Sense from US education secretary

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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