My devices were alight today with messages from colleagues, friends, parents and social media folk sending smiley faces, high fives and happy dance gifs. She’s gone burger, they said. Hekia Parata is outta here. At last we’ll be rid of her and her mad cap ideas. It was like New Year’s Eve or winning the World Cup – there were celebrations across the land.
I appreciated the messages – it’s good to see so many people were as dismayed with Hekia’s performance as Education Minister as I have been and equally glad that we will soon see the back of her.
But, the general feeling of jubilation and relief at knowing we’ll soon be out from under the shadow of someone who has systematically undermined teachers, support staff and parents – not to mention students – in her bid to forge ahead with her neoliberal plan for the New Zealand education system, is tinged with trepidation; who (and what) comes next?
Because much as Hekia has a reputation for being snippy and unapproachable, she isn’t the main problem. The larger problem – and the one that will very likely not change much, if at all – is that of the government’s policies themselves. And, as stated National Party (and ACT) ideology, the neoliberal policies and direction remain much the same no matter who from the party is in charge.
If we truly want to celebrate – if we want to run around the house with pants on our heads cheering like we’ve won gold, quaff wine in celebration, and look hopefully towards a future where students are at the centre of all education policy decision making – if that’s what we want, we don’t just need a new Education Minister, need a new government.
Dianne Khan, Save Our Schools NZ
The decision to open two more charter ‘partnership’ schools in New Zealand is indefensible on educational or social grounds, says QPEC Chairperson John Minto.
“Recent studies have demonstrated that state schools that educate the most disadvantaged New Zealanders are already struggling from white flight and viability issues due to the distorting effects of the education market.
“Opening more small schools simply makes that process worse, scattering hard-to-teach children through a mish-mash of tiny schools”, he said.
“It is a win-win situation for this government,
but not for disadvantaged students”
QPEC sees the decision to open bidding for two more partnership schools as entirely political. “It is a sop to the ACT Party, and a way for National to promote the privatisation of education. It is a win-win situation for this government, but not for disadvantaged students”.
While it comes at a financial cost, QPEC is more worried about the effects on the schooling system. “This is not just a mad right-wing experiment, but a policy that will have substantive effects on young, needy children now, said John Minto.
Hekia Parata promised that the record of partnership schools in New Zealand would not mirror the US experience, where school failure, teaching problems, corruption and excessive profits are common. But we have already seen similar issues emerge here (excessive profits, school failure and questionable practices) after only two years and only nine schools.
“In short, this policy is a shocking waste of taxpayer money
and really poor educational policy”.
QPEC notes that Hekia Parata has always defended charter school funding as being on the same basis as state school funding. “The current decision to reduce the amount of funding provided to these schools confirms that the money given to the nine schools has been excessive, as QPEC and other critics have constantly pointed out. In short, the Minister’s defence of the old funding model was incorrect – she did not tell the truth about this”.-
The letter below is from Beth Beynon, a mother in the UK, distressed at the impact of testing on her child.
Please, NZ, trust us that have seen both countries’ education systems first hand when we say NZ had it right in the first place by having in-class testing that was not made public or used to label children.
Please don’t let the already poor National Standards mutate gradually into this horror story – which it will, if we just sit by sighing and muttering but fail to stand up and be counted.
Testing should be there to inform the teacher and the student about what is learned already and where they might go next. It is a learning tool. It is not a labelling tool. Or, more accurately, it shouldn’t be.
Read the letter and consider where NZ is going:
“Dear Prime Minister,
So can you tell me why she has spent today in tears? Why she’s lying on her bed sobbing, because she knows she’s not good enough?
There’s a part of me that barely has the energy to write this. To ask you why you insist on putting 10 and 11 year olds through a system that takes nothing of child development or good pedagogy in to account, or why you put relentless pressure on schools to up their expectations, so what was once seen as good progress is suddenly a failure. But why bother? Why bore you with analogies of weighing pigs that nobody fed? You won’t listen to highly qualified education experts, or even people who, you know, actually teach. So I’m under no illusion that you will listen to me.
I do however want to tell you what is happening in my house tonight.
My funny, intelligent, artistic daughter has received a message today.
The government has told her so.
And that’s not good enough.
The fact that she has rhythm in her soul, a stunning singing voice and takes people’s breath away when she dances, the fact that she thinks about the meaning of life and loves to ponder the great questions like why are we here and what our purpose could be, or the way she cared for her dying Grandmother – painting her toe nails and singing to her, the way she puts her younger sister into her own bed because she woke with a bad dream.
These things that make the whole person that my daughter is. It’s all irrelevant.
She’s just average. And that’s not good enough. You’ve told her so.
Another one bites the dust.
Thing is Mr. Cameron, my daughter is wise to you. At eleven she has learned that SATS are just a game.
“I’ve not learnt anything this year Mummy,” she told me during the harrowing and stressful weeks leading up to the SATS “Just how to pass some stupid test for the stupid government”.
From the mouths of babes, Mr. Cameron, from the mouths of babes.
And so here we are. Your SATS results are in. You can number crunch to your heart’s content. You can order schools from best to worst, rank them, categorise them and make them work for you. Numbers are clever , aren’t they? Look what they did for bringing all those children out of poverty! Clever old you.
And meanwhile my daughter will go to sleep tonight despising a government that has squandered a year of her education so they can tell her she’s no more than average. And that it’s not good enough.
Oh, one more thing. She brought home her Grade Three ballet certificate today. She got a distinction.
But I don’t suppose you’re the slightest bit interested in that.
~ Beth Beynon
This is what happens when testing is done for political rather than educational reasons.
No-one in their right mind wants a testing regime that leads to so many distressed children who are doing perfectly well but now believe themselves to be ‘less than’.
As teachers, we must think seriously about what we are being complicit in, and we must ask ourselves when we are going to say “Enough”.
He’s the man John Key picked to chair the “Summit on Employment” in 2009 (1)
He’s also the man John Key picked to lead The Christchurch Earthquake Appeal (2)
He’s also the man who used that position to breach the Bill of Rights Act and force “the advancement of religion” into the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust’s constitution (3)
And he’s the man Cameron Slater (Whaleoil) characterises as “allegedly a friend of John Key” (4)
Slater also asked on October 15 last year “Who will be the first (of many) casualties under Mark “I’m the boss” Weldon at Mediaworks?” with one commenter on that story saying “The man is a tyrant who doesn’t play nicely with others. Frankly, I love the idea of Weldon and John Campbell having to work together …” (5)
He’s also the man whom insiders were picking as a potential National Party candidate for the safe seat of Tamaki (6)
And he’s a man who praised John Key’s program of asset sales announced in 2011 as “bold, it was clear, it was early – and very positive…” and called those who were cautious about it “fearmongering”. That’s the same assets sales program that had to be drastically cut back and became something of an embarrassment to the government (7)
He’s the man who made a substantial personal gain ($6 million) as a result of Key’s asset sales announcement (8)
He’s also the man who, as CEO of the NZX, characterised those who voiced concerns about aspects of the Exchange’s operations as mentally ill (9)
He’s the man who’s already got rid of two of Mediaworks’s main financial watchdogs – chief financial officer Peter Crossan and company secretary and lawyer Claire Bradley (10)
He’s the man of whom blogger Cactus Kate (business lawyer and commentator Cathy Odgers) noted “Mediaworks currently does not employ anyone on your television or radio with a larger ego than Weldon, even Willie Jackson, Sean Plunket and Duncan Garner combined can’t compete” and that “NZX was the greatest reality soap opera in town under Weldon’s leadership, the casting couch of characters was enormous as disgruntled staff left and new bright eyed disciples were employed” (11)
He’s the man Odgers also described (in a blog post now deleted by referenced by another, also right wing, blogger) as a “weasel word corporate-welfared CEO…” and a “shallow self-promoting tool” (12)
He’s the man who said there was no conflict of interest in allowing the NZX to be the provider of NZX services, the supervisor of its members, a listed participant on its own exchange and the market regulator… a statement one broker described as “utter balderdash” (13)
Weldon was also appointed by Key, or one of his Ministers, the Capital Markets Development Taskforce in 2009/10; the Tax Working Group in 2009; and the Climate Change Leadership Forum in 2007 and the board of High Performance Sport New Zealand (2012) and the NZ Olympic Committee (2004 – 2006). Key gave him a QSO in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Now remember that Slater, Odgers and Cresswell are all considered right wingers. They’re certainly not the type of people who’d be found cheering John Campbell’s advocacy journalism on behalf of the less fortunate. Generally, you might expect them to be quite supportive of a man with Weldon’s background who’s chaired the NZX and is friends withe the Leader of the National Party.
In a chat with some teachers tonight, one commented that she doesn’t have time to keep up with politics because she is too busy teaching. I hear that a lot, and to be honest, I was exactly the same when I was in the classroom. Note to Hekia Parata and David Seymour, if you want me to be quieter, I need a job.
Seriously, though, between the planning and marking, the social issues, special educational needs, my own professional development and reflections, staff meetings, art exhibitions, camp trips, paperwork, and heaven knows what, there is little space left in many educators’ minds for anything else. Doubly so if they have a family.
It’s hard to strike a balance between being informed and having one’s head in the sand. We want to know what’s going on, but we don’t want to become overwhelmed, which can so easily happen in teaching as in many jobs. So what do we do?
Well, there are a few simple ways to keep up with what’s going on in education politics:
1) Make sure your union has your email address and you get the regular updates sent out.
1a) Take a minute to read the emails from the union. Seriously, just having them in your in-box doesn’t count, much like the pile of dieting books on my shelf aren’t helping me lose weight.
2) Attend union meetings and ask questions.
Clearly you use social media because you are reading this. Excellent – I like the cut of your gib. Now maybe you would like to follow some of these marvellous people so that you can find out what’s going on via them, too:
On Facebook and Twitter you will find new people and pages to follow, some will come, some will go, and you will find your tribe. It’s invaluable – I can totally recommend it for the best PD around, quite aside from keeping up with education politics.
Ask other teachers to tell you what’s going on. You don’t have to accept their viewpoint or what they’re saying without question, but you will still get an idea of the issues of the moment and some of the concerns.
Read those magazines, leaflets and posters in the staff room to find out the latest.
Ask your union rep. If the rep isn’t clear, ask someone else.
Pick What Works For You
You owe it to yourself, your profession, your students and their parents to be informed. Changes will happen – they always do – but you must be clear of the possible impact of those changes so you can choose whether your input or action is needed. Being passive is not really an option.
Pick whatever methods work for you. If you are on the computer a lot for work, maybe join a Facebook page or group (or two), and consider Twitter to link to other educators (well worth it, I promise).
Whatever way you do it, find your tribe and get yourself informed.
PS, thanks for the work you do in our schools. We parents appreciate it more than we might let on.
Key political figures will debate the rights and interests of children at a forum to be held at Ponsonby Primary in Auckland next week.
The event promises to be a lively one with Education Minister Hekia Parata facing off against a full complement of party spokespeople and candidates.
Those taking part alongside Hekia Parata include:
The event is being run under the banner of ‘Tick for Kids’; a collective that seeks to put the interests of children at the centre.
Spokesperson Anton Blank says, “We want New Zealanders to engage with politicians about issues for our children. These local events provide platforms for everyone to articulate these concerns to political candidates directly.”
With so many important politicians involved the debate is bound to be vigorous and wide-ranging, covering education, health, housing and child poverty.
“We know that the New Zealand public is concerned about increasing rates of child poverty,” says Anton Blank.
He states that the ‘Tick for Kids’ movement, which is less than a year old, is becoming an important non-partisan force in New Zealand and the engagement of politicians in ‘Tick for Kids’ events is proof of that.
When: Wednesday August 6th
Where: Ponsonby Primary School, 44 Curran Street, Herne Bay, Auckland
For more information:
Parata is trumpeting her loving regard for teachers and how this respect has lead her to allow five whole teachers onto the panel of EDUCANZ, the replacement Teachers Council that no-one in the sector wants and that educators argued forcefully against at the recent Education Amendment Bill select committees.
She’s love us to believe that she has seen the light and is taking teachers seriously at last. NewsTalk ZB trumpets that “Minister of Education Hekia Parata supports the move saying it clarifies the intent for the council to have a strong core of teaching experience.”
What she and ZB are not so keen to mention is that she is the one that will pick the 5 teachers, and her alone.
Yes, that’s right – the teachers don’t get to choose their own representatives. Unlike doctors, lawyers or any other profession of note, we will have out so-called representatives chosen for us.
Why would that be the case?
Simple really, Hekia hand-picking them means she can be sure to get folk who will toe the line… yes men and women. EDUCANZ will be more a political tool than an educational one.
So, let’s face it, as back downs go, it’s a fizzer.
Parata in fact didn’t listen to the concerns of people at spoke at select committee over the course of many days, at many locations, and so eloquently explained why the proposed changes were not sound.
The Select Committee sat, Hekia pretended to listen, and she forged ahead with the plan as it stood…
(Can you tell I’m seething?)
Anyone trumpeting that one change is blind to the reality. And, given past form, the apparent change of heart was probably planned from the start so the spin doctors could whip up some media hoohah about how well they listened.
“Go in hard and make one pre-planned concession to look benevolent” could be on Hekia’s coat of arms.
It’s a farce. That is not democracy in action.
At select committee after select committee this government has gone through the motions and ignored all evidence in front of it. It’s done because it has to be done, for show, not to inform. They don’t listen. In fact, having attended some of them as a viewer, I can say that the left ask most of the questions for clarification whilst the right usually stay pretty much shtum. I assume they work on the old lawyer rule which is that one should never ask a question one might not want to know the answer to.
Meanwhile we are again in the position of the education system being sneakily undermined, bit by bit, while many teachers and the huge majority of the public are unaware of the repercussions of what’s going on.
Only when our schools are in the state of those in other reform-crazy countries like the USA and England will people finally take notice and ask what the hell happened. Then we’ll have a hell of a job to undo the harm that’s been inflicted.
Be warned, NZ, this will not end well.
Teachers don’t often switch off. A good friend refers to holidays as “non-contact” time. And given our government’s habit of pushing through major education legislation during the holidays, you start to feel like those kids in Jurassic Park, sheltering and hyper-aware of every movement as the velociraptors keep testing for gaps in the perimeter.
Saturday’s the one morning I do try to disengage the teacher brain and enjoy a meander round our local farmers’ market with my mum. But this weekend, the Act party were on the “community group” stall – including the Epsom candidate, David Seymour, who assisted John Banks with the drafting of Act’s charter schools policy.
I’ve read and archived more than 500 articles and op-eds on the decimation of American public schooling in favour of charter schools; that virtual pinboard records the same cynical treatment of state schools in the UK – and now here. It fills me with a cold anger that this is being done to students, teachers and schools. Community as a concept is avidly being unpicked. And schools are some of the nicest communities I’ve ever experienced, held together by a lot of personal sacrifice. Targeting them seems like the educational equivalent of harp-seal clubbing.
So this was a chance to talk to the people who are doing things to education – and fair play, Seymour was fronting up in public. Some other politicians who are neck-deep in this aren’t very good at that.
The charter schools pilot makes me want to grab a paper bag and breathe into it vigorously. Part of my job is to promote scientific thinking in children. It’s the simplest of bottom lines: you keep all variables but the one you’re examining the same for it to be a fair test. Charter school students were receiving more funding per head than public school students, and class sizes were 12-15 compared to 28+ in public schools. So that was one of the questions I put to Mr Seymour – how can this test be called “fair”?
The information on funding is “untrue” and class sizes “will grow,” he said. But, I said, that’s not what some charter schools are advertising on radio.
I was then informed that it was a “natural experiment”, and results would be “corrected”, controlling for covariates after the trial. I did a bit more reading later on – yes, they are an option when testing in science. The following gave me slight pause:
“Natural experiments are employed as study designs when controlled experimentation is extremely difficult to implement or unethical, such as in several research areas addressed by epidemiology (e.g., evaluating the health impact of varying degrees of exposure to ionizing radiation in people living near Hiroshima at the time of the atomic blast) and economics (e.g., estimating the economic return on amount of schooling in US adults.”
Apparently I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist’ for believing that charter schools are the beginning of privatisation by stealth, no matter how much evidence there is for it in America and the United Kingdom. But you heard it here first, and I asked if I could quote him on it: schools will not be forcibly privatised against the wishes of their communities, as is happening in Britain. I look forward to following that up.
I asked him about the effect of competition on the thing that makes good education: sharing of knowledge and resources. He hadn’t heard of the charter school in New York visited by a New Zealand teacher, where all doors, windows and cupboards are locked – not because it’s a dangerous neighbourhood, but because teachers are worried about others “stealing” their ideas.
Seymour challenged me on what I would do with a middle school like the one he attended, where children were apparently allowed to run around and do whatever they liked. (Aren’t there mechanisms in place already? Commissioners?) He also asked if I had visited any of the charter schools myself – the people behind them were all good people, doing good things. I asked him if he’d visited any of the schools in the area where I work to see the good things they were doing, too.
Seymour was lukewarm on the idea of National Standards – shock! common ground? – but it’s because they run counter to Act’s ideas of “freedom” from government control. It was my first real-life encounter with someone who believes so fervently in decentralisation, and it was a strange feeling. Like standing on opposite sides of a Wile E Coyote canyon and trying to make ourselves understood.
It was also fairly heartbreaking to hear an older supporter on the stand, someone kind enough to volunteer to read with children at a school in an area of very high need, ask “Why can’t we just give it a go? Why can’t we have a choice?”
If it really was just about choice, and getting the best deal for our kids, and the public system wasn’t steadily being undermined at the same time, maybe I wouldn’t be so angry.
So I left, feeling like I’d engaged in some harp-seal clubbing of my own in directing that beam of fury at the two ACT supporter ladies. (And embarrassed that I’d lost track of time and stood Dianne up for breakfast.)
Funny how a day can pan out, however. Later at the Quality Public Education Coalition forum, chairman Bill Courtney caused heads to swivel when he greeted Alwyn Poole in the audience before giving an update on charter schools. Poole is the principal of Mt Hobson Middle School. He’s also a member of the Villa Education Trust, whose South Auckland Middle School is one of the first in the charter schools pilot.
What a magnificent thing it was to be able to ask questions openly of someone involved in this, and to receive frank answers. (At last!) And to know that this person has extensive experience in education (and multiple teaching qualifications).
Courtney’s talk used South Auckland Middle School’s figures to explain how funding has been allocated. He also made the point that the charter school model has been hijacked by the privatisation movement. One of the first proponents of the idea, Albert Shanker, saw it as a way to allow teachers greater autonomy, to engage the students who weren’t being served by normal schools.
This sounds like what Poole’s schools have been able to do: Poole said he works with children with needs like dyslexia or Asperger’s, or kids who need a “boost” at middle school level. He was asked why couldn’t he achieve it within the system as a special character school. In 2002, that option was “blocked”. They were looking for “ways of expanding what we do”, so applied for the partnership school option.
The school doesn’t carry the same infrastructure as state schools, principals do admin and teach, and they have “a nice lease agreement”. They also have qualified teachers and teach to the New Zealand Curriculum.
Poole was also asked if some of the biggest barriers to learning faced by many schools in Manukau, such as transience, were problems for his school. Transience, less so, but they have had a small degree of truancy (10 hours), and two students had a conflict and left during the school day.
Class size, and the basic mathematics of time for giving one-to-one support, seems to me to be the elephant in the educational tent. It’s splitting it at the seams as most politicians studiously try to avoid treading in its dung.
Unlike many politicians, Poole openly acknowledges that their 1:15 ratio is part of their success in helping students. Why not campaign for the same ratio for state schools? an audience member asked.
Poole: “We love our 1:15 ratio and we would advocate for it very strongly.”
Poole said that they’ve also applied to the Ministry for funding to evaluate their model with the help of the University of Florida.
I went up to him afterwards to say thank you, and realised he must have seen some of my trail of articles on charters on the SOSNZ Facebook page (eek).
We touched on something that came up when he spoke to us: dyslexia. When I was a BT, I had a fantastic student who was also dyslexic. I also had a fairly big class and very basic training in how best to support him, but fortunately, he had a proactive mum who could share her knowledge. I still collect resources now based on what I wish I could have done for him.
Poole started to talk about the things they do, and there was that moment, that neat spark you get when you meet another teacher who might have the solution for the child that you want to help, who will no doubt share it with you, because that’s what we’re both here for, after all.
And that’s what I find hardest to accept: we have educators being pitted against educators in this. Experience, training and knowledge is being dissed.
When stuff like this is happening, the problem is now having faith that the current Ministry of Education is “getting out of bed every morning”, as Courtney put it, with their main aim being to guarantee every child a quality education.
But as Courtney notes, there is no official, publicly available ‘Isaac Report’ to enlighten us on the findings of Catherine Isaac’s working party. There is no attempt to be scientific and explain how the government intends to evaluate the pilot schools, and the concept. Instead there’s a second round of schools funded before any meaningful data has been generated by the first.
There’s not a recognition that public schools overseas are still managing to deliver results, even though they’re being treated like the Black Knight in Monty Python, battling on and squirting blood as another limb gets lopped off.
I got a lot of answers on Saturday. Now I have a new question. Will all educators – partnership school and state – be willing to dare to do what annoyed Tau Henare so much about the Problem Gambling Foundation: stand together to “bag the hand that feeds them” and oppose the secretive development of policy that serves ideology – not kids?
The changing face of teaching and how the replacement Teachers Council, EDUCANZ, will seal teachers’ fate as “classroom technicians that have to support politically prescribed programmes and data collection” says Dave Kennedy:
The New Zealand Teacher’s Council is the crown entity that is currently the professional and regulatory body for all teachers from early childhood through to most other educational institutions. The NZTC has done some excellent work in developing professional mentoring programmes, developing the Registered Teacher Criteria and maintaining professional standards. It has done this with a relatively limited budget and unlike the Medical Council, which operates independently from the Government, theNZTC has 11 people on the Governing Council, but only 4 are independently elected by the profession, the rest are Ministerial appointees.
Parents and children should be served by professionals who are motivated and driven by the ethics and ideals of the profession and a duty of care that is not corrupted by political ideology. For doctors, the sanctity of their relationship with their patients is paramount and without high levels of confidentiality and trust they would often struggle to treat their patients when a full disclosure of their life-style and medical history is necessary. Teaching and learning should be about meeting the needs of each child based on the professional knowledge of the teacher and parents need the reassurance that their child’s interests come before politically driven expectations. To truly operate as a profession teachers need to have a teachers council that is independent of both the Government and unions.
I find it appalling that we have a Government that is deliberately and dishonestly undermining the teaching profession by suggesting that there is a crisis in teacher quality and discipline and that political measures are needed to solve it. The idea of a teacher using their position to abuse children is every bit as abhorrent for teachers as it is for the general public and yet there is the encouraged perception that the profession had deliberately protected such people and that there is a widespread problem of offending teachers. The facts tell a different story.
Look at the section labelled ‘impartial’. If EDUCANZ frames the new teacher code of conduct in that way, will we be allowed to speak out when we disagree with government policy? Attend protests? Even write to a newspaper or an MP to voice concerns?
I was under the impression New Zealand was a democracy. Ooh, would I even be allowed to imply that it’s not if this was my code of conduct?
And what would happen to me if I did something ‘they’ decided was out of line? And who is ‘they’?
So many questions.
I am a mother. My banshee is 5. He just started school. He was excited – I was excited – school is fabulous. We both knew he would have a ball, learning new things, meeting new friends, having super experiences – and indeed he is. He loves it.
Thankfully has no idea of the GERMy things infecting his happy world of learning:
He has been allocated a National Student Number to track him throughout his education. His results, standards, and lord knows what else is being stored against this number. I can’t opt him out of this – trust me I have asked. He and every child in or entering the system as of the 2014 school year has an NSN, and god only knows what they are recording about him.
The data can be passed on by government to anyone they deem suitable. See that little bit there on the Ministry page that says the “National Student Number (NSN) is a unique identifier that can be used by authorised users for .. research purposes.” Yes, about that..
Because given this government’s record with our private data, and given its record on favouring business over academics, I have to say I worry. In the USA, student data is given to private companies and the likes of The Gates Foundation without any permission sought from or given by parents. And Mr Gates has his own agenda.
But it’s okay, because “The Education Act 1989 includes an offence provision, with a penalty up to a maximum of $15,000, for a conviction of misuse of the National Student Number (NSN).” Oh that’s fine then – a hefty fine like that is sure to scare off your average education reformer billionaire.
So, should we worry? Well, hell yes.
Of student data collection, Diane Ravitch said “If anyone thinks for one New York minute that the purpose of creating this database is simply for the good of teachers and students then that person is credulous in the extreme.”
My child and yours are now a government commodity.
Soon, he will be deemed well above, above, at or below standard for numeracy, reading and writing. Those labels will be added to the above data set. They are not there for him or for his teacher (who is marvellous, I might add). They are there for politicians. Make no bones about that.
And what joy for those students in small communities where they are easily identifiable, who find themselves highlighted in the national press as failing. What a treat when a student’s results are displayed in the classroom for all to see.
That must be a real inspiration for them.
Because nothing motivates someone to improve more than telling them they are below standard and then sharing that information far and wide.
Sooner or later, there will be pressure for the banshee to get up to speed with anything he is “behind” with. I don’t mean encouragement – I mean pressure. The majority of teachers will resist political pressure and carry on teaching to his interests and strengths, moving him forward appropriately from where he is to the next level. But when the message teachers are getting is that all that matters is National Standards levels, eventually pressures come to bear:
“So a couple of weeks ago when his new teacher told me he had to stay in at lunchtime to complete his writing, I was shocked. I understand he is a dreamy and imaginative child, and that he needs supervision to complete tasks sometimes (which drives me mad), but I have no idea how any teacher EVER thinks it’s ok to keep a five year old in at lunchtime. Really, what kind of system thinks punishment is a motivator?” Source
These are children, not robots. They learn like they grow – in fits and bursts, not on an easily measured path. Of course their learning needs to be tracked – in fact teachers always have tested in-class and tracked growth, so that students and teachers know what the next goals will be. But to be pushed to learn at a certain speed, as if all kids should hit targets at the same time, is not sound practice.
Sadly, National Standards is encouraging just that, and this is the type of thing we will see more and more of: Whether his teacher or school tries to mitigate it or not, education establishments are under pressure to hit politically-motivated targets, and this will inevitably filter down. Most schools do a great job of not letting students see the pressures on the school to hoop jump, but if things carry on the way they are going, teachers may not find it so easy to keep that pressure out of the classroom, even for new entrants.
The USA is years down this data-obsessed, privatisation-motivated path of lunacy, and this is what successive reforms have reduced them to:
“My kindergarteners had their standardized computerized test today. There were over 100 questions. Answers were selected by drop and drag with a trackpad, no mouse is available. One class took five hours to finish. Kids crying in 4 of 5 classes.” Source
How long until this is the fate of Kiwi kids?
You might be thinking “Oh, well, it sounds dodgy, but you can always opt out of the National Student Number and/or National Standards if you dislike them so much.”
Well, you would think so, eh? The child being mine, and all.
But no, you cannot opt out.
Just let me say that again – you, the parent, or you the student cannot opt out of having a National Student Number and having your data collected and stored and shared around by the government with whoever they see fit without your permission.
You the parent or you the student cannot refuse to be part of National Standards.
So, next time government tell you all of these changes are about parental choice, ask them about your choice to opt out. Where did that go? **
Possibly the same place it went for these US children who were pulled out of classrooms by CPS investigators for individual interviews about this month’s test boycott — without teacher or parental permission.
Intimidating children? Ignoring parents? This is where 20 years of reforms has got the USA. New Zealand is only a few years down the line of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), but already we are seeing the same disregard for what parents want.
I ask again, where is my choice to opt out?
People – many for the first time – are joining the dots and seeing that it’s not a few little things here and there but a concerted plan to change the face of our education system to an increasingly privatised one.
A crisis is being manufactured that just does not exist.
You want to now who’s pulling the global strings behind the GERM? You could start by reading this to see Bill Gates’ part in it all.
Whanau and Educationalists want to improve our education system. It’s good but it could be better, and they recognise that. They do not want it to stand still.
Students and teachers have much in common: they do their best work when supported, encouraged and know that what they are doing is of value. And neither achieves their best when pressured, bullied and given unsound hoops to jump through, like monkeys at a tea party.
So, when next Hekia Parata tells you that what she is doing is in the interests of the children, ask yourself this:
Is it really for the children?
Who else stands to benefit?
** NOTE: “”Differences from state schools:
Private schools are not required to follow the Government’s National Education Guidelines. This means that they do not have to follow the New Zealand Curriculum or comply with the National Standards’ requirements.”” http://www.ero.govt.nz/Review-Process/For-Schools-and-Kura-Kaupapa-Maori/Reviews-of-Private-Independent-Schools – which rather begs the question of why not, if they are meant to be sooooo darned useful?
We already have teachers, principals, academics, and the RAINS Project all warning us how National Standards are leading to a narrowing of the curriculum, but if you still doubt the effect of benchmarks on WHO teachers are pushed to focus on, then read no further than this warning from a colleague in the USA:
Today we had a grade level meeting about the NWEA scores for the fourth grade students at my school. We teachers were all given printouts of our students’ most recent scores: RIT bands, percentiles, the whole shebang.
Then we were instructed to highlight the students in our classes who had scored between the 37th and 50th percentile. These students, the admin informed us, are the most important students in the class; they are the ones most likely to reach the 51stpercentile when students take the NWEA again in May.
Making the 51st percentile is VERY important to CPS [Chicago Public Schools], and thus to principals, literacy coordinators, test specialists and teachers-who-don’t-want-to-lose-their-jobs.
It might not be important to individual students, their parents or anyone else, but it is life or death in Chicago Public Schools.
We nodded, wide-eyed. These students, our guide continued, should be your primary focus. Make sure they get whatever they need to bring them up to that percentile. Sign them up for any and all academic programs, meet with them daily in small groups, give them extra homework, have them work with available tutors…whatever it takes.
What about the kids at the very bottom, one teacher wondered, the kids under the 20th percentile…shouldn’t they be offered more support too? The admin squirmed a bit. Well, they don’t really have any chance of hitting the goal, so for right now, no. There was silence.
Left unsaid was what might, could, will happen to any school that does NOT have enough students meet that magic number. No one really needs to say it. We all saw the 50 schools that got closed down last year. We see the charters multiplying around us. We’ve also seen the steady stream of displaced teachers come through our school doors as substitutes. We know that we could be next.
This is what happens when politicians take over the education system and it become more about benchmarks, milestones and arbitrary standards rather than being about educating each and every child so that they can achieve their best.
It’s not education, it hoop jumping. And it stinks.
Instead of fighting back and forth for political point scoring, we should be focusing on cross party, inclusive, evidence-based policies that are followed through long term no matter who is in government.
It’s not that hard – Finland have managed it for years.