We need better teachers, not more teachers

The Herald reports:

will fund an extra 2000 teachers under its policy to reduce primary class sizes to 26 students by 2016 and secondary schools to an average of 23 by 2018 – a step expected to cost $350 million over the next three years.

Labour leader David Cunliffe has announced the policy at Labour’s Congress alongside a suite of associated policies.

It will pay by scrapping National’s $359 million ‘Investing in Educational Success’ scheme, under which the best teachers and principals are paid more and used to help work with other teachers and schools.

This is a bad and disapponting policy, that flies in the face of reams and reams of international and national evidence.

Hundreds of studies have concluded that the quality of a teacher is the biggest influence on a child’s learning. The same studies have also concluded that the impact of is quite minor in comparison.

Labour’s policy is about politics, not education. Again there are hundreds of studies that confirm teacher quality is far more important than class size. There are meta-studies of meta-studies. This is not an issue there is serious dispute over.

Basically Labour has gone for quantity over quality, It’s one of their worst policies. Some of their stuff on 21st century schools is very good, but this aspect is basically appalling. Not the reducing class sizes in itself – but choosing to do that rather than fund an initiative to have great teachers share their success with other teachers.

Here’s what global expert John Hattie said on Q+A on this issue in 2012:

Well, we’ve certainly done many many studies looking at the effects when we reduce class sizes, certainly by the one or two that were suggested in New Zealand, and it’s very very hard to find that they make that much of a difference. The major question is why is it that a seemingly obvious thing that should make a difference doesn’t make a difference, and that’s what’s beguiled a lot of people over the last many decades. I think we have some good answers for that, but the bottom line is it hardly makes a difference.

SHANE Why is that?

PROF HATTIE Well, I think the major argument seems to be when you have teachers in class sizes, like, of 26, 27, 30 and you put them in the class sizes of, say, 18 to 23, and they don’t change what they do, that seems to be the reason why it doesn’t make a difference. So could it make a difference? Yeah, it probably could if we changed how we went about our teaching. But that doesn’t seem to happen. When the many many thousands, tens of thousands of teachers have gone from one size to another, they don’t change how they teach. So, no, that’s why it doesn’t make much of a difference.

A presentation by Professor Hattie here, find’s class size is ranked only the 106th most powerful influence on learning.  That’s 106th out of 130. Labour are putting  Now this is not his personal view. This is a summary of 50,000 individual studies and 800+ meta-studies.

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