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New “Learning Support Co-ordinators”: What we know so far

How many Learning Support Co-ordinators (LSCs) will there be?

The plan is to have around 600 in place by the start of the 2020 school year, with more to come. The goal is to eventually have one in each urban school and for each rural school to have access to one.

What exactly will LSCs do?

LSCs  will be a specialised point of contact for parents and caregivers. They will liaise with staff, students, whanau and outside agencies to support a child’s educational needs.

LSCs will not teach children – instead, they will support classroom teachers and Teacher Aides, and provide expert advice to them.

How will the LSC role be defined, and how is it different to a SENCO?

SENCO roles are almost always tacked onto a teacher’s or senior staff member’s other roles, meaning they have only a few hours per week dedicated to SENCO work. The LSC role will be a dedicated one, focused solely on learning support.

Tracey Martin (NZ First) said in the Coalition Government’s press release: “Feedback from public consultation, which has just closed, will inform what the final job description looks like and the appropriate ratios for both urban and rural schools. This will also inform the final number of coordinators.”

Will LSCs only help students that are struggling?

No. An LSC’s role will be to support any student with specific special educational needs, including learning and physical disabilities, neurodiversity, behavioural issues and also giftedness.

How will so many LSCs be found, given the current teacher shortage?

There is no specific information about how the LSCs will be found and placed yet.

However, Tracey Martin said government is “deliberately taking a two-phased approach to rolling out coordinators across all schools.” She noted that this government  “inherited a significant teacher shortage and implementation of the new role in full from the beginning of 2020 would place huge pressure on the education workforce supply.”

Martin said that once the first cohort of LSCs is in place and “a clearer picture of medium and long term workforce needs emerges,” planning for the second phase of LSCs will take place.

How is LSC funding different to the current SENCO funding?

SENCOs are paid for by Boards of Trustees – SENCOs are not centrally funded like teachers are.   In contrast, LSCs will be centrally funded.

What will the new LSCs cost government?

LSC implementation will cost $217 million over four years, and the money will be allocated in the 2019 Budget.

This funding is on top of the $272.8 million allocated for learning support in this year’s Budget.

SOSNZ will share new information as it arises. But so far, this looks very positive move indeed, and we would like to thank Tracey Martin (NZ First) and Catherine Delahunty (Green party) for their long-term dedication to making this happen.

~ Dianne

Sources:

Government announcement – New workforce a game-changer for kids with learning needs – Beehive Panui

PM Jacinda Ardern announces 600 school staff to support children with special learning needs, NZ Herald 4/11/18

Primary Teachers: At what point do our hours and workload stop being reasonable?

The Primary Teachers’ Collective Agreement is full of interesting and bemusing information. Take clause 2.10 1, for example…

“2.10 1   The normal hours of work hours of work for employees should as far as practicable not exceed 40 hours per week Monday to Friday”

40 hours“?
Monday to Friday“?
That would be lovely, but – oh my sides – it’s just not happening. No teacher is working 40 hours a week – unless they are employed part time.
Which all begs the question, how much effort goes into ensuring these requirements are kept to “as far  as practicable”?  And what can we do if they aren’t?
You might think that anyone regularly doing way over 40 hours per week could argue that their employer is in breach of the contract.  However, the clause goes on…

“Employees shall work such hours as may be reasonably required of them… whether or not such hours exceed 40 hours per week.” 

Oh.

Thanks.

Full-time primary school teachers generally have 25 hours a week contact time in the classroom,  plus lunch and break duties, staff meetings, professional development meetings, planning and preparation to do.  For most, that’s feasible within 40 or so hours… but what about the rest?

What about planning? Marking? Making resources? Meetings with support staff? Parent/teacher conferences?  Report writing? Planning trips?

What about meeting with RTLBs, speech therapists, Child and Adolescent Mental Health teams, or other specialists?

Or attending overnight camp? Running extra-curricular clubs? Setting up and running exhibitions of students’ work Production evenings?

Putting up and taking down displays? Fundraising events? Compliance stuff for the Education Council?

So which bit of clause 2:10 1 takes precedent? The “40 hours” bit or the such hours as may be reasonably required of them” bit?

At what point does the workload stop being reasonable?

~ Dianne

 

For the Secondary Teachers’ Collective Agreement 2015-2018, see here.

Secret Teacher NZ: Why I left teaching?

I sat down to write this and had to start over many times. I’m not sure how to go about explaining why I left teaching in a way that doesn’t come off as judgy, or blamey or a woe-is-me tale. I suppose many educators feel like this.

Teaching seems to be the one profession everyone feels qualified to have an opinion on, seeing as we all went through a school at some point. When I first started teaching, I had creative license and freedom to plan my days with my class. If a kid turned up with a story about how the cat had had kittens that weekend, we could embrace that teachable moment and spend 20 minutes talking about mammals and pets. If I had a few chapters left of the shared novel, we could shift something else and finish it off if we liked. As time went on, this freedom of professional judgement was eroded.

Classrooms now are full of swaps for different subjects, children leaving for extra curricular activities during the day, or specific times to access valuable resources (like computers, libraries or sports equipment.) I don’t want to seem ungrateful, because I love that children have new ways to learn and new environments to do it in; I just wish it hadn’t come at a cost to teacher’s time and our ability to use our judgement on what works for our children.

I worked in a school where we had a large space for co-operative teaching, where the syndicate swapped children around based on their levels. I can imagine some people’s eyes glazing over, so I will try to paint a picture instead.

Imagine a large hall-like space with three teachers in different areas, each reading with a small group of children. Scattered around are more groups of children, some on laptops, some on tablets, some with board and card games, some sitting in corners together working in their exercise books. You might imagine its harmonious, a buzz of children learning, both independently and supported by teachers. Unfortunately, for the majority, this is not the case.

The teachers with those groups have about 15 minutes to get through their reading, before swapping to another group in order to meet and assess them, meeting them all over a week period. Questioning, checking, hearing children read, explaining and clarifying, and all that intense learning that happens in a guided reading situation. But one of those kids forgot their book in the other class, so they have to run and get it. That’s 2 minutes gone. You can’t really start without them, or you’ll be repeating yourself. You look over and see the group that have an ipad activity to do are actually on maths games – you get up to intercept and move them back on task. Over in the library corner a group of children who are meant to be reading and working in their exercise books are clearly off task, but that first child has returned with their book- and now you’ve only got about 10 minutes left before you need to change the rotation, so you call out to one of the other teachers (also trying to get through the guided reading) to check on those off task students, well aware that you are cutting into their time too. You sit back down and go over the learning intentions and begin to get into it, when a group playing with the games has a disagreement and an incident breaks out – so again you are forced to stop, to sort that out.

Rinse and repeat.

I could go on, but the point I’m trying to make is that this is JUST reading. You have maths interchange next, and then topic interchange. And you are on duty at lunch, and then there’s a staff meeting after school… Some days I would arrive at school before 7am and not get home till after 6:30pm, and that’s with a box of marking to do.

Now add into this those children with high learning and/or behavioural needs that can’t organise themselves, can’t cope with having a different teacher, or can’t manage being a “self directed learner”.  And those who had a bad morning (or weekend) at home and are wound so tight that they might explode at any time. And the child who isn’t coping with social things and is isolated, and the mean kid who’s been hassling the outsider. All that social stuff is still happening… But somehow you have to set up the classroom for the next lesson AND find a minute or two to cram something vaguely nutritious into your gob.

As an educator 10 years ago you had the time to actually teach. Eventually I felt more like a person whose job it was to keep things running – even if that running wasn’t beneficial to the learning of the majority of the children.

Before I left teaching I was stressed, anxious and feeling like a failure every day. I had been assaulted by a special needs child multiple times, and was managing two volatile children with aggressive and violent behaviours, all while maintaining this modern idea of what learning should “look like” and spending so much of my time making sure I was collecting all the data for the children and planning their next learning steps, too.

There was no fun or fulfillment anymore. It was like failing every day.

I saw children who just wanted to be with the teacher, who wanted to learn, but who were being swept along in this seemingly never ending rotation of ‘new ideas’ and ‘innovative learning strategies’. Everything was measured and monitored because we also had data to be collecting for assessment and reporting.

I’m not for teachers becoming the facilitators of busy work to serve some ideal that is the current flavour of the month.  I spent three years studying education, children, reading, writing, maths and everything else only to find my days as a teacher filled with behaviour management and making sure children are in the right place at the right time. And that’s not to mention teachers who are struggling with learning new technology and navigating these spaces themselves, all while still doing their regular job!

My personal experience was one that made me physically and mentally sick.

I continued to give 100% of myself because, like most teachers in New Zealand, I am passionate about children getting the best education and reaching their potential.  But the system as it is, that actually destroyed me. I burnt out. I would wake up crying in the night for no particular reason. I would dread going to work again as soon as I left. Thinking about the unending cycle of planning, implementing, and hoping I got through what needed to get through – and that the children held up their end and did the work, and that there were no breakdowns in behaviour that would derail the sessions and cause me to have to cut out something else to ‘catch up’.

I burnt out. I damaged myself to the point where I will live with that for the rest of my life.

Our teachers are a resource. You can’t replace our care, knowledge and ability to teach with fancy spaces and new technology. Piling these expectations on teachers and children isn’t improving our system- it’s creating another rod for our backs.

When I studied post grad with a group of young people in their 20s, I was amazed at how poorly they managed themselves, and I wonder why we expect school-aged children to be able to do it?

There are so many complexities to the things eroding our teachers’ spirits and well-being- this is just a tiny glimpse, and not even the full picture. I could talk about disenchanted staff, apathetic senior management, poor resourcing, the social issues in school communities, negative and punitive assessments, and an obese curriculum. And, of course, under-funding of our schools and support staff. But I won’t, because we all have other things to do today.

Teachers want to teach. That’s why we became teachers! We want to have meaningful relationships with your child to help them achieve their potential. The education system in this country has moved away from allowing us to do that and morphed into something very different. 

~ end~

For more on a teacher’s daily work life, read this great post by Melulater.

Fact Checker: David Seymour and “School Choice”

The ACT Party’s ideological bent for privatisation is clear when David Seymour talks about the government’s decision to “take school choice away” from kids if his charter school model is abolished.

But the New Zealand system already has a remarkable variety of options available without the need to privatise the provision of public education.

US commentator, Marc Tucker, had this to say on “school choice” in an article that appeared in the Washington Post, in October 2012:

“The country with the most aggressive school choice system in the world is probably New Zealand”

And that was before we introduced the charter school ideology!

Mr Seymour might also want to check the views of parents a bit more widely than asking the National Party pollster, David Farrar, to run a poll for him.

Regular surveys of New Zealand parents carried out by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER), have consistently found that around 90% of both primary school and secondary school parents state that their child is attending the school of their choice.

And these numbers have hardly changed over the 25 years or so that NZCER has run these surveys.

Most New Zealanders understand that the phrase “School Choice” was used by Milton Friedman to advocate for the privatised, market model of education provision that he believed should replace the institution of public education.

Fortunately, the vast majority of New Zealand families do not support either the ACT Party or its ideology.

~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ

Further reading:

Parent and whānau perspectives on their child’s schooling: Findings from the NZCER national survey of primary and intermediate schools 2016, by Linda Bonne and Eliza Stevens

 

Educators welcome reforms but need close consultation

Educators will need to be consulted heavily if the overhaul of education announced by Education Minister Chris Hipkins today is to be successful.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart said NZEI welcomed the reforms.

“We are generally pleased with the direction this Government is taking in education. We encourage the Minister to take the time needed to undertake the reform properly. Careful and planned implementation is needed and would set this Government apart from the previous National Government.

“There are huge and pressing issues that need resolving in education. Today’s announcement gives us some hope for these being addressed.”

The issues include: teacher shortages and the ability to attract and retain teachers, sufficient release time for teachers to teach and lead, ECE funding and a need to fix the ECE sector issues more generally, principal burn-out and stress, and more support for children with additional learning and behavioural needs.

“We want a world-leading curriculum and an education sector that fosters children’s love of learning and allows teachers to the freedom to teach and engage children in the learning that motivates them.

“However, the reforms will only be successful if teachers are meaningfully consulted in the development of the new programmes.”

Teachers were the experts in education and were able to bring to the table best practice and real world experience of children’s learning.

Over the past nine years under the National Government education has languished to the point that it is now in crisis.

David Seymour and his charter school “facts”

David Seymour needs a reality check if he thinks that charter schools are not in trouble overseas.

Here is how Save Our Schools sees some of the key evidence:

1. Professor John Hattie, in his quantitative studies, ranks charter schools at number 183 out of the 195 policy interventions that he examined in his paper “The Politics of Distraction”.

Hattie based his analysis on no less than 246 studies and concluded that within a year or so, the “different” school becomes just another school, with all the usual issues that confront all schools.

2. Popular support for charter schools is falling in the United States. A nationwide poll conducted by the “Education Next” magazine, published by Stanford University, found that public support for charter schools has fallen by 12 percentage points, with similar drops evident among both self-described Republicans and self-described Democrats.

3. The experience in New Orleans is that the locals do not believe that the charter school miracle has worked for them. This editorial by the African American newspaper, the New Orleans Tribune, in November 2017 doesn’t pull any punches:

“It’s been 12 years since our schools were hijacked. And 12 years later, many of them are performing just as poorly as they were before they were stolen. To learn that charter operators set up goals they knew were unattainable just to get their charters approved and their hands on public money and facilities is indefensible. Unless and until these pilfering reformers are ready to admit what they did and that it was wrong and then actually return public schools to real local control without charter organizations and unelected boards that come with them under the current model of return anything else they have to say sounds pretty much like sounding brass and tinkling cymbals—a whole bunch of noise.”

4. David Seymour mentions the CREDO studies but fails to mention their main finding.

In the CREDO 2013 nationwide study, less than one hundredth of one percent of the variation in test performance is explainable by charter school enrolment. Specifically, students in charter schools were estimated to score approximately 0.01 standard deviations higher on reading tests and 0.005 standard deviations lower on math tests than their peers in traditional public schools. “With a very large sample size, nearly any effect will be statistically significant,” the reviewers, Maul and McClelland, conclude, “but in practical terms these effects are so small as to be regarded, without hyperbole, as trivial.”

The reality is simple: there is no genuine educational merit in the charter school model. As John Hattie observes, “these new forms of schools usually start with fanfare, with self-selected staff (and sometime selected students) and are sought by parents who want “something better”. But the long-term effects lead to no differences when compared with public schools.”

~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ

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.

Nikki Kaye and David Seymour make misleading statements about charter schools

Nikki Kaye has joined her colleague David Seymour in making misleading statements about charter schools.

In a stuff.co.nz story, written by Jo Moir and published on Tuesday 7 November, she is quoted as saying that the six new charter schools were “publicly notified in February”, meaning the wheels had been in motion for many months for those schools.

pants on fireThis is incorrect.

The public announcement of the two Fourth Round schools, due to open in February 2018, was made on Tuesday 11 July this year.

The public announcement of the four Fifth Round schools, due to open in February 2019, was made on Thursday 7 September, only 16 days before the election.

No documentation relating to either the Fourth or Fifth Round schools has yet been released.  This is in contrast to the Third Round schools, when documentation such as the applications, evaluations and contracts was released publicly on the day of the announcement.

Further scrutiny of the minutes of the Partnership Schools Authorisation Board confirm that at the meeting held on 11 April 2017, the Board agreed to delegate to the Chair and Deputy Chair the authority to make the final decisions on the outstanding due diligence matters for the Fourth Round applications.  The Ministry of Education was to then confirm the communications plan ahead of the Round 4 contracts being signed.  So, that implies that as at April, the final decisions had not even been made and the contracts had not yet been signed.  But without any documentation, who knows?

As for the Fifth Round applications, they were even further behind.  The 11 April meeting agreed the following dates for Round 5:

  • 24 May: Board meets to discuss STEM / TEI applications
  • 8 June: Board meets to review balance of applications
  • 9 June: interviews
  • 15 – 16 June: Interviews
  • 22 June: Final recommendations meeting.

According to that timetable, the Fifth Round recommendations were not even going to be finalised until late June!

So, Nikki, where does the “publicly notified in February” comment come from?

As for David Seymour, he was up to his usual mischief over the weekend, when he made this statement in his press release:

“The Sponsors of these schools are passionate educators who were required to demonstrate community support for their schools before their applications were accepted.”

Not so, as least as far as the Wairakei community is concerned, where one of the Fourth Round schools is due to open next year.

Two recent articles in stuff.co.nz have covered the anger and frustration that Wairakei residents have expressed about the proposed new school.  In the second article, dated only 2 days before the election, Taupō Mayor David Trewavas called for a halt to plans for a partnership school at Wairakei Village, saying the complete lack of consultation is “unacceptable”.

But the article also quoted David Seymour, who responded to a query from local MP Louise Upston, saying that while community consultation was not required to establish the school it was an “essential component” of a school’s preparation for opening.

So, Mr Seymour, why do you now say that demonstrating community support for the school was required before the application was accepted?

The appalling lack of transparency has been an unfortunate feature of the New Zealand charter school experiment from the outset.

Save Our Schools NZ calls on the new government to instruct the Ministry of Education to release all documentation relating to the Fourth and Fifth Round applications with immediate effect.

Only then can the false and misleading statements of opposition politicians be called out as they should be.

–  Bill Courtney, SOSNZ

NZ Political Parties’ Charter Schools Policies

 

New Zealand Charter (or Partnership) Schools are private businesses that are fully funded by your taxes. They are funded at a higher rate than comparable state schools.

Charter Schools can employ untrained staff to work in classrooms as teachers.

Charter Schools are free to pay staff, advisors, etc whatever they choose. Charter schools need not declare pay levels or any other aspect of what their funding is spent on.

It is not possible to get use the Official Information Act to access information from a Charter School, as they are private businesses.

Charter Schools need not have parent representation on the Board.

With that basic overview done, here are the charter school policies of the main New Zealand political parties.

Party Policy on Charter Schools

ACT

Despite charter schools being driven by ACT,  their education policy web page has no mention of charter (or partnership) schools at all.

National

Despite bringing in the legislation for charter schools, the National’s education policy web page has no mention of them at all.

Labour

“We believe in a quality, comprehensive, public education system, not the corporatised, privatised system that the current government is driving us towards. Taxpayer funding for education should be directed towards learning and teaching, not creating profit-making opportunities for private businesses.”

“Labour will protect and promote our quality public education system by: Repealing the legislation allowing for Charter Schools”  (Source)

Green

“The Green Party will: Oppose charter schools, repeal the enabling legislation around charter schools, and maintain the current flexibility to support/create some state schools designated special character.” (Source)

NZ First

“New Zealand First is strongly opposed to “charter” or “partnership” schools; public funding for these privately owned profit making opportunities would be ended by New Zealand First.”

“New Zealand First will: Repeal the 2013 amendments to the Education Act 1989 that allowed the creation of Charter Schools.” (Source)

MANA

Mana will: “Cancel public private partnership contracts for schools and abolish the charter schools policy” (Source)

TOP

“Question: You seem to be staunchly against specialist schools like charter schools and even private schools. Shouldn’t parents have the right to do best by their child, and be less concerned about the plight of other less fortunate children?

Answer: You’d have a point if there was any evidence that these specialist schools are producing better overall results for their students. There is no such evidence. There is however strong evidence that ghetto-ising the residual schools is doing real damage to the students there, entrenching disadvantage and raising the costs to society of the rising inequality that results. There is a case for specialist schools or at least classes for children with special needs, or for children of various ethnic communities. But the trend under Tomorrow’s Schools of “affluent flight” shows no benefit and plenty of costs.

As for charter schools, they could easily be accommodated within the state system – there is no need for them to sit outside.”  (Source)

 

The Maori Party

The Maori Party’s education policy does not mention charter schools. (Source)

United Future

No school-level education policy at all can be found on the web page of United Future (Source)

Edits/Corrections/Amendments

If you note any errors or missing information relating to this post, please comment below and I will edit as quickly as possible.

Thank you,

Dianne Khan – SOSNZ

________________________

Edited 10/9/2017 3.34 to update TOP’s policy and add link.

NZ Political Parties’ Education Policies 2017

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s election year, and that means it’s time to look at the various political parties’ education policies.

So, because we are helpful souls here at SOSNZ, here’s a handy alphabetical list of NZ political parties with links to their education policies online (or, where no education policy is yet published, a link to their general policy page):

ACT Party Education Policy

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party Education Policy – none on party web page. Other policies are here.

Conservative Party Education Policy – none on party web page. Other policies here.

Green Party Education Policy

Internet Party Education Policy

Labour Party Education Policy

Mana Party Education Policy

Maori Party Education Policy – not on party web page. Other policies are here.

National Party Education Policy

New Zealand First Education Policy

The Opportunities Party (TOP) Education Policy

United Future Education Policy – none on party web page. Other policies are here.

vote for education

 

 

Charter Schools in NZ: Save Our Schools NZ Position Paper, 12 May 2017

charter schools sosnz position paper

1. The introduction of charter schools is both a sop to the ACT Party, with their ideological desire to introduce a privatised, market based model of education, and a follow up to the Step Change Report produced in the term of the previous National Government. [Feb 2010]

2. However, there are significant differences between vouchers, the pure market model usually promoted by ACT, and charter schools, which is privatisation by way of contracting with private sector providers.  Treasury calls this “Contracting for Outcomes”.

3. Treasury, in its advice to the Minister of Finance, noted that: “The evidence suggests that schooling systems that use strongly competitive elements such as vouchers, avoiding school zoning and ‘charter’ schools do not produce systematically better outcomes.” [July 2012]

4. “School Choice” is the phrase used in America to describe the market model.  But New Zealand already has “arguably the most aggressive school choice system in the world” in the view of one overseas commentator. [Marc Tucker, Washington Post, October 2012]

5. NZCER surveys over the years consistently show that the vast majority of NZ parents already believe they send their children to the “school of their choice”. [NZCER]

6. Overseas evidence on charter school performance is inconclusive, at best.  A wide range of individual school performance is evident but with little system-wide effect across the model as a whole. [CREDO and Hattie]

7. This purely quantitative analysis is then subject to further criticisms of many aspects of US charter school practices, including: student selection, including the effect of “self-selection” amongst parents; the proportions of English language Learners and special needs students;  student attrition; school discipline and behaviour management practices; the apparent lack of backfilling, i.e. the tendency to not replace students as they leave; and the drive for what is commonly called “test prep”, in contrast to a genuine focus on the quality of education.

8. The promotional pack from the Authorisation Board boasts that the New Zealand charter school model represents “Freedom from constraints imposed on regular state schools in exchange for rigorous accountability for performance against agreed objectives.”

9. It then identifies the following factors, but without any evidence that these are likely to lead to higher student achievement: Cashed-up per student funding; school day & year; school organisation; curriculum; teacher pay / teaching practice; privately provided / secular or faith based. [PSKH Authorisation Board, 2016]

10. The argument that “freedom” will encourage/facilitate “innovation” is weak.  It is not supported by overseas evidence [Lubienski 2003] and one US charter school industry’s overview even conceded that “… most charters do not employ particularly innovative instructional approaches”. [Bellwether 2015]

11. The combined roll of the 10 schools now in operation was 1,257 as at 1 March 2017, an average of about 125 students per school.  The combined Maximum Roll across the 10 schools is 2,112 students. [MoE Schools Directory, April 2017]

12. The original funding model has already been changed, as it soon became clear how much operational funding these schools were receiving compared to their local state schools.  Small schools are expensive and the government was fully funding the First and Second Round schools with no Sponsor capital input required.

13. Even in their 4th year of operation, the two largest First Round charter secondary schools are receiving cash funding of over $14,000 per student, compared to a system-wide weighted average for all schools, including property, of $7,046.11. [2015 system data]

14. The Third Round funding model now uses an approach more oriented to funding the student than funding the school, as the roll grows.  But the government still provides the property and insurance funding for what is essentially a private sector organisation.

15. Cabinet was told: “A strong evaluation programme will be put in place that thoroughly examines the impact and effectiveness of the first such schools.  This will enable us to make informed decisions about whether or not to open further such schools in the future.”

16. This promise has not been carried out.  The roll-out of the model has proceeded well ahead of the release of any evaluation.  At the time of writing, the Third Round schools have opened this year and applications are being processed for the Fourth and Fifth Rounds!

17. The first two reports from the Martin Jenkins Evaluation Programme are weak and do not rigorously examine school performance or the impact these schools have had. The Evaluation has also completely ignored the failure of the First Round school at Whangaruru.

18. Student achievement outcomes to date have been mixed but difficult to analyse thoroughly given the delays in the Ministry releasing accurate information.

19. By May 2017, the Minister has still not announced her decision on the release of the performance based funding for the 2015 school year!  No operational reports for the entire 2016 year have yet been released, along with supporting documentation such as contract variations and Ministry advice to the Minister.

20. There was a major problem with the interpretation of the original secondary schools’ contract performance standard, which is “School Leavers” and not NCEA pass rates.  This resulted in incorrect reporting of the true state of the 2014 and 2015 secondary performance. [MoE advice to the Minister, July 2016, obtained under the OIA]

21. Superficially high NCEA pass rates are published by Vanguard Military School but NZQA data obtained under the Official Information Act (OIA) reveals issues around the quality of the credits gained, the high proportion of unit versus achievement standards entered and large differences between internal and external pass rates. [NZQA]

22. Primary and middle schools assessed against National Standards have not performed well.  In the 2015 year, only one school out of five – the Rise Up Academy – met its NS student achievement standard targets. [MoE  initial analysis, 30 May 2016]

23. Some schools, including Vanguard and the two Villa middle schools, have failed to meet their Student Engagement contract standards relating to stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions.  This is of concern, given the US charter school practices noted above.

24. Charter schools are not more accountable than public schools, simply because they operate under a contract.  Whangaruru was not closed for failure to achieve contract standards; it was dysfunctional from the start.

25. Public school accountability includes parent-elected Boards of Trustees, which must hold open meetings, maintain open records and be subject to the Official Information Act.  Board finances are subject to audit under the supervision of the Auditor-General.

26. No such requirements apply to charter schools, which are organised under a commercial contract between the government and the private sector Sponsor.

27. Public funding must go hand in hand with public accountability.  State and State-Integrated schools both abide by this principle but charter schools do not.

ENDS

Charter School Performance Cover Up

The cover up of the true picture of student achievement in charter schools continued today with the belated release of the second Martin Jenkins Evaluation Report.

The report, with a final publication date of 28 November 2016, was released on Friday 5 May 2017, a delay of over 5 months.

However, even now, the report contains a massive caveat in the section discussing student achievement, which indicates there are still major problems behind the scenes.

Here is the footnote set out under the Evaluation Report’s analysis of Student Achievement:

coverupThe ratings in the May 2016 advice were based on the best information available to the Ministry at that time (and are indicative of the reports that the Ministry had received from schools/kura by then). They reflect the most up-to-date information provided to the evaluation team at the time of writing this report, but are not the Ministry’s final assessments of schools’/kura performance for 2015.  

Source: Ministry of Education (2016) Education Report: Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua: 2015 Quarter Four and Annual Reports, 30 May 2016

So, a formal policy evaluation signed off in November 2016, cannot go to print in May 2017 with a clear statement of exactly what represents the “Ministry’s final assessments of schools’/kura performance for 2015”?

Excuse me?

The same problem is holding back the Minister of Education’s decision on whether or not to release the retained operational funding that is performance related, in respect of the 2015 school year.  And this is now May 2017!

The major problem relates to the issue which surfaced last year, when the Ministry acknowledged that the interpretation of the secondary schools’ contract performance standards had been incorrect.  As a consequence, the schools had also reported incorrectly against their contracts.

These incorrect figures had been used to determine the Ministry’s ratings in its May 2016 advice, referred to in the footnote.  While the Ministry has now acknowledged that these figures are incorrect, nothing further has since been released.

The poor performance of the primary and middle schools is also evident in the Evaluation Report.  Of the five primary and middle schools, which have contract targets set against National Standards, only one school, the Rise Up Academy, was assessed as having met its contract targets.

And problems are also clearly evident in the assessment of performance against the Student Engagement standards.  Vanguard Military School and Middle School West Auckland performed very poorly against the standards for Stand-downs, Suspensions, Exclusions and Expulsions.

Overall, the main takeaway from the Evaluation Report is a fairly damning indictment of performance to date.

But the continued cover up of the true picture should not be tolerated any longer.

~ Bill Courtney

Where is the Charter School data?

wanted 2For a Minister so obsessed with data and, in particular, the sharing of data, it is interesting how little we know about charter schools.  

Bill Courtney writes:

The game of delaying the release of a vast range of information on the charter schools continues.

The Ministry has promised to release a lot of material, including the formal evaluation of 2015 student achievement, in “April” but has refused to state exactly when. They also need to release all of the 2016 quarterly reports, the 2016 contract variations and the second “annual” installment of the Martin Jenkins evaluation of the charter school initative.

In short, lots of information is being withheld for no apparent reason.
When it is finally released, we will go through it and post our thoughts on what it reveals.

In the meantime, propaganda and marketing material fills the void.

NZ Speech Therapist asks Education Select Committee to create a truly inclusive education system

November 11, 2016

To the Education and Science Select Committee Submission on the Education (Update) Amendment Bill

From Shannon Hennig

As a speech-language therapist and inclusion education consultant, I have dedicated my career to ensuring that students with moderate to profound speech, language, and communication differences can access education and learning in an inclusive setting.

My areas of expertise are autism, AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication), and teaching literacy skills to children with limited speech. I am a PhD level researcher who collaborates internationally on disability issues, assistive technology, and communication disorders.

I also write as someone who grew up in a truly inclusive school system overseas. I was educated alongside children with mild to profound disabilities. As an academically gifted student, I never once felt held back by quality inclusive practice. Instead it made my teachers better, my principals more thoughtful, and my learning richer. I have family members with disabilities as well.

I wish to share my comments, which primarily address the following sections of the bill: 

  • Schedule 2, Part 2: Powers and Functions of Board of Trustees
  • S38: Part 3A Communities of Online Learning
  • S43: Teaching and Learning Programmes, Monitoring and Reporting Student Performance
  • S47: Off-site locations for school
  • S48: Establishment of Communities of Learning

I urge you to make sure that the Update be amended so that it ensures that all children have access to a publicly funded, meaningful, and appropriate education, as is their right.

In its current form, the urgent unmet needs of students with disabilities and their families are not addressed.

Initially, I welcomed the introduction of this bill as a long overdue update to an Education Bill that does not currently meet the needs of all students. However, many students – particularly those with mild to moderate learning differences, children with autism, and students with mental health conditions – have significant challenges in accessing a free and appropriate education in New Zealand.

Before we introduce experimental ideas, such as CoOLs, I urge parliament to delay passing this bill until the funding, equity, and quality of our inclusive education system is brought up to international standards for developed nations. Funding and training are the biggest barriers for achieving this – but not insurmountably so.

Legal provisions need to be created that allow speedy, affordable, and transparent recourse when exclusionary practices occur. Such exclusionary practices are surprisingly common and include encouraging students to attend other schools, stand-downs and exclusions without appropriately providing a functional learning environment for the student, or the more insidious (and often inadvertent) practice of schools that do not include (or cannot afford to provide) universal design. Over time this can foster a state of such anxiety and needless academic failure that a student refuses to attend school. I personally know of at least 6 families in which a student is not in school because their learning environments were unable to accommodate their learning needs.

Without providing adequate resources, policy, and legal provisions to address historic and systematic gaps in inclusive education provision, NZ will be in violation of our international commitments and create future financial liabilities.

For example, there are tangible societal costs to not getting inclusion right:

  • increased underemployment for students in the future
  • increased underemployment for parents of current students
  • reduced educational staff moral and job satisfaction (leading to attrition of trained teachers)
  • mental health conditions from school bullying, academic anxiety/failure, and/or social isolation
  • increased incarceration rates

Of course, the real reason for making positive change should be the children. And their families. And all of us in the teaching professions who are working so hard under such difficult conditions.

The Ministry of Education urgently needs to conduct a consultation that properly considers the concerns of students, professionals (confidentially, without fear of employment repercussions), and families.

Having attended some of the consultation sessions last year, a significant number of parents (a) did not know about the meetings and/or (b) felt that the format firmly steered the conversation away from the issues they felt were most pertinent to their child’s learning. The term “rubber stamping” was frequently used to describe these sessions by parents. There were tears at many of the meetings and angry conversations in the parking lots. The issues they raised do not appear to be well addressed (if at all in some cases) in this bill.

Having previously practiced as a school-based speech therapist in the USA, I believe it would be prudent to get inclusive education policy right as well-crafted policy and legislation, rather than allow it to be created piece-meal through litigation for rights violations. As I am sure many have written, there are concerns that current practice is not aligned with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Equally, the Ministry of Education urgently needs to collect meaningful data that accurately reflects the reality on the ground. Before we focus on student outcomes, we need to understand what is actually happening (or not) to ensure that students are in school, being taught effectively, and feel safe.

Before holding students accountable to standards that may or may not be appropriate for their goals, we need to ensure that we collect meaningful, concise data on what the system is and isn’t doing to create environments conducive to learning. Do all teachers have training in autism? Are there discriminatory patterns in enrolment and expulsion? Do all children with learning and/or communication disabilities have access to appropriate accommodation, assistive technology, and interventions? This is the type of information that must inform policy going forward. I believe it is more relevant and of greater interest than national standards data at this time. Before we can improve student outcomes, we need to measure and address practices that may be setting students up for failure (or success, as the case might be) without being punitive to teachers.

We need to get this update right.

It needs to build on what we are already doing well, and effectively remedy what is not, in a futureoriented manner using NZ centric solutions.

It needs to directly address the issues I frequently observe that I believe conflict with (what I hope is) the spirit of NZ Education policy is. Specifically,

  • I observe families paying privately for teaching assistants in order for their child to attend school
  • I observe families offering to pay for teacher and teaching aid training and being denied this (and no training being offered)
  • I see children with disabilities being denied literacy and communication instruction who have the skills to learn from such methods
  • I see children with mild-moderate learning disabilities being placed in mainstream classrooms without specialised instructed to address their skills gaps, nor resources and training for the teaching staff regarding how to support their learning
  • In some cases, I observe what appears to be well-meaning practice that is outdated, ineffective, and closer to childminding than educational instruction
  • I see bullying being allowed to persist and inappropriate comments from teaching staff reflecting outdating thinking about children with communication impairments. Sometimes these are even said in front of the student (e.g., “they’re just being naughty,” “remember how lovely and quite it was before he learned to talk,” “She doesn’t need this communication device” etc.)
  • Most worrying, I see teachers aching, pleading, and begging for resources, release time, teaching assistants, and training to help them better teach children who learn, think, and understand differently. They are too often being denied such requests, or don’t know how to tap into the limited resources out there.

Specifically, we need an update to our Educational Law that ensures that (and provides provisions for) all of the following:

  • Removal of the introduction of CoOLs until the education system first addresses the systemwide, unmet needs of students with learning needs – including students with mild to moderate learning needs. These students are completely underfunded at this time and CoOLs will not provide the small group and 1:1 face-to-face, personal instruction they need. Many of these students struggle with executive functioning disorders, which by their nature make online learning, self-discipline, and non-differentiate instruction a poor fit for their learning needs.
  • Seclusion should have no place in our education system.
  • Appropriate training, staffing, school culture, and access to specialist knowledge (including parent expertise) is needed so that inhumane practices, like seclusion, do not occur.
  • Transparent and enforceable mechanisms are needed to address any and all violations to students’ right to a free and appropriate education.
  • Inclusive practices need to be reported to the MOE and effectively audited. These should not be cumbersome.
  • Schools with exclusionary practices need to be held accountable. Parents need to have clear pathways for dispute resolution, and all results need to be communicated to families in writing.
  • There need to be clear, enforceable timelines for when concerns are raised about a child’s learning and when appropriate support and interventions are expected to be put into place.
  • Teachers need access to effective training in how to support language development, teach children with learning differences, and have the resources to teach in smaller groups when that is what is what is needed.
  • Teachers-in-training need to have sufficient training in how to understand and teach children with autism, children with limited speech, and those who struggle to use and understand spoken language.
  • Schools and ECEs currently are financially penalised for including students. The reverse needs to be true. All children should be able to attend their local schools with appropriate funding and support. The system should not have policies that make a child with learning needs a “financial burden” for school. This only encourages exclusionary practices.
  • Students’ emotional and mental health needs to be supported at school – funding and support for guidance counsellors needs to be increased.
  • Students’ speech, language, and communication skills are fundamental to school learning and participation. All schools should have access to a speech-language therapist who is available on a weekly basis to provide just-in-time support, demonstrations, and specialised intervention. They should be as valuable and integrated within the school community as music and physical education teachers.

I also want to specifically highlight the concerning proposal to focus funding of specialist support and intervention on the youngest students. To be clear, early intervention is essential. It makes a difference and saves money. That said, many impairments only become an issue when academic and social demands increase in the older years.

Specifically, clinically the following are well known “service request bumps” to any school-based speech therapist from America (where we serve all children with a documented speech-language communication impairment that significantly interferes with their ability to access the curriculum):

  • Around 8-9 years of age, children transition from learning to read to the act of reading to learn. This is a stage where many subtle language differences start being significant challenges. But this marks one of the cut-off ages when speech-language input tends to be reduced in New Zealand.
  • Around 12-14, students need to learn to apply language skills in more abstract ways and process more complex language. This is another period where more kids start to struggle because of subtle underlying language differences. They often didn’t need support before, but now do.
  • In year 10, behaviour support options drop off in our system, however this is when our young people are thrown into a pressure cooker of high stakes tests that are linguistically demanding (even in maths) while attempting to navigate the social pressures of high school. Those with weaker language skills and/or social communication challenges need support and intervention at this stage – often for the first time in their lives. It is a shame to throw away a 10 year investment in a child just as they are about to finish education – for us and for the student.

My impression is that the Update, by design, does not address the concerns listed above. Given this, the following should be omitted from the Update:

  • Global funding – without an appropriate increase in funding levels and school attitudes, global funding is expected to increase exclusionary practices if students with disabilities are perceived to increase budgetary pressures on local schools.
  • CoOLs– children who have difficulty learning without specialised and individualised instruction are unlike to benefit from this model. Furthermore, it goes against the basic principles of inclusion.
  • Giving too much power to school boards without proper checks and balances puts many students at risk. We need an independent organisation to investigate complaints and enforce child rights regarding education.

In summary: while the Education Law in our country needs an update, it must be done correctly and in a matter that targets the known, pressing issues our schools face. This bill does not appear to address these matters adequately.

The Ministry of Education needs to be given the resources, power, and direction to ensure that all children in New Zealand, regardless of any sensory, cognitive, or physical impairment, have access to a publicly funded and appropriate education. Exclusionary practices should be prevented through appropriate funding systems, staff development, and promotion of inclusive attitudes. If exclusionary practices continue, principals and boards of trustees must be held accountable.

The NZ education is positioned to become a world leader in Inclusive Education, but only if this update is amended in such a way that ensures all of our young people will experience school as a place of security, learning, exciting challenge, and community. Families should not be expected to foot the bill for this essential public service.

ALL children are our collective responsibility as a society and we all benefit from inclusive education policy and practice. We are watching closely, and wish you well on this important piece of legislation.

– Shannon Hennig

The Power of One: a small, silent and very strong protest against Hekia Parata’s Global Funding plans

Hekia Parata made a somewhat surprising appearance today at Core Education’s uLearn Conference in Rotorua, prompting again comparisons of her ability to make herself available for certain types of education gatherings and not others:

  • Education industry events – tick
  • Education union events – cross

Still, this is not news, and her appearance this morning was not a total surprise, despite not being on the programme.

At least one person left the room in silent protest.

p7

Some asked questions…

p16

And one, SOSNZ’s very own Melanie Dorrian, made a one-person, silent and very powerful protest.

p15

p14

This prompted a flurry of photos on social media

The protest invoked a lot of positive support from within and without the room.

Melanie, I have never been prouder to call you a colleague. You embody exactly what we want of our teachers and our students – deep critical thinking, a commitment to facts, a determination to hold people to account for their actions, and a social advocacy that puts others’ needs sometimes before one’s own.

To those who praised Melanie, took pics, shared your thoughts, sent her your support – thank you. I hope Melanie’s stance has illustrated clearly that one person can make a difference and your voice – every voice – matters.

Next time maybe you’ll bring your banner, too?

After all, you voted overwhelmingly to stand up to this nonsense.

betterfunding-1

You can follow Melanie’s own blog here.

 

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