Sense from US education secretary

April 2nd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Nicholas Jones at the Herald reports:

Efforts to ensure all Kiwi kids can access are “way ahead” of a similar American push, says the US Secretary of Education.

Arne Duncan has been in New Zealand at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in Wellington, one of the biggest events in world education.

In an interview with the Herald, America’s top education official also said could be a valuable opportunity for New Zealand.

Mr Duncan, who has previously hosted Education Minister Hekia Parata, said he was keen to learn more about New Zealand’s early childhood education while here.

“We are pushing very, very hard back home in the States to increase access to high-quality early learning opportunities,” he said.

“And I think, frankly, New Zealand is way ahead of us in creating those kinds of opportunities at scale.”

The National Government wants 98 per cent of children starting school in 2016 to have participated in quality early childhood education.

In the 2007/08 year $807 million was spent in ECE. The budget for the current financial year is $1.48 billion which is a massive 83% increase in six years. For some reason, Labour and Greens call this a cut!!

The US has more than 5600 public charter schools in 42 out of 50 states, and one in 20 students nationally attends one, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Despite being widespread they do face opposition. Newly elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, has been highly critical of charter schools.

Asked for his overall verdict on them, Mr Duncan said there was “huge variation”.

I’ve visited some amazing, amazing schools that are absolutely closing achievement gaps. We need to learn from those examples and replicate them. [But] when you have low-performing charter schools you need to challenge that status quo as well.”

Duncan is a Democrat, and a former head of the Chicago public schools. When he says some charter schools have done amazing work at closing achievement gaps, he is worth listening to. Why does the left want to close them down in NZ, rather than give them a chance to succeed?

Mr Duncan said the idea for the schools came from union leader Albert Shanker, who hoped to establish “laboratories of innovation”. Successes could then be spread to the wider education system.

“I think there’s a great opportunity there for this country.”

The left in NZ should embrace charter schools, as many of the left in the US have done.

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38 Responses to “Sense from US education secretary”

  1. Redbaiter (9,657 comments) says:

    Only reason left see “early childhood education” as beneficial is because they see it as just another chance to immerse children in Progressive ideology.

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  2. ShawnLH (5,758 comments) says:

    Early Childhood Education = get them away from the influence of their parents as quickly as possible and into the hands of the Union-Rainbow alliance.

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  3. RRM (10,034 comments) says:

    NZ has a more left social welfare net and public funded school / health system than almost any other western country.

    And in spite of all that, NZ is one of few western countries where it’s not outright illegal to homeschool your children if you think the public schools are brainwashing them – or letting them down in some other way.

    “ALL” you have to do is write to the Ministry of Education begging them for permission to have them out of school, and jump through a few hoops to show you’ll be giving them an education that’s “at least comparable”.

    So if there’s a malign lefty conspiracy to get you, they’ve left you a few pretty big loopholes.

    If you really believe in your heart that a conspiracy of lefties is brainwashing your kids, you have options, don’t lie down and take it like a victim.

    (*Disclosure: I am well to the left of Red Dick and probably 90% of other Kiwiblog commentors. And we are homeschooling our 9yo… not because we are concerned the schools are ideologically brainwashing her, but because the local primary school is just an unsafe place populated with fetal alcohol syndrome thugs and run by incompetent, demotivated morons, and we can’t afford the private options.)

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  4. peterwn (3,313 comments) says:

    Labour will be seen to backing the wrong horses:
    Rainbow v Pacific Islanders who find comfort and fellowship with conservative churches.
    Teacher union members v parents wanting the best for their kids.
    Beneficiaries v *real* workers.
    Crony Capitalism (forest products and heavily unionised industries) v Crony Capitalism (Hobbits).

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  5. Yoza (1,914 comments) says:

    You two are being nutters (Red & Shawn), early childhood learning is the best way for children to develop social skills with their age group.

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  6. Bill Courtney (162 comments) says:

    David Farrar just doesn’t get it, does he? Another attempt to make the anti-charter etc. movement just look like pro-teacher, rather than anti-privatisation, which is ultimately what charter schools are really about in the USA.

    This blog has been down this road countless times before (as has Whale Oil) with attempts to portray the Democrats in the USA as pro charter schools. In reality, it is money that counts in American politics and nothing else.

    When Obama, or any other Democrat, trying to raise significant campaign funds, meets hedge fund managers on Wall Street, what do they say to him? Yes, I’ll write you a multi-million dollar check, but you must support charter schools. Got it?

    Here is a recent article in Salon about Arne Duncan and the trouble that may be brewing for the Democrats:

    http://www.salon.com/2014/03/13/arne_duncan_just_doesnt_get_it_how_the_media_and_phony_reformers_hurt_your_kids/

    Go Bill de Blasio!!

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  7. RRM (10,034 comments) says:

    Early Childhood Education = get them away from the influence of their parents as quickly as possible and into the hands of the Union-Rainbow alliance.

    :neutral: Not that I want to reduce the thread to ad-homs.. but do you actually have any kids?

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  8. dime (10,135 comments) says:

    “And in spite of all that, NZ is one of few western countries where it’s not outright illegal to home school your children if you think the public schools are brainwashing them – or letting them down in some other way.”

    and in spite of that, NZ still lets you have a say over your child’s education. Jesus RRM!

    the left seem to struggle with home schooling. only the glorious state can educate kids!!

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  9. Manolo (14,082 comments) says:

    Bill Courtney, Labour’s shadow spokesman on Education, never misses a chance, doesn’t he?

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  10. Rightandleft (670 comments) says:

    It is a fact that often stuns those on both the left and right, charter schools were a union idea from Albert Shanker, a committed unionist who once led a 35 day long strike in New York City. His ideas for charters came in opposition to the strict zoning and centralised one-size-fits all control of the US public system.

    However Shanker was also perfectly clear that charter schools should use only registered teachers, allow them to be unionised on collective agreements, that they should not cherry-pick their students, could not be for-profit and must cooperate and share their successful practice with local state schools. In other words he was basically describing Tomorrow’s Schools, which by no coincidence were created in 1989, the year after Shanker articulated his vision for charter schooling. Tomorrow’s Schools are indeed a type of charter schooling and much closer to the original idea than what they have morphed into in many US states.

    If Arne Duncan really examined the NZ state system he would probably be impressed that we adopted a 100% charter system 25 years ago. Partnership Schools are just a more radical version of charter schooling with fewer safeguards and less local control and accountability to the community.

    By the way Albert Shanker’s own institute now holds that charter schools in the US have not led to improvements in education. Probably because they have been warped from Shanker’s original idea. They only show better results than state schools when they are few in number and thus better able to weed out poor performers and send them back to local state schools. In Washington DC in the years 2008-2011 charter schools expelled 28 times as many students as public schools, despite having a much smaller portion of the total student population.

    They also perform best when they have stringent entry requirements like essays and family interviews to prevent students with low parental support or learning problems getting in. Where they have developed a significant concentration they fare no better than the state schools which preceded them.

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  11. dime (10,135 comments) says:

    “They only show better results than state schools when they are few in number and thus better able to weed out poor performers and send them back to local state schools.”

    I love how the left say this is a terrible thing. God forbid smart kids get to learn with other smart kids and the numpties get sent back to state schools.

    “accountability to the community.” – now there is a phrase that means absolutely nothing. the “community” is just crap. usually made up by the very vocal minority. i couldnt care less what a school does for “the community”, i care about what it does for any kid who has the good fortune to be related to Dime

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  12. Rightandleft (670 comments) says:

    dime,

    But then they look at the state school results and declare they are lower because of bad teachers, not because they have to take all the learning disabled, poorly behaved kids with no parent support while the charters just get rid of such kids. They attribute the difference to better teaching at the charter school, which just is not supported by the facts.

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  13. dime (10,135 comments) says:

    “but then they look at the state school results and declare they are lower because of bad teachers”

    you mean supporters of charter schools make shit up? why would they do that?

    maybe the non-stop attacks from greedy, lazy leftists who want to protect their little patch of tax payer funded cash/perks make it a right/wrong issue.

    Personally id like to see all state schools kicked to the curb. it aint going to happen in my lifetime so instead id like to see as many options as possible.

    its a shame so many state school teachers dont have the maturity to work with charter school people..

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  14. ShawnLH (5,758 comments) says:

    Rightandleft,

    One of my nephews supposedly had a “learning disability” and was effectively given up on by a state school. My sister, who is not at all rich (she’s a struggling single mother) placed him in an elite private school, who were happy to take him despite his previous record. He is now thriving and happier than he has been for years. This elite school was willing to take him when the state system had labeled him a failure.

    State education is a job creation scheme for lazy union bums.

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  15. Rightandleft (670 comments) says:

    Private schools have significant funding advantages and smaller class sizes. Of course they can provide more support to learning disabled students. State schools cannot compete with that because they are reliant on taxpayer funding. It isn’t due to the apathy of state school teachers, it is because they have to face an overwhelming number of students who need individual attention in large classes and with little support.

    And I’d like to know what scientific evidence you have to support your assertion that state school teachers are lazy. In fact teaching is a job that requires hours of work outside of school time, regularly including the weekends. The majority of teachers also volunteer to take on multiple extra curricular groups for no extra pay, just to give their students a better experience and make them well-rounded individuals. Right now we have teachers at my school staying to 9PM every night this week to prepare for the production. I take a debate team, a Model UN group and manage all the volleyball teams, projects that take hours out of my free time for no monetary return. Before you attack an entire profession you should have some facts to back up your despicable accusations.

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  16. JeffW (327 comments) says:

    Why is the left against charters? Because they are against freedom of choice at all levels. Employers shouldn’t decide how much they can pay workers, unions should. Tax should go up so that individuals can have the state choose how to spend their money for them. We should not eat this or that. We should not drink this or that. We should not have choice in schools. A consistent theme.

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  17. ShawnLH (5,758 comments) says:

    “Of course they can provide more support to learning disabled students.”

    Except he wasn’t learning disabled at all. That turned out to be a crock of shit, an easy excuse they used to not do their jobs. Lazy in other words.

    Private schools have funding advantages because they are supported directly by parents and through other sources. Trying to create a truly effective teaching system out of taxes is never going to work.

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  18. decanker (184 comments) says:

    While in NZ, Mr Duncan will have visited NZ state schools and could have said again:

    “I’ve visited some amazing, amazing schools that are absolutely closing achievement gaps. We need to learn from those examples and replicate them. [But] when you have low-performing [state] schools you need to challenge that status quo as well.”

    Many of our public schools are doing amazing work – NZ’s flexible curriculum framework enables distinct school characters – why exactly do we need charter schools when we can learn from our successful state schools? Our education system’s curriculum framework is nothing like the US’s prescription.

    The only real point of difference between our state schools and charter schools appears to be that charters are privately run and aren’t as accountable as state schools.

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  19. dime (10,135 comments) says:

    “And I’d like to know what scientific evidence you have to support your assertion that state school teachers are lazy.”

    hows this for scientific. I went to school for YEARS.

    there were tons of burnt out lazy fucks.

    “Private schools have significant funding advantages and smaller class sizes.” not really a funding advantage for the parents though! they pay full tax to help educate other peoples kids, then huge school fees. mums and dads. ordinary kiwis! seems FAIR.

    How bout we have:

    Vouchers – so parents can send kids to private schools and top up without causing financial hard ship
    State schools – cause no lefty would ever send their kid to a private school. honest.
    Charter schools.

    Done.

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  20. ShawnLH (5,758 comments) says:

    “charters are privately run and aren’t as accountable as state schools.”

    They are in fact more accountable, not less. More accountable to parents, more accountable to the market.

    If the state system was accountable, why did the teachers unions squeal like little pigs when National insisted they provide more information about success and failure to parents?

    As Lindsay Perigo once said, state education is intellectual child abuse.

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  21. Mark Thomson (84 comments) says:

    Good recent article on the US experience here – http://on.wsj.com/1hgjzZQ

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  22. Rightandleft (670 comments) says:

    dime,

    Your experience of going to school is the definition of unscientific. Your personal experience tells us nothing about the experiences of the hundreds of thousands of students across hundreds of schools around NZ. I’ve been to a lot of restaurants and I cook my own meals at home, but I don’t tell the chef how to do his job or the owner how to run his restaurant.

    People pay for all sorts of services they either never use or choose not to use. People can have private health insurance but their taxes still have to pay for public hospitals. Only about 3% of parents send their kids to private schools, but a significantly higher percentage of people have private health insurance. So it seems people are actually happier with the public schools than they are the hospitals.

    Shawn,

    Diagnosing a child as learning disabled is not a way to write him off in the public system. It qualifies the student for a lot more support and helps teachers understand special teaching methods and support they need to give. If that did not happen for your nephew that is unfortunate but you cannot write off the entire system based on individual experiences and anecdotal evidence.

    Charter schools have far less accountability, that is the entire point. State schools have parents and local community members on their boards and they are held to account by elections. The ERO reviews the schools and writes public reports on them. They have ability to sack the board and principal if need be and aren’t afraid to use that power. The schools must follow an approved curriculum, though it is broad enough to allow significant variation for the local needs. We can use the OIA to see how local schools spend our tax dollars and they are overseen by the ombudsman. They must use teachers who are certified to be properly trained and accredited by the government. Partnership schools will lack so many of these vital protections. They will be accountable to central government and the board operating them, but not the local community.

    I also reject the idea that everyone against partnership schools is opposed to choice. I went to a private high school myself. I like the fact that we have significant school choice in NZ. Only 1/3 of schools have a zone at all. Nobody is forced to attend the school they are zoned for and zones may overlap. A parent in my area can choose between a wide range of special character, co-ed, single sex, Catholic and secular schools for their child, all as part of the state system. We have loads of choice.

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  23. dime (10,135 comments) says:

    Mark – cheers

    “Historians who look back at our era may describe charter schools as the most consequential social invention of this generation, with potent effects on economic mobility.”

    economic mobility! the left HATE that.

    a stat from a podcast i was listening to the other day – charter school kids do an extra 37 days schooling a year.. longer hours. try getting a unionised hack to do longer hours without paying triple time!

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  24. mikenmild (11,780 comments) says:

    Rightandleft
    I appreciate your patient exposition of the facts about NZ’s education system. Don’t expect it to have any impact on the usual teacher-hating comments though.

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  25. CharlieBrown (1,028 comments) says:

    if a charter school fails it gets closed down. If a state school fails it gets more funding and we force children from within the schools zone to go to that school. Which one seems most accountable?

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  26. mikenmild (11,780 comments) says:

    No one within a school zone is forced to attend that particular school. Oh, and plenty of state schools have been closed. What usually happens when a school becomes dysfunctional for any reason is that the roll plummets, forcing a consideration of the school’s future.

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  27. CharlieBrown (1,028 comments) says:

    Ok – so the choice for parents that live in that schools zone is to
    A – home school,
    B – private school,
    or C – hope like hell you can get some sort of scholarship for your child.

    So for most working parents on modest incomes only option C is available.

    And if a charter school fails, their generally is no consideration, it will close.

    Charter schools are just a political invention, however they are definitely more preferable and more accountable to a lot of state schools for some parents. Personally, I believe pupils should be funded, not schools. Give every parent an education allocation for their parents and let them choose whats best for their children.

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  28. bc (1,377 comments) says:

    rightandleft @ 3.40pm – well said.

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  29. bc (1,377 comments) says:

    Don’t you just love how ShawnLH calls teachers lazy but he has been posting in here from1:10pm to 2:53pm
    While ShawnLH has been spouting in usual garbage, in that time teachers have been:
    – Doing lunchtime duty
    – Teaching classes of students (classes >30 is becoming the norm in state schools) with a diverse range of learning needs and/or behaviour issues

    Just as well ShawnLH gave up and (maybe) went and did something constructive, otherwise he would be continuing on while teachers are:
    – In meetings/following up any issues
    – Doing endless administrative work
    – Marking student work
    – Lesson planning for the next day

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  30. dime (10,135 comments) says:

    “Only about 3% of parents send their kids to private schools, but a significantly higher percentage of people have private health insurance. So it seems people are actually happier with the public schools than they are the hospitals.”

    ohhhh that must be it.

    here was me thinking that only about 2% of kiwis earn over 150k a year (110 after tax?). a good private school costs 15k a year?

    generally people with kids also have mortgages which are going up all the time.

    “People pay for all sorts of services they either never use or choose not to use.” – sucks eh!

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  31. wat dabney (3,814 comments) says:

    charters are privately run and aren’t as accountable as state schools

    When consumers can simply vote with their feet and choose another supplier you have all the accountability you could ever wish for. There is nothing so powerful as market discipline.

    That’s why private schools don’t need the vast inspection apparatus that the state monopoly requires, or a national curriculum.

    Capitalism = Consumer Sovereignty

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  32. itstricky (1,904 comments) says:

    There is nothing so powerful as market discipline.

    Which isn’t compatible with Education. That should be dead obvious

    I am sure I don’t have to tell you that there is only one reason why companies and markets exist. Go on, take a guess, you know what it is and it most definitely ain’t compatible with the altruistic goals of Education.

    And who says that parents just instinctively ” know” what is good for the country, as opposed to just what is cheapest tomorrow? I am quite surprised that anyone thinks full privatisation is a good idea.

    Consumer soverienty may be a good thing when you come to buying your next dishwasher but it ain’t so hot for building a.leader of the free world. I think somewhere along the line you may have confused who the consumers are. That might be it. The consumers are actually the next generation, not the parents. That may change your outlook somewhat.

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  33. ShawnLH (5,758 comments) says:

    “I am sure I don’t have to tell you that there is only one reason why companies and markets exist.”

    Two different things. Companies exist to create wealth. Markets are just the sum total of human economic exchange.

    “you know what it is and it most definitely ain’t compatible with the altruistic goals of Education.”

    Educational goals are not altruistic. They are about ensuring the continuing prosperity of a family.

    “And who says that parents just instinctively ” know” what is good for the country”

    Most know what is best for their own children, certainly more than a bureaucrat living thousands of miles away, and certainly those who like to experiment on children with the latest abstract educational fad, regardless of the destruction it causes.

    “Consumer soverienty may be a good thing when you come to buying your next dishwasher but it ain’t so hot for building a.leader of the free world.”

    That makes zero logical sense.

    “The consumers are actually the next generation, not the parents.”

    The next generation are the next generation of parents.

    “That may change your outlook somewhat.”

    Not remotely close.

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  34. itstricky (1,904 comments) says:

    So Shawn you’re saying that Education exists to fulfill the individual but not the community, society or the planet. Just for one’s own sake. You’ve gone all personal responsibility I am alright f* everyone else again Shawn. Wake up. If those scientists hadn’t unselfishly shared their research I.e. their education and ideas we wouldn’t be sitting here having this conversation on The Internet, for sure.

    Humans aren’t products.

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  35. ShawnLH (5,758 comments) says:

    “So Shawn you’re saying that Education exists to fulfill the individual but not the community”

    No, not at all. It also exists for the good of the family. But I do not confuse family and community with the State.

    “Humans aren’t products.”

    Agreed. They are not cogs in the machine of the State either. So why create a State monopoly that that treats them as such?

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  36. Bob R (1,393 comments) says:

    ***that are absolutely closing achievement gaps.***

    Do people realise that this essentially is a Communist aim? What is wrong with achievement gaps? Unless you’re handicapping the smartest & most hardworking, then you are going to get achievement gaps.

    What they should focus on is maximising each individual student’s achievement.

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  37. itstricky (1,904 comments) says:

    The state provides for society, community and family, not for individual profit. It also does that at a large scale and a controlled manner. Are you suggesting every family should home school? Where’s the quality control?

    Why create a privatised system where they are cogs in the machine? Just another product to get through the line to make profit? (as you’ve correctly identified the only reason that companies exist above)

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  38. ShawnLH (5,758 comments) says:

    “The state provides for society, community and family,”

    No, it doesn’t. In fact it is generally bad for civil society, as it’s growth over time tends to displace family and community.

    “Are you suggesting every family should home school?”

    No, I’m suggesting that the State have no role at all in providing education.

    ” Where’s the quality control?”

    Parents.

    “Why create a privatised system where they are cogs in the machine? Just another product to get through the line to make profit?”

    Private education provides more genuine choice, keeps politics out of it, and allows for far more creative diversity in education, thus the opposite of cogs in a machine.

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