Teacher Unions against achievement

February 3rd, 2010 at 5:04 pm by David Farrar

I blogged yesterday on ’s world beating achievement of topping the world two years in a row in the Cambridge International English exams. She was marked higher than 90,000 students from 100 countries.

What was really nice in the comments is that almost everyone put politics aside, and was genuinely pleased and admiring of such a wonderful achievement for a New Zealand student.

Now you would think the would also be pleased that a New Zealand secondary school student has done so well. But, instead this is what they twittered:

Government ministers show support for private businesses involved in education

with a link to the TV3 story on Maria and another story.

Isn’t that just such an appalling and small minded sneer. They don’t care at all about a student being top of the world. They just hate the fact she is at a private school, or took part in a private exam.

I think it is useful that the PPTA reminds us of what matters to teacher unions, because Colin Espiner has written a blog where he basically calls for the to have a veto over education policy on NZ.

But you can’t bulldoze your way through a sector as highly unionised as teaching without taking the unions with you. …

I’d be happy for the Government to explore the idea further, but only in conjunction with the actual practitioners in the classrooms. Ramming policy through in spite of their strenuous objections makes me uneasy. After all, this isn’t a fight over wages and conditions. Teachers’ objections are based on educational reasons, and while there may be some vested self-interest involved, I’m prepared to accept the NZEI has some valid concerns.

I don’t even know where to start. How about with an analogy. Would Colin advocate that the Government should not make any changes to economic policy unless Treasury agrees?

Should there be no change to telecommunications policy unless Telecom agrees?

As the PPTA shows, they are not concerned about educational outcomes. They are concerned about their members. Their objections are not based on education reasons. The NZEI President has said that if the Government removed school achievement data from the Official Information Act, their opposition to would disappear. This is a battle about league tables, or in other words freedom of information.

I would have thought if the Government was really serious about improving the quality of primary schools, it might be pumping money into cutting class sizes. Curiously, however, it’s done the opposite, and teacher/pupil ratios are increasing.

Colin must have missed the Hattle report which concluded that class size is not a major factor – it is the quality of the teacher.

Even putting the educational arguments aside, however, buying a fight with the teacher unions is bad politics. Key seems to think he can turn public opinion against the NZEI on this one but I think this is unlikely. Far better to take the union with him than try to bash it into submission.

Colin makes the mistake of thinking there is a choice. Unless the Government amends the OIA to restrict access to school achievement data, then the union will never ever back national standards. The call for trials is a red herring designed to delay.  I would bet several billion dollars that at the end of any trials the NZEI would declare that the standards can not be implemented.

It’s almost as if Key is tired of playing Mr Nice Guy and wants to show the steel behind the “relaxed” Prime Minister.

That’s his call, but I think he’s picked the wrong issue and the wrong target. The NZEI is a formidable foe.

Colin has it the wrong way around. It is not the Government picking a fight. A group of taxpayer funded staff are refusing to implement the legal requirements of the Government. They are the ones picking the fight.

Colin thinks the standards are abotu assessment, but for most schools there will be no change in assessment. They are about plain English reporting. Colin said:

Are national standards a good idea? I admit I’m not sure. As a parent, I would like more information about how my child’s doing. But I don’t need to see primary schools ranked in league tables. I accept that a school in Khandallah or Fendalton or Parnell is going to do better in such rankings than those in Naenae, or Aranui, or Penrose.

That says more about simple demography and socioeconomic status than it does about the quality of its teachers.

But I’ve yet to be convinced that introducing more assessment is going to somehow magically improve the quality of our school system, or make us better at maths.

Colin confuses league tables (that the Government has no intention of publishing – it is Colin’s fellow journalists who produce league tables) with national standards and reporting. And it is not about more assessment, it is about clear data.

There are two major benefits from the national standards – individual data and group data. Let me explain.

Parents will benefit from individual data. They will have a clear report card that informs them if their child is achieving at the minimum level necessary to be on track to leave school able to read and write and do maths. If their child is not performing to that level, it means they and the school can discuss what steps can be taken to try and lift the performance.

The Government’s election policy also made it clear that there will be additional resources dedicated to students not making the standards, so that they chances of improving are enhanced.

From 2012, the Government will also start collecting group data – by that I mean data on each school, and maybe even teacher. Not to publish league tables with, but to analyse. Now you may wonder what is the use of this data.

Well the Dim Post had a link to this article in The Atlantic about research into what makes a great teacher. They have collected masses of data on teachers and achievement to try and isolate the major factors. I highly recommend people read the entire article.

At present, there is no useful comparable data at primary school level. National standards will provide information which will allow comparisons to be done. I don’t mean comparisons between schools, but dozens or hundreds of variables can be analysed.

That is how you then raise educational standards. Not by giving a policy veto to unions that see it as a bad thing that a New Zealand student tops the world!

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80 Responses to “Teacher Unions against achievement”

  1. berend (1,705 comments) says:

    DPF: That is how [the government] then raise educational standards.

    Exactly. Government improves education by providing it. You can just plan a better world! The government makes us all healthier by its free health care. And we’re all rich thanks to government taxes.

    Hurray for socialist planning.

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  2. kiki (425 comments) says:

    Why won’t national just let us parents choose. Give us our money back so we can pick the schools and education we want.

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  3. Johnboy (16,084 comments) says:

    As I commented in a previous post if the teachers wish to be obstructive to attempts to improve students educational skills then fire them all and let them re-apply for their jobs under a new contract citing their qualifications and proven ability to achieve results with their students. It will soon separate the wheat from the chaff in the profession. Those who depart will not be missed and those who get re-hired will most likely reassess where their responsibilities lie, hopefully with the students and not the union organiser. National will never have a better chance than now to clean up the education system. I doubt that Key really has the balls for it though.

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  4. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    I’m with Kiki, let the funding go with the kids bum.
    Put parents in control over both the state and the unions.
    Betcha more would send their kids to private schools as they’d use the state funding as a subsidy, instead of some working two jobs to do it!

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  5. Bevan (3,923 comments) says:

    To get this through, parents have just got to get behind National. Fact is there are more parents in NZ than there are teachers.

    Key should follow Julia Gillard from Aus Labor – if the teachers refuse to implement the changes, then dock their pay.

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  6. GPT1 (2,118 comments) says:

    Sounds very nice talking about taking those in the classroom with you but how many of the NZEI touring the country are actually in the classroom? This is a pretty minor step giving parents some information about their kids. The arrogance of the Union is spectacular.

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  7. fatman43us (166 comments) says:

    http://biggovernment.com/uknowledge/2010/02/02/uncommon-knowledge-dr-thomas-sowell-on-intellectuls-and-society/

    I suggest you listen to Thomas Sowell on the dangers posed by experts in society, and those who know how send this on to Colin Espiner. He surely needs advice!

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  8. Russell Brown (405 comments) says:

    Colin confuses league tables (that the Government has no intention of publishing – it is Colin’s fellow journalists who produce league tables) with national standards and reporting. And it is not about more assessment, it is about clear data.

    That’s the data that will be shot to hell the moment the news media start compiling league tables.

    There’s been a view in the ministry that standards can be made to work — that we can avoid the problems that have plagued this approach elsewhere. But that hope depends on standards being used for what they are — a real research tool. It’s pretty much explicitly acknowledged that if media league tables start to appear, there will be an incentive to distort the data collected and the whole thing fails and starts delivering perverse outcomes. Remember Alison Annan at Cambridge High?

    Sadly, I have no confidence that the news media will pay any attention to this view.

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  9. Kris K (3,570 comments) says:

    It just goes to show what a hold the progressives have of the education system.

    And we all know that intelligent individuals who know HOW to think for themselves, versus those that have been indoctrinated and taught WHAT to think, are the enemy of the Progressive/Socialist agenda. They realise that to transform society they need to get them young; hence the infiltration of the education system, and the disempowerment of parents in their influencing of their children.

    So of course they are not going to positively endorse the achievements of the likes of Maria English; as it goes against their ultimate strategy.

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  10. jackp (668 comments) says:

    Fatman, this was the problem with Helen Clark and Cullen. They hired too many intellectuals and we are going to pay for it for a long time. People hold teachers in high esteem. They are suppose to be intellectuals. I use to sell Macintosh computers and without a doubt the worse customers were teachers. Why? They wouldn’t listen!! One man called with a problem and introduced himself as a doctor of something at Princeton or one of the ivy league colleges, then went on with his problem. I was suppose to be impressed. I wasn’t, and tried to help him with his problem but couldn’t. He was too full of himself. This Thomas Sowell is right on.

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  11. David Farrar (1,890 comments) says:

    Russell – I sort of agree with you but the media often use and misrepresent a huge range of govt info. They produce stupid league tables of Ministers expenses (for example). The fact the media often present info in a way that is not useful or helpful is the price we pay for a free society.

    The answer, to me, is not to amend the OIA, but to counter bad info with good info. Make sure some data is presented in a useful and meaningful way, so that it can compete with media league tables.

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  12. Pongo (371 comments) says:

    Colin has a child at school so the poor little darling will be put in the naughty chair if Dad gives the union a serve, shame because he is by far the best politcal journalist we have. I have yet to find anyone around the “water cooler” who are all parents who dont want national standards, all parents want to know how there kids are going and ihow to improve things, it doesnt matter if they are from Aranui or Fendalton.

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  13. Simon Arnold (109 comments) says:

    Many years ago when I was involved in education policy research I remember a piece of research that showed that on average teachers thought that the optimum class size was 5 pupils fewer than they currently taught.

    And I suspect they could name them.

    It is interesting though that there has been little substitution of capital for labour in complusory education (and many – e.g. Colin – do seem to constantly demand more labour rather than better outcomes). Something strikes me as being amiss in the pressure for innovation in education.

    Or perhaps we just expect that education, like hairdressing, be a personal service.

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  14. IHStewart (388 comments) says:

    What is so astonishing is that the belief by the unions that their members are above the law. If they want change the policy join a political party and campaign on the issue at the next election. I am not a parent but an uncle and in my family there is support for this. All my friends and workmates who are parents also want this. As a 10 year old my mother suspected I was reading at an age lower than 10 and had it checked out by an educational psychologist and I was reading at about an 8 year old level. Remedial action was taken and I passed school cert. english with a mark of 89% ( my mother was a teacher so she recognised there might be a problem ) all this policy does is arm ordinary kiwis ( yes Phil, Waitakare man ) with that information. Also well done Maria hopefully this policy will see more of our kids achieving this but even more importantly parents of kids who are in need of a bit of extra help will be aware of it and can do something about it. This is just common sense stuff.

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  15. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    The education union argument has always been long on concern and scaremongering and short on actual reasons.

    Measure, analyse, improve – sorry if that upsets some people but its the only way to improve the current debacle of a supposedly first world country having a population where 20% of kids leave school illiterate and innumerate.

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  16. Southern Raider (1,811 comments) says:

    Read the comments on the NZ Herald site. Obviously teachers don’t have enough to do judging by the amount of them commenting on the blog.

    Is it not a conflict of interest to go rabid about National on the Herald site, but not declare if you are a teacher or not?

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  17. Southern Raider (1,811 comments) says:

    A lawyer told me the problem is you can’t fire bad teachers. There is a teacher at his kids school who came on as a part timer and had never left. All the parents who have older kids request at the start of the year that their starting children aren’t in her class as she is hopeless and every year the school moves unsuspecting children (who don’t have older siblings) into her class.

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  18. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    Johnboy “if the teachers wish to be obstructive to attempts to improve students educational skills then fire them all and let them re-apply for their jobs”

    Ok so who is going to teach all the children in the meantime, johnboy? Oh and there is a worldwild teacher shortage, so many schools struggle to get teachers as it is (especially in hard to staff areas like Maths, Science, Technology)

    Southern Raider “A lawyer told me the problem is you can’t fire bad teachers”
    What a load of rubbish. Teachers have to abide by the same employment laws as everybody else and in fact in many cases stricter. Have a look at the Teachers Council website and see what standards teachers have to meet (including how they act out of school – how many people commenting on this site have to conduct themselves professionally in their personal life as well or they could lose theit job I wonder ). There’s a list of deregistered teachers there also so clearly teachers are being fired!
    Teachers employment contracts are also in the public domain, this includes procedures for competence and/or disciplinary action – I wonder how many people on this site would be happy for their employment contract and salary details to be made public.

    Sorry for being grumpy but I hate ignorance, and it’s in bucketloads around here! (Sadly including DPF with some statements!) Frankly, all this teacher-bashing is becoming tiresome. How about addressing the issue of national standards, rather than using it as an excuse to attack teachers.

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  19. francis (712 comments) says:

    The ERO review is chilling.

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  20. adamsmith1922 (890 comments) says:

    David, you are far too kind to Espiner. in my view as I say here http://bit.ly/8YYD63 he effectively preaches Union supremacy across the board.

    Give in to the Luddites and we will see the wave of union power oppress us all.

    National has a mandate for standards and Espiner ignores this.

    I know many teachers who abhor the NZEI position, but are cowed by the union.

    Principals are bulldozing BOT

    This is a power struggle and National must not lose

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  21. adamsmith1922 (890 comments) says:

    bc (9)
    I am not attacking teachers, but why should teachers not be subject to assessment and ranking

    In the private sector that is what happens

    In teaching they attack the government

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  22. Johnboy (16,084 comments) says:

    bc 8.28:

    You totally miss the point of what I have said. For too long the teachers and their union have dictated how education in this country will operate. The system they prefer is the one that is of advantage to themselves and no one else. Some may not have the herd instinct but are cowed into doing what they are told by the lefties who run the union just like the wharfies in FPW’s day.

    What I suggest is to fire every teacher in NZ and offer them their jobs back again under a new set of rules. Same pay, same conditions if you meet the grade but no union. The new contract will involve regular assessments of the teachers ability and pay rises commensurate with that assessment. Like all the rest of us teachers have bills to pay and I am sure that 90% will prefer to rejoin the profession after a short period of unemployment. The other 10% are the ones we want rid of. I suspect that some form of job will eventually come their way. Needless to say the teachers union organisers will probably have a bit more trouble finding real employment.

    If timed to occur over say the Christmas break 2010 I predict very little disruption to the students curriculum.

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  23. Johnboy (16,084 comments) says:

    But if you are as I suspect a teacher never fear. As I said before, such action, though badly needed in this pathetic little country, will never occur under someone as spineless as the sad, smiling little prat we have as PM at the moment.

    It takes real balls to grab the moment and run with it and sadly he has none.

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  24. bchapman (649 comments) says:

    Johnboy.
    Now you’re talking. I’d add one addition- make them all attend Anne Tolley’s BBQ’s where educational wisdom is spouted by all so you can remind them who is boss. Then we can buy them and all the Educational academics there one way tickets to Australia and let the parents educate the kids. That would ensure our future!

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  25. Johnboy (16,084 comments) says:

    bchapman: I am doing my best to avoid upsetting nice Mr Farrar again and I know he dosen’t like this word but it really suits you so well I vill say it only vounce——-Wanker :)

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  26. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    It is a shame that what should a debate about the merits or otherwise of national standards has turned into attacking teachers. Unfortunately, even John Key has started doing it.

    In my earlier posts on this I attempted to discuss some of my concerns about national standards, only to be met with abuse by people like redbaiter (I refuse to respond to any of his posts as I am wasting my time – hopefully people here can see that they are just mad rantings).

    So thanks to those people that have legitimate questions. I don’t mind debate, in fact that’s what so great about a democracy. And I’m certainly not pro-teacher unions. I shake my head in dismay over some of their comments. I do, however, have some concerns about national standards, some of those I have previously posted.

    Anyway, to respond to your comment adamsmith, teachers do have the following:
    1) Professional standards – teachers must demonstrate (with supporting evidence) that they meet these standards before their teacher registration can be renewed.
    2) An appraisal system (just like the private sector!) where they set goals/targets and are reviewed on them by their apraiser
    3) Attestation based on the length of time they have been teaching where they have to meet standards (again providing evidence) before they can move up to the next scale – it is completely wrong that teachers automatically moved up the pay scale based on how long they have been teaching.
    And of course you could argue that students (and their parents) assess their teachers as well! (A bit of a flippant comment but many schools do get the students to do teacher evaluations).

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  27. William Fussey (45 comments) says:

    I find it ridiculous that so many teachers and unions are vociferously against the Cambridge exams. The Cambridge exams are of the highest standard. They are more difficult than the old Bursary exams and more in line with the Scholarship exams one could take alongside Bursary (for the brighter students) – or NZEST exams as they were known back when I took them. They are an exceptional set of exams, especially when juxtaposed with the NCEA ones!!

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  28. Southern Raider (1,811 comments) says:

    BC have you not seen the Herald blog with all the attacks by teachers on National, Key, Tolley etc.

    The teachers and unions can spread lies and bullshit yet you want us to stay on topic?

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  29. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    Are you being serious johnboy – you can’t fire someone because they belong to a union! I’m sure you don’t want to live in a communist country. Every worker is entitled to union representation if they choose it.

    A Tolley BBQ could be fun though! She could give us all some of her “educational wisdom” by reading another childrens story – yay! I’m sorry but Tolley really is National’s weakest link.

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  30. Johnboy (16,084 comments) says:

    “It is a shame that what should a debate about the merits or otherwise of national standards has turned into attacking teachers. Unfortunately, even John Key has started doing it.”

    Call me a silly old fool but perhaps its because teachers seem to be so violently opposed to the creation of national standards.
    but I guess like all things in good old NZ its not their fault but the Gummint’s

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  31. Johnboy (16,084 comments) says:

    Again you misread bc. I would fire them now. When I re-hired them their contract would specify that as part of the management team it would not be acceptable for them to become members of a trade union. (Are you sure you are a qualified teacher?)

    Why are you fixated on going to barbies at Tolley’s ?

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  32. Blue Coast (165 comments) says:

    My first born is a teacher with a M Sc and teachers in DI One school for the last 3 years but is now wanting to move to higher D school so they don’t have to force the sperm donors to get involved.

    She spents far to much time trying to get sperm donors to at least show some interest.

    Granted this is secondary school but they only work with which comes from the feeder schools.

    The boss at the main (90%) feeder school changed and they now get kids who can read and write.

    Why did the boss of the feeder school in the past not get sorted. Ok the unions know !! and can’t see what the problem is

    Fuckwits

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  33. peterwn (3,246 comments) says:

    Her school is not a ‘private business’ and is not an ‘integrated’ school. It is a non profit charitable institution that exists and runs because parents believe that it delivers the appropriate sort of education for their daughters. The people who govern the school (trustees and board) put significant time and energy into this task for which they receive no renumeration. The parents effectively pay twice for their daughters’ education, once through taxes and again through the school fees. If the school closed its doors tomorrow, the State would have to immediately absorb its pupils into state schools.

    The PPTA do not like such schools, because they provide an alternative benchmark against which state schools can be measured.

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  34. Brian Marshall (201 comments) says:

    BC, are you a teacher???

    Cause you’re not coming across as a parent.

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  35. Concerned (41 comments) says:

    There’s an old management homely that says ‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure.’.

    National have a business-like approach to problems that the NZ left simply can’t comprehend.

    It’s a real point of difference.

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  36. Johnboy (16,084 comments) says:

    So true Concerned but unfortunately it takes real balls to run a real business and I am really beginning to doubt that Key has any.

    This little stoush will be his testing ground I think.

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  37. Inky_the_Red (756 comments) says:

    The Education Unions would not be able to cause trouble if they didn’t have support of their members (teachers). The fact is that both the PPTA and NZEI represent the bulk of teachers. Teacher’s have concerns and their Unions are expressing their concerns.

    Unions like employee groups are voluntary, no one makes teacher’s join unions. Any group has a right to express the concern of their community. The community of teachers should not be silenced any more than the community of farmers.

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  38. Brendan (2 comments) says:

    Good article which is right on the money.Teacher unions have a fundemental conflict of interest.

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  39. voice of reason (490 comments) says:

    “…Parents will benefit from individual data. They will have a clear report card that informs them if their child is achieving at the minimum level necessary to be on track to leave school able to read and write and do maths. If their child is not performing to that level, it means they and the school can discuss what steps can be taken to try and lift the performance…”

    If one has to be told by a teacher that their child can’t read or add properly then there would be something seriously wrong with their parenting skills or their level of interest in their own children.

    Anyway in my experience the schools my kids attend and have attended (ChCh & AKL) have all used PAT tests throughout the year to assess reading ages, comprehension, maths etc. These results were always shown & discussed at Parent Teacher evenings or in one on one meetings with the teachers.

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  40. ben (2,377 comments) says:

    In a sense, it is a strikingly obvious point – of course the unions do not care about education. Unions cannot attract membership by promoting educational achievement. They can attract dues by lobbying to reduce requirements on teachers and by increasing their wages. Maria English does not help with either of those objectives, and her achievement must be attacked. Unions are as conflicted on educational standards as Telecom is on telemmunications reform. The one and only voice that matters is parents and their children. Teachers should be prepared to give parents what THEY want for their own children. A world where producers get to decide what is best for consumers must necessarily be second best.

    I have always been bothered by the inconsistency of unions. Their members are arbitrarily special, at all times equal, and always owed more. Their ability to demand that exists only because not everybody takes that view.

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  41. ben (2,377 comments) says:

    Inky the Red, yes membership in the union is voluntary, but that is not the problem here. The problem is that when unions achieve scale they gain market power and use that to coerce others.

    Consider the appropriateness of petrol stations writing an agreement that said THEY would decide what goes into your car at the next stop. Now you know your car better than they do, and unlike you our imaginary unionised petrol stations have no incentive to put the right mix in. As profit maximisers they have every incentive to put in whatever is cheap. The result? Your car takes a hit and you’re left holding the can.

    Consumers, not producers, have the right incentives for consumption decisions. Not allowing parents to have their preferences reflected for their child’s education is second best. Unlike unions, parents have every reason to demand the best possible educaiton for their child. Unions have every incentive to demand the best possible lifestyle for their members, which is obviously contrary to any goal of high quality education.

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  42. burt (8,241 comments) says:

    kiki for PM, and francis – yes the ERO report is chilling.

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  43. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    ‘I don’t even know where to start. How about with an analogy. Would Colin advocate that the Government should not make any changes to economic policy unless Treasury agrees?

    Should there be no change to telecommunications policy unless Telecom agrees?’

    God your arguments are weak DPF. Treasury don’t have to actually run anything let alone teach our children and Telecom’s primary purpose is to turn a profit selling communication services.

    Teachings a profession, the vast majority of teachers are passionate and committed to achieving the best they can. If they say the government policy is bad then the government should listen.

    ‘A group of taxpayer funded staff’, you can be an insulting prick when you want to be and it looks like Key (30% need to lift their game) can be too.

    ‘At present, there is no useful comparable data at primary school level.’ What? I though the National Standards involved no new tests, so what data is the Ministry of Education going to use then? What the hell have ERO been doing?

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  44. burt (8,241 comments) says:

    ben said;

    I have always been bothered by the inconsistency of unions. Their members are arbitrarily special, at all times equal, and always owed more.

    Teachers train to manage the total diversity of aptitude and attitude in a classroom then when they start teaching they all decide they themselves are all equal and join the union to prove it via their remuneration packages. I have never understood that.

    This is a major achievement for Maria English, and for our education systems that work and the quality of the staff involved.

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  45. Crusader (306 comments) says:

    The possibility that information could be misused or misrepresented has never been a good argument not to collect that data in the first place.

    FFS, this is why we collect accident data on the roads. Do teachers object to us collecting crash data just in case some places might get labelled “black spots” and have drivers avoid them, or even, shock horror, actually DO something to improve the stats?

    Next the Rugby Players Union will be boycotting the rugby scoreboard and Super 14 league table, just in case people find out that the Crusaders are better than the Highlanders. :rolleyes:

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  46. burt (8,241 comments) says:

    Crusader

    Exactly, the unions are really showing their self serving hands here. Muppets.

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  47. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    Jonboy I do understand what you are saying, I’m just pointing out that what kind of world are you living in where you think you can fire people for the sole reason that they belong to a union and rehire them on the condition that they don’t join a union? I hope you have a good lawyer if you want to try that on!

    My comment about a BBQ at Tolley’s referred to another post. A bit of humour in a heated debate? (Seriously though are people aware that Tolley could not answer educational questions so read a childrens book instead – I’m not making this up, honest!)
    I have concerns about Tolley bringing down the National Party. She is totally out of her depth. She couldn’t even hold a press conference without John Key being there to support her. And why does she need a 26 million dollar propoganda exercise to get her viewpoint across? Wouldn’t that money be better spend in schools?

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  48. burt (8,241 comments) says:

    YesWeDid

    ‘At present, there is no useful comparable data at primary school level.’ What? I though the National Standards involved no new tests, so what data is the Ministry of Education going to use then? What the hell have ERO been doing?

    Unless you are totally ignorant of what goes on with assessment in primary school then you will know that there are various measurement methods already in use. The key word in the usage is however ‘optional’. There is no consistent standard to identify success/failure of schools. Now I get this measurement thing frightens you, and you think it is wrong but unless you are advocating complete removal of assessment then how do you argue against assessment being used consistently and for the development of both teachers and students.

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  49. tvb (4,366 comments) says:

    The Australians are going through a similar reform after launching the “MySchool” website which got 9 million hits in one day. This was launched by Julia Gillard that firebrand leftwinger. We are making a modest start with “National Standards”. In time I hope we can move forward with a “my school” website too and compare schools. This reform is being opposed by the teachers’ unions. But in Australia the Rudd Labour Government is pressing ahead over the objections of the Unions. My how refreshing the Rudd Labour Government is. We just have to see if John Key has force through a much more modest proposal. If he doesn’t the we might as well pack our things and merge with Australia, our unions are just too strong in this poor and getting poorer country.

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  50. Clint Heine (1,570 comments) says:

    If this was all about attacking teachers then I’m all for it, however this is all about the attitudes from our teaching unions – all of whom hate National and ACT, and subscribe to the notion that parents and students interests are secondary.

    The teachers unions are against zone and school choice, examinations for certain age groups, comparing standards, vouchers and anything that promotes excellence. Why are we pussyfooting around this when we should be crushing them and promoting a system that rewards success and encourages competition?

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  51. Robert Black (423 comments) says:

    Ah, DPF another great thread and I congratulate you again on your fine work here.

    Sighs,

    New Zealand, the country that needs to be turned on its ass end, then shaken AND stirred.

    Comment copyright Robert Black 2010.

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  52. Danyl Mclauchlan (1,068 comments) says:

    Why are we pussyfooting around this when we should be crushing them and promoting a system that rewards success and encourages competition?

    ‘Crushing’ the teachers is a bit like crushing nurses, or doctors, or software engineers. They’re not Thatchers coal miners – there’s a global shortage of qualified teachers and if ours get pissed off they can just move overseas and double their money. It’s especially easy for New Zealand primary teachers to do this, since we already have one of the best performing primary school systems in the world.

    Politicall there’s also the problem that teachers are REALLY popular with the public – way more so than any politician. In surveys of most respected occupation they’re always at the very top. AND they have the most effective industrial action of almost any profession – when primary school teachers strike a million odd voters have to stay home from work or find child care.

    That’s why you don’t ‘crush’ the teachers.

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  53. Pete George (23,481 comments) says:

    A policy that only does a bit more than what is already done has become a mess – it seems to have pandered to a bunch of parents who want proof that their kids are outperforming others, and the problem that is supposed to being addressed is a bunch parents who couldn’t give a stuff what their kids achieve at school.

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  54. Gulag (146 comments) says:

    Wonder if all the ex teachers involved in left wing politics is symptomatic of something?

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  55. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Looks like the PPTA are as adept at gathering public support as Phil Goff.

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  56. dime (9,869 comments) says:

    Colin has misread the public on this.

    I havent met anyone that is on the teacher unions side. I talk a lot of politics too.

    Isnt it time we had some good ole fashioned Union smashing? :)

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  57. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Keys Kossacks?

    You know they have armour now.

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  58. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    When I was on the board of the local school, a syndicate head who was on the Unions National negotiating team told me of the work the union had done for Labour in the previous election and how they prefered Labour as they were more likely to give them what they wanted for their members.

    When I questuioned that was that necessarily what was best for the children, she replied of course because if we’re looked after the environment is better for them.
    This was a very personable articulate and lovely woman who is still in situ.

    I say gut the union and give power to the parents, not the state.

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  59. Mark (496 comments) says:

    It’s time the whole public school system is abolished.

    Teachers don’t actually teach, they fill childrens heads with bullshit lefty thoughts.

    If I was the PM of NZ I would tell the unions to fuck off and bring in a voucher system.

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  60. Pete George (23,481 comments) says:

    Teachers don’t actually teach, they fill childrens heads with bullshit lefty thoughts.

    Not you obviously, you sound a bit thoughtless.

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  61. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    My mother was a teacher and she failed miserably to indoctrinate me pete, does that mean anyone who doesn’t fall to the obvious wisdom of marx and lenin is of sub level intelligence?

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  62. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    ” Not you obviously, you sound a bit thoughtless”

    No he doesn’t actually Pete. Can you please cease these false allegations and vicious and unwarranted personal attacks?

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  63. Grendel (996 comments) says:

    its not easy to get rid of teachers. i worked in teachers payroll for 3 years in my first job, and the stories i heard from principals about the crap they were dealing with.

    1. Teacher assualts student who laughs during a karakia (13yr old girl) by dragging through the class by her hair. Teacher gets full union support, cannot be fired becuase it was cultural (she was HOD Maori, funnything was the girl was Maori as well). we had to pay out her sick leave (over 300 days), and no police action.

    2. Teacher fails the assessment that BC raved about so the school refused to put her up a step (so no payrise), and had damning reports from pupils and parents. Union gets involved and demands she get the payrise, causes such a stink principal had to give in as it was distracting the school.

    i have other stories, but thats good enough.

    also, if you don;t join the union you cannot get the payrises when they redo the collective contract. the union demanded this.

    i like some teachers, but overall my experience dealing with over 1000 of them for 3 years made me mortified at how they are allowed to run amok with no real oversight.

    AL

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  64. voice of reason (490 comments) says:

    Mark (234) Says:
    February 4th, 2010 at 9:32 am
    “It’s time the whole public school system is abolished.”

    Yeah? and what would take its place?

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  65. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    ” Yeah? and what would take its place? ”

    What was there before. Obviously a modern student and therefore completely ignorant of history.

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  66. voice of reason (490 comments) says:

    Well RB enlighten me – other than the curriculum how is the “System” different to what was there before.
    & before when? 1990, 1970, 1950?

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  67. Kimble (4,434 comments) says:

    “‘Crushing’ the teachers is a bit like crushing nurses, or doctors, or software engineers.”

    Dim, you make a common mistake. Teachers arent Teachers Unions.

    TEACHERS may care about their students education, thats their job.

    TEACHERS UNIONS care about TEACHERS, thats their job.

    I wish the country would wake the hell up and realise that teachers unions do not have to care about their member’s student’s education. Their primary focus is and always will be the pay and conditions of teachers. Providing quality education is necessarily a second priority.

    We would like to think that the Union cares as much about the students needs as we do. That is, we would like to think that they place them ahead of the needs of teachers, just like we do. Education is about educating the students, not providing a job for teachers. So it makes perfect sense to us that students are more important than teachers. Without students there would be no need for teachers, but without teachers there are still children needing education.

    So all the Unions have to do is make it SOUND as if they care about students, while advocating things to their disadvantage. The general public usually accept their statements, because, hell, they wouldnt be AGAINST student welfare now would they? That would be ridiculous.

    So if the provision of quality education disadvantages teachers (like if it meant that poor performing teachers or schools can be identified, with the possibility of those teachers facing the consequences of their failure to perform) the Teachers Unions will fight it.

    Individual teachers may well be willing to sacrifice some job standards to help the students, but this compassion is not necessarily shared by their Union. The Unions own statements on this issue are showing their true priorities.

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  68. E. Campbell (90 comments) says:

    Beware quoting Hattie re. teacher and class size. While it is true Hattie’s reseach shows that teacher qualitity (or rather effective teaching practice) is the single biggest influence over pupil performance, aside from the child’s genetic talent and intelligence, he also noted in last year’s seminal report that he hadn’t explored socio-economic status as a factor in student outcomes. Anyway, if class size was unimportant we’d all be happy with our children in classes of 40 – 50. No parent is ever going to be happy with stupidly high pupil-teacher ratios. As for National Standards, Hattie favours a trial period and opposes their introduction as they currently are.

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  69. burt (8,241 comments) says:

    OK OK, lets get to the bottom of this. Repeat after me 1,000,000 times so that you start to believe it.

    All teachers are equal, all schools are equal.

    Now repeat that 1m times and forget all you have learnt about the diversity of people and the differences good leaders make to organistations – when you have lost all your ability to think for yourself you will be ready to join the union.

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  70. burt (8,241 comments) says:

    he also noted in last year’s seminal report that he hadn’t explored socio-economic status as a factor in student outcomes.

    Well as long as we have zoning dividing the school system to keep the have’s and the have-not’s separate looking into the effect of socioeconomic differences is not something the dept Ed want exposed. The answers are obvious to all but the central administrators and the unions – both of which just want status quo and don’t care about outcomes for individuals.

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  71. cespiner (3 comments) says:

    Hi David, interesting critique of my blog. In my defence, I’d point out the following:
    1. I don’t think I ever suggested the NZEI, or anyone else, have a veto over Government policy. What I said was that if you’re going to introduce radical change, it’s important to take the practioners who will have to implement that change with you. You certainly save yourself a great deal of energy, anyway.
    2. Actually, it would concern me if Treasury was violently opposed to a Government policy, particularly if it had sound reasons. I’d want to know what the reasons were, and what the pros and cons of the policy were as well. As for Telecom, well actually Telecom is always consulted on policy change in the telecoms area, and I suspect it gets its way more often than not!
    3. It’s not the Government picking a fight, it’s the unions? Come on DPF, it takes two to tango. It sounds awfully like you’re taking the Government’s side on this one.
    4. Blaming journalists for publishing league tables is just silly. If the Government is going to compile the information, of course newspapers will publish it. It’s very disingenuous of the Government to pretent it didn’t know that was going to happen.
    5. Prof Hattie might have concluded class size wasn’t important, but tell that to parents. Also, the quality of the teacher may well be paramount, but I’d argue it’s easier for a good teacher to teach a small class well than a large one.
    6. As Danyl says above, the Government can rant all it likes about the nasty teacher unions, but if they strike, they make a lot of parents (voters) very, very angry. And remember, pay negotiations are coming up this year…
    Regards,
    Colin

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  72. David Farrar (1,890 comments) says:

    Hi Colin,

    Thanks for responding. My response in turn.

    1 First of all this is not radical change. This is not implementing (for example) a new curricululm or national testing. It is basically a requirement that schools report whether a student is above, at, below or significantly below the expected literacy or numeracy standard for their age. How they make that assessment is up to the school, and for most schools will mean no change. So again this is not radical change. You say you are not arguing for a veto by the unions, yet you advocate if the Government can’t persuade them to be supportive they should not do it. Sounds close to a veto to me. Of course it would be nice if the NZEI supported the standards, but it would be nice if we had a warmer summer also.

    2. Treasury was oppossed to interest free student loans, for very sound reasons. I don’t recall columns calling on the Government not to implement them, because of Treasury opposition. As for my other example of Telecom, I think you are a few years out of date saying Telecom gets its way more often than not. Think operational separation, mobile phone termination, fibre to the home and the recent TSO reviewi – none have been that favourable to Telecom.

    3. I do not accept the premise that the union is equal to the Government, and they have some right to set education policy. Do we see Business NZ telling businesses to refuse to pay income tax unless tax rates drop? The union has every right to lobby the Government not to implement the policy. I think it goes too far when it advocates the schools refuse to implement them.

    4. The Government will compile raw data. This is vitally important as the article I linked to showed what you can learn from that data. The media will be able to access that data also. How they sort, format and present that data is a decision of media outlets. If league tables are so bad, then lobby your editor not do publish them, or insist they do ones that are less simplistic – which for example take into account deciles, or (more usefully) the progress made over time by a school.

    I’m all in favour of the media being able to access the data and publish it. But if the problem is that some media will publish it in a form that is misleading to parents, I do not accept the correct response is to stop the Government from even being able to collate the data.

    5. Of course if all otehr things are equal, a smaller class size is better than a larger class size. But that isn’t the question. The question is (IMO) if we have say $100 million to spend on improving primary education, what will do the most for improving educational outcomes. Is it to merely keep the system the same and hire more teachers? I think targetting the extra money towards students and schools that are not achieving would be a better way to go – but to do that, we need to know who they are.

    6. I agree the Government could well be politically damaged by a bruising fight with the teacher unions. It is not something you do lightly. But I ask, is there an alternative? When they vow to obstruct a policy which was your major election pledge for primary education, what does the Government do? Give up?

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  73. burt (8,241 comments) says:

    Also, the quality of the teacher may well be paramount, but I’d argue it’s easier for good teacher to teach a small class well than a large one.

    Absolutely agree with you Colin. But we had better not dare prove we are correct via comparison of educational outcomes or all parents will want good teachers and small class sizes and that’s not going to make life easy for the administrators or the not so good teachers. Just put you cloth cap on, pay your taxes and chant the line Colin;
    All teachers are equal, all schools are equal – we do not need consistent standards in education.

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  74. Manolo (13,590 comments) says:

    Is this a preview of the Labour (journo) vs National (doctor) upcoming fight? Ring seats at a premium, buy now.

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  75. burt (8,241 comments) says:

    Manolo

    The seats are being sold by the union members. Ringside seats same price as seats in the carpark. All seats equal and the bout will be decided by the unions before the first punch is thrown. It’s the only fair way……

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  76. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    DPF, I read your Atlantic article and what struck me was the amount of research going into finding out what was the determining factors of success in this particular case.

    You quote Mr Buutveld as saying that their would accept standards if the information was not available to the public. Their are two interpretations of this statement, and, for reasons of your own, you elect to take the view that this is an entirely self-interested stance to protect teachers from the wrath of a dissatisfied public.

    But there is another, equally valid interpretation which is that because the standards are untested, the chances are high that early results will require careful analysis to determine what they really indicate. Unless there is this at least temporary stipulation to standards, three groups of people may suffer unjust opprobrium – disproportionately, undoubtedly, in the lower decile schools – the kids (because there is grading embedded in the standards), teachers and the individual schools.

    I have seen plenty of managers’ initiatives to improve productivity imposed from on high on workers who were not consulted and who, if they were, could have pointed out more potentially successful avenues to pursue. Consequently, the workers only pay lip service and the initiative fails. It’s pretty well axiomatic these days that worker input is sought BEFORE enacting improvement programmes. Why not with teachers?

    Research and consultation, as happened in the example you presented, is at the heart of the NZEI demands.

    Furthermore, the OECD and the Cambridge Report detail why these standards are doomed to fail. Japan is jettisoning theirs after only three years. These examples surely should cause us to pause what will perhaps become a headlong rush to mediocrity.

    And while typing this, I hear yet again the claim that too many kids are leaving school without qualifications. Let’s ignore that this is a secondary school statistic being (mis)applied to the primary school sector: what is an acceptable number of kids leaving school without qualifications? Convey that to the sector and set to work achieving this.

    One more thing, as this all can get complicated very quickly, and I like to keep things simple, the 150,000 figure bandied about refers, I believe, to kids leaving school without completing Core Literacy. But Core Literacy consists of a number of papers, I’m not sure how many, and a kid leaving school one paper short is still recorded as having failed. Many kids leave school legally, even before they can complete the full unit.

    But does any of this matter? Maybe it just gets in the way of an outdated ideology.

    Declaration of interest: I am a parent who has put three children through school and tech/university and I am about to start all over again!

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  77. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    Yep, there is risk in change. There is also risk in continuing to churn out 20% of school leavers who are functionally illiterate and innumerate.

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  78. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    International surveys do not support your comment. It’s a myth.

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  79. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    73% of parents agree with me.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10624503

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