NZ Initiative on teacher quality

The NZ Initiative has released the first of three reports on improving teacher quality. The first one is mainly setting out where we are at, and later reports will look at potential improvements. Some highlighted facts:

NZ is a top-performing system

  • NZ’s 15-year-olds rank among the top performing countries in reading (7th), science (7th) and mathematics (13th)
  • NZ (along with Shanghai and Singapore) has the highest proportion of top readers (one in six)

But the system is not reaching everyone

  • NZ has one of the largest gaps in the world between high- and low-performing students
  • The 2009 PISA study of 15-year-olds showed NZ has one of the widest ranges of reading scores in the OECD
  • Māori and Pasifika students are consistently less successful than Pakeha and Asian students at all three levels of NCEA and they do not perform as well in international tests of achievement

 Teachers are the system’s most valuable asset

  • A meta-analysis of half a million studies found teachers were the most important in-school factor for student achievement
  • Teacher salaries make up 61% of the education budget

NZ has good quality teachers, but we can improve in key areas

  • Our teachers are highly qualified – 86% hold a bachelor’s degree
  • But one-third of year nine mathematics teachers do not have a mathematics qualification
  • 18% of schools say a lack of mathematics teachers hinders the ability to teach the subjectThe quality of teacher education is variable – only 57% of schools are satisfied with the quality of teacher graduates
  • Low expectations of Māori and Pasifika students are partly to blame for low achievement

 We struggle to attract and retain talent

  • Despite the importance of teachers, their status in NZ is low, and has been eroded by top-down changes
  • Teacher morale in secondary schools slipped from 70% in 2009 to 57% in 2012
  • Teacher appraisal is a ‘tick the box’ exercise. It is rarely used as a tool for development and only 5% of teacher goals are related to student outcomes
  • There is a lack of career structure and recognition of excellence. The pay scale sends a signal that teachers have reached their maximum capability after eight years

It’s a good area for focusing on, as teacher quality is almost beyond dispute the most important factor in educational outcomes.

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