome in what is supposedly being sold to the country as a “Contracting for Outcomes” arrangement.

You can view the full report here.

~ Save Our Schools NZ

David Seymour and another misleading statement about charter schools

David Seymour has made a clearly incorrect statement to the media about his beloved charter schools and contradicted his Minister in the process.

The question at issue is the incorrect interpretation and measurement of the student achievement targets used in the original charter school contracts for the first and second round charter schools.

Save Our Schools NZ has been involved for over a year in the battle to get the Ministry of Education to acknowledge that both the reporting by the schools and the performance evaluation by the Ministry have been incorrect.

Radio NZ reported on Thursday that Seymour defended the incorrect interpretation by making the following statement:

“The reason that there is a difference, just remember, is that we have been pioneering holding schools to account through a contract, and it was necessary if you wanted to do that to have a different system of measurement.”

This statement is rubbish!

The original contracts did not have a different system of measurement at all.

The performance standards used in the original contracts were stated as “School Leavers with NCEA Level 1” and “School Leavers with NCEA Level 2”.

But both of these performance standards have been interpreted incorrectly and not calculated in the normal way that the Ministry does so for all other schools in the system.

These School Leaver statistics are published in the Ministry’s Education Counts database for every school: state, state-integrated, private and now the charter schools.

The error was obvious once the Education Counts “School Leavers” figures for the first round charter schools were released and it was clear that these were different from both the schools’ own reporting and the Ministry’s evaluation.

But it was also clear that they were not what the Minister had intended when the contracts had been put together in 2013.

Under the Official Information Act, Save Our Schools NZ obtained Ministry reports to the Minister in 2013 that set out the basis for the contract performance standards and the metrics that would be used to measure performance.

These documents included one where the Minister, Hekia Parata, made a hand-written comment on one of the papers in May 2013, discussing the principles behind the contract standards:

“There is to be no compromise on the system-level benchmarks.”

This makes a mockery of David Seymour’s claim that it was necessary to have a different system of measurement.

The  Minister then signed off the contract metrics in September 2013.  These included the following:

“n.          Agree that performance standards for 2014 NCEA Level 1 and 2 should be based on 2012 system-level results for decile 3 state schools.”

So the Minister had clearly intended that the normal system-level benchmarks should be used and the charter school targets for 2014 should be the same as the results of decile 3 state schools in 2012.

It is the incorrect interpretation and measurement of those performance standards that has been revealed and is now being corrected.

Seymour is simply wrong to argue that a “different system of measurement” had always been intended.

~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ

See also: https://saveourschoolsnz.com/2016/08/16/david-seymours-bizarre-claims-about-charter-school-performance/

More charter schools on the way, despite lacklustre performance

David-SeymourWith David Seymour announcing today that a third charter schools application round is now open, it seems (despite previous assurances) there is no slow down in the push towards privatising New Zealand’s school system.

What is particularly interesting in Mr Seymour’s announcement is the implicit admission that up to now charter schools have indeed cost way more than state schools – a fact that has previously been denied to the hilt.

“The new model reduces establishment costs, and emphasises ‘per-student’ funding. When Partnership Schools reach maximum roll, they will receive funding broadly the same as the state school….” – David Seymour.

It’s rather embarrassing for Mr Seymour to spend a few years shouting down those of us that highlighted funding inequities, saying the figures were wrong or we were scare-mongering, only to now admit the model has had to be changed for those very reasons. Will the funding now be fairer? Will the Undersecretary and other nay-sayers be more honest and accurate in future? I’m not holding my breath.

The second interesting snippet in Mr Seymour’s press release was this:

“Partnership Schools show good progress, with achievement in reading, writing and mathematics either the same, or slightly above, that of decile 1, 2 and 3 primary schools. And, overall, NCEA achievement for Partnership Schools in Year 11 and for Level 2 in Year 12 is very high,” says Mr Seymour.

Let’s look at that in two parts, first National Standards, then NCEA.

National Standards

If charter schools are sold as being better than state schools, it’s not much of a boast to say charter schools’ National Standards results are the same or only slightly above state schools.  So , if we take Mr Seymour and his data at face value (and I’m not even going to go into the fact that charter schools as yet haven’t enrolled any ORS funded students with serious special needs), then charter schools are doing about as well as your average state school despite all the extra funding and freedoms. Not what you would call high praise.

Another thing to consider about the National Standards results is their reliability (in any school or sector). It is widely known that National Standards are not at all reliable.  The National Standards School Sample Monitoring and Evaluation Project this year again reported that “teachers’ judgements of how well children were performing against the standards still lacked dependability”, so it is ridiculous to trumpet charter schools’ results at all, given it is completely unreliable data across the board.

Charter Schools’ NCEA Results

Now to NCEA. We are yet to get to the bottom of this data. Charter schools and the Minister have repeatedly said that charter schools have achieved great NCEA results. However, the data does not support this, and questions to the parties involved has failed to get a clear answer regarding whether the pass rate percentages are for those that finished the year or for all students that were in that year, including those that dropped out.

Given the falling rolls in some charter high schools over the school year, it is an important point. Student attrition is a common way charter schools fudge their pass rates. Certainly our own investigations have shown charter schools performing at a lower rate than the targets set and than the national average.

Consider this:

If 100 students start the year, but 40 leave, and the remaining 60 pass their exams, can you really claim a 100% pass rate?

There is no evidence that charter schools’ NCEA pass rates are truly higher than comparable state schools. What we do know is that charter schools are allowed to be selective with their reporting and we cannot demand raw data under the Official Information Act because they are private businesses. Because of this, charters can use statistical smoke and mirrors (aka data manipulation) to make claims that it’s impossible for parents or others to confirm or deny – a tactic well known to many US charter schools.

That’s great PR but not at all helpful in working out how well the charter school model is faring in comparison to state schools.

All in all, David Seymour’s praise of charter schools doesn’t hold water, and puts me in mind of a point Diane Ravitch once made in relation to the New York education department’s reporting on charter schools, where she pondered:

“Wouldn’t it be swell if the Department of Education actually had a research department, instead of a hyper-active public relations department?”

~ Dianne Khan, SOSNZ

http://www.voxy.co.nz/politics/new-partnership-school-application-round-opens/5/229068?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
http://dianeravitch.net/2014/02/28/how-to-analyze-false-claims-about-charter-schools/

Fact Checker: Hekia and her biased promotion of charter school NCEA results

sosnz fact checker squareHekia Parata has been misleading Parliament again and showing how biased she is in favour of her beloved charter schools.

During Oral Question time in Parliament (2 July 2015) Hekia promoted the NCEA results of one of her charter schools, Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa, using the school’s recently released annual report to the public.

The school had been under scrutiny for accumulating a surplus of over $2.5 million in only 15 months of operation.  But that’s another discussion to be looked at in more detail shortly.

Hekia wanted to praise the school but the pass rates she quoted were all “Participation Based” pass rates and not “Roll Based” pass rates.

The difference is known to those who are familiar with the NCEA system and the vagaries of how many credits students are actually enrolled for in any academic year.

A series of articles on NCEA pass rates, including discussions around the possible ability to manipulate the published rates, was published recently through the Fairfax media outlets.

But the important point is that Hekia Parata was quoted clearly in several of these articles as saying that “My emphasis, emphatically, is on roll-based data.”

Roll Based Data?

The article, titled “Tougher NCEA pass rate measure pushed by Minister” and dated 6 July 2015 on stuff.co.nz  went on to say that Education Minister Hekia Parata says she is “absolutely unmovable” on the Government using roll-based NCEA results.

Until, that is, one of her beloved charter schools is involved and the spin doctors take over.

Unfortunately, with the shroud of secrecy that surrounds the charter school initiative and the distinct lack of transparency around these schools, it is difficult to ascertain the truth around the different NCEA pass rates for Paraoa and the other charter secondary schools.

A data request to NZQA, asking for confirmation of the actual numerator and denominator figures used in calculating both the participation and roll based pass rates, was met with a refusal!

NZQA stated the need to protect the privacy of individuals – even to the extent of hiding whole school pass rates.

Instead, NZQA responded by presenting data that was randomly rounded to “Base 3”.  This methodology is used when working with small cohorts and means that any data cell could contain a number between, say 0 and 3, without the user knowing exactly what the actual figure really was.

Subject to this proviso, here is what NZQA supplied for Paraoa and what Hekia quoted in the House:

Yr Level NCEA Level Current Year Numerator (Achieved) Current Denominator

(Roll-based)

Hekia Quoted Pass Rate
11 Level 1 9 12 100%
12 Level 2 6 12 86%
13 Level 3 0 3 100%

So, you see what the problem is: we can only estimate the % pass rate at, say, Level 2, as being 6 out of 12 or 50%.  But because the data has been rounded, the real answer could be quite different.

Interestingly, NZQA also rounds off the denominator, which should be the roll count.  Usually for NCEA purposes, this is the 1 July roll return head count figure.  We know from other data returns that, as at 1 July 2014, the roll return figures were 11, 11 and 3 for Years 11, 12 and 13 respectively.  (Yes, that’s right and highlights again just how small these charter schools really are).

So we can see how the actual rolls of 11 and 11 for years 11 and 12 respectively have both been rounded off to “12” in the achievement data report.

So, who knows?  Maybe the actual current year pass rate was 6 out of 11 Year 12 students, or 54.5%.  But will we ever really know?

Now there’s also a difference here between “current year” and “cumulative” achievement, which you need to be careful about.  And don’t forget the even more significant impact of students accumulating credits in “unit standards” rather than in the more academic “achievement standards”.

But those are for another tale…

Fuller Picture?

Charter schools will no doubt aggressively market their “stunning” academic success, as one high profile charter school did so earlier this year.

Stuff.co.nz again quotes the Minister:

“It’s appropriate and natural that schools will talk about what they do most successfully.  My interest is not that they stop doing that but that there is a fuller picture available that provides good information.”

So, who is going to hold the Minister accountable for being “absolutely unmovable” on this issue, as she said she would be?

And where is the “fuller picture” on charter school achievement information that we are clearly lacking?

~ Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools

Fact Checker: Vanguard’s 2014 NCEA Results Release

sosnz fact checker RECTANGLE

The press release from Vanguard Military School on its 2014 NCEA results makes for impressive reading on the surface (release date 18 February 2015). Digging deeper, a  few key questions are worth asking.

First, a statement about percentage pass rates does not reveal two key ingredients: how many students obtained that qualification and how many attempted it, especially in relation to the number of students in the cohort?

This is important in any school that experiences a high rate of student attrition, as Vanguard did in 2014.

Second, in what subjects have these students achieved their qualification?

Vanguard’s curriculum is narrow, which is a practical constraint given the small size of the school.  At NCEA Level 2 students take five compulsory subjects and then two electives.  The compulsory subjects are English, Maths, Physical Education, Physical Training and Recruit Development Course.

The electives are Engineering and Defence Force Studies (vocational pathway) or Maori, Biology or History, from the university pathway.

It is not clear from the release how many students went down the university pathway and how many took the vocational pathway.

Nor is there any indication as to the level of achievement within each subject.  However, it is possible that such detailed information may be available at a later date.

In addition, although the press release stated that the school’s roll has “increased from 108 students in 2014 to 144 this year”, this is not quite correct.

charter schools this-does-not-add-upVanguard’s “Guaranteed Minimum Roll” was set as 108 students in 2014, as per its contract with the Ministry of Education.  Vanguard was therefore funded throughout the year as if it always had this number of students, but the reality was quite different.

Roll returns obtained from the Ministry of Education’s School Directory database indicate actual student roll numbers as follows: 104 as at 1 March; 93 as at 1 July and 79 in October.

Vanguard has previously stated that many students received their qualifications during the course of the year and then left, often to join the military forces.  This may well be a sensible and logical outcome for the students concerned but the taxpayer still funded the privately owned and operated school for many more students than it ever enrolled.

This is in contrast to the position of State and State-Integrated secondary schools, which lose funding during the course of the year if their roll numbers decline.

Guaranteed Minimum Roll levels and funding details for 2015 for the 5 first round charter schools have not been released by the Ministry of Education, despite repeated requests under the Official Information Act.

This lack of transparency has plagued the charter school experiment from the outset and undermines any confidence that the taxpayer may have about how their funding is being used.

Finally, there are ongoing concerns around the charter school funding formula, particularly in respect of funding for property costs.

On balance, this may or may not be a good set of results, given the expectations of the students and their families. Many questions remain about this concept and its applicability to the New Zealand system.

It is the stance of Save Our Schools that individual school performances will not, in themselves, either prove or disprove the charter school idea in New Zealand.

As we see in the United States, charter school performance varies widely and right across the spectrum.  We expect charter schools in New Zealand to exhibit the same characteristics.

It is the ACT Party conference this weekend but Vanguard’s oh-so-positive press release is unlikely to be the full story.

~ Bill Courtney

An Invitation to the Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC): Education Forum, 26th April

QPEC logo no borderYou are invited to attend the Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) Education Forum this Saturday.

It will be a great chance to hear the latest experts such as John O’Neill, Martin Thrupp, Warwick Elley, and the chance to discuss your own concerns at the Teacher Forum – and all for FREE.

The Teacher Forum is focusing on Investing in Success (IES) and, to my mind, is not to be missed.  Many well informed people are attending, including Liz Horgan of St Joseph’s, Otahuhu, who will discuss how a group of principals have joined forces to form the CONCERNED NZ PRINCIPALS GROUP because of serious concerns around IES plans.

You can attend any or all of the forum, so do feel free to drop in even if you have only one speaker you really want to hear.  (But truly, you should stay for more than one session – it’s not often you get to hear from all of these people first hand and for free.)

 

WHEN: Saturday 26 April 2014, from 10am.

WHERE: St Columba Centre, 40 Vermont Street, Ponsonby, Auckland

COST:  FREE to all

 

AGENDA

 

10:00 Bill Courtney

Welcome and Overview

 

10:15 John O’Neill

Treasury Business Process Theory and the Assessment of Teacher Quality

The major research paper, “The Assessment of Teacher Quality” was released late last year by the Massey Education Policy Response Group, led by Ivan Snook. EPRG member, John O’Neill, will give an overview of this major paper, containing a wealth of information on many topics relevant to current discussions: the Treasury Business Process policy agenda; assessing teacher effectiveness; Value Added Measurement; and High Stakes Assessment of teachers.

 

10:45 Teacher Forum

“Investing in Educational Success” – the NZ Government initiative.

What are the potential positives and what are the concerns around the NZ Government proposal to create a new set of positions for principals and teachers? QPEC’s initial position was set out in a release issued in January. Martin Thrupp has also released a personal statement and Warwick Elley has had an op-ed published in the NZ Herald.

Liz Horgan of St Joseph’s, Otahuhu, will discuss the CONCERNED NZ PRINCIPALS GROUP’s views.

Representatives from PPTA and NZEI present different perspectives on how these new positions could impact on schools and teachers.

11:15 Martin Thrupp

National Standards and RAINS: where to now?

Martin’s 3-year case study of six individual schools has now concluded. He presents an overview of his findings and gives an update on other developments, including further publication of NS achievement data last year.

 

11:45 Warwick Elley

What Can PISA tell us about NCEA and National Standards?

Warwick has been a concerned critic of standards-based assessment for many years. He has analysed the recent PISA 2012 results and he has a stark warning: “As professionals, teachers are charged to give highest priority to the needs of their students. If we persist with these ill-starred standards-based schemes, we will surely be neglecting those needs. As a nation, too, we are now heavily involved in a race to the bottom.”

 

12:15 Bill Courtney

Charter Schools: What’s The Buzz?

The first five charter schools have now opened. Bill gives a quick update on current issues that have arisen so far, including details of the funding given to each school, which has received a great deal of media attention. Applications for the next round of allocations closed on 11 March.

 

12:45 General Discussion – Other Sectors

 

LUNCH BREAK 1.15-2.00

 

2.00 Dianne Khan

Using Social Media to Disseminate Information & Encourage Involvement

Dianne has joined QPEC during the past year. Dianne publishes her own website, Save Our Schools NZ, and she is also one of the regular contributors to The Daily Blog. Dianne will talk about her website and using social media to stimulate interest in the site.

 

2:30-3.00 QPEC AGM

Please note that the QPEC AGM 2.30-3.00 is members only.

 

QPEC logo landscape larger

Special Assessment Conditions in NCEA – improvements to system announced

Hundreds more could get special NCEA assessment support, says the Ministry of Education.

The NZQA and the Ministry of Education are moving to ensure hundreds more students get extra help for NCEA assessments to meet their special learning needs.

“It’s important that students at all schools have access to special help if they need it at exam and internal assessment time,” says Brian Coffey, group manager of special education at the Ministry of Education.

child sitting a testThe agencies today released a review of the use of Special Assessment Conditions in NCEA. The review found lower decile schools were much less likely to apply for NCEA exam help for their students with special learning needs, and that the $400-$700 cost of an independent expert assessment was one of the major barriers. Assistance during exams can take the form of a reader and writer, technology support or extra time.

Two major changes are to be made, in time for this year’s exams.

Firstly, NZQA has redesigned an alternative application process that is free to students. The application process has been made quicker and easier to use. Applications made this way use teacher observation and assessment information rather than an independent expert’s report.

“This option hasn’t been as widely used, or as easy to use as it should be. So we’ve streamlined the process and we will urgently be reminding schools this option is available.” says Richard Thornton, deputy chief executive, qualifications, for NZQA.

Secondly, the Ministry of Education will target 250 of the country’s 518 secondary and composite schools to ensure eligible students apply for special assessment. These are schools, many of them lower decile, that are being supported by the Ministry to achieve better NCEA results.

“Our NCEA facilitators will work with these schools to help identify students who could benefit from Special Assessment Conditions for their exams and other assessments this year,” says Mr Coffey.

In 2013 nearly 4000 students were granted access to Special Assessment Conditions, 3% of students in Years 11 to 15. Hundreds of extra students are expected to get help through targeted schools, and through an easier application process.

New technology for students with special learning needs is a priority in the medium term.

“At NZQA we are trialling special headphones so that students with reading difficulties can listen to a recorded exam. If the trial is successful, special headphones will be available in 2015,” says Mr Thornton.

The Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand (DFNZ)

The Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand (DFNZ) responded to the news positively, saying the review gives credit to the recognition of dyslexia as the cause of the increased demand for SAC applications over the last few years. Furthermore, what is also clear from the comprehensive review is that where schools are addressing the needs of students that learn differently [by way of accommodations] they are achieving higher student achievement in areas of language, literacy, numeracy and overall academic achievement.

The DFNZ said the review also highlights the critical need for accommodations to be activated in the primary years, and for great transitioning between primary and secondary, and outlined these additional important things to note:

1. NZQA have extended the official SAC deadline from Fri 10th April to Friday 17th April (the last day of Term 1)

2. NZQA will allow a case by case further extension to the deadline of Monday 5th May for any schools that want to complete their application over the Term 1 holiday. The only requirement, to get the extension, is for the school to contact NZQA so that they are able to manage the anticipated increase in volume and follow up.

3. All RTLB clusters have been contacted and asked to make contact with their local secondary school to see how they can help with identification of students who may be eligible for SAC and to support schools in gathering of alternative evidence.

4. The Ministry’s NCEA advisors who are in schools can help with identification of eligible students and work with RTLB and school staff to support the alternative evidence process.

5. NZQA will meet with and provide workshops for schools, parents, or groups about the Special Assessment Conditions process on request.

Don’t forget – This Sunday, March 16 at Noon on TV3. This is when the acclaimed documentary “The Big Picture; Rethinking Dyslexia” screens.

You may wish to like the Dyslexia Foundation on Facebook to keep up with the latest news from them.

For information on this year’s Dyslexia Awareness Week (DAW) starting Sunday 16th March, see here.

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Schools of thought…

i must pay more attentionThis from The Marlborough Express:

Success and failure can be pleasingly distinct. Other times, it’s a matter of definition and perspective.

That’s how it tends to be with education, even though the debate about how our schools and students are performing tends to be as muddy as any wintry slog on a sportsfield.

But this is not a sporting contest. For one thing, the rules tend to be in constant dispute, the sidelines hazy, the pitch uneven and (small point) everybody’s meant to be on the same side.

A couple of attempts to help calibrate our views on educational performance have been made in recent days.

Education Minister Hekia Parata found herself able to point to improved NCEA success rates for secondary school pupils. She was not making it up.

It’s no small thing that 77.2 per cent of 18-year-olds achieved NCEA level 2 last year. That’s up 2.9 per cent on the year before and represents a fair rate of improvement that, if it becomes a trajectory, would nicely surpass the target of 85 per cent set for 2017.

It’s one good sign, though Ms Parata isn’t so naive as to let her quote about the “great result” reach a fullstop without adding the requisite “we must continue to do better”.

It goes on…

At the same time, the Post Primary Teachers’ Association has released research to persuade us to reassess, and discard, one of the rallying cries of our educational critics that “one in five New Zealand pupils is failing in education”.

Using the Education Ministry’s (2009, mind you) OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) database, the researchers conclude the claim is simplistic and ignores complex issues.

Those other factors matter, the report’s authors contend, because the misleadingly narrow message that there is a crisis in schooling is being used to drive through radical policies. The Government’s practice of separating out a single factor failed to recognise many of the factors that contributed to underachievement.

Ms Parata defends the one-in-five estimate as a reflection of research on school leaver qualifications, particularly that up to one in five young people leaves school without the skills needed for modern jobs.

Sorry, “up to”? As many a disappointed shopper exiting a hyped-up store sale can attest, “up to” can represent a maximum that scarcely gives a helpful overview of what’s really on offer.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/marlborough-express/opinion/8910329/Editorial-Schools-of-thought

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