Labour and education

September 10th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

’s full speech on education yesterday is here.

I previously blogged I was supportive of a focus on reading recovery. Other issues Shearer touched on are:

I want to tell you about a school in my electorate.

It takes in a large number of migrant children every year.

When these kids start school most of them have an English comprehension age at the level of a 3 year old.

By the time they finish Year 6, they leave where they should be for their age. In six years, that school has lifted their reading age by eight years.

That school is doing a great job. They are exceeding expectations for their kids.

Yet that school, its teachers and its kids are stamped as failures because for most of their time at school their children’s results fall below the National Standard.

This is in fact an argument absolutely in favour of national standards. Sure if you look at one year’s static results that school doesn’t compare well. But over time national standards will show that they improve the performance of their kids massively. That is exactly the sort of data we will be able to get from national standards. It is all about progression, not labels.

I want to see a school report card. And, if the school is falling short in any area, I want to know what is being done to remedy that.

Another argument for national standards. Parents love the fact that they finally have report cards that tell them in plain English how their kids are doing. have spent four years fighting against meaningful report cards, yet now say they will insist on them. Yeah, right.

If kids turn up to school not having eaten breakfast, without shoes, or sick because their house is cold and damp, it’s obvious they won’t get the best start.

I hear people argue that this is the responsibility of parents.

We can debate that endlessly but it won’t change this reality: tomorrow morning kids will still turn up to school hungry.

And a hungry kid is a distracted kid who can disrupt an entire classroom.

I’m not prepared to sit on the sidelines and hope this problem goes away.

We need to offer these kids a chance, not an excuse.

Labour will be more hands-on, partnering with communities and voluntary organizations to put free food in all decile 1 to 3 schools that want and need it.

A lot of low decile schools are already having this done. While I do worry about the state stepping in for parents, I am pragmatic enough to say it is important that kids are not hungry at school as it does impact their learning. I don’t have a great problem with this proposal as it is targeted towards low decile schools. I believe in targeting.

So overall a couple of good things in the speech, but a couple of areas where the rhetoric is in conflict with the reality of their political stance. Shearer also spoke about teacher quality but of course they fight against any performance pay for good teachers. Their problem is they are captured by the unions.

There is an article in The Atlantic about how some in the Democrats in the US are breaking free of the education unions.

In a major shift, education reformers are now influential at the highest levels of the party once dominated by the teachers unions.

is accustomed to having to insist she’s a Democrat. “It’s funny,” she tells me, “I’m not just a Democrat — I feel like I’m a pretty lefty Democrat, and it is somewhat disappointing when I hear some people saying, ‘She’s not a real Democrat.'”

Rhee, the controversial former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor known for her hard-charging style, has worked with Republican governors to push her reform ideas in states across the country. Her ongoing pitched battle with the teachers unions has put her at odds with one of the Democratic Party’s most important traditional constituencies.

Yet there are signs that Rhee’s persona non grata status in her party is beginning to wane — starting with the fact that the chairman of the Democratic convention, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, spoke at the movie screening Rhee hosted at the convention earlier this week. Another Democratic star, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, spoke at the cocktails-and-canapes reception afterward. Across the country, Democratic officials from governors like Colorado’s John Hickenlooper to former President Clinton — buoyed by the well-funded encouragement of the hedge-fund bigwigs behind much of the charter-school movement — are shifting the party’s consensus away from the union-dictated terms to which it has long been loyal. Instead, they’re moving the party toward a full-fledged embrace of the twin pillars of the reform movement: performance-based incentives for teachers, and increased options, including charter schools, for parents.

If David Shearer can do the same for Labour, that would be a superb thing. Labour once was the party of reform. But in this area they are too often the party of entrenched interests.  Unions are important stakeholders, but they should not get to dictate policy.

 

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39 Responses to “Labour and education”

  1. joe bloggs (126 comments) says:

    It’s ironic that Shearer fails to see National Standards provide the perfect measures to identify that the school in his neighbourhood needs support for its reading recovery initiatives (if in fact that school actually exists and is not another figment of his imagination like his beneficiary-rorting roofpainter)

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  2. dime (9,866 comments) says:

    Seeing as though Labour have no power. I think Shearer should do a world vision ad.

    He could do a really heart felt commercial where he pleads for us to sponsor a kid for just “a dollar a day”.

    They could show the parents struggling. Like maybe they are arguing over which sky service to drop “we should drop sport” “no, we should drop multiroom”.

    Maybe show mum and dad being reduced to roll your own or having to grow dope rather than buy it. drinking the cheapest beer they can find etc.

    maybe the mum lamenting that the iphone 5 is due out soon and she is stuck with her shitty iphone 4s.

    it would really hit home im sure.

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  3. James Stephenson (2,154 comments) says:

    In six years, that school has lifted their reading age by eight years.

    Sounds more impressive than “helped them catch up by two years” doesn’t it?

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  4. kowtow (8,324 comments) says:

    The left have been responsible for the crash in education in the west.

    Getting rid of exams,turning it into an “experience” suited to each “individual”, no more rote learning or sitting in rows,standing up when teacher comes in etc etc etc

    The wheel has come off and they still don’t get it. More money to throw at the problem .

    It wasn’t broken in the first place ,so why did they need to fix it?

    Parents who don’t feed their kids? That’s child abuse,a hell of a lot more that a smack administered for discipline. This makes me so mad!!!!!!
    Parents of unfed children shouldn’t have them and the taxpayer shouldn’t be paying for these feckless fuckers either.
    Undiciplined kids disrupt the class, bring back the biff!!!Repeal the shameful smacking act.

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  5. my 2 cents (1,091 comments) says:

    Can’t do that Kowtow, personal responsibility and consequences is so old fashioned in this modern age.

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  6. Manolo (13,588 comments) says:

    Labour once was the party of reform.

    No more. A good chunk of the Labour Party is owned by the unions (EPMU, etc.), while some other belongs to the Rainbow faction (Chauvel, Robertson, Street, among others).

    Neither of the two is for New Zealand’s economic progress and advancement. One faction, made of ossified unionists, wants to preserve the perks of yesteryear, while the other group’s sole focus is sexual orientation.

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  7. Pete George (23,479 comments) says:

    I’m yet to be convinced that the main strategy for dealing with hungry kids is turning schools into soup kitchens. Government money already feeds many kids.

    If the kids are still hungry then shouldn’t we be looking at:
    a) whether benefits and WFF aren’t enough?
    b) other than money, what causes kids to not have enough food?

    Many kids also have parent poverty – should schools take that task over too?

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  8. dime (9,866 comments) says:

    you cant bring tests back! its not fair! some kids are bad test takers!

    you know, that part where we find out what they actually know

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  9. MH (711 comments) says:

    Add my nauseum.
    the gender balance in the profession…- in 1971 38% of teachers were male by 2004 this had halved to 19.5%
    Teacher numbers increased by around 6,000 from 17,500 to 23,500, but the number of male teachers declined from 6600 in 1971 to 4,600 in 2004.

    This from Teacher numbers in NZ: Attrition and replacement -NZ Journal of Teachers’ Work 2006.

    Can anyone provide more up to date stats than that?

    That’s yer bloody problem,right there,you don’t need any other arguments.
    Of course there are good female teachers,and principals but blokes know boys need men teachers sometime in their school years and are being denied access due to feminism and poor govt recruitment policy.

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  10. seabreezeent (31 comments) says:

    Loving those subjective, unmoderated National Standards and the ropey data spat out the back end, fantastic stuff.

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  11. Cunningham (843 comments) says:

    It is all good and well that the state feeds hungry children but where are the consequences for the parents who can’t/won’t do it themselves even when they have the means to do so? Granted some poeple have serious hardship but others are just taking the piss by sending their children to school without food. How many of those children have parents who smoke? Another example of Labour just sweeping the concept of responsability under the carpet. These dead beat parents need to be penalised somehow to show them it is not OK to treat their children like shit.

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  12. emmess (1,427 comments) says:

    So only decile 1-3 schools will get the free food.
    This will inevitably mean that alot of parents that are curently feeding their kids at those schools won’t bother and even some parents will try to send their kids to those lower decile schools to get the free food.

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  13. seabreezeent (31 comments) says:

    Generalisations, kiwis love em.

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  14. scrubone (3,095 comments) says:

    Let’s face it.

    The reason why kids are going to school hungry in this country is because their parents have not fed them breakfast, usually because they have not gotten out of bed to do it.

    It is most emphatically *not* because they did not have the money to feed them.

    You’d think if poverty was that bad, these parents would be doing all within their power to make sure their kids got a good start to life, and the best chance to get a head start.

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  15. scrubone (3,095 comments) says:

    Of course, we could (as someone suggested above) just enforce the law on child neglect.

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  16. MH (711 comments) says:

    AGRRED until Labour are prepared to put up one family who will forgo privacy concerns,criticism intrusion into their food,gambling habits,in essence call their bluff and expose this once and for all,no ifs just buts.

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  17. seabreezeent (31 comments) says:

    Yes, all net tax payers should be issued with a big pointy stick, that will work, problem solved.

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  18. scrubone (3,095 comments) says:

    MH – too much like work.

    Much easier, get the media to knock on their door at 7:30 and see if anyone is actually out of bed.

    For bonus points, turn up at 11pm and see if they’re still up.

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  19. Paulus (2,608 comments) says:

    Can somebody please trell me what is new in Shearer’s speech that is not being done already.

    The MOE could call it plaguarism, after you see their website.

    I suppose it is only to be expected from Shearer being a former teacher, and his wife who is one also.

    My neighbour goes every day, including school holidays, to do school breakfasts, which is provided gratis by the local New World supermarket and has been for many years.

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  20. dime (9,866 comments) says:

    How about we deduct the cost of breakfasts from their WFF subsidy or their benefit. Give em lunch too. Hell maybe an early dinner. just take $50 a week of em :)

    seabreeze – fail.

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  21. seabreezeent (31 comments) says:

    Failed what?

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  22. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    you cant bring tests back! its not fair! some kids are bad test takers!

    That’s right. Years of encouragement about participation being more important than competing/excellence/enterprise comes crashing down after the first job rejection. The real world is no less a survuval of the fittest jungle than it was a million years ago. The sooner kids learn to compete and, importantly, how to get up after ‘failing’ the stronger they will be once life inevitably peels the cotton wool away.

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  23. Bill Courtney (161 comments) says:

    Michelle Rhee was formerly a high-profile “school reformer” who was run out of her job when her boss, Washington DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, was soundly beaten in the 2010 mayoralty election. Rhee was so controversial in her “reforms” that the election was widely seen as essentially a referendum on education. Diane Ravitch analysed the election results on a district by district basis and this revealed that in the north west, where white voters predominate, Fenty won 76% of the vote. But Fenty was trounced in the largely black districts. In wards 7 and 8, his opponent, Vincent Gray, won 82% of the vote.

    Given that most of Rhee’s so-called reforms were aimed, as always, at the long tail of underachievement, it is clear that when the parents eventually got to have their say, by way of the ballot box, she was comprehensively thrown out.

    All this took place just after Michelle Rhee was portrayed in such a positive way in the 2010 charter school glorification movie, “Waiting for Superman”. Rhee is now trying to make her way as a consultant, continuing to push the “reform” agenda.

    The other high profile “reformer” was Joel Klein, who was the controversial chancellor of New York City’s public schools. He was Juila Gillard’s role model and she brought him to Australia to support her introduction of the NAPLAN tests and the MySchool website. All based on the same approach of lots of tests (to generate the achievement data), punitive accountability, league tables, performance-based pay for teachers, etc. etc. When Klein left his job, he went to work for Rupert Murdoch to head up his education venture.

    DPF needs to do more research to understand the so-called “reform” movement that originated in the USA and, unfortunately, has infected Australia and now, New Zealand. The antidote to this trend is to watch this interview with Pasi Sahlberg, of Finland, who has christened it the “Global Education Reform Movement” or GERM:

    http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2012/s3441913.htm

    Valerie Strauss writes a great education column for the Washington Post and her take on GERM is well worth a read:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/how-germ-is-infecting-schools-around-the-world/2012/06/29/gJQAVELZAW_blog.html?wprss=rss_answer-sheet

    We are, indeed, taking part in GERM warfare with those of us who support quality public education coming up against the data junkies, who are convinced that choice and accountability will solve all our problems.

    But as for understanding what influences politicians, then that’s easy. Read the line that says: “buoyed by the well-funded encouragement of the hedge fund bigwigs behind much of the charter school movement…” In the USA, money rules. Period. Diane Ravitch even has a chapter in her book, called “The Billionaire Boys’ Club”.

    It is encouraging to see David Shearer acknowledge that a strong public education system is a Labour Party priority. Fine. Now we need to see if he is capable of fighting off the GERM infection and redefining what quality education for the 21st century really entails.

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  24. seabreezeent (31 comments) says:

    Thanks Bill.

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  25. Bob R (1,363 comments) says:

    ****Given that most of Rhee’s so-called reforms were aimed, as always, at the long tail of underachievement, it is clear that when the parents eventually got to have their say, by way of the ballot box, she was comprehensively thrown out.***

    @ Bill Courtney

    That’s because she was laying off underperforming teachers. In effect she was going to replace a lot of black teachers with white and asian teachers. Hence the black dominated districts voted her out.

    According to Paul Schwarzman and Chris L. Jenkins of the Washington Post in How D.C. Mayor Fenty lost the black vote – and his job [September 18, 2010]:

    “…blacks also see the school system as a primary employer, providing jobs to thousands of teachers, school bus drivers, administrators and secretaries. When Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee laid off hundreds of teachers, many blacks saw … an assault on economic opportunity.”

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  26. kowtow (8,324 comments) says:

    Decile 1-3 get food?

    That’s discrimination. Labour are for equality,all children should be fed by the tax payer.Young National support equality and an end to discrimination so I expect to see them pushing for this too.

    And all meals can be equal too. A sausage can be bacon and an egg can be porridge.If parliament says so ,then it is so.

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  27. DJP6-25 (1,376 comments) says:

    That bit about some Democrats in the US breaking free of the ‘education’ unions was encouraging.

    cheers

    David Prosser

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  28. wtfunz (133 comments) says:

    Great to see most people here can see through this tripe. The immigrants Shearer talks of will be going home to parents determined to improve they’re lives. They embrace education, the 21st century and hard work whilst encouraging their children to learn and work. Reading to them, talking to them and feeding them rather than beating them, starving them and showing them how to get stoned or drunk everyday.
    FFS – wake up David – For the cost of a packet of Weetbix there is zero excuse for kids to go to school hungry. The schools should be using the evidence in front of them i.e. hunger, lack of sleep, injuries to report these kids parent(s) to child welfare so they can be removed from the environment which is causing the problem.
    The fact is, kids are in class for 5 hrs a day and at home watching all the crap that goes on around them for 19. The reason dear Helen tried to make Childcare compulsory (make it free so it made sense to go) was to try and stop the damage being done from age 0 to 5. Any primary school teacher can identify the next group of delinquents by the time the kids are 7. The damage is already done. What’s really sad is Shearer and the Labour/Gweenie idiots think giving them a feed, at our expense again, is the solution. Please save us! But look at the bright side – their mum, possibly a dad, will have a bit more for smokes, grog and P which they are never short of despite not having a job.

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  29. greenjacket (460 comments) says:

    “I hear people argue that this is the responsibility of parents.”

    Typical David Shearer. He just doesn’t get that IT ACTUALLY IS the responsibility of parents to make sure their children are fed, properly clothed and not sick.

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  30. MH (711 comments) says:

    heard Shearer singing this the other day

    Right smack dab in the middle of town
    I’ve found a paradise that’s trouble proof (up on the roof)
    And if this world starts getting me down
    There’s room enough for two
    Up on the roof (up on the roof)
    Up on the roo-oo-oof (up on the roof)
    Oh, come on, Helen (up on the roof)

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  31. Bob R (1,363 comments) says:

    ***He just doesn’t get that IT ACTUALLY IS the responsibility of parents to make sure their children are fed, properly clothed and not sick.***

    @ greenjacket,

    The problem is that there are no restrictions on who can become a parent. Hence you get low IQ people with low future time orientation, and drug/alcohol issues who are mentally incapable of doing the basics. If Shearer and Key had any guts they would make contraception a condition of welfare and this problem would go away.

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  32. Mark (1,480 comments) says:

    “The problem is that there are no restrictions on who can become a parent. Hence you get low IQ people with low future time orientation, and drug/alcohol issues who are mentally incapable of doing the basics. If Shearer and Key had any guts they would make contraception a condition of welfare and this problem would go away.”

    Haven’t seen such enlightened thinking since 1945!

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  33. Big Tim (20 comments) says:

    We clearly have children being raised by parent and caregivers who are inadequate (and that is about the politest term I can find).

    I personally believe in providing equal opportunity for children. (Note: not equality of results but everyone should have an equal chance)
    If you are raised by an inadequate parent you do not have a decent chance in life. This policy seems to be going back to Labour’s roots of looking after the disadvantaged and is actually one of the more sensible things they have said recently.
    In my opinion they have missed one major thing – there should be a mechanism to impose consequences on the parents if they do not meet a certain minimum standard.

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  34. HB (319 comments) says:

    agreed Big Tim.

    it’s not the kids fault their parents are useless/neglectful/abusive

    they need to be fed so they can learn

    we need to make sure they’re learning so they are happy, healthy and contributing citizens when adults

    any ideas about the mechanism to impose consequences on parents if they don’t feed their kids?
    it sounds difficult and expensive
    but a good idea in theory

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  35. wtfunz (133 comments) says:

    Mark – the simple solution of sterilisation doesn’t appeal to you. Do you think these at risk children should at least be removed from their brainless parent(s)? Other than throwing more taxpayers money at them what do you suggest as a solution?
    Is it possible you are happy a 13 year old can produce 5 illigitimate offspring by the time she 18 and have them all funded on welfare on the basis of, the more she haves the more she gets – no job required, just keep producing the futures social misfits.
    HB – whats difficult or expensive about removing kids from these environments and helping the hundreds of parents wanting to adopt kids into loving health homes? Caren’t name the father, caren’t provide financially, caren’t house and feed your baby then you lose your baby to adoption. If they aren’t creating a little state sponsored income stream they’ll soon stop creating little human beings.

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  36. Big Tim (20 comments) says:

    HB – I do not have a perfect solution,
    Ideas that seem to be coming up in other comments on the blog seem to be :
    • Charge the parents money for the food
    • Charge the parents in court for neglect
    I would add take the kids off them
    Unfortunately there is currently a hard core in this country that will not respond to having children removed from their home as it is a normal occurrence to them.
    I would suggest docking the pay / benefit if they require the state to raise the children for them and in get tougher and charge people with child abuse more often.
    I agree that this is an imperfect solution but it is an imperfect situation.

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  37. jcuk (668 comments) says:

    If parents cannot afford to feed their kids they shouldn’t have them in the first place. It is responsible birth control.

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  38. Manolo (13,588 comments) says:

    But as the infamous Dear Leader, the bilious comrade Clark said: “There is no underclass in New Zealand.

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  39. berend (1,705 comments) says:

    Note that DPF, long ago, touted himself as liberal on economic issues. Now he writes: “But over time national standards will show that they improve the performance of their kids massively.”

    So the government just does the right thing, and the best outcome pops out. Who needs the market? You just need the right party, and they can manage everything, including the education of your kids.

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