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Quality Public Education Coalition

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QPEC: What’s going on in education policy?

QPEC logo no borderDr Liz Gordon, QPEC convenor,  says that QPEC supports the concerns of many other groups about two recently announced policy proposals.

“The first is that additional special education support be given to the early childhood sector.  We strongly support the policy of providing early intervention.  

“However it is also proposed that this be a zero-cost policy, with funding taken from later stages of education to fund the early interventions.  The government is well aware that there is already inadequate funding for special needs in school, and taking from Peter to pay Paul will leave ‘Peter’ with inadequate support.

“QPEC  supports additional funding for special needs in education, to give all children the best chance at a full life in the community”.

Dr Gordon notes that the second issue is the introduction of “yet another category of school” into the Education Act.

“The notion of an online school needs much further investigation before it is placed into our Education Act.  There are some extremely difficult problems to be overcome before a ‘school’ of this kind can be developed.  

“The New Zealand curriculum, which is compulsory in most schools, is not yet available in an online format and this would need to happen (unless the school is to be a private school, which would be a missed opportunity).

“We know that only certain children learn well in an online environment.  These are usually high-achieving young people who have the support of well-educated families and communities.  This group is not the target of the government’s policy goals, which are to lift the achievement of under resourced children.

“It therefore seems extraordinary that the Minister would champion this policy at this time”.

QPEC is concerned that once again, as with the partnership schools, the Minister is pursuing models that will lead to further privatisation and fewer opportunities in practice.

Dr Gordon concludes: “There is nothing wrong with extra resources in special education or pursuing models of online learning, but the approaches signaled appears out of step with the realities of schooling in Aotearoa.”
Dr Liz Gordon, Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC)

Unanswered Questions about Charter Schools – QPEC

QPEC new logo Sept 2014

QPEC Chairperson, Bill Courtney, participated in two interviews broadcast on Radio New Zealand on Wednesday 10 September 2014 on the subject of the first five charter, or Partnership, schools.

QPEC is concerned by several comments made during these segments by both Minister of Education, Hekia Parata and Catherine Isaac, the Chairperson of the Partnership Schools / Kura Hourua Authorisation Board.

The following release sets out several of the issues that QPEC believes require clarification or rebuttal.

1.

Where is the Isaac Report? The arguments behind the establishment of NZ charter schools have always been weak and the original Working Group led by former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac, never produced a written report. This is in contrast to former ACT MP John Banks’s claim in parliament that we could learn from the successes and failures of charter schools overseas. But with no written report from his former party president, we simply don’t know how the NZ model supposedly does this and how it should therefore be resourced, funded and evaluated.

a. “The Partnership Schools / Kura Hourua Working Group (formerly known as the New Zealand Model of Charter School Working Group) has not produced any document that sets out the evidential base behind charter schools.”

Ministry of Education letter dated 4 October 2012.

b. “The Working Group did not produce any reports, recommendations or advice to the aforementioned Ministers. However, their views were captured in four documents that were produced by the Ministry of Education:

i. Developing and Implementing a New Zealand Model of Charter School;

ii. Regulatory Impact Statement

iii. Authorising and Monitoring Report back

iv. Resourcing Partnership Schools

OIA Ministry of Education letter dated 8 August 2013.

 

2.

Why is there so little transparency around the charter school authorisation process and how the schools operate? There have been serious concerns from the outset about the deliberate moves to reduce transparency and remove the schools from the scope of normal public sector accountability.

a. “I do not accept the Ministry’s position that later disclosure of the [application] information at issue will satisfy the public interest. Disclosure after the Minister has taken decisions on the applications may serve the public interest in accountability, but it would not satisfy the public interest in the public being informed, and being able to participate in the debate, about the creation of partnership schools prior to those decisions being taken. The partnership schools policy involves substantial public funds and significant changes to the way in which publicly funded education provision is controlled, managed and delivered. I consider a more informed public discourse about the creation of such schools is in the public interest.”

Ombudsman Report, dated July 2013.

3.

Why does Hekia Parata state incorrectly that the funding figures per student are a “gross misuse” of the data? The Operational Funding calculations have not included the one-off Establishment Payments, as Hekia Parata states. In the story reported on Radio NZ on Tuesday 9 September, the Whangaruru funding was stated as “nearly $27,000 a pupil,” which is based on Operational Funding of $1,508,561 divided by 56 students, giving $26,939 per student. This excludes the Establishment Payment of $1,379,150.

4.

Why does Catherine Isaac, as the Chairperson of the Authorisation Board, not know what the charter school rolls are, if her group is also responsible for monitoring their progress? Why have the Minister and Catherine Isaac both made statements about the schools’ rolls that are simply not correct?

a. Isaac: Radio NZ 10 September: “It is simply not correct [that 3 out of the 5 schools have not reached their guaranteed minimum roll]. Many are at their maximum roll and have waiting lists.”

b. Parata: “All five are near or above enrolment.” Parliament, Questions for Oral Answer, no. 7, 11 February 2014

School “GuaranteedMinimum Roll” MaximumRoll Actual Roll@ 1 March Actual Roll@ 1 July
South Auckland Middle School 90 120 108 110
Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru 71 128 63 56
Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa 50 300 50 53
Rise Up Academy 50 100 42 46
Vanguard Military School 108 192 104 93
Total 369 840 367 358

5.

Although rolls may well fluctuate at any school during the course of the year, the fact remains that two of the schools have experienced falling rolls during the year.

6.

The absence of any substantive case for “What” and “Why” leads to another problem: How is the charter school initiative going to be evaluated? This point is vitally important if the public is to gain confidence that the initiative is to be objectively and independently evaluated, as the Cabinet Paper tabled by the Minister of Education, in October 2013, promises:

a. “The Cabinet paper “Developing and Implementing a New Zealand Model of Charter School” states:

“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” [CAB Min (12) 26/6 refers.]”

b. The October 2013 cabinet paper was prepared after a briefing paper from the Ministry of Education, dated 6 September 2013, contained the following warning:

…risks in moving from what was described as a pilot to an on-going roll-out before evaluating the model. Committing to on-going annual rounds now will reduce the potential for evaluation of the early schools to be taken into account before a long term roll-out.”

7.

In many ways, the most important comments made during the day, were the disparaging comments made by the one person who is ultimately responsible for New Zealand’s public education system: the Hon Hekia Parata, Minister of Education:

“But what’s the alternative? To have these kids become another statistic in the justice system, or in the social welfare system”

8.

No, Hekia. The alternative is to stop talking in clichés and to start dealing head on with the real challenge of properly resourcing public schools. Let’s give all our children the greatest possible opportunity to succeed.

Issued by
Bill Courtney
Chairperson
Quality Public Education Coalition

Big worries with charter school experiment

danger turn backYet more concerns have come  to light regarding New Zealand’s charter school system.

One of the first five schools, that started up in February 2014, has had huge problems.  Te Kura Hourua ke Whangaruru, a bilingual secondary school for years 9-13, has a dropping school roll, up to a third of students absent on any one day, poor planning, serious internal issues, and fighting and drug problems with students.

A Ministry-appointed facilitator was appointed, working there almost daily for hours at a time, and he stepped back only “after a local Child, Youth and Family manager was seconded to the job of executive principal.” Source

Radio NZ’s Morning Report piece can be listened to here. (approx 5 minutes long)

So far, the school has cost up to 500% what it costs to fund a state school pupil.  Needless to say, principals and teachers at state schools are furious that they are struggling to get help for students equally needy, when money is being wasted on the charter school experiment.

There has been concern from many quarters regarding charter schools.  The Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) has questioned the “secretive, undemocratic, expensive and ideological experiment”, PPTA have said that charters are “based on an extremist ideology which has no basis in evidence”, NZEI have expressed amazement at the experiment, saying “it beggars belief that any government of any persuasion would want to undermine a quality public education system in this way”. Leading academics from both New Zealand and overseas have also spoken out against the charter school experiment.

This is not an experiment we can afford to continue.  Any school currently running that is found to be doing a good job should, as Labour, Greens, NZ First and Mana have suggested, be given the option to join the state system as appropriate.  Those failing should be closed down.

The focus MUST be on improving the lot of all students in need, on helping all schools get the best resources to help those students, on making sure the whole support system is bolstered and supported so that it can properly serve all schools and their students.

Any system that serves to support only some students whilst ignoring the majority, is a system New Zealand doesn’t need.

 

Sources and further reading:

Jamie Whyte discussed charter schools this morning in his leader’s interview on Radio NZ. It makes fascinating listening  (from 17 minutes on).

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/20148886/ministry-documents-reveal-problems-at-charter-school

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/ED1409/S00050/charter-school-shambles-show-governments-failing-experiment.htm

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1409/S00129/charter-school-crisis-shows-time-to-axe-costly-experiment.htm

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/act-party-supports-big-spending-policy-price-no-object-says-qpec/

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/teachers-to-epsom-voters-dont-let-act-wreck-our-education-system/

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/charter-school-arrogance-versus-the-public-interest-qpec/

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/documents-reveal-governments-secretive-approach-to-charter-schools-nzei/

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/10458104/No-justification-for-wholesale-changes-to-education

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10876711

 

Fact Checker: Decile is not Destiny – QPEC

As we look into the evidence on this one, let’s be clear on one point right from the start: let’s understand the difference between “destiny” and “probability”.  And, if we QPEC logo no borderdon’t want decile to be destiny, then what are we doing about it!

QPEC firmly holds the view that every student should get the greatest opportunity possible to succeed to the fullest extent of their abilities and their willingness to work hard and achieve.

Neither does QPEC accept that students from disadvantaged backgrounds cannot succeed.

But, the evidence on this one is clear.

 

Fact 1: OECD Study of Teaching Policies (2005)

A major study of the teaching profession, carried out by the OECD in 2005, made this statement in their summary paper:

“Student learning is influenced by many factors, including: students’ skills, expectations, motivation and behaviour; family resources, attitudes and support; peer group skills, attitudes and behaviour; school organisation, resources and climate; curriculum structure and content; and teacher skills, knowledge, attitudes and practices. Schools and classrooms are complex, dynamic environments, and identifying the effects of these varied factors, and how they influence and relate with each other – for different types of students and different types of learning — has been, and continues to be, a major focus of educational research.

Three broad conclusions emerge from research on student learning. The first and most solidly based finding is that the largest source of variation in student learning is attributable to differences in what students bring to school – their abilities and attitudes, and family and community background. Such factors are difficult for policy makers to influence, at least in the short-run. The second broad conclusion is that of those variables which are potentially open to policy influence, factors to do with teachers and teaching are the most important influences on student learning. In particular, the broad consensus is that “teacher quality” is the single most important school variable influencing student achievement.” [Emphasis added]

Source: OECD, “Teachers Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers

 

The problem with the OECD approach – we can’t change the kids, so let’s focus on the teachers – is that it does not deal head on with what the OECD itself calls, the first and most solidly based finding:

Factors associated with the student are the largest source of variation in student achievement.

It is important to go beyond ideology and examine the hard evidence of the strong links between student background and student achievement. Failure to diagnose this correctly leads to two major problems.

– First, we miss the main goal, which is how do we improve children’s lives;

– and second, education policy initiatives are misdirected.

Teachers and schools are part of the solution; they are not the cause of the problem.

 

Fact 2: New Zealand NCEA achievement

Table 1: Percentage of school leavers with NCEA Level 2 or above, by ethnic group and school quintile (2012 data)

Sex Eth

-nic

Grp
Quin

-tile

Total F M M P A M O E
1 58.1 61.8 54.3 49.5 62.6 78.6 72.3 63.2 62.3
2 66.8 70.7 63.4 54.2 63.0 82.2 65.9 67.2 72.0
3 72.7 77.6 67.9 59.2 66.4 82.7 80.7 68.1 76.0
4 82.0 85.6 78.8 67.5 76.7 89.3 82.8 82.9 83.4
5 89.6 92.1 87.0 78.6 80.0 91.6 83.2 85.7 90.4

 

KEY to Ethic Groups: M=Maori, P = Pasifika, A=Asian, M = MELAA, O=Other, E=European

Quintile 1 = deciles 1 & 2, etc; MELAA = Middle Eastern, Latin American & African.

The table above reports NCEA Level 2 school leaver achievement levels by school quintile, gender and ethnicity. Of students from quintile 5 (deciles 9 & 10) schools, 89.6% of them left school with at least NCEA Level 2, compared with only 58.1% for those in quintile 1 (deciles 1 & 2) schools.

Socio-economic advantage is clearly a major predictor of educational achievement.

 

Fact 3: International Reading Assessments

Table 2: PISA Reading Literacy, ranked by the student’s socio-economic status, across the 10 highest performing school systems (PISA 2009 Reading Literacy):

System 5

th

10

th

25

th

50

th

75

th

90

th

95

th

Mean

Score

Australia 343 384 450 521 584 638 668 515
Canada 368 406 464 529 588 637 664 524
Finland 382 419 481 542 597 642 666 536
Hong Kong 380 418 482 541 592 634 659 533
Japan 339 386 459 530 590 639 667 520
Korea 400 435 490 545 595 635 658 539
Netherlands 365 390 442 510 575 625 650 508
NZ 344 383 452 528 595 649 678 521
Shanghai 417 450 504 562 613 654 679 556
Singapore 357 394 460 532 597 648 676 526

In this table, the 5th percentile means the lowest 5% and the 95th percentile is the highest 95% of students, measured on the OECD’s own index of economic, cultural and social indicators.

So, this table is slightly different from our NCEA L2 table, because it shows the student’s own status, rather than where they go to school.

But the pattern is indisputable:

Student achievement rises lockstep with socio-economic status in every school system.

 

END

QPES Press Release

The Increasingly Murky World of “Public” Funding but “Private” Operation

QPEC logo no borderPress Release: Quality Public Education Coalition – QPEC.

The issues behind the referral of the Te Kohanga Reo National Trust subsidiary to the Serious Fraud Office by the Minister of Education illustrate the growing complexities of where, how and by whom public funds are ultimately spent.

Recent trends in how public services are delivered have highlighted the problems that are more likely to arise because privately controlled and operated entities are not subject to the same level of scrutiny as public operations.

As the Minister, Hekia Parata said in her press release:

“The challenge remains in all of this for the trust to provide more transparency and accountability, and to do so in a way that allows the Government, the public and its movement to have confidence in it.’’

QPEC supports this principle. But QPEC also feels strongly that the same principle should apply to other instances where public funds make up the majority – if not all – of the income of a privately controlled entity.

This applies to charter schools, which, by definition, are publically funded but privately operated and fall outside of the full ambit of public sector transparency and scrutiny.

State and state-integrated schools have parent-elected Boards of Trustees that must hold open meetings and maintain open records, as our local body governments do. All such meetings are open to any member of the public to attend.

In addition, these schools are subject to the Official Information Act, whereas charter schools are explicitly exempt from the OIA.

The Minister of Education should be consistent and insist on greater transparency from her charter school experiment.

Charter School Arrogance versus the Public Interest – QPEC

QPEC logo landscape larger

The release yesterday of the parties interested in establishing a charter school has, yet again, signalled an utter contempt for the public interest, says QPEC (Quality Public Education Coalition)

Only last year, Ombudsman Professor Ron Paterson ruled that a more informed public discourse about the creation of such schools is in the public interest.

In particular, the Ombudsman stated:

“I do not accept the Ministry’s position that later disclosure of the information at issue will satisfy that public interest. Disclosure after the Minister has taken decisions on the applications may serve the public interest in accountability, but it would not satisfy the public interest in the public being informed, and being able to participate in the debate, about the creation of partnership schools prior to those decisions being taken.” [emphasis added]

Yesterday the Ministry of Education named the parties who have lodged applications to run a charter school.

It also released the minutes of a meeting held by the “Partnership Schools Authorisation Board” held on 5 February 2014. It contained the timetable for evaluating second round applications, which closed on 11 March.

Disturbingly, it is clear that applications have been evaluated, shortlisted and clarified all behind closed doors. Shortlisted applicants were scheduled to be interviewed during the week of 12 to 16 May.

Once again, there is no opportunity for any public engagement with the Authorisation Board and no chance for those affected by the opening of a new charter school to have their say.

In contrast, in many jurisdictions in the USA, charter school applications are subject to far greater scrutiny. For example, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education requires public hearings in the areas where charter schools are proposed to be located and invites written submissions from the public on shortlisted applicants.

This example is streets ahead of the secrecy and lack of accountability that has characterised the introduction of this ideology in New Zealand.

It shows an utter contempt for the democratic process and the right of the public to have a say in how their considerable funds are being spent.

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

WHEN: Saturday 26 April 2014, from 10am.

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

COST:  FREE to all

 

AGENDA

 

10:00 Bill Courtney

Welcome and Overview

 

10:15 John O’Neill

Treasury Business Process Theory and the Assessment of Teacher Quality

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

 

10:45 Teacher Forum

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

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

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

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

11:15 Martin Thrupp

National Standards and RAINS: where to now?

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

 

11:45 Warwick Elley

What Can PISA tell us about NCEA and National Standards?

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

 

12:15 Bill Courtney

Charter Schools: What’s The Buzz?

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

 

12:45 General Discussion – Other Sectors

 

LUNCH BREAK 1.15-2.00

 

2.00 Dianne Khan

Using Social Media to Disseminate Information & Encourage Involvement

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

 

2:30-3.00 QPEC AGM

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

 

QPEC logo landscape larger

Education and the ACT Party

The Party of American Crackpot Theories, otherwise known as the ACT Party, holds its 2014 Party Conference this weekend.

The Johns

The Johns

The Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) has put together a handy set of pointers to help reporters covering the conference to get to the “nitty gritty” of ACT’s Education policies.

1. Let’s call a spade a spade
ACT hides behind the nice phrase “Choice” when it talks about the charter school model imported from the USA. But Choice is just the euphemism used in America to describe the privatisation of public education. Why don’t they come clean and call it that so we can see what they really mean?

Diane Ravitch, US Education Commentator and author of “Reign Of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools”:

“Reformers don’t like to mention the word “privatisation”, although this is indeed the driving ideological force behind the movement. “Choice” remains the preferred word, since it suggests that parents should be seen as consumers with the ability to exercise their freedom to leave one school and select another. The new movement for privatisation has enabled school choice to transcend its tarnished history as an escape route for Southern whites who sought to avoid court-ordered desegregation in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Rodney Hide op-ed Herald, 18 August 2013: “Magic wand wasted on John Key”

“If you could wave a wand and change overnight one policy to make our country better, what would it be? Mine would be to privatise all schools. I would kick government totally out of anything to do with the schooling of children.

 

2. New Zealand already has loads of “Choice” within our education system.
Two comments by Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy in the USA:

“The country with the most aggressive school choice system in the world is probably New Zealand.” Source: Washington Post, 12 October 2012.

“New Zealand has embraced choice as a value and has developed policies that provide widespread choice for parents and students among public schools. But there is no evidence that these choice and market mechanisms have improved student performance overall and the research that has been done appears to show that there was greater inequality in student performance after such systems were installed than there was before they were introduced. ” Source: Edweek blog: “Choice and Markets: Theory and Practice”, 28 September 2012.

The Treasury ideology of the 1980s drove the introduction of the quasi-competitive model known as “Tomorrow’s Schools”. Add in the State-Integrated, Kura, Special Character and others and we have a host of choices available. But does it work? Has more choice improved student achievement?

3. Where is the Isaac Report?
Former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac, was the perfect political choice to head the NZ Model of Charter School Working Group. She was paid $33,890.31, including reimbursed expenses.

But WHERE is her report?

What has guided the introduction of the charter school concept into New Zealand, when we already have so much “Choice” available? Where is the evidence to support claims that charter schools in New Zealand will lead to better outcomes for students?

Evidence: OIA request response from the Ministry of Education, dated 8 August 2013:

“The Working Group did not produce any reports, advice or recommendations to the aforementioned Ministers. However, their views were captured in four documents that were produced by the Ministry of Education.”

4. “Choice” just doesn’t work – and that’s official!
Andreas Schleicher of the OECD in a UK interview, 3 December 2013:

“My organisation [the OECD] is very strong on choice, enabling citizens to make choices, and you would expect that systems with greater choice would come out better. But in fact you don’t see that correlation… Competition alone is not a predictor of better outcomes. The UK is a good example – it has a highly competitive school system but it is still only an average performer.

Our data doesn’t show much of a performance difference between public and charter and private schools once you account for social background.”

Bill Courtney
Quality Public Education Coalition
27 February 2014
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2012/10/12/why-the-market-theory-of-education-reform-doesnt-work/
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2012/09/choice_and_markets_theory_and_practice.html
http://news.tes.co.uk/b/news/2013/12/03/uk-shows-great-school-choice-does-not-equal-higher-standards-according-to-pisa.aspx

QPEC comment on yesterday’s education policy annoucement

QPEC logo no borderFirst, QPEC (Quality Public Education Coalition) welcomes the government’s intention to increase funding for education. However, we are concerned that the policy on school principals and teachers, while providing some potential positive measures, continues to miss the most important point.

Prime Minister John Key continues to state that “A mountain of evidence shows that the quality of teaching – inside the classroom – is the biggest influence on kids’ achievement.”
But this approach takes the focus away from what we know about student achievement.

As the OECD has made clear before:
“The first and most solidly based finding is that the largest source of variation in student learning is attributable to differences in what students bring to school – their abilities and attitudes, and family and community background.”
Source: OECD 2005 Report titled “Teachers matter: Attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers”.

So, while initiatives that may help improve teaching career paths and keep good teachers in the classroom are a positive step, they may not be sufficient to make a real difference to the students who need our support the most.

Much of the focus of the policy is on school principals. However, the research evidence demonstrates that the most important work takes place in the classroom. It is possible that these policies will offer some top-down skills that will help improve student learning in the classroom further. How widespread that effect will be remains to be seen.

Nevertheless, this is rather a banker’s solution – providing additional top-down expertise, and very highly paid at that, rather than a workforce development approach. As such, its success is not assured.

Much will depend on the quality and focus of the so-called experts. Another problem that comes to mind is location. Many of the schools that need a lot of support are not close to other schools where some of these experts will be based. And how much of the additional funding will simply find its way to the large, affluent urban schools that already post high achievement results?

What is a failing school and where will the Change Principals be deployed? The link between socio-economic factors, cultural factors and schooling outcomes are highly embedded and resistant to change. And what is it that the Change Principals are expected to change? The notion that one person can single-handedly overcome the power of social forces, social inequalities and community deprivation is a bit of a fairy tale.

QPEC strongly encourages co-operation and collaboration within and across schools. But we are concerned that so-called Executive Principals are expected to make a real difference in up to ten schools working only two days a week on this task. Who are these gurus, these exceptional people? Has To Sir with Love come to life in NZ’s education policy? Is this reasonable?

Any policy that values teacher skills and supports the development of their roles is heading in the right direction. But QPEC would prefer bottom up policies to trickle down ones.

We are sceptical of this policy but it may do some good work in practice. If so, it will largely be due to the dedication and determination of educational professionals on the ground.”

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