The failing charter school

Of the nine in NZ, eight are doing well. Some are actually looking to deliver some spectacular results.

One of them is not doing well. In fact it has been failing badly. That is Te Pumanawa o te Wairua.

Stuff reported:

Parata said since she issued the school with a final notice a number of steps had been taken to fix the problems, including appointing a new chair, disestablishing two management positions and replacing them with a “highly regarded principal”, reviewing policies and procedures and “gaining the support of key local leaders”.

But Parata said those measures did not go far enough to convince her the school should remain open.

Consequently the board has agreed to work with the Ministry of Education to appoint a new leader, one or more trustees nominated by Parata and a trustee with “recognised financial and business background”.

“If the board had not agreed to those changes, I would have issued it with a notice to terminate the agreement when I met with it in Whangarei just under three weeks ago.”

The school has been provided with an extra $129,000 this year for “the extra costs associated with implementing its remedial plan”.

“The board also knows that I reserve the right to terminate the agreement sooner if I am not satisfied the students are being provided with the standard of education they need and deserve.”

I can understand not wanting to close the school down mid year as that will be very disruptive for the 39 students at the school. But when you look at the Deloitte report, it is very clear that it is failing badly, and I think it is almost inevitable it will close – and probably should have been closed now – rather than at the end of the year. I can understand why you want to reduce disruption for the students, however on balance I think the school should have been closed now, not given another chance.

One of the things I like about the charter school model is that are way way way more accountable than other schools. They sign a contract with many hard and fast metrics they need to meet. These include:

  • NCEA achievement levels (81% get Level 1, 67% Level 2)
  • NCEA achievement improvements
  • Unjustified absences (2.8% maximum)
  • Stand Downs (2.1 days per 100 students)
  • Suspensions (0.42 days per 100 students)
  • Exclusions (0.15 days per 100 students)
  • School Culture

So the model is excellent. In fact wouldn’t it be great if every school in NZ had to sign up to explicit targets.

But this school is not just narrowly missing out. They are failing massively. For example no one has achieved NCEA Level 1.

The attendance rate has been between 60% and 78% only.

The accounts are a mess, and there were $4,000 of cash withdrawals or eftpos payments for non educational supplies.

So I think the school should close, unless there is a miraculous turn around.

This doesn’t negate the value charter schools can bring some students. Part of the model is that the schools that do well, grow and prosper, while those that fail can be closed down. This is unlike public schools where it can sometimes take years and years of failings to bring about significant interventions.

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