A great charter school applicant

November 10th, 2015 at 10:05 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The only South Island contender in the latest round of potential charter schools is also the only with a focus on learning disabilities.

Christchurch learning needs tutoring and assessment company Train the Brain has made a list of 26 organisationsnationwide all vying for the chance to become another of the Government’s recently introduced partnership schools.

The third opportunity for sponsor groups to put forward their ideas closed on October 30, and the chosen applicants will open their schools in 2017.

Partnership schools, or kura hourua, are created with a partnership between the sponsor, Government and community. 

The schools, initially referred to as charter schools, have been controversial and Education Minister Hekia Parata initially said there would not be a third application round in 2015.

Train the Brain director Carina Voges said there were four categories organisations could apply under – Maori, Pacifica, low socio-economic, and learning needs.

It was “sad” there were currently no charter schools in the South Island, and none for learning needs, she said.

She started the organisation more than six years ago for children with difficulties like dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, and visual and auditory processing disorders, and it had grown “tremendously”.

She said between 12 and 24 per cent of the population had learning disabilities.

“Parents always ask, ‘Why don’t you start a school?”‘

“I thought this would be the right time to apply.”

She believed because of the plasticity of the brain, pathways could be built to manage and overcome certain disabilities.

“What we believe is that children with identified learning needs have an average or above average intelligence and needs are not met in the classroom.”

“That potential is lost to New Zealand. New Zealand is a small country and we can’t afford that.”

The 13-staff company currently tutored about 100 children part-time, and assessed other children to identify their needs.

It was applying to become an affordable full-time school, running classes of no more than 12 children to each room.

To begin with, it would have a roll of about 85 for year 3 to 9, with plans to expand to a pre-school to year 13 school while also continuing tutoring.

If accepted, parents would only have to pay fees at state school amounts.

Doesn’t that sound great?

And again we remember that Labour and Greens have vowed to shut down all charter schools in New Zealand.


I support a comparison

October 8th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Concerns were raised about an evaluation of charter schools by the head of the Government-appointed board overseeing the model and former Act Party president Catherine Isaac, documents show.

Ms Isaac, a strong supporter of the controversial schooling model, wrote to Education Minister Hekia Parata to say that the authorisation board had concerns about an external evaluation of the model by consultancy MartinJenkins.

The recently released report is the first evaluation of the model as a whole, but it did not compare the achievement of students in charter schools with how they would have been expected to perform had they stayed in public schools.

That level of evaluation had been called for by both the PPTA – bitterly opposed to charter schools – and David Seymour, leader of the Act Party.

I think there should be a comparison. Arguably you may want to wait a year or two until the schools are more settled in, but I think a comparison would be very interesting. I suspect most charter schools would welcome it also.

Labour’s education spokesman Chris Hipkins said that intervention was bizarre and showed Ms Parata was scared of what a proper evaluation would reveal.

“Why would she not want them to carry out that evaluation if the Government was confident that charter schools are going to deliver better results that state schools, why would they be afraid of that sort of analysis?

Nice to see Chris supporting a comparison. I wonder though why he is so against comparisons for all other schools?

Mr Seymour, Under-Secretary to the Minister of Education, said that, despite his initial request for MartinJenkins to re-scope its first evaluation, he was now happy with a decision for more quantitative comparison of partnership students with comparable students in state schools to be carried out in future reviews by the consultancy firm.

“I believe and I think the Minister believes that we want to do a quantitative comparison that answers the question – looking back several years as it is too early to say now – has the partnership school model led to gains for kids that they might not have made without the model?

Sounds like it will happen, just not yet.


Maybe the answer is to give all schools the flexibility charter schools have?

October 7th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Small class sizes have been hailed as one of the key conditions to charter school success in a first report into how the controversial education model is working.

The report, by consultancy Martin Jenkins on behalf of the Ministry of Education, found early evidence the schools are developing innovative solutions for their communities, with schools enjoying the flexibility of the funding model.

This is key. The funding model is flexible – basically in bulk.

State schools have formulas for almost everything – their number of staff, their buildings grants, their operations, their ICT.  They generally do not have the flexibility to take money from one pool and spend it in another.

I’d see it as a good thing if state schools could sign up to the charter school model – still owned by the state, but with the flexible funding charter schools get. They don’t get more money, they just have full discretion on how to spend it.


Sir Toby Curtis on charter schools

September 18th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Sir Toby Curtis is a former chairman of the Iwi Education Authority and part of the Iwi Chairs Forum. He writes:

At a recent Iwi Chairs Forum hosted by Waikato Tainui at Hopuhopu, iwi leaders resolved to actively support the establishment of partnership schools (kura hourua) in their rohe. We also resolved to advocate that the Government expand this initiative and to advocate the concept publicly, in particular the importance of high-quality teaching, high educational achievement and strong supportive partnerships with iwi, communities and other organisations.

These resolutions follow unanimous support from iwi leaders at a hui in November 2014 for a recommendation that the number of kura hourua be expanded and that more Maori communities be encouraged to take advantage of them.

So the combined view of Maori leaders is to support charter schools as good for their communities, but Labour and Greens remain insistent they will be closed and banned.

We believe kura hourua can be a circuit breaker in closing the educational achievement gap between Maori and non-Maori students. While much has been and is being achieved through the kohanga reo, kura kaupapa and kura a iwi movements, a large and persistent gap still exists between the achievement of our children and all others.

Kura hourua is just one of a number of initiatives aimed at lifting Maori educational achievement but compared with other models it provides much greater autonomy and freedom for communities to be part of their children’s education within a culture of high expectations.

The culture of high expectations is critical.

With this model, schools can design the teaching, language, curriculum and organisational practices that work for their children. The use of te reo by both child and teacher can be a key determinant of a Maori child’s success at school. The schools can invest in attracting and developing gifted teachers and leaders, and partner with iwi, community organisations, businesses or philanthropists to support their establishment and their mission.

In return for these freedoms, kura hourua are contractually bound to achieve meaningful, measurable, high academic standards for all their students.

Basically charter schools are a model which focuses on educational outcomes, not educational inputs. It is about what do you achieve, not how do you do it.

The results in cities as diverse as New Orleans, New York City, and Chicago are remarkable. Since Hurricane Katrina, 93 per cent of students in New Orleans now attend charter schools. Of the 47,000 public school children in the city, 85 per cent are African-American and 83 per cent are economically disadvantaged.

The schools, which have open admission and public accountability, have almost closed the achievement gap between overwhelmingly poor students and affluent students. In the past 10 years the proficiency of African-American students in state tests has increased from 21 per cent to 59 per cent.

The reforms have been vindicated on every measure, including suspension/expulsion rates (much lower), achievement of students with disabilities (much higher) and on-time high school graduation and college enrolment rates (dramatically higher). It’s no wonder the Obama Administration has hailed its success.

But Labour can not say no to its union overlords, and keeps campaigning to ban them.

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Bill Courtney on charter school finances

September 7th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Bill Courtney, an opponent of charter schools, has done an analysis of their 2014 finances. It is embedded below in the interest of free debate.

NZ Charter Schools_Finances 2014

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Will Bill Gates help fund a charter school?

September 3rd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Land is close to being secured for a proposed charter school project between Ngai Tahu and a wealthy American businessman.

Marc Holtzman planned to lean on acquaintances, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, to raise $10 million to $15 million for a new charter school.

The development comes as the Maori Party took a swipe at Labour over its unsuccessful attempt to stop two of its Maori MPs attending a charter school fundraiser.

Kelvin Davis, also Labour’s associate education (Maori education) spokesman, and Peeni Henare both represent Maori electorates.

Labour leader Andrew Little dismissed that criticism and, after calling the MPs to his office, said the party would carry out a wide-ranging programme on raising Maori educational success.

He said that would not include charter schools – which Labour strongly opposes – but how to raise achievement for all Maori students, most of whom “were not getting the benefit of five times funding per student that the charter schools get”.


The normal lie. Charter schools get the same, or slightly less funding, as public schools of the same size, decile and age.

If I was the Maori Party, I’d use charter schools as a wedge issue to win Maori seats back off Labour at the next election. Labour Maori seat MPs obviously do support charter schools, but if their party insists on a platform of closing them down, the Maori Party can highlight how they put their party ahead of their people.

Mr Little added: “Ultimately, the issue is Maori educational underachievement, and that’s not changing under this Government. And the Maori Party is not doing anything about it.”

Wrong. Most charter schools are getting some huge improvements with Maori students, and overall Maori achievement rates have been increasing.

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Gower on Labour and charter schools

September 2nd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Patrick Gower writes:

The next time you hear Labour hate on charter schools, don’t believe them.

Because the truth is a wedge of Labour actually thinks charter schools are all good. And this group is led by none other than its associate education spokesman Kelvin Davis.

The attendance of Davis and fellow MP Peeni Henare at a fundraiser for a Whangarei charter school is about much more than them defying the orders of Andrew Little.

It shows a major policy divide within Labour.

One side, led by education spokesman Chris Hipkins and the teacher unions have a pathological hatred for the privately run schools.

The other side, led by Davis, see that the schools can work particularly in Maori education.

Davis is not captured by the unions.

Charter schools are hated by the teacher unions because they are privately run and don’t have to use registered teachers or conform to the rules like other schools.

But this kind of independent schooling is not new to Maori – Kura Kaupapa schools have been a different model with different outcomes.

If you view charter schools with a Maori focus as an extension of this then it is not so controversial.



It is no surprise that the most progressive iwi, Ngai Tahu, is looking at setting up a charter school. So is Tuhoe, the most independent iwi.

Instead of listening to the unions, it seems Davis is listening to his people when it comes to charter schools.

And don’t forget that Davis is a former Northland principal with a deep understanding of the educational issues out there.

If Little was ballsy, he’d make Davis the Education Spokesperson.

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Kelvin puts kids ahead of his leader

September 1st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour’s associate education spokesman, Kelvin Davis, has attended a charter school fundraiser – despite his party being bitterly opposed to the controversial schooling model.

The $250-a-seat fundraiser was for a school run by the He Puna Marama Trust in Whangarei.

Charter or “partnership” schools are publicly-funded but privately-run, and are strongly opposed by education unions.

Labour has pledged to scrap charter schools and its education spokesman Chris Hipkins has frequently attacked the model during Parliamentary question time.

Despite this, Mr Davis, the party’s associate education (Maori education) spokesman, attended the fundraiser with fellow Labour MP Peeni Henare.

That was despite leader Andrew Little asking them not to.

Good on them. They know that some charter schools are making a real difference with Maori kids who have been failing in the public school system. They decided to stand by their constituents, rather than their party.

He Puna Marama is considered by government as a successful example of the charter school model, used most recently by the Productivity Commission as a case study of why New Zealand should privatise social services.

It gained favourable NCEA marks last year, with at least 85 per cent of students achieving across all NCEA levels.

Yet Labour wants it closed down.

However, the trust has drawn criticism from the Labour Party and teachers’ unions, who say its schools are funded at a higher rate than state schools, which is unfair.


False. They get the same or less funding of a state school of the same size, decile and age.

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An inspiring school story

August 15th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

It started with a murder. The year was 2006 and the dead man was Sita Selupe’s cousin. Just 17, a “sweet boy”, he was beaten to death by a group of thugs with a baseball bat, one of a spate of terrible attacks to sweep Otara that year. The killer was found to be part of a youth gang, his victim a harmless bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time.

After the funeral, the family gathered, and prayed, and sat around the table for a talk. “It made us think,” Mrs Selupe says. “How are our boys tracking? Could this happen again to one of our other boys? And we said we had better do something.”

A primary school teacher with Tongan and Niuean heritage, Mrs Selupe had already been running classes for her sons and a few nephews and nieces in her garage for around a year. Each Saturday morning the kids would come for a couple of hours, and Mrs Selupe taught them using an “inquiry” method – teaching through applied learning – picked up at her previous job.

“It was only meant to be four of them,” Mrs Selupe says. “But then the rest of the whanau found out.”

After her cousin’s death, the family decided the homeschool was one way they could help Pasifika children in the area, and placed a renewed focus on education. The numbers of students increased. The school was renamed Rise UP, as a message of hope. And Mrs Selupe became a woman on a mission.

Out of something awful, came something good.

Almost ten years on, Mrs Selupe still has the same goal. However after a decade’s hard work, she now runs her own government-funded school with around 85 primary-aged kids.

One of the country’s first partnership schools, Rise Up last year posted some encouraging results, and is on track to do so again.

Yes an evil charter school which Labour and Greens have vowed to close down if elected, and the PPTA boycotts anyone who teaches there. They see Mrs Selupe as the enemy.

The kids, particularly boys, thrive on experience-based learning, Mrs Selupe says. Earlier this year, the Year 3 and 4 students spent a term researching and designing a playground. Eventually their designs went off to a planner, and now the playground has been built in the front of the buildings they share with a church.

What a great idea.

The school’s results seem to show that it works. Last year Rise UP’s children reached national standards in reading, writing and maths at a rate of at least 20 percentage points above the average of the other children in the Mangere and Otahuhu areas. They were also well above the national average, and within their contract obligations.

Again, this is what Labour and Greens are vowing to stop.

However Mrs Selupe doesn’t believe the school is undermining the wider system. She likes to think it is another way to keep kids local, rather than travelling to get a better start. “In my day, every day, there were buses taking kids to school in the city. I wonder if our school provides another chance, if we can stop those buses. That would be good.”

Indeed it would.


The shameful teacher boycoot

August 6th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

When Chief Petty Officer Kelly Kahukiwa left the navy to teach in Northland he did not know what a charter school was.

Now, because he had a job at a Whangarei charter school, the student teacher is caught between a teachers’ union and a controversial government policy that has left him blacklisted from training at state schools. It comes after the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) said its members will not work with employees of charter schools.

Mr Kahukiwa started teaching te reo Maori and music at Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa in Whangarei at the start of the year. He sought out the school after meeting some of its students at the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Cassino in Italy last May, where he was with the Royal New Zealand Navy.

“All of us in the military, when we met those kids, we knew there was something special going on,” he said.

“I just thought, oh well, whatever a charter school is it works for these kids, I want to be part of it.”

Mr Kahukiwa said the first he knew of any issues was three days into his next placement, at Tikipunga High School in May. Once the school found out he was from a charter school, the board asked him not to return.

“I was just astounded,” he said. “I had no idea why or what was going on. I’m just one teacher trying to do what [the PPTA members] all joined for, which is educate kids, uplift the kids and share my skills.”

PPTA members should be ashamed that they are treating someone who wants to educate kids, so poorly. It’s appalling.

David Seymour also comments:

The case of the trainee teacher caught in the political campaigning of the PPTA is a national disgrace, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The PPTA doesn’t seem to understand that whether a teacher is employed in the state sector, an integrated school, or a partnership school, they are employed by taxpayers. And as taxpayers we elect governments to take decisions on our behalf,” said Mr Seymour.

“The PPTA blog, Pigeonhole, has summarised the rationale for the union’s campaign of discrimination against all staff or trainee teachers associated with Partnership Schools. Its commentary is a welter of misinformation and inaccuracy.

“But there is one very revealing comment: ‘It’s perfectly legal to choose not to employ or work with people on the basis of their current employer – it’s the same as a business not wanting to sell something to a competitor because you don’t want to be copied by them’.

“The PPTA seems to think it operates like a business, in charge of our education system. It’s not. Taxpayers employ teachers with an expectation that they will work in the interests of children, not union ideology.

Taxpayers through the Government are the employers of teachers in the state sector, not the PPTA.

Why stop there?  Will the PPTA also demand schools refuse to hire teachers who have ever worked at a private school?  Or an integrated school?

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The failing charter school

August 4th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Of the nine charter schools 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.


Some of the Villa allegations already discredited

July 22nd, 2015 at 7:35 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The school under fire for bribing its kids with takeaways says it never served fried chicken – only pizza.

Villa Education Trust, which runs Middle School West Auckland, is yet to respond to questions from the New Zealand Herald, but told the Ministry of Education today they don’t use food as part of any rewards or behaviour programme at the school.

“The school had a shared lunch just before the end of term where pizza was brought in.

They have told us Kentucky Fried Chicken hasn’t been served to students,” the ministry said.

“This was not part of any behaviour programme. It is common for schools to have shared lunches.”

There may be some substance to the other allegations, but I’m sceptical.

One has to put in context that there is a vigorous campaign to discredit and destroy charter schools. No other schools in New Zealand face such a well funded and ongoing campaign. Everything possible to undermine them has been attempted from boycotts, to press campaigns.

This doesn’t mean that allegations should be ignored. But it does mean that allegations without any proof should not be treated as authoritative, even if the media does.

We have a robust system of checks of schools, and even ore on charter schools than most schools. They have targets agreed with with the Ministry, which they can be held against. The ERO can and does review them. And most of all as they have no zones which force people to attend the local school, not students are forced to attend them. If they do not provide good educational outcomes, then parents won’t enrol in them.

Russel Brown at Public Address said that I won’t report negatively on any charter schools. This is false. Not only did I blog earlier today on the allegations, I also have blogged on the Whangaruru charter school that is having considerable problems.

I’d turn about the false claim by Russel, and ask him when has he (or maybe any left blogger) ever published a positive article on a charter school? And what would it take for him to do so? Are the academic results achieved at Vanguard not sufficient?


Middle School West Auckland,

July 22nd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Fried chicken, pizza and cakes were used as rewards to keep a handle on spiralling student behaviour, according to angry parents and teachers from a new charter school.

The claims, and further concerns about behaviour policy, bullying, lack of cultural awareness, safety and drugs at Middle School West Auckland, are under investigation by the Ministry of Education.

About 40 children attend the Henderson school, which opened in January. It shares a location with private Maori school Nga Kakano and teaches Years 7 to 10. …

Complaints about the school were sent to its board, with some then forwarded to government officials after a perceived lack of action.

“The present leadership … is found wanting,” said a letter written by Veronica Allen, a Maori educator who came from Nga Kakano to help at MSWA.

“In fact the method used is an appease system where students are bought pizza, hot chips, cakes and then taken on trips to the beach or unrelated outings to keep them happy and engaged.”

Mrs Allen said that on average, each year level had been fed takeaways four times over three weeks, with some promised KFC if they scored well on behaviour tracking sheets.

Another staff member wrote to the Education Review Office, saying the behaviour policy “highlights a lack of leadership management and lack of effective teaching practices”.

The staff member informed ERO that bullying was rife at the school, and that there was drug use. She said one student had attempted suicide. Students were ejected from class, and left in the hallway with no supervision.

Accusations of drug use, bullying and an attempted suicide are serious, and need to be properly investigated.

Katrina Casey, head of the ministry’s sector enablement and support, said the school’s sponsor, Villa Education Trust, had confirmed there had not been any instances of drugs or bullying or any suicide attempt by a student at Middle School.

So those alleging this has happened, need to substantiate their claims. I have no idea who is right or wrong, but such serious allegations should be substantiated and investigated.


PPTA bully blocks student teacher

June 23rd, 2015 at 10:08 am by David Farrar

The Northland Advocate reports:

A Northland student is struggling to become a qualified teacher after being forced out of a school placement by a teachers’ union because he works at a charter school.

This is despite the Ministry of Education saying the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) had no authority to make that decision. The student, who did not want to speak publicly, now faces an uncertain future with the possibility of not finishing his studies.

The man started at Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa in Whangarei this year as a teacher. He had a bachelor’s degree and was employed on the proviso he would study towards a post-graduate diploma in teaching through Massey University. But just three days in to his first placement, at Tikipunga High School, he was asked to leave. …

The nation-wide ban involved PPTA members, the majority of teachers, limiting and avoiding where possible professional interactions with charter school employees. Tikipunga High School board of trustees chairwoman Veronica Turketo said the school was unaware the student worked at the charter school when it gave him the placement.

“When our members became aware of the student teacher’s employment at the charter school the PPTA position was followed,” she said.

Ministry of Education head of student achievement Graham Stoop said ultimately the board was responsible for the decision.

“It is not appropriate that a school refuses to accept a placement because staff at the school, or the union representing some of the staff, are running an industrial campaign against the student’s place of employment,” Mr Stoop said.

“The PPTA has no responsibility or authority to influence these decisions and it is disappointing if they have used their influence to stop a student-teacher receiving all of their training because they disagree with the student’s employment choices.”

The school should get some balls and tell the PPTA to go jump.

It’s disgraceful that someone aspiring to be a teacher has his employment blocked because of the political views of a union.

My view is that the Government should respond to this by announcing dozens more charter schools a year, so that after a few years there will be so many teachers working at charter schools, the boycott can’t succeed.


South Auckland Middle School Annual Report

June 13th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The South Auckland Middle School Annual report is here. Some highlights:

  • Year 7 reading is 1.4% above the performance target
  • Year 7 maths is 2.1% below the performance target
  • Year 7 writing is 18.3% above the performance target
  • Year 8 reading is 0.94% above the performance target
  • Year 8 maths is 28.4% above the performance target
  • Year 8 writing is 1.9% below the performance target

I love how you can get such clear reporting against clear targets.

They also note that the current start-up cost for a single student in a State School is $46,790 (excluding establishment salaries) and the current start-up cost for a single student in a Partnership School is $5,613 (including establishment salaries).


Vanguard School Annual Report

June 8th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Vanguard School has published its annual report.

Some highlights:

  • Level 1 NCEA success rate 96% (decile average is 74%)
  • Level 1 Maori NCEA success rate 92% (decile average is 70%)
  • Level 1 Pasifika NCEA success rate 100% (decile average is 69%)
  • Level 2 NCEA success rate 100% (decile average is 92%)
  • 108 students, increasing to 144 in 2015
  • 52% Maori or Pasifika
  • No school fees
  • School provides uniforms and pays exam fees
  • Reports every quarter to Ministry of Education
  • All staff are qualified teachers except three specialists in engineering and defence force studies
  • No school zone – all applicants are accepted. Some travel as far as from Warkworth to attend. 74% of students are not local.
  • Establishment grant was $1.6 million, compared to average cost of new state schools being $30 – $50 million
  • Attendance rate is 11% above contracted, and exceeds national average

The only slight negative is they have had to suspend and stand down a few students very early on in 2014.

Overall they look like they are succeeding very very well, with a group of students who were not succeeding in other schools.  Despite this Labour and Greens want to close them down.

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An education reporter on charter schools

June 3rd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

There’s three interesting things about this exchange.

  1. Portraying charter schools as exploiting vulnerable kids, rather than helping them
  2. Portraying charter schools as people making money. As far as I know every charter school operator in NZ is a not-for-profit entity
  3. The tweeter is the NZ Herald’s specialist education reporter

If you were a charter school operator, teacher or parent what confidence would you have that the Herald will report fairly on your school, when the reporter seems to have such a negative view of them.

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Herald changes letters of complaints they receive!

May 12th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

David Seymour sent a letter into the Herald complaining about an incredibly misleading story they ran on funding of charter and state schools. They published his letter, but edited it to be more favourable to them!

Newspapers will edit their own content, but not a good look to edit a letter of complaint! Good on David for publicising the changes they made.

Hat tip: Whale Oil

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School start up costs

May 11th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Educational unions, with help from some media friends, have tried to make it look like charter schools get extra funding because they compare the cost of a new school with the average cost of established schools.

This is not apples and apples.

A fair comparison would be comparing start-up costs of the charter schools with start-up costs of new state schools.

Nine charter schools have been created, and they have combined start-up costs of $9.43 million. They have capacity for 1,680 students.  So the cost per 200 students is around $1.1 million.

Let’s look at costs (data from Alwyn Poole) of new state schools of a similar capacity

  • Mission Heights $60 million for 1,500 roll
  • Rolleston High School $53 million for 1,040 roll
  • Ormiston High School $50 million for 1,000 roll

The average cost per 200 students to set up a new state school is $9.4 million compared to $1.1 million for charter schools.

So new charter schools cost less than new state schools. Yes they cost more initially than an existing state school, but that is not the valid comparison.


Urban charter schools are succeeding—so get out of their way

April 6th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Fortune reports:

Here’s an approach to charter schools that should seem obvious—to those on both sides of the acrimonious debate on the future of charters in public education.

In places where charter schools are not achieving results, they should be suspended or at least curtailed until whatever isn’t working can be fixed.

And in cities where charters are making striking gains compared to traditional public schools, enrollment opportunities should be expanded, so that more kids can take advantage of them.

Absolutely. Close down the failing ones, and expand the successful ones.

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes(CREDO), at Stanford University, has done that in a new study, and it turns out that charters, in general, are strongest exactly where the need is greatest—in urban areas. In some cities, such as Boston, students are achieving six times the growth in math knowledge as are their traditional school counterparts; in reading, four times as much.

And in NZ the parties of the left are dedicating to closing charter schools down.

CREDO’s new study took an unusual tack. It studied students in multiple areas of the country—and exclusively studied urban areas. Three points emerged. When suburban charters were excluded, the smaller average gains registered in previous studies were suddenly magnified. In other words, charters seem to be remedying a particular defect of schools in the most challenged areas. Second, within those schools, gains were greatest among students—those in poverty, African-Americans, Hispanics, English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students—whose performance typically lags. Disadvantaged students gain the equivalent of months (or more) of extra learning for every year in a charter school.

So we may not need charter schools in Epsom, but we do in South Auckland.


Boston charter schools

March 24th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Boston Globe reports:

Boston charter school students outperformed their counterparts at traditional public schools and at charter schools in other urban areas by a striking margin over a recent six-year span, a Stanford University study found.

The strides at Boston charter schools — in both math and reading — equaled what students would have learned if they had been in school hundreds of additional days each year, researchers said in the report, released Wednesday.

The disparity held true for black, Hispanic, and low-income students in both math and reading, and was particularly strong for black and Hispanic students who live in poverty.

As you read this, remember that the two parties that most go on about poverty, are the two who want to abolish charter schools.

In Boston, the average yearly academic growth for charter school students was more than four times that of their traditional school peers in reading. In math, the academic growth was more than six times greater.


This month, Los Angeles administrator Tommy Chang was named as the next superintendent of Boston Public Schools. Chang, a former charter school principal, has a reputation for giving schools more freedom to hire and develop budgets, and said he plans to narrow the achievement gap with a focused effort to improve classroom instruction.

Make every school a charter school! Give public school boards the ability to become a charter school and fully manage their own budgets and staffing.

The study compared standardized test scores of charter school students with the scores of Boston Public Schools students with similar demographic backgrounds.

It found that the average academic growth of charter school students surpassed public school students in both mathematics and reading, and at each level from elementary to high school.

So they compare like with like.

Jon Clark, co-director for Brooke Charter Schools, which has schools in Mattapan, East Boston, and Roslindale, said charter schools provide a longer school day and give students intensive personal attention.

Principals have the freedom to hire a staff and craft a budget as they see fit, he said.

That’s the key – local flexibility and control.

Clark rejected the “cherry-picking” argument and said the success charter schools have shown with low-income black and Latino students is the true indicator.

“If you really care about the achievement gap, you can’t look at these numbers and dismiss them,” he said.

But they do.


Why charter schools do or don’t work

March 22nd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

David Osborne at USA News reports:

The critics also love to repeat that charters perform no better than other public schools. This statement may have been true in 2009, if one accepts the critics’ favorite study, from Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes or CREDO. But a closer look at those results reveals a deeper truth. Where charter authorizers do their jobs, charters vastly outperform traditional public schools, with far less money. Where authorizers fall down on the job, letting failing charters live on just like traditional schools, the average charter performs no better, and sometimes worse.

So the key is to be selective with whom you authorise and move swiftly on failing schools.

In 2003 Ohio gave non-profit organizations both the right to authorize charters and a financial incentive to do so, opening the floodgates to mediocre schools.

In Massachusetts, by contrast, the state board was careful who got a charter and closed schools where kids were not learning. CREDO found that the typical charter student in Boston gained the equivalent of 12 extra months of learning in reading and 13 extra months in math every year, compared to demographically similar students in traditional public schools.

So the debate in NZ should not be about whether to allow charter schools. It should be about what is the authorisation policy.

New Orleans, with 92.4 percent of students in charters, is probably the fastest improving city in America. Graduation rates, ACT scores and college-going rates have all soared. If current trends continue, in fact, New Orleans may become the first major city to outperform its state. CREDO found that charter students in the city gained more than four months of additional learning in reading and five months in math, compared to their peers in traditional schools.

In Washington, D.C., where Congress created a Public Charter School Board, 45 percent of public school students attend charters. Among cities tested by the National Education Assessment Program (which do not include New Orleans), D.C. is now the fastest improving. CREDO found that charter students gained the equivalent of 72 days of extra learning per year in reading, 101 in math, compared to traditional public students.

If we could get those sort of results in South Auckland and Northland, it would be exceptional.


Labour MP condemns charter schools then turns up to open one!

March 7th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Whale Oil has the story of Labour MP Su’a Wiliam Sio who made speeches condemning charter schools, yet also turned up to pose for photos at the opening of one in his electorate.

Did the good MP announce at the opening of the Nga Whare Waatea Training Centre that if his party becomes Government, he will be voting to close them down?

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Agassi’s charter schools

March 4th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

His campaign began 14 years ago, with the establishment of the Andre Agassi Preparatory Academy in a run-down part of Las Vegas, and is still expanding.

By the end of this year, Agassi hopes to have extended his tally of charter schools (which are similar in spirit to our own free schools) to more than 100, spread from Nevada to Tennessee.”

The USA has dropped to 29th in the world when it comes to educating our children,” Agassi told The Daily Telegraph. “The demand for good schooling is huge, but the infrastructure is not there.

“Rather than wait for the government to do the job, I wanted to create a model that would be scalable and sustainable.

The idea is to find partners on each job, investors who aren’t looking to give their money away, but neither do they insist on having an annual return of 20 per cent.

I’m in an exciting place where I can raise $175 million of funding in 15 minutes of phone calls, and the total we have gathered so far is well north of $1 billion.”

Superb. And from Wikipedia:

In 2001, Agassi opened the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy[151] in Las Vegas, a tuition-free charter school for at-risk children in the area. He personally donated $35 million to the school.[152] In 2009, the graduating class had 100 percent graduation rate and expected a 100 percent college acceptance rate.


In 1997, Agassi donated funding to Child Haven for a six-room classroom building now named the Agassi Center for Education. His foundation also provided $720,000 to assist in the building of the Andre Agassi Cottage for Medically Fragile Children. This 20-bed facility opened in December 2001, and accommodates developmentally delayed or handicapped children and children quarantined for infectious diseases.

Those charter school funders are really evil aren’t they.

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Dom Post editorial repeats lie twice

February 26th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial asserts:

And indeed charter schools do not operate on a level playing field.

They appear to get much more money per pupil than most state schools. …

They receive more money than state schools and therefore their pupils do better.

Once upon a time an editorial may have opinions you would disagree with, but its fact would not be incorrect. Now it seems an editorial thinks if you repeat a lie twice, then that makes it okay.

The Ministry of Education has a site that shows the actual funding for two partnership schools, compared to state schools of similar size and decile.

The decile 3 primary charter school receives $647 a student less funding than a comparable state school.

The decile 3 secondary charter school receives around 1,142 a student less funding than a comparable state school.

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