Every now and then someone will confront me with the accusation that I am against change, innovation and new ideas in education. They have the impression that anyone fighting some changes must be against them all.
Innovation in the classroom is one of the most exciting things about education. There’s nothing better than the freedom to teach to children’s interests and teachers’ strengths, and make learning engaging and exciting as well as relevant. Plenty of public schools are doing this.
Oddly, it didn’t seem innovation and quality learning was much of a consideration for government when they wanted to cut technology classes and had to back down. Maybe ask them what their problem is?
Roll Over, Rover?
People also ask, why don’t I just get on with supporting charter schools now they are here anyway?
Well, to say that once something is in place, one should support it whether it is right or wrong is an odd argument to say the least. Look to history at the many wrongs that have been overturned.
Rolling over is the easier path, I grant you that. I have given well over a year of my life to researching, reading and learning about charters and other reform measures. It’s taken a significant amount of my time. Ignoring it all would have been easier – and at times I have been sorely tempted.
But our education system needs people fighting its corner. And nothing I have found makes me believe charters are anything more than a cover story for privatising the public system.
The very existence of charter schools in NZ is part of a slippery slope of creeping change that is for the worse.
And it’s the same problem with National Standards.
The Tail Wagging the Dog
A child’s reading level or numeracy level, and how they are doing at writing, should certainly be tested and checked, yes. It should all be done regularly and in the classroom by the teacher, shared with others in the school and considered for where to guide the child next and how, so that feedback is fast and to the point, and the child is moved on in a positive way.
Testing in the classroom with timely feedback to students so they know where they are and what goals are next – that is what is needed and what happens. Not league tables. Isn’t the aim for students to learn?
Well, if you are a child, a parent or a teacher that’s the goal – Maybe not so much if you are a politician.
The truth is, National Standards are there to be used as a political bullying stick to ‘prove’ other measures are needed. This has been the pattern repeatedly overseas; Imply there is a big problem so that changes can be justified.
The Teachers Council is being reviewed and changed. PaCT assessment tool with its many underlying worries, is being brought in. Teacher training can now be done in just a few weeks over the summer holidays.
And all of this leads to creeping changes throughout the system, slowly morphing it into a different beast, until one day you look back and think “How the hell did it get to this?”
Watch Out For The Quiet Ones – They Bite The Hardest
Anyone doubting the sneaky and underhand way changes are being pushed through need only look at treasury’s own advice to Education Minister, Hekia Parata in Quiet change – a Treasury guide:
“Overseas experience in education reform suggests focusing on communicating a positively framed ‘crucial few’ at any one time … while making smaller incremental changes in a less high profile manner across a range of fronts”.
“More harder-edged changes could be pursued in parallel, incrementally and without significant profile.”
Treasury asking Bill English to ask Hekia Parata to scale things back and do things less publicly does not mean she is being asked to do them better, oh no.
Rather, she is being asked to do them more sneakily.
Ask yourself: If these and other changes are for the better, if they are honest, if they are based on sound research and best practice, then why the sneaky dog attack?
No animals were hurt in the making of this post.
Beware the global education reform movement (GERM)
There have been some sterling additions to the education poetry slam, and I thought they deserved a post of their own rather than languishing as the great (often) unread in the comments section 🙂 So here you go..
Assess the mundane
Spend hours on data entry
Where has the joy gone?
Key is not the key
to Kiwi education
He’s the harbinger!
Don’t matter’- too to kore
They do to our kids!!!
by PPTA Professional on Twitter
National Government education reforms
Are now NZ’ s national standards norms
The sector doesn’t need this accountability
Because teachers know what they can see!
Overall teacher judgments no longer enough
Instead we have this computer PaC tool stuff
What about the review of the Teachers’ Council
But that’s not the end, there’s Charter Schools, still!
And now for Mr Boon’s masterpiece rewriting of The Sneetches, I give you The Teachers:
Now the Star-rated teachers had contracts with stars.
The Plain-rated teachers had none upon thars.
The stars weren’t so big; they were really quite small.
You would think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.
But because they had stars, all the Star-rated teachers
would brag, “We’re the best kind of teach who can teaches.”
With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort,
“We’ll have nothing to do with the plain-rated sort.”
And whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
they’d saunter right past them without even talking.
When the Star-rated teachers went along to PD,
could the Plain-rated get in the game? Oh not thee!
You could only attend if your contract had stars,
and the Plain-rated teachers had none upon thars.
When the Star-rated teachers had after-work drinks,
or meetings or cuppas or pedogogical thinks,
they never invited the Plain-rated teachers.
Left them out cold in the dark near the bleachers.
Kept them away; never let them come near,
and that’s how they treated them year after year.
Then one day, it seems, while the Plain-rated teachers
were moping and doping alone on the bleachers,
sitting there, wishing their contracts had stars,
a stranger zipped up in the strangest of cars.
“My friends, ” he announced in a voice clear and free,
“My name is Bill Gates Murdoch Koch Michelle Rhee.
I’ve heard of your troubles; I’ve heard you’re unhappy.
But I can fix that; I’m the fix-it-up chappie.
I’ve come here to help you; I have what you need.
My prices are low, and I work with great speed,
and my work is one hundred per cent guaranteed.”
Read the rest of this gem here. You should also follow his blog – Boonman doesn’t post often, but when it does it is well worth reading.
Right, after all that poetry you are surely feeling inspired, so do feel free to add your own masterpieces in the comments below or as send as an email (sosmail.gmail.com) or Tweet and I will do a post showcasing the new additions.
I will leave you with my own offering:
it doesn’t matter
Or covered in sores
your tummy is growling
you’re cold to your core
You’ve no comics or books
and no-one to read with
and no-one has time
– who can you plead with?
we want to inspire you
to celebrate your skills
develop your talents
and show them you will
astound with your writing
amaze with your art
code something awesome
show that you’re smart
okay, you can’t focus
or think school’s a joke
or think it’s all pointless
because you’re all broke
even when you don’t know
what’s coming next
you’re meant to succeed
to be a success
below the standard
we’ll take the blame
because Hekia says
your chance is the same
If tests don’t solve those problems for adults, why do reformers think they’ll solve things for children?
Ever wondered what on earth all those phrases, terms and acronyms in education mean? Who knows their PaCT from their aSStle, their Data Drive Assessment from their GERM? And just what is Quality Teaching?
I found this fantastic post that makes at least some of it clear.
Below is just a wee sample – pop over to the blog to see the rest. They are very funny, in an I-laugh-but-I-wanna-cry kind of way.
Assessment (noun): A test made by a corporation and protected from peer review and public scrutiny by intellectual property laws and strict confidentiality agreements.
Data Driven Assessment (noun): A test made by a corporation and protected from peer review by intellectual property laws and strict confidentiality agreements whose purpose is to provide numbers too complicated and nuanced for the general public to understand, but vague enough that they can be molded into a variety of purposes as the need for “data” to support reforms arises.
Reformer (noun): A person who really wants to win an election or get paid by somebody who won an election.
Value-Added Score (noun): The application of a scientific, statistical model designed for predicting outcomes to assessment scores. A model allows constants to become variables and vice versa. When applied in real time, in real life, with attached consequences for the resulting data, this becomes a synonym for “self-fulfilling prophesy.”
My addition is this:
National Standards (noun, pl.): fuzzy benchmarks pertaining to nothing in particular but which allow students, schools and teachers to be judged as failing, okay or adequate depending on how near the country is to an election.
We really need some for New Zealand edu-speak, I think.
Maybe you could suggest more in the comments below?
Write a haiku or other style of poem to reflect your views on education reforms in NZ or globally.
Share them below in the comments or email them to me at SOSNZmail@gmail.com
If you are feeling super creative, feel free to make a video of you performing your piece, and I will upload them.
7.7.13 STOP PRESS UPDATE: There are some great poems already entered – see them in the comments below – and don’t miss the SUPERB entry by Mr Boon.
Here are two crackers to get you started…
Hekia, so smug
You have no understanding
by Alison K
and What Teacher Make, by Taylor Mali (Badass ex Teacher)
Add your poems to the comments below…
Now go, create.
this is for every teacher who
refuses to be blamed
for the failure of our society
to erase poverty and inequality
and refuses to accept
assessments, tests and evaluations
imposed by those
for real teaching and learning
A strong coalition of principal and teacher leaders have rejected the Government’s decision to make a computerised National Standards assessment tool, PaCT, compulsory for every primary school student in 2015.
Cease and desist
The NZ Principals’ Federation, NZEI Te Riu Roa, the NZ Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools, and the Catholic Principals Association have called on school boards, their colleagues and the organisations developing the ‘Progress and Consistency Tool’ (PaCT) to cease any involvement in the further development of PaCT, including this year’s trials of the tool.
The Government plans to make the PaCT mandatory from 2015, claiming it will make National Standards data more reliable. This is rejected by many.
The PaCT asks teachers to judge students’ National Standards levels by working through tick boxes of illustrations representative of achievement outcomes.
The PaCT tool then generates a result for each student. Principals and teachers say making the tool mandatory will undermine teacher professionalism, reduce quality teaching for students and cement in a reliance on data from National Standards.
Introducing National Testing by the back door
‘Making PaCT compulsory will be no different from having a national test with all the negative connotations that implies. Most dangerously it assumes that every child is the same, learns the same way and can achieve the same results. Every parent knows that is a ridiculous assumption,’ say the leaders.
No Evidence Supporting Performance Pay
It also opens the floodgates for other initiatives like competitive performance pay for teachers. There is no research evidence to show that when teachers receive performance pay it helps students learn better.
Quality Education into the future
Sir Ken Robinson has spoken out about the reforms (deforms) sweeping education, pointing out that children are organic and individual, not robots to be programmed. He argues that this type of reform is taking us in the polar opposite direction of what is needed for a world-class education system that moves us into the future. You can watch one of his very amusing and informative talks here:
Sound Education Policies not Political Sideshows
‘We want our teachers focused on delivering the broad rich curriculum which keeps Kiwi kids amongst the highest achievers in a twenty-first century world. Parents don’t want them distracted by these political side-shows which follow an agenda that will never improve children’s learning or achievement but rather reduce children to “sets of data”,’ the leaders say, asserting that:
‘For the parents and children of New Zealand, we have a moral obligation to ensure nothing, including PaCT, threatens the delivery of the world class NZ Curriculum, or interferes with our children’s ability to remain in the top international achievement rankings’
How many good educators are we losing all over the world each week due to the GERM (Global Education Reform Movement)? This one in NZ? This one in the USA? Or this bunch in the UK? Or these twelve in Iberia?
Because judging students just on their scores, or weighting the scores so heavily that the students feel they are judged as people by them, is not a way to educate and grow good people. Students should be and are tested throughout schooling, but it should be done to personalise their learning, with fast turnout and feedback, and about growth not about a line in the sand that is called The Standard.
And what about all of the factors that impinge on student learning? How come they get so little air time from the people demanding reforms left, right and centre and insisting they only care about the kids? Forgive my cynicism, but could it just be that there is no money to be made in solving those problems but heaps to be made in selling educational materials to panicked parents?
It is a sick world we live in where we blame teachers for the ills in our societies and don’t look at the root causes of poverty, ill health, poor homes and hopelessness that factor large for those not achieving all they otherwise might.
Poverty does not automatically mean poorer achievement, but usually it does. The OECD reported that “education experiences remain strongly associated with social disadvantage. In many countries there are large numbers of people with very low education levels whose family origins were impoverished and characterised by disadvantage. Whilst education can break such intergenerational cycles of disadvantage, it can also act to reinforce them: for example, if education policy is not designed with egalitarian notions in mind.” Source (page 7).
That is the disgrace and shame of all so-called first world countries, and that is the reality many countries are facing right now, including in New Zealand.
Is that truly the country you want? If it is, then GERM is your friend- let it run rampant and do its business all over our education system.
But if you want better for our country as a whole, then you need to say “No more”.
No to rampant global reforms in education that are far more about $$$ than they ever were about learning or improving.
Let’s get back to research-based, well-thought-out improvements for all schools that truly are about raising achievement for all.
I am your child’s teacher. My role as educator extends far beyond the walls of my classroom. It is my profession, what I practice.
I ask you this:
My life’s work. The countless hours I spend with your child presenting new material, creating on-going formative assessments that are authentic and based on your student’s individual needs at a given moment in time, the active learning and knowledge-construction happening in my classroom on a daily basis, the time I spend creating lessons which require students to build upon and re-evaluate prior knowledge and the work that reflects the relationship that I have worked diligently to foster with your student: is it worth putting all of this hard-won expertise on the back-burner so that someone can divert money intended for your child?
The person your child is and how he/she learns and grows cannot be gauged by an answer bubbled onto a sheet of paper. Your student deserves my full expertise, not a narrowed curriculum and hours devoted to my teaching to the test. My colleagues and I deserve to be freed from the negative impact that the calculated teacher-bashing and union-bashing is having on our profession…because it is calculated, and by this point I don’t think I need to tell you by whom.
So please, educate yourself. Have a voice in this issue….”
or better still, watch the video and hear Christine read her letter…
She says what so many, many of us are thinking.
“Hi! It’s me! Yeah, that teacher who got way too much press just for quitting his job.
What kind of world do we live in where a teacher leaves and is celebrated by his colleagues and several dozen parents for just up and leaving?
Well, we live in a world where teachers don’t really fit in any more. You see, there’s a cohort of three groups of wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing (and school-bus-yellow superhero capes) that have decided that they know better than teachers how kids learn.
In fact, they’re very good at spreading the idea that teachers are to blame for failing schools, teachers get paid too much, teachers have pensions that are crashing the economy, and teachers like to get a little too friendly with their students. Oh, and they tend to just up and leave when the heat of standardized test pressure gets too high (I was actually accused of that).
But let me tell you the truth….”
Krazy TA asks a relevant question: Do reformers put their own children in no-excuses schools?
The charterites/privatizers have toned it down a bit, but remember the electrifying mantra “we want to give poor kids the same education that rich kids get”? [chant in alternating patterns with “poverty is not destiny.”]
All right then. Go to the websites of the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, Cranbrook, Harpeth Hall, Chicago Lab Schools, Sidwell Friends. If you don’t like my choices pick similar ones that suit your individual tastes. Read what they offer—I am not speaking rhetorically; I really mean go through all their offerings….
* read more – What Kind of Education Do “Reformers” Want for Their Kids?.
Kiwi voices get a global airing re. education reform…