Make no mistake, education worldwide is under an attack such as it has never seen before. Country after country fights the same battles, one after the other, with weary troops that are clearly disadvantaged when it comes to fire-power, funds, armour and propaganda.
Those with all the power do not fight fair. They control the media, they set the laws, they have their Quangos and lobby groups, they have access to the money, and they are not afraid to bend the truth or just plain lie.
How can teachers fight against that?
Well, we can, we must, and we are.
Worldwide, we are standing together and sharing our stories. We are spotting common modes of attack, we are helping each other unravel the double-speak thrown at teachers and parents alike so we recognise the lies for what they are.
And we are joining forces. Together, hand in hand, side by side, shoulder to shoulder across the planet we are saying stop the onslaught and respect public education.
Not one of these people thinks the system is perfect. Not one things it should be left as it is. But all know that the pressure to change is being used to push for changes that will not only fail to solve the underlying issues, but will make things worse. We don’t want the status quo and we sure as hell don’t want things to decline, so we speak out.
We need a call sign – those of us that are fighting the global education reform movement (GERM). We need a worldwide tag that is ours. My thought is #OneVoice – but I know you can think of something better – something catchier – something that speaks to education and is easy to remember. I am depending on you to find the right hashtag for us to attach to our posts, to let the enemy know we are organising and we are ready to stand up for education – so please share your ideas.
Meanwhile – as we keep up the pressure to put students first, to acknowledge that poverty has a significant impact on educational achievement and needs addressing, to respect trained teachers and include them in policy planning, to stop the relentless surge of testing and data collection – link up with fellow educators at home and abroad.
Together we are stronger – hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder we stand.
Educators who are fighting for change and who are worth following (please feel free to add your own details to the comments section):
@BadassTeachersA (worldwide but mainly USA)
Public education all over the world is under attack from corporate entities that wish to turn our schools into profit-making centres for their own benefit.
On January 9th and 10th 2015, let’s raise our voices together. Join parents and educators worldwide in this thunderclap to say with One Voice:
NO to the global education reform movement (GERM)
Your choice – actively work to change the direction of these reforms or accept that you are as much to blame as the reformers.
This from HuffingtonPost:
As I watch the education “debate” … I wonder if we have simply lost our minds.
In the cacophony of reform chatter — online programs, charter schools … testing, more testing, accountability … value-added assessments, blaming teachers … blaming unions, blaming parents — one can barely hear the children crying out: “Pay attention to us!”
None of the things on the partial list above will have the slightest effect on the so-called achievement gap or the supposed decline in [our] international education rankings. Every bit of education reform — every think tank remedy proposed by wet-behind-the-ears MBAs, every piece of legislation, every one of these things — is an excuse to continue the unconscionable neglect of our children.
As Pogo wisely noted, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” We did this to our children and our schools.
We did this by choosing to see schools as instructional factories, beginning in the early 20th century.
We did this by swallowing the obscene notion that schools and colleges are businesses and children are consumers.
We did this by believing in the infallibility of free enterprise, by pretending [our country] is a meritocracy, and by ignoring the pernicious effects of unrelenting racism.
We did this by believing that children are widgets and economy of scale is both possible and desirable.
We did this by acting as though reality and the digital representation of reality are the same thing.
We did this by demeaning the teaching profession.
We did this by allowing poverty and despair to shatter families.
We did this by blaming these families for the poverty and despair we inflicted on them.
We did this by allowing school buildings to deteriorate, by removing the most enlivening parts of the school day, by feeding our children junk food.
We did this by failing to properly fund schools…
We did this by handcuffing teachers with idiotic policies, constant test preparation and professional insecurity.
[The] children need our attention, not Pearson’s lousy tests or charter schools’ colorful banners and cute little uniforms that make kids look like management trainees.
[Our] teachers need our support, our admiration, and the freedom to teach and love children.
The truth is that our children need our attention, not political platitudes and more TED talks.
Read the rest of the article here.
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?
This Bill replaces the Teachers Council with EDUCANZ, and it is imperative you understand what changes that will usher in.
It is even more important that you send in a submission if you oppose those changes.
Thinking others will deal with it is as good as agreeing to the changes: If you think the changes are wrong, then you really do have to have your say.
Write and register your own submission here (the link is at the bottom of that page).
Do you want teachers’ professional body to be led by government appointees, have your voice silenced, have your professional status undermined, be replaced by cheap untrained labour, have LATs with criminal convictions in the classroom, and then pay for the privilege of all that?
If the answer is NO, then please make a submission.
A petition has been started protesting the government’s fast-tracking of a policy that will see $359 million spent on changing the management structure of our education system in New Zealand without proper sector and parent consultation.
The petition is not an SOSNZ initiative, but I fully support it.
The Government is fast-tracking an initiative that will see $359 million spent on changing the management structure of our education system in New Zealand.
It would be a shame if this was lost because of an initiative that is pushed through without prior consultation with those who will be directly affected.
Why not consult teachers and principals who know what is most needed to support children’s learning, as to what they believe will be the best use of this money?
Why is the voice of parents and Boards of Trustees not being heard about what their schools need to ensure all children get a chance to succeed?
“While acknowledging the commitment in making New Zealand’s education system second to none, pumping $359 million into schools without transparency and meaningful engagement with the sector is throwing the money away. We urgently ask that the government first lift its constraints already placed around the funding and secondly, consider without prejudice, the overwhelming evidence around what can best be done to support our children and ultimately our society as a whole…
Rather than inject a large single resource at the top via salaries, we say give the money to the kids as early as possible in a real effort to effect long term change that will benefit children, families, and society as a whole.” (whole letter here)
Your signature is valued and much appreciated to raise our voice, so that we can have a say in how our schools are managed.
We wish to add our voices to the growing number of New Zealand’s principals expressing concern over the government’s direction, implementation and timeframe of its Investing in Education Success initiative.
While acknowledging the commitment in making New Zealand’s education system second to none, pumping $359 million into schools without transparency and meaningful engagement with the sector is throwing the money away. We urgently ask that the government first lift its constraints already placed around the funding and secondly, consider without prejudice, the overwhelming evidence around what can best be done to support our children and ultimately our society as a whole.
New Zealand evidence based research provides a clear pathway for governments to follow if they are to effect real change for our children, particularly the ones who comprise the tail. The first three years of a child’s life clearly determines future outcomes for that child and ultimately our nation. Research shows clearly that poor patterns of behaviour, disconnectedness, failure to provide for adequate bonding, limited economic involvement etc., all have an effect on a child’s potential and achievement at school. Targeting resources to developing consistent, sustainable support for our children from birth to three years old will be a better spend than on the leadership proposals of the government. If positive patterns are not supported in these early years then the negative patterns are set for the future.
While the support for schools and the education sector is welcomed, we urge the government to meaningfully and collaboratively engage with the education sector without the straightjacket, in order to determine where best that resource can be applied, to effect real change.
Democracy should not exclude or restrict those who are directly engaged in the delivery of service from informing decisions – decision-making needs to be inclusive and transparent. The government’s willingness to provide significant financial resources to lift achievement around supporting change should be the catalyst to engage with the profession to effect the best possible outcomes. Unfortunately the format for this expenditure has been set with deliberately minimal opportunity for input from the sector – consultation being an ‘added extra after the fact.’
Rather than inject a large single resource at the top via salaries, we say give the money to the kids as early as possible in a real effort to effect long term change that will benefit children, families, and society as a whole.
Kelvin Woodley – Principal, Tapawera Area School
Bruce Pagan – Principal, Kaikoura Primary School
Ernie Buutveld – Principal, Havelock School
Christian Couper – Principal Little River School
Peter King – Principal, Maruia School
For more information contact:
Kelvin Woodley – Principal Tapawera Area School
021 024 75147 or 03 522 4337
The site allows you to input your letter and details, tick the newspaper you want, and hit send. Easy.
The page allows you to search for MPs by party and name, and is easy to use.
– type your letter in a word processor, spell checker it, proof read a final time and then paste the text of your letter back over to the web page ready to send. (The web page doesn’t spell check your letter.)
– if you want to write to more than one newspaper and stand a good chance of being published, bear in mind that newspapers usually want exclusive letters (i.e. not the same letter sent to multiple newspapers). It pays to rewrite/re-edit your letter for each newspaper, so that you have more chance of them being published.
– speak to the issues not about the people involved.
Also, you may wish to:
– Share this page and encourage others to do their bit. No matter where you are in the debate, all voices are essential for a healthy discussion.
– Share your letter with others to inspire them
Thank you for doing your bit. Every voice counts.
Oh, and one more thing, please be sure to…
“They are developing policies not to benefit children but to benefit those who wish to invest heavily in a privatised education system.”
“Since the current National government slipped through a policy on charter schools as part of their deal with John Banks and the ACT Party, the education system in New Zealand has started to resemble a chaotic mess.
This chaotic mess was started not to benefit New Zealand children but to open the education system up to wholesale privatisation. It has nothing to do with education children or improving standards or anything of that nature. These current education policies are drawn directly from Neoliberal Education Policy 101. They are utterly ideological and utterly doomed.
Their policies are full of contradictions. On the one hand the government say teacher quality is the single most important contributor to student success yet they are allowing unqualified and unregistered teachers to front classes in charter schools….”
A brilliant letter to the editor by Boonman. Read the rest here: My submission to Stuff Nation.
Stuff today discuss the government’s education policies in this piece, asking why education it such a big issue and what needs to happen in education policy to get your vote? Stuff is asking for responses from you, the public.
Their questions are:
My response is here:
Sadly, the biggest issue in education at the moment is how demoralised teachers are having been faced with a barrage of changes and policies that are not about improving education for our students but are about leading public education system towards privatisation. The policies are done without consultation with the education sector and without the backing of good research. In fact, the research is usually in direct contradiction to the policies being implemented.
If we are to improve the educational standards of young Kiwis, we need to train our teachers to the highest standards and continue to offer them excellent professional development throughout their careers so that are experts in their fields. We need better funded and more targeted help for our neediest students, with teacher aides, resources and specialist help readily available. This helps all pupils in the end. We also need to take seriously the effects of poverty, which has a huge impact.
The education policies of this government are heinous. They claim to be doing these things for the students, but in truth the policies have little or nothing to do with that and are more about gearing the public education system up for privatisation, just as is happening in England and the USA. And we all know how badly that’s going…
“I think there are two ways in which people controlled. First of all frighten them, and secondly, demoralised.” Tony Benn
When I heard him say that, I actually started to cry.
This is exactly what is being done to our teachers (and others) and it breaks my heart.
The constant barrage of negative comments from Ministers, the changes to the education system, put there to erode decent working conditions and even our love for the job. Novopay – keeping enough teachers fearful of not being paid on time or at all that it demoralised whole rafts of them. Bring in untrained teachers – scare the trained ones into putting up with anything in the hope they keep their jobs when it all goes to pot later down the line.
It’s all control.
Goodbye and bless your heart, Tony Benn, for your inspiration and your integrity.
Are teachers just too worn out teaching to get into the battle to save public education?
Is there just so much being thrown at the sector right now that people don’t know what to tackle first?
Is it that people care but haven’t got the oomph?
Or do they just not care?
Are the unions doing enough to talk to us?
Should the unions’ leadership be doing more to lead us?
Maybe many teachers don’t understand what is going on, regarding world-wide education reforms (deforms)?
I really don’t know.
But I do know we have to galvanise and stand up for ourselves before it’s too late.
So what should we do?