The power of educational leadership

April 5th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

A little over six years ago, in Auckland was struggling.

The Government took over its governance after poor student achievement results, a bitter fight for control by opposing parent groups and the resignation of its long-serving principal.

This week, the decile 4 school, which has long had a multicultural roll and special emphasis on the arts, is celebrating the release of stellar NCEA results that underline a remarkable transformation.

Last year, 93 per cent of Selwyn students sitting NCEA Level 1 passed. Pass rates at Level 2 were 94 per cent, and 90 per cent at Level 3.

Compare that with the 2006 pass rates: 39 per cent at Level 1, 47 per cent at Level 2 and 49 per cent at Level 3.

That is an incredible change, and a great one.

Leading expert Professor John Hattie has described the progress as some of the most marked he had seen.

“It is the evidence that leads to these comments. And it is stunning. And that this was achieved in such a short time shows what can happen with inspired, passionate leadership with a laser focus on students.”

This must be one of the more successful interventions, and shows what great leadership can achieve from the commissioner and principal.

Many parents used to avoid Selwyn College like the plague. Now it’s role is growing.

Better use of each student’s achievement data, new and renovated buildings, improved teaching practices and a central focus on academic performance were cited as reasons for the improvement.

Selwyn now assigns each student a teacher to act as a mentor to help make sure their study will open doors to university or the workplace.

Selwyn is only a decile 4 school. Some claim that socio-economic background of students is the main determinant and use that as an excuse for poor performance. This shows what you can achieve when you stop making excuses.

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44 Responses to “The power of educational leadership”

  1. burt (8,232 comments) says:

    The teachers union will be wanting to close down this disgraceful example of what happens when educational outcomes are deemed more important then union membership numbers.

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  2. trout (937 comments) says:

    The Teacher Unions were accepting of, and even supportive of, the Government strategy to enhance and improve school leadership until they realized it was an election year. A year in which all Govt. education initiatives must be opposed and the National Party Govt. brought down if possible.

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  3. radvad (754 comments) says:

    This is exactly what the governments education package is designed to achieve, the same package teachers are currently debating whether they will cooperate with.

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  4. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    Selwyn is only a decile 4 school. Some claim that socio-economic background of students is the main determinant and use that as an excuse for poor performance. This shows what you can achieve when you stop making excuses.

    Rubbish, it is not a sign of what can be achieved when you stop making excuses – it is a sign of what can be achieved when effort from the right people with sufficient expertise is added, people that have the right mindset to be able to instill it in the students they deal with. Excuse making is a symptom, not a cause.

    Prior to the attention from the government, the low decile school struggled to attract the right people to be able to make that difference to their students.

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  5. Paulus (2,607 comments) says:

    Well done – with good leadership and support it can be done.
    Hats off to the principal Sheryll Ofner and the team.

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  6. johnwellingtonwells (137 comments) says:

    “and the resignation of its long-serving principal.” It was more “and the resignation of its self-serving principal.” This principal had no control over staff and students. The curriculum did not follow standards and the principal did not care. Other staff resignations followed. There was a complete lack of discipline in the school. Parents had to seek private education because there was no alternative. My son lasted six months there in the early 1990s. What has happened has demonstrated that discipline on the part of staff filters down to the students and sets an example for them to follow

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  7. Psycho Milt (2,410 comments) says:

    Interesting – so the school improved dramatically after the government took it out of the hands of parents and put it under state control. I presume this isn’t a model you’d like to see applied generally to schools?

    [DPF: You really say some fucking stupid things at times.

    When a school FAILS, and it is funded by the Government, then of course the state should step in. Either that - or stop funding it.]

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  8. ShawnLH (4,600 comments) says:

    schools are for dumb people

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  9. burt (8,232 comments) says:

    Psycho Milt

    Nice try… I think control was wrestled from the union and the mediocrity loving principle and put in the hands of people who’s first loyalty wasn’t the teachers union !

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  10. johnwellingtonwells (137 comments) says:

    Psycho
    The school was in the hands of a few far to the left parents, the principal and staff. Those parents who wanted to move forward were frustrated and could not overcome the barriers. The government removed the barriers to allow the forward-thinking and disciplined parents to take over control of the direction of Selwyn. The school is still under parent control – it is just that there is now a different set of parents and direction

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  11. burt (8,232 comments) says:

    Psycho Milt

    It’s no surprise you think the unions and the government are one in the same – your team, the red team, are owned by the few powerful union leaders eh. The 1% that extract funds from the lowest paid workers and donate them to the highets paid so the highest paid don’t need to spend their own money on their own advertising.

    Wake up chap; the union != the government

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  12. peterwn (3,242 comments) says:

    Boards (whether Governors or Trustees) have no effective power to sack a principal except for serious misconduct. The Employment Court reinforced this by reinstating a sacked secondary principal. All principals should be on five year contracts like council CEO’s. Prospective applicants unhappy with this need not apply. Student reps, teacher reps and principals should not be on the board (the principal would be in attendance at meetings) and these replaced with two or three Ministerial representatives who know what they are doing.

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  13. ShawnLH (4,600 comments) says:

    peterwn,

    I’m afraid that is completely wrong.

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  14. burt (8,232 comments) says:

    peterwn

    Are you suggesting that the entire school system shouldn’t be solely for the purpose of advancing the best interests of the teachers union ?

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  15. Nukuleka (307 comments) says:

    As Sherryll Offner herself has acknowledged this turnabout was enabled by the government’s appointment of a commissioner to oversee the running of the school and to work in conjunction with Cheryl to overturn the culture of mediocrity that has characterised Selwyn for so many years. That particular commissioner did a sterling job of working alongside the school to get these stunning improvements- and she should be congratulated for the skills she brought to a difficult task and for the way she worked alongside the principal to raise the bar. Incidentally I love the way people talk of Decile 4 as a LOW DECILE. There are plenty of much lower decile schools that have been outperforming Selwyn for years. You don’t have to go further than the Catholic secondary schools of South Auckland to find them!

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  16. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    Until teachers’ unions per se, are deregistered, this profession will be run those with strong socialist doctrines, prepared to do anything they deem necessary to push their foul agendas, and presently they want to destabilise the current government’s popularity. These unionist drones are still trying to implement social engineering, as was a requirement of the last PM, who is now languishing in the deviant hapless UN, a position bought with NZ taxpayers’ monies. This profession must be totally purged of these losers, they are even upfront with students who do not agree with things like global warming, giving them low marks and telling them they must adhere to their disgusting theories. Thank God for charter schools, they are a chance.

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  17. Ed Snack (1,848 comments) says:

    It is a tribute to attitude and how it influences how people think and act. There are quite a few examples of how a school changes when the principal changes, sadly not always for the better.

    When bulk funding was introduced way back in the 90’s, there were several examples of this. Ponsonby Intermediate was one. One of the signs of a failing school is that the principal and a few cronies run the place for their own benefit, and sadly the various unions almost always take the principal’s side. This does demonstrate that, as I have always asserted, that the union has no interest in the pupils welfare that overrides their concern for any aspect whatsoever of their members interests. Pity that isn’t more widely appreciated.

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  18. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    burt, you plonker (and igm) – this has nothing to do with the union!!

    As the article clearly says and DPF states again (can you guys read!), the turnaround was due to a change of leadership.

    I would imagine that most of the staff and probably the principal as well are union members. Do you really think the union wants schools to fail? (actually don’t answer that, I know what the answer is).

    Your hatred of unions is so strong, that you can’t even read something, your mind is already fixed.

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  19. itstricky (1,797 comments) says:

    I think Burt might be the chap who yelled at Cunliffe. He.looked like a “Burt”. No,actually, that Burt seemed to be angry at Cunliffe for breaking the unions. Somehow I don’t think this Burt would be him.

    The article specifies parents as the source. And given the suburb I’d like to know just how left leaning they were… In the eastern bays…. Lefties… Are you sure?

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  20. Ed Snack (1,848 comments) says:

    bc, you’re either in the union or never dealt with it.

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  21. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    So blinded by hate that you can’t read either Ed?

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  22. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    Reading the full article, it appears that a lot of the outstanding pass rates comes from students getting credits from the Arts.
    Selwyn College has had a reputation in the past as an “alternative” school.

    Like I said, nothing to do with the unions. (Besides it’s not in the unions interest to have a school fail – their members would be out of a job).

    It’s a case of strong leadership and directing the students into fields they can be successful in.

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  23. Psycho Milt (2,410 comments) says:

    [DPF: You really say some fucking stupid things at times.

    When a school FAILS, and it is funded by the Government, then of course the state should step in. Either that - or stop funding it.]

    I’ll take that to mean no you wouldn’t like to see it applied generally. Me neither. But the fact is, you’re peddling this as a story of the power of leadership, when it’s actually a story of the power of public sector expertise. The government took this failing school out of the hands of parents and put it under direct government control, and the school promptly improved. It’s actually an alarming story for charter school enthusiasts, not an encouraging one.

    I think control was wrestled from the union and the mediocrity loving principle…

    I’ll do you the courtesy of assuming that’s a typo. However, your obsession with unions is irrelevant to this story. The teachers were in all likelihood mostly union members when the school was failing, and mostly union members now. The fact that you’d like it to be all about unions doesn’t make it all about unions.

    Until teachers’ unions per se, are deregistered, this profession will be run those with strong socialist doctrines, prepared to do anything they deem necessary to push their foul agendas…

    Seriously, how many protection orders are out against you? I figure you must be taking this out on somebody, right?

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  24. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Not every education story is all about the teacher unions.

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  25. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    milkenmild – kiwiblog blasphemy!!

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  26. lazza (381 comments) says:

    A powerful argument for performance-related pay.

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  27. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    I’ve just realised that mikenmild doesn’t have two ls in it!

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  28. Ed Snack (1,848 comments) says:

    bc, oh I can read alright, whereas you apparently WON’T see or hear.

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  29. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    Oh Ed, don’t be so silly.

    There is no mention of unions in the article.
    The article and DPF specifically mentions the strong leadership as a factor of improving the schools NCEA results.

    And yet you turn it into a union rant.

    Now I get it – you have a blind hatred of unions. You will have your reasons for this, but let’s not pretend that in any way you can contribute to the discussion rationally.

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  30. Komata (1,175 comments) says:

    Selwyn College!! Who would have thought.

    When we were living in the ‘Selwyn College Zone’ during the 1980’s and considering sending our eldest to a ‘local school’, Selwyn College had acquired a reputation as being one in which ‘anything went’, ‘experimentation’ was encouraged and of being (politely put) ‘liberal’. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our decision was that the child-concerned would not attend Selwyn!! I understand that things subsequently became very much worse, and that the school acquired a reputation of being a place to avoid at any cost if a parent wanted their child to receive a good education in the ‘Three R’s’, and not in (very) ‘intimate’ human relationships. Liberal thought run-rampant.

    Glad to see that the tide is at last turning.

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  31. doggone7 (776 comments) says:

    DPF:
    “Some claim that socio-economic background of students is the main determinant and use that as an excuse for poor performance. This shows what you can achieve when you stop making excuses.”

    Why do the high decile private schools have the best NCEA results?

    Is it because of the power of educational leadership? Is it because of the teacher unions?

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  32. duggledog (1,528 comments) says:

    Selwyn was the place that TV and film wankers, muso’s, hippies, vegetarians and green / far left weirdos etc used to love sending their kids because they were anti-establishment themselves and ‘f*** the man’, ‘f*** the system’ even though as we all know the system is pretty far left and tree hugging anyway! They sent their kids there as some sort of guinea pigs

    I had a couple of good mates who went there is the late eighties early nineties and that’s what they said, that they were basically put in there to see what would happen. A lot of parents wanted their kids to go there to see if they would end up succeeding where they failed.

    You could pretty much do whatever you wanted, discipline was non existent. Luckily both my friends somehow went on to become extremely successful in their fields – possibly because they are both free thinkers and once they had shrugged off the lunacy of Selwyn College got out into the real world and saw how far they were out of step they cracked into it big time.

    Just thought I’d chuck that in there

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  33. Disaster Area (41 comments) says:

    Just a quick question:
    What percentage of the staff who caused this increase in performance are members of the PPTA?

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  34. leftyliberal (646 comments) says:

    What percent of the current NCEA students live in the upmarket eastern suburbs now? Is it still as low as 15% as it was in 2007?

    EDIT: Ah, here we go: “The majority of the past couple of years’ intake of students were locals, Ms Ofner said, and feeder schools such as St Thomas reported almost all students going on to Selwyn.”

    Guess what decile rating St Thomas has… 10.

    So perhaps some of that improvement is due to socio-economic factors after all, huh?

    Pity the data doesn’t follow narrative…

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  35. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    Disaster Area – percentage would be pretty high, I would guess about 90%

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  36. nasska (11,277 comments) says:

    You mean that principal Sheryll Ofner managed to turn this shithole into a haven for high achievers despite having 90% of her staff involved with the teachers’ unions.

    If she can inspire a pack of no hopers like the rank & file of the NZEI she’d be a shoo in to walk on water.

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  37. reubee (23 comments) says:

    Their current decile rating of 4 is a false rating and will rise when the deciles are recalculated before next year. Unfortunately they will be a victim of their success and get less state funding because more locals are choosing to attend rather than look elsewhere.

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  38. Psycho Milt (2,410 comments) says:

    If she can inspire a pack of no hopers like the rank & file of the NZEI she’d be a shoo in to walk on water.

    If she has any NZEI members teaching at Selwyn College it truly will be astonishing – NZEI is the primary school teachers’ union.

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  39. itstricky (1,797 comments) says:

    Their current decile rating of 4 is a false rating and will rise when the deciles are recalculated before next year.

    And, as others have said, would that then be some sort of proof of cause and effect?

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  40. nasska (11,277 comments) says:

    ….” NZEI is the primary school teachers’ union.”….

    My bad Psycho…..substitute NZEI with whatever cloth capped affiliate of the Meatworkers’ unions it is that represents the Secondary School pedagogues. :)

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  41. Odakyu-sen (597 comments) says:

    Many years ago, before the 20-year White regime, I understand that Selwyn College was one of the top state co-ed schools in Auckland. Now Selwyn College is rising again.

    This year, the intake of 9-year students is up three-fold from less than a decade ago. More and more students (with better attitudes to education) are feeding in from St. Thomas and Remuera Intermediate.

    In time Selwyn College may even get its own zone!

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  42. burt (8,232 comments) says:

    Odakyu-sen

    In time Selwyn College may even get its own zone!

    Good point. So buy some real estate close to the school and wait for the government zoning policy to make you a winner :-)

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  43. itstricky (1,797 comments) says:

    More and more students (with better attitudes to education) are feeding in from St. Thomas and Remuera Intermediate

    Which came first – the chicken or the egg?

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  44. Weepus beard (2 comments) says:

    There is a very good article at the Daily Blog by John Minto on this. He reports that the take over was political expedience by the then Education Minister (now sacked) and the local National MP for Kohimarama (or whatever it is) because they were upset that a school in their area would consider taking in students from poorer areas nearby.

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