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Admission shows that Charter School funding is higher

Radio NZ ran a story last week with the startling admission that funding for two Whangarei based charter schools was about to fall as they converted into Designated Character State schools from 2019.

The revelation will not be a surprise to opponents of the charter school initiative, as it has been clear from the outset that the original funding model was based on bold assumptions that have simply not come to pass.

Here are the statements in the Radio NZ article attributed to Raewyn Tipene, CEO of the He Puna Marama Trust:

“We won’t be able to fund them [staff] all. That’s a fact: the funding won’t allow for us to have all the teachers we’re eligible for, plus the support staff we are used to having.”

“We will just have to work out how best to do with less.”

Unfortunately the piece did not clarify how much the funding was expected to fall by when they convert.

He Puna Marama, as Sponsor of the two charter schools, will receive nearly $4 million this year for the two schools: $3,074,521 for the secondary school and $883,073 for the primary school.  These figures are published on the Ministry of Education website and are based on the projected opening rolls.  Actual quarterly payments could vary depending on the student rolls as the year progresses.

The article stated that Te Kāpehu Whetū (the educational unit of He Puna Marama Trust) employed 26 staff for its 190 students, according to Mrs Tipene, who said: “That is a higher teacher to student ratio than a state school would have. A number of those staff are not trained teachers, they are mentors who support our senior students.”

Under the contracting out theory of the charter school initiative, the Sponsor may deal with the funding it receives in whatever way it feels is appropriate.  So they can hire more teachers, more support staff, mentors etc. if they wish.  Charter school supporters claim this bulk funding approach is one of the main features of the initiative.  But the real issue has always been the quantum of funding they are receiving and not just how it is delivered.

Charter school supporters have hidden behind the narrative that the Ministry tried to make the original charter school funding model produce a level of funding that was “broadly comparable” to that of a “similar” State school.  But this modelling approach was flawed from the outset.

First, making comparisons with State school funding is problematic, as State schools have many different sources of funding.  The modelling had to try and reduce all of these to a simple approach that could be written into a commercial contract.

Second, State schools’ property is provided by the Crown but charter schools need to rent (or buy) their premises.  So how this component was cashed up has caused problems from the outset, especially if the charter school did not reach the maximum roll on which the property funding was based, or took a long to get there.

Third, it also ignored the reality that the choices parents make are “local” and not “comparable”.  So the problems with the original funding policy mean that the early charter schools have enjoyed far more funding than the local schools they were set up to compete against.

Save Our Schools NZ analysed the 2015 financial statements of South Auckland Middle School and compared these to Manurewa Intermediate.  What we saw was that SAMS received funding per student of $11,740 after paying the cost of the premises it rented from the Elim Church.  In contrast, Manurewa Intermediate received $5,907 in Teachers Salaries and Operations Grants funding per student, with its premises provided by the Crown.

This means the charter schools have been able to offer advantages such as hiring more teachers, which reduces class sizes, hiring more support staff, such as mentors and community liaison staff, or offering support to parents by way of free uniforms, free stationery and so on.

The National government changed the charter school funding model in 2015 but the revised model applies only to charter schools which commenced operations in 2017 and 2018. The government is therefore locked in by contract to the original funding model for the early schools.

A paper from the Ministry of Education to Bill English and Hekia Parata, dated 30 April 2015, set out the key problems with the original funding model and the proposed solution, which was based on:

“Moving to a true “per-student” funding model rather than a “per school” model;

Ensuring that the property funding flow is aligned with the current enrolment”.

The impact of the change in funding model is clear when we look at the funding for the closed First Round school, Whangaruru, in 2015 (its second year of operation) compared to that for the new Third Round school, Te Aratika, in 2017.

In 2015, Whangaruru received operational funding of $412,148 per quarter, or $41,215 per student p.a. based on 40 students.  In the 4th quarter of 2017, Te Aratika received quarterly operational funding of$126,580, or $15,343 per student p.a. based on 33 students.

So two “similar” schools – in this case small secondary schools – have received vastly different amounts of funding per student under the two funding models.

The initial policy mistake of fully funding the cost of creating and operating small schools has meant the charter school initiative has cost the government more.  This is why Bill English and Hekia Parata changed the funding model – over 3 years ago!

Whether this additional cost has paid off is arguable, as the formal evaluation failed to draw any meaningful conclusions as to the impact of the initiative.

But either way, one could just as easily assert that the Government should be prepared to invest more and help all students who need more support, not just those in an ideologically motivated experiment.

Bill Courtney

Save Our Schools NZ, August 2018

National’s knee-jerk support for charter schools shows it is struggling to develop Education policy

National’s support for reinstating the American charter school model shows not only that the privatisation bias that Bill English pursued over recent years is alive and well, but also that they are struggling to develop sound Education policy.

As far back as the 2008 general election, National committed to “increasing educational choices”.  But everyone knows that the phrase “School Choice” was first coined by economist Milton Friedman and is the code used to drive the privatisation movement in the USA.  The pure form of the privatised market model is vouchers, but in practice the charter school model has been adopted as the most practical privatisation route in most States.

The irony is that there is a wide variety of choice already available in the New Zealand public education system.  One leading American commentator, writing in the Washington Post, made the remark that “…the most aggressive school choice system in the world is probably New Zealand”.

Surveys over many years by the NZ Council for Educational Research confirm that around 90% or more of New Zealand parents feel they send their child to the school of their choice.  This high degree of satisfaction with choices available is underpinned by the variety of schooling options available, both within the State system and across the State-Integrated model.

Every State and State-Integrated school is governed by a parent-elected Board of Trustees, under a charter, the defining document that sets out the school community’s Vision and Values. It is this inconvenient fact that requires “charter schools” to be called something different in New Zealand!

The State system includes the set of schools operating as Kura Kaupapa, under s. 155, and the set of Designated Character schools under s. 156.  These schools are complemented by over 330 State-Integrated schools, with religious character, such as Christian values or even Muslim values, as well as a variety of teaching philosophies, such as Montessori or Rudolf Steiner.

Indeed, anyone who tries to claim that New Zealand has a “one-size-fits-all” public education system is either very poorly informed of the variety of options available or is being deliberately misleading.

As a former Minister of Education, Nikki Kaye knows this only too well.  So, we can conclude from this release that she has just nailed her colours to the mast of the privatisation movement.

National hid behind the ACT Party first time around and needed the support of the Maori Party to get the initial charter model legislation through the House.  The convenient marriage of the ideology of privatisation and the ideology of self-determination was therefore born.

Given that the formal evaluation of the charter school model, carried out by Martin Jenkins, failed to draw any genuine conclusions as to the impact of the model to date, National is clutching at straws to claim that the model has already proven to be successful.

And we know from the financial statements of the Sponsors that this has been a lucrative business for them to enter.  Bill English rushed to change the funding model after only one year but the first and second round school Sponsors have scored well out of the policy and away from the watchful eye of the Auditor-General.

No wonder they don’t want to let it go!

Labour has launched several reviews across multiple fronts to try and get to grips with the challenges of reinvigorating the New Zealand public education system after 9 years of flawed policies, such as National Standards.

It is early days yet but National’s knee-jerk reaction to bring back an American model that doesn’t even work there reveals how shallow National’s approach to developing Education policy is proving to be.

– Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ

Another Charter School Whitewash Report

It is laughable that John Banks told Cabinet in July 2012 that “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.”

The 3-part evaluation of charter schools has failed in key respects to deliver on what Banks promised.

First, there is absolutely no attempt in the final report to evaluate the most important outcome, which is student achievement.

Instead, we get some wishy washy statement that : “MartinJenkins has worked with the Ministry to refocus the final year of the evaluation (away from a primary focus on outcomes) because it was still too early to determine “success”:  schools/kura were still becoming established, numbers of students that had received a “full dose” of the PSKH intervention were low, and efforts were ongoing by the Ministry to define and agree contracted outcomes.”

Rubbish!

Charter schools were touted as having “freedom from constraints imposed on regular state schools in exchange for rigorous accountability for performance against agreed objectives.”

So, if these schools had agreed objectives in their contracts from the outset, where is the rigorous analysis of how they have performed?  And why would the Ministry of Education still be “defining and agreeing contracted outcomes” if the schools are in their 3rd or 4th year of operation?

The real answer is simple: they have not performed as expected.

The primary content of this expensive exercise was not a strong evaluation of impact and effectiveness but instead they turned to a weak gathering of “survey” data from students and whanau.

But even this part was an embarrassment for charter school supporters.

“Low response rates to surveys and selection bias meant we were not able to examine student and whanau perspectives from all angles or across all schools/kura.”

Five schools (out of eight) were included in the surveys of students, but the responses from three of them were so low that they were excluded.  So, instead, they resorted to merely including the responses from the two Villa Education Trust middle schools as a “case study”.  Wow!

But the problems did not stop there.

“Limitations in the administrative data meant:

  • Attendance data was not sufficiently robust to be included;
  • We were unable to compare quality of outcomes with outcomes that had been achieved at previous schools or to accurately identify where students went after exiting.”

The comment about the attendance data was interesting, given David Seymour’s press release only last month that charter schools outperform state schools on attendance.

There are numerous other problems and gaps with the MartinJenkins report and they can be discussed more fully in due course.

Overall, it is clear that this exercise has simply not produced the thorough examination that was promised by John Banks, let alone enabling informed decisions before opening further such schools.

It was clear from the outset that the charter school policy was driven solely by political ideology, and Mister of Education, Chris Hipkins, was right to dismiss the evaluation report as being of no real value to policy makers.

Maybe the very poor survey response rates – even from those closely involved in these schools – send a clear message: it is time to move on.

~ Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ

Much Ado About Nothing – aka ACT’s fuss about closing Charter Schools

The charter school model is being closed down. The model. Not the actual schools currently operating as charter schools, necessarily.

The charter schools currently running have opportunities to remain open, in that they will be able to negotiate to become state schools or special character schools.

Some of the charter schools have got poor academic results. Some have not met their roll targets.  Some are doing okay. Each school will be looked at individually. And if a charter school is doing okay, they surely can do the same job as a state school.

In moving from being a charter school to being a state/special character school, the only big differences are:

  1. they will no longer receive funding for students they don’t have (via the minimum roll funding provision) or for property when they don’t need it (via flat property payments that can be spent on anything, not just property), and
  2. will legally be schools as opposed to businesses and therefore open to exactly the same scrutiny as other state-funded schools, including the Official Information Act.

Truly, if – as they assert – a charter school is doing a good job, has qualified teachers, can cope on the same funding as a state school, and has nothing to hide, why the fuss?

~ Dianne

Nikki Kaye calls for transparency on charter schools? Yeah Right!

Nikki Kaye has taken the early lead in the “You must be joking” stakes with her ridiculous press release calling for transparency on charter schools.

Nikki Kaye and her government played an active role in holding back information during her time in office. She is in danger of becoming the hypocrite of the year as she now calls for transparency. And, just for good measure, she is supposedly now worried about the cost to the taxpayer of dealing with the mess that she has left behind!

A few fact checkers may be in order here:

• The charter school model does not have a proven track record as Ms Kaye claims. See our release on the poor School Leavers stats across the model as a whole, which shows charter schools underperforming the system-wide benchmarks used by the government.

• In particular, the charter school sector results are below those of both Decile 3 schools and those for Māori students across the NZ school system.

• Ms Kaye delayed the release of the second Martin Jenkins evaluation report from late 2016 until June 2017. Furthermore, the report could not discuss the true level of student achievement given the problems the Ministry of Education had uncovered in how the schools had incorrectly reported their School Leavers results.

• Ms Kaye took until June 2017 to finally release her decisions on the performance-related funding for the 2015 school year. That’s right – it took 18 months to evaluate only 9 schools and then she fudged the decisions on 3 of those schools.

• As for the new schools that were announced to open in 2018 and 2019, Nikki Kaye takes the cake with these. Not one single piece of official information on any of these 6 proposed schools has yet been released. When the Third Round schools were announced in August 2016, the supporting documentation, including the signed contracts, was released that afternoon.

• The biggest concern we have is how much taxpayer money has already been paid to the Sponsors of the 6 proposed schools and is this recoverable? In the early rounds, the Sponsors received the one-off Establishment Payments within 20 days of signing their contracts. So, Nikki, how much taxpayer money have you wasted?

~ 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

Charters come at expense of children with high needs, say NZEI

NZEI Te Riu Roa is demanding the National/Act Government say how much it’s spending on four new charter schools, adding its money that should have gone on education of children with additional learning needs.

“It’s immoral to spend huge amounts of public money on schools that aren’t even needed, when children with additional needs are being denied the support they need to learn,” NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart said.

This week it was revealed that three and four year olds were waiting up to a year for an initial appointment with Ministry of Education specialists when they were identified with special needs.

“These children are being robbed of their right to an education, at the very time when it can have the greatest impact.

“The money being spent on charter schools would change the lives of thousands of children missing out on an education because this Government won’t properly fund learning support.

“The charter school experiment has not worked to raise achievement, according to recent analysis of school leaver results.

“It’s time to put an end to political interference in education, and focus on what works for all our children. That’s a strong public education system designed to ensure every child, not just some, achieve their full potential.”

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.

______________

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

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.

The Villa PR Push: Let’s look at the Funding

This is the second in a series of postings following up an op-ed written by Don Brash published in the NZ Herald.

Our first response discussed what motives might lay behind what we feel is a concerted PR push by Villa Education Trust, the Sponsor of South Auckland Middle School.

In this piece we will look at the statement made in the op-ed about funding, as this remains one of the real sticking points about the early charter schools.

Ah yes, critics argue, but partnership schools get a lot more money from the taxpayer than other schools do.  Absolute nonsense.

Sorry, Dr Brash, but charter schools do get more OPERATIONAL FUNDING than the local schools get.  Especially when their funding is compared to the larger schools in South Auckland, where SAMS is located.

In a nutshell, SAMS received total operational funding of approx. $12,800 per student in 2015 compared to Manurewa Intermediate (the intermediate school used in the article) which received approx. $5,600 per student.

To understand how this large discrepancy arises, we need to look at the original charter school funding model.  The single biggest policy mistake it made was to try and work out the equivalent funding that a stand alone State school of the same size and type might receive.

But, in practice, the charter schools are being created in places like South Auckland where there are larger, more established schools that receive much lower average per student funding.  This means that the larger schools could not possibly recreate the conditions such as class sizes of 15 that the smaller charter schools can.

One recent story on Radio NZ described the pressure on some South Auckland schools that saw many of them using their libraries and halls as teaching spaces.  One school had plans to start teaching next year in the staffroom!

So, is it any wonder that when given the option of class sizes of 15, free uniforms and free stationery, that parents may be choosing the charter school?

Let’s look briefly at the original charter school funding model, noting that this model has already been changed for the third round schools that have just been announced.

The original model had two essentially fixed components per school: Base Funding and Property & Insurance.  The property component is fixed for the first 3 years (unless the school changes size or teaching year levels) and the base funding component varies by type of school (secondary, middle or primary) and is indexed each year.

Variable Funding comes in two parts: a Per Student Grant and Centrally Funded Services.  The two variable components are then multiplied by the number of students on the roll or the Guaranteed Minimum Roll (“GMR”) whichever is the greater.  So, if the actual school roll is less than the GMR, the Sponsor gets paid for at least the GMR number of students.

In 2015, SAMS operated at its Maximum Roll, which was originally 120 students.

So, putting all the components together the SAMS financial statements show revenue from Government Grants of $1,536,016, or an average government funding figure of approx. $12,800 per student, in 2015.

money showerSo let’s walk through the SAMS financial statements for 2015 and see what Villa does with its $1.5 million of funding.

First, it pays the rent, which is $150,000 per annum.  If we are generous, and include all Property expenses, including utilities, we find these amounted to $194,776 in the 2015 financial statements.

This would then leave a total of $1,341,240, or $11,177 per student after we have acquired and maintained the school premises.

What do we do next?  We would look to hire the teachers necessary to deliver on the 1:15 class size ratio.

For a school of 120 students, we would need 8 teachers, at a round number cost of $75,000 per annum each.  That should cost us approx. $600,000 and we find that teacher salaries in the 2015 SAMS accounts came out at pretty much that amount: $584,883.  Add in the other curriculum related costs, such as classroom resources – including those free school uniforms and stationery – and total Learning Resources amounted to $869,846.

That leaves us with $471,394 to pay for the administration of a 120 student school.

Plenty of money to pay for a full-time Community Liaison Manager – nice if you can afford it – pay for all the office and other admin costs and allow for depreciation and you spend a total of $263,906.

And what does that leave room for?

That’s right: the Management Fee payable to the Sponsor of $140,000.  That’s the cost of hiring a full-time principal at a much larger school!

For comparison, let’s see how Manurewa Intermediate is getting on.

The Find A School application on the Education Counts website has summary financial information for State and State-Integrated schools.

In 2015 Find A School showed Manurewa Intermediate’s Staffing Entitlement figure was $2,510,958 and its Operations Grant figure was shown as $1,431,808.  So, let’s cash this all up and make an OPERATIONAL FUNDING total of $3,942,766.

But straight away we have a problem.  Manurewa Intermediate has 704 students.  So we start our comparison with average per student government funding of only $5,600 per student.

Its property is owned by the Crown, so it doesn’t pay rent in cash.  So we can skip straight to the teacher costs.

To engineer class sizes of 15, we would need to buy 47 teachers.  At a cost of $75,000 each we would need $3,525,000.

That would leave us with only $417,766 or $593 per student to pay for everything else necessary to run a school of 704 students which is nearly 6 times the size of SAMS!

Out of that amount, we would need to pay for all classroom and curriculum resources, all the non-teaching staff, all the administration costs, the utilities and property maintenance costs and the depreciation to cover the replacement of all the furniture, equipment and ICT resources.

Hopefully you can see from this comparison that it would be virtually impossible for Manurewa Intermediate to have class sizes of 15 with the level of government operational funding it receives.

You could also arrive at the same conclusion with a simple rule of thumb calculation.

Based on a teacher cost of $75,000, in a class size of 15 each student needs to contribute $5,000 to pay for their teacher.  SAMS had $11,177 after paying for the premises; Manurewa Intermediate started with $5,600.

In summary, what readers interested in understanding charter schools funding need to appreciate is the significant influence of the fixed cost components of their funding model.

Even at its initial maximum roll of 120, the fixed components of SAMS’ funding comprise 57% of its total funding: base funding was $578,021 and the property component was $303,681.  That is why the charter schools are proving to be more expensive than their local counterparts: they are small schools with high fixed cost funding.

But they are being compared to larger, longer established schools where the fixed costs are spread over a much greater number of students.

This is what economists call economies of scale.

It is a major reason why direct comparisons between schools with significantly different funding streams should be treated with real caution.

Research shows that the effects of smaller class sizes are positive and of real help, especially when dealing with students who need more intensive support.

Smaller class sizes are an expensive policy to engineer; but wouldn’t it be great to see class sizes of 15 in all our low decile schools, not just those favoured by the flawed charter school funding model.

~ Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ

Moving sands when measuring charter school effectiveness

The Education Ministry reported that some of last year’s new charter schools are not doing so well, but says there are good reasons for this.

The reasons given include students arriving at school far behind age-appropriate levels, student transience, the high rate of referrals from Child Youth and Family and the Police and referrals of difficult students from other schools.

Indeed, those are valid reasons for any school struggling to help students.

What I would like the Education Minister and the Undersecretary for Education to explain is how these factors are considered sound reasons for charter schools to struggle to help students and yet are considered excuses for public schools.

~ Dianne

Sources and further reading:

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/312221/’difficult’-students-going-to-charter-schools

 

 

Villa Education Charter Schools fail to achieve targets in 2015

The two charter schools operated by Villa Education Trust have achieved only 3 of their 12 student achievement targets for the 2015 year, according to analysis by Save Our Schools NZ.

According to the 2015 annual reports to the public released by the two schools, South Auckland Middle School achieved 2 of their 6 targets and Middle School West Auckland achieved only 1 of their 6 targets.

Detailed results are set out below.

2015 Contract Targets and Student Achievement Outcomes:

South Auckland Middle School

Reading Writing Maths
Target % Outcome % Target %  Outcome % Target % Outcome %
Year 7 77.0 73.3 70.0 63.3 70.0 76.7
Year 8 80.0 70.0 72.0 76.7 72.0 70.0

Middle School West Auckland

Reading Writing Maths
Target % Outcome % Target %  Outcome % Target % Outcome %
Year 7 60.1 38.0 50.7 31.0 52.1 59.0
Year 8 61.6 52.0 51.9 48.0 50.8 44.0

Held to Account for Performance?

Charter schools are supposedly going to be held to account for their performance against clearly specified performance standards set out in their contracts, including student achievement and student engagement.

In its first year of operation, South Auckland Middle School failed to meet its student engagement performance standard when it missed the required standard for stand downs, suspensions and exclusions.

But the Minister of Education still approved the release of the 1% performance retention funding retained under the contract, even though the contract wording required the school to reach all of its performance standards before such a payment could be made.

The clear underperformance in 2015 of both schools in the most important contract area, which is student achievement, should make the Minister’s decision this year clear cut.

But as charter schools are ultimately a political initiative anything can happen!

ENDS

Cartoon by Emmerson – twitter.com/rodemmerson

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