Figures just released by the Ministry of Education show that only 59.7% of charter school leavers left with NCEA L2 or above in 2016. (School Leavers Stats.xlsx – Sheet1)
This compares to a system-wide figure of 80.3% across all schools within the system in 2016.
Looking more closely at specific groups, the system-level result for decile 3 schools was 74.3% and for Maori students, across all deciles, it was 66.5%.
The School Leavers metric is used as the performance standard in the charter school contracts. Former Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, made her intentions clear when she said:
“There is to be no compromise on the system level benchmarks”.
(Source: Hand-written comment from the Minister on a Ministry of Education paper, dated 24 May 2013)
The decile 3 system-level result for 2012 had been used as the baseline for the charter schools in their first year, i.e. 66.9% for the 2014 year. The contracts then set out a series of performance standards for subsequent years, culminating in the target of 85% of School Leavers attaining NCEA Level 2 or above by 2017. *
Worryingly, even this poor performance masks a weak set of results overall.
There were 124 School Leavers from charter schools in 2016 and this is the breakdown of the highest qualification they left school with:
Qualification # students % of total
Below Level 1 25 20.2%
Level 1 25 20.2%
Level 2 45 36.3%
Level 3 14 11.3%
UE 15 12.1%
Given the hype around charter schools, it is disappointing to see that 20.2% of students left school in 2016 without even attaining NCEA Level 1.
And at the top end, numbers above Level 2 fall away quite markedly:
As we await this year’s Ministry of Education evaluation of the charter schools, we are minded to note Hekia’s comment from 2013. Clearly, the New Zealand model of charter school is currently not achieving at anywhere near the system-level benchmarks that have been set for it.
~ Bill Courtney
* Note: There were no contract performance standards set above NCEA Level 2. The contracts for primary and middle schools are based on performance standards using National Standards for years 1 to 8.
For more information on charter schools, you may wish to read Charter School Report Card by Shawgi Tell
1. The introduction of charter schools is both a sop to the ACT Party, with their ideological desire to introduce a privatised, market based model of education, and a follow up to the Step Change Report produced in the term of the previous National Government. [Feb 2010]
2. However, there are significant differences between vouchers, the pure market model usually promoted by ACT, and charter schools, which is privatisation by way of contracting with private sector providers. Treasury calls this “Contracting for Outcomes”.
3. Treasury, in its advice to the Minister of Finance, noted that: “The evidence suggests that schooling systems that use strongly competitive elements such as vouchers, avoiding school zoning and ‘charter’ schools do not produce systematically better outcomes.” [July 2012]
4. “School Choice” is the phrase used in America to describe the market model. But New Zealand already has “arguably the most aggressive school choice system in the world” in the view of one overseas commentator. [Marc Tucker, Washington Post, October 2012]
5. NZCER surveys over the years consistently show that the vast majority of NZ parents already believe they send their children to the “school of their choice”. [NZCER]
6. Overseas evidence on charter school performance is inconclusive, at best. A wide range of individual school performance is evident but with little system-wide effect across the model as a whole. [CREDO and Hattie]
7. This purely quantitative analysis is then subject to further criticisms of many aspects of US charter school practices, including: student selection, including the effect of “self-selection” amongst parents; the proportions of English language Learners and special needs students; student attrition; school discipline and behaviour management practices; the apparent lack of backfilling, i.e. the tendency to not replace students as they leave; and the drive for what is commonly called “test prep”, in contrast to a genuine focus on the quality of education.
8. The promotional pack from the Authorisation Board boasts that the New Zealand charter school model represents “Freedom from constraints imposed on regular state schools in exchange for rigorous accountability for performance against agreed objectives.”
9. It then identifies the following factors, but without any evidence that these are likely to lead to higher student achievement: Cashed-up per student funding; school day & year; school organisation; curriculum; teacher pay / teaching practice; privately provided / secular or faith based. [PSKH Authorisation Board, 2016]
10. The argument that “freedom” will encourage/facilitate “innovation” is weak. It is not supported by overseas evidence [Lubienski 2003] and one US charter school industry’s overview even conceded that “… most charters do not employ particularly innovative instructional approaches”. [Bellwether 2015]
11. The combined roll of the 10 schools now in operation was 1,257 as at 1 March 2017, an average of about 125 students per school. The combined Maximum Roll across the 10 schools is 2,112 students. [MoE Schools Directory, April 2017]
12. The original funding model has already been changed, as it soon became clear how much operational funding these schools were receiving compared to their local state schools. Small schools are expensive and the government was fully funding the First and Second Round schools with no Sponsor capital input required.
13. Even in their 4th year of operation, the two largest First Round charter secondary schools are receiving cash funding of over $14,000 per student, compared to a system-wide weighted average for all schools, including property, of $7,046.11. [2015 system data]
14. The Third Round funding model now uses an approach more oriented to funding the student than funding the school, as the roll grows. But the government still provides the property and insurance funding for what is essentially a private sector organisation.
15. Cabinet was told: “A strong evaluation programme will be put in place that thoroughly examines the impact and effectiveness of the first such schools. This will enable us to make informed decisions about whether or not to open further such schools in the future.”
16. This promise has not been carried out. The roll-out of the model has proceeded well ahead of the release of any evaluation. At the time of writing, the Third Round schools have opened this year and applications are being processed for the Fourth and Fifth Rounds!
17. The first two reports from the Martin Jenkins Evaluation Programme are weak and do not rigorously examine school performance or the impact these schools have had. The Evaluation has also completely ignored the failure of the First Round school at Whangaruru.
18. Student achievement outcomes to date have been mixed but difficult to analyse thoroughly given the delays in the Ministry releasing accurate information.
19. By May 2017, the Minister has still not announced her decision on the release of the performance based funding for the 2015 school year! No operational reports for the entire 2016 year have yet been released, along with supporting documentation such as contract variations and Ministry advice to the Minister.
20. There was a major problem with the interpretation of the original secondary schools’ contract performance standard, which is “School Leavers” and not NCEA pass rates. This resulted in incorrect reporting of the true state of the 2014 and 2015 secondary performance. [MoE advice to the Minister, July 2016, obtained under the OIA]
21. Superficially high NCEA pass rates are published by Vanguard Military School but NZQA data obtained under the Official Information Act (OIA) reveals issues around the quality of the credits gained, the high proportion of unit versus achievement standards entered and large differences between internal and external pass rates. [NZQA]
22. Primary and middle schools assessed against National Standards have not performed well. In the 2015 year, only one school out of five – the Rise Up Academy – met its NS student achievement standard targets. [MoE initial analysis, 30 May 2016]
23. Some schools, including Vanguard and the two Villa middle schools, have failed to meet their Student Engagement contract standards relating to stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions. This is of concern, given the US charter school practices noted above.
24. Charter schools are not more accountable than public schools, simply because they operate under a contract. Whangaruru was not closed for failure to achieve contract standards; it was dysfunctional from the start.
25. Public school accountability includes parent-elected Boards of Trustees, which must hold open meetings, maintain open records and be subject to the Official Information Act. Board finances are subject to audit under the supervision of the Auditor-General.
26. No such requirements apply to charter schools, which are organised under a commercial contract between the government and the private sector Sponsor.
27. Public funding must go hand in hand with public accountability. State and State-Integrated schools both abide by this principle but charter schools do not.
The Education Amendment Bill proposes changes to the way Education is provided in New Zealand, and one of those changes is the establishment of COOLs (Communities of Online Learning).
Proponents say COOLs will open the door to more education opportunities, but have yet to explain how or why they believe it will lead to an improvement for students.
You can see me here, along with Megan Woods, Peter Dunne, Ron Mark, and Paul Foster Bell, discussing the issues on Back Benches recently:
I’m all for using technology to advance learning, but just doing a course on a computer does not make it quality learning – even the OECD agrees, saying that “education systems which have invested heavily in information and communications technology have seen “no noticeable improvement” in Pisa test results for reading, mathematics or science”.
Students having quality support readily available is incredibly important. I know this first hand, having worked for a while now with students learning via Te Kura Correspondence School, that a qualified teacher is still very much in need. Students need regular guidance, help and support. Often a student will be floundering but will not ask for help, and it is down to the teacher to be monitoring and be responsive to the student’s needs. And, as you can well imagine, some students need a fair bit of nudging to stay on task.
We must remember each time the Minister promotes COOLs, that online learning can just as easily be accessed in a school, in a physical classroom, and with a physical qualified teacher on hand for support and guidance. We need to ask, w why the push to make more learning remote? The Minister has not explained the rationale for this at all.
What the Minister is proposing is actually an extension to (and perhaps you might say a distortion of) homeschooling. I want to be clear before I go on – I fully support quality homeschooling – that is not the issue here. The issue is how learning is done, how it is delivered, and why this change is being pushed. People should sit up and listen when even home schooling networks have serious questions.
Concerns I’ve heard raised so far include:
When even home schooling networks are expressing concern about COOLs, people should listen; remember, they are the experts in understanding what is needed for a quality home-based education.
At the bottom of it all, one can’t help wondering this fundamental mystery of the fact that home-schoolers have been given little support or funding for years, but suddenly the Minister thinks learning at home is the bee’s knees. Could it be it’s only of interest to said Minister when it involves privatisation of another part of the education system?
~ Dianne Khan, SOSNZ
This is the second in a series of postings following up an op-ed written by Don Brash published in the NZ Herald.
Our first response discussed what motives might lay behind what we feel is a concerted PR push by Villa Education Trust, the Sponsor of South Auckland Middle School.
In this piece we will look at the statement made in the op-ed about funding, as this remains one of the real sticking points about the early charter schools.
Ah yes, critics argue, but partnership schools get a lot more money from the taxpayer than other schools do. Absolute nonsense.
Sorry, Dr Brash, but charter schools do get more OPERATIONAL FUNDING than the local schools get. Especially when their funding is compared to the larger schools in South Auckland, where SAMS is located.
In a nutshell, SAMS received total operational funding of approx. $12,800 per student in 2015 compared to Manurewa Intermediate (the intermediate school used in the article) which received approx. $5,600 per student.
To understand how this large discrepancy arises, we need to look at the original charter school funding model. The single biggest policy mistake it made was to try and work out the equivalent funding that a stand alone State school of the same size and type might receive.
But, in practice, the charter schools are being created in places like South Auckland where there are larger, more established schools that receive much lower average per student funding. This means that the larger schools could not possibly recreate the conditions such as class sizes of 15 that the smaller charter schools can.
One recent story on Radio NZ described the pressure on some South Auckland schools that saw many of them using their libraries and halls as teaching spaces. One school had plans to start teaching next year in the staffroom!
So, is it any wonder that when given the option of class sizes of 15, free uniforms and free stationery, that parents may be choosing the charter school?
Let’s look briefly at the original charter school funding model, noting that this model has already been changed for the third round schools that have just been announced.
The original model had two essentially fixed components per school: Base Funding and Property & Insurance. The property component is fixed for the first 3 years (unless the school changes size or teaching year levels) and the base funding component varies by type of school (secondary, middle or primary) and is indexed each year.
Variable Funding comes in two parts: a Per Student Grant and Centrally Funded Services. The two variable components are then multiplied by the number of students on the roll or the Guaranteed Minimum Roll (“GMR”) whichever is the greater. So, if the actual school roll is less than the GMR, the Sponsor gets paid for at least the GMR number of students.
In 2015, SAMS operated at its Maximum Roll, which was originally 120 students.
So, putting all the components together the SAMS financial statements show revenue from Government Grants of $1,536,016, or an average government funding figure of approx. $12,800 per student, in 2015.
So let’s walk through the SAMS financial statements for 2015 and see what Villa does with its $1.5 million of funding.
First, it pays the rent, which is $150,000 per annum. If we are generous, and include all Property expenses, including utilities, we find these amounted to $194,776 in the 2015 financial statements.
This would then leave a total of $1,341,240, or $11,177 per student after we have acquired and maintained the school premises.
What do we do next? We would look to hire the teachers necessary to deliver on the 1:15 class size ratio.
For a school of 120 students, we would need 8 teachers, at a round number cost of $75,000 per annum each. That should cost us approx. $600,000 and we find that teacher salaries in the 2015 SAMS accounts came out at pretty much that amount: $584,883. Add in the other curriculum related costs, such as classroom resources – including those free school uniforms and stationery – and total Learning Resources amounted to $869,846.
That leaves us with $471,394 to pay for the administration of a 120 student school.
Plenty of money to pay for a full-time Community Liaison Manager – nice if you can afford it – pay for all the office and other admin costs and allow for depreciation and you spend a total of $263,906.
And what does that leave room for?
That’s right: the Management Fee payable to the Sponsor of $140,000. That’s the cost of hiring a full-time principal at a much larger school!
For comparison, let’s see how Manurewa Intermediate is getting on.
The Find A School application on the Education Counts website has summary financial information for State and State-Integrated schools.
In 2015 Find A School showed Manurewa Intermediate’s Staffing Entitlement figure was $2,510,958 and its Operations Grant figure was shown as $1,431,808. So, let’s cash this all up and make an OPERATIONAL FUNDING total of $3,942,766.
But straight away we have a problem. Manurewa Intermediate has 704 students. So we start our comparison with average per student government funding of only $5,600 per student.
Its property is owned by the Crown, so it doesn’t pay rent in cash. So we can skip straight to the teacher costs.
To engineer class sizes of 15, we would need to buy 47 teachers. At a cost of $75,000 each we would need $3,525,000.
That would leave us with only $417,766 or $593 per student to pay for everything else necessary to run a school of 704 students which is nearly 6 times the size of SAMS!
Out of that amount, we would need to pay for all classroom and curriculum resources, all the non-teaching staff, all the administration costs, the utilities and property maintenance costs and the depreciation to cover the replacement of all the furniture, equipment and ICT resources.
Hopefully you can see from this comparison that it would be virtually impossible for Manurewa Intermediate to have class sizes of 15 with the level of government operational funding it receives.
You could also arrive at the same conclusion with a simple rule of thumb calculation.
Based on a teacher cost of $75,000, in a class size of 15 each student needs to contribute $5,000 to pay for their teacher. SAMS had $11,177 after paying for the premises; Manurewa Intermediate started with $5,600.
In summary, what readers interested in understanding charter schools funding need to appreciate is the significant influence of the fixed cost components of their funding model.
Even at its initial maximum roll of 120, the fixed components of SAMS’ funding comprise 57% of its total funding: base funding was $578,021 and the property component was $303,681. That is why the charter schools are proving to be more expensive than their local counterparts: they are small schools with high fixed cost funding.
But they are being compared to larger, longer established schools where the fixed costs are spread over a much greater number of students.
This is what economists call economies of scale.
It is a major reason why direct comparisons between schools with significantly different funding streams should be treated with real caution.
Research shows that the effects of smaller class sizes are positive and of real help, especially when dealing with students who need more intensive support.
Smaller class sizes are an expensive policy to engineer; but wouldn’t it be great to see class sizes of 15 in all our low decile schools, not just those favoured by the flawed charter school funding model.
~ Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ
Our government is getting ready to sign the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) which is a trade agreement with America and ten other Pacific countries that could endanger our Public school system.
This agreement is likely to further commercialise New Zealand’s education system and restrict the rights of future governments to regulate the quality and provision of education.
Tim Groser has admitted in parliament that any agreement will include clauses that allow corporations to sue our government if our laws stand in the way of their trade.
The education market is worth billions to huge international corporations driven only by profits and dividends – not by educational excellence.
Our choices about our children’s schooling could be influenced by countries that are not doing nearly as well as us. The quality of public education in New Zealand is in danger
Please, take action. Email or write to Trade Minister Tim Groser and Prime Minster John Key to seek their assurance that any trade agreement they sign will not limit future governments to regulate the quality of Public Education In New Zealand.
Thank you, Dianne Khan
Save Our Schools NZ is going from strength to strength, with 3000 followers on Facebook and 1275 on Twitter as of today. People care deeply about education and many are concerned about the reform movement’s inroads into quality public education here and abroad.
With this in mind, I am going to open up the SOSNZ blog to other regular and guest writers, reconfiguring it so regular contributors get their own tab.
Contributors can be teachers, support staff, whanau, professors, MPs and other interested parties, in NZ or abroad. All those whose educational philosophy is in line the SOSNZ ethos are very welcome – indeed, encouraged – to put their hand up.
The plan is to make the SOSNZ blog a more central point for educators and interested parties to share views and research, attracting a larger readership and leading to even wider interest in and debate around educational issues.
To everyone who has contributed so far, particularly the Facebook admins, Melanie, Lena and Nova, Martin Thrupp and Bill Courtney, thank you for helping make SOSNZ what it is and for raising awareness.
If you are interested in putting yourself forward as a contributor (regular or sporadic) or want to know more, please message me via the Facebook page or via DM on Twitter or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter O’Connor, Associate professor at Auckland University’s Faculty of Education, says schools have been a key part in holding together small communities since the earthquakes, and their closure is likely to have a negative impact on those communities. Principals, teachers, parents and other education experts agree.
Ouruhia Model School principal Mark Ashmore-Smith says they plan to fight the decision to close their small school.
Emma Goodin says the school has been a place of normality and stability for her three children since losing their home in the quake. “I can’t believe for all that, for all I’ve been through in the last two years, they would pick a moment like this just to kick me when I thought that I was as down as I could go,” she says. (source)
Cantabrians are not going to give in without a fight, though. Already there are protests, petitions, support pages on social media all up and running, and there are a number of rallies planned. A protest has been organised is being held on Wednesday at 5.30pm at the Bridge of Remembrance.
I will keep you abreast of events as the unfurl, and please do let me know of any events, petitions etc that I have missed.
Kia Kaha, Christchurch.
Now, go lend your support to Christchurch and those schools fighting back – every word of support means a lot:
Sources and further reading:
Why not follow SOSNZ on Twitter too?
There will be unique stuff there that won’t be on the blog or Facebook, simple because it lends itself to sharing lots of links without being spammy, such is the intrinsic nature of Twitter.
And if you know of anyone you think I should be following on there or the blogosphere, do let me know…
Thank you guys 🙂