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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Vanguard Military School academic results

February 25th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Been sent the academic results for the Vanguard Military School, one of the five charter schools. Their results are hugely impressive, especially when you consider that many of their students wer estruggling in other schools.

Their results are:

  • 96% achieved NCEA Level 1, compared to 83% nationally
  • 100% achieved NCEA Level 2, compared to 87% nationally
  • 100% of Asian students achieved NCEA Level 1, compared to 85% nationally
  • 100% of European students achieved NCEA Level 1, compared to 89% nationally
  • 92% of Maori students achieved NCEA Level 1, compared to 71% nationally
  • 100% of Pasifika students achieved NCEA Level 1, compared to 69% nationally
  • 97% of Year 11 students achieved literacy standard, compared to 90% nationally
  • 95% of Year 11 students achieved numeracy standard, compared to 88% nationally
  • 100% of Year 12 students achieved literacy standard, compared to 95% nationally
  • 100% of Year 12 students achieved numeracy standard, compared to 94% nationally

For some reasons Labour and Greens remain determined to close down schools like Vanguard.

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Charter school likely to close

February 21st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Education Minister Hekia Parata has issued a formal warning to the troubled charter school in Whangaruru which now has a month to show it can rectify its problems or it could face closure.

Ms Parata has released her letter to the trust which runs the Te Pumanawa o te Wairua School advising it was now on notice over its performance and would be audited in a month. The letter said it had failed to meet criteria for truancy and the size of the school roll and there were indications of under achievement.

She would use the audit to decide whether the school had any hope of fixing its problems before making any decision on its future. The letter warned that if the trust did not take immediate action to address the problems, it could face closure.

This is a great example of the enhanced accountability that comes with charter schools. When was the last time you heard of a state school facing closure because it is under achieving and having too many truants?

Four out of the five initial charter schools are doing well, and producing what look to be some great results. One of them is not. But again, this is why the charter school model is useful – the sucessful schools prosper, and the unsuccesful ones close down.

When a state school is unsuccessful, it gets more funding, its neighbours are told they have to shrink their zones to stop parents leaving it, and after around five years of under-achievement, there might be some government intervention.


Labour against philanthropy in education

February 18th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

An American equity fund manager who wants to open charter schools in New Zealand was introduced to Ngai Tahu leaders by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bill English.

Hong Kong-based Marc Holtzman plans to open charter or “partnership” schools which he hopes will lead to an education “revolution” in New Zealand.

He said Mr English, who he has known for many years, introduced him to Sir Mark Solomon of Ngai Tahu, who wants to establish schools in partnership.

But the plan, revealed in the Herald yesterday after a confidential report was obtained, is opposed by Labour, which has promised to scrap charter schools.

“I’m very concerned about the idea that you get these sort-of philanthropist, corporate people coming in and trying to buy up large chunks of the education system,” Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said.

So Labour is against wealthy people donating money to try and improved educational outcomes for the most disadvantaged!

He thinks donating money is “buying up chunks of the education system”.  He must think Bill Gates has purchased huge chunks of the welfare system in Africa!

There is absolutely no personal return to Mr Holtzman. He just wants to improve educational outcomes and is happy to donate money to do so.

“If they are genuinely philanthropic and want to contribute, then they could start by supporting the existing education system rather than trying to do something in competition with it.”

Note Labour is concerned about the “system”, rather than outcomes. The thinking is that if some schools do well, this makes other schools look bad, and this is bad for the system. All schools should look equally bad!

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Fisking QPEC

February 17th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

John Minto writes:

When the Government changed the Education Act to allow for charter schools, it bet that a bunch of non-educators using their own untested theories of education could run schools for our most disadvantaged students and achieve better results than state schools.

Who are these non-educators that Minto claims are running charter schools in NZ? As far as I know they are all educators.

Not only that, it stacked the decks by deliberately removing the charter schools from the checks and balances that all state schools must face and gave them more money (as a series of set-up grants).

They actually get slightly less money than an equivalent new state school as detailed by the Ministry.

For example, these schools are exempt from making disclosures under the Official Information Act, despite the fact that they are government-funded.

The OIA applies to organisations owned by the Government, not funded by them. Personally I think it should apply to all bodies funded in whole or majority by the Government, but it doesn’t. All those NGOs that are 95% government funded should come under the OIA, as should charter schools. But I suspect John doesn’t want it extended to all bodies funded by the Government – just those he disagrees with.

The Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) has been tracking US charter schools daily for more than two years ago now, and not only are many of them an educational disgrace but they continue to contribute to the overall educational collapse of the US in world educational rankings. Per dollar spent, US schools are the world’s worst.

It is because the US school system is so bad, that charter schools have done so well there. And there have been numerous studies showing that they overall lift achievements rates for pupils. Also in some states, they have seen a lift in achievement rates for neighbouring public schools also.

There is no empirical research that supports this model of charter schools, and plenty of evidence against the model. It is being driven by the first-term, right-wing Act MP, David Seymour, who promises to support these schools through thick, thin and very expensive, success or failure – competition at all costs, and the taxpayer must pay.

There is a huge amount of empirical evidence. But the best empirical evidence will come from NZ. Minto and others want to close these schools before they can be given a chance to succeed. I say judge them on results. If a charter school produces bad results (as one looks to be doing), then close it down. But if they are producing great results, then support them. In the state school system a failing public school is never closed down – they are just given more money and a bigger zone!

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A Ngai Tahu charter school?

February 14th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A wealthy American businessman wants to set up charter schools in New Zealand that he believes could lead to an education “revolution”.

Marc Holtzman was pen-pals with his political hero Ronald Reagan and secured millions of dollars from Microsoft founder Bill Gates to found a charter school in his home state of Colorado.

He told the Herald that, while it was early days, he planned to see if Mr Gates and other acquaintances might help raise the $10 to $15 million seed money for a first New Zealand school.

The 54-year-old backpacked in New Zealand as a young man and has had his luxury Gibbston, Queenstown property on the market for $4.75 million for over a year, with plans to build again in the region.

The Hong Kong-based businessman contacted Ngai Tahu about the possibility of working together to open schools as well as Act Party leader David Seymour.

In January he took a delegation, including Ngai Tahu’s Sir Mark Solomon and Che Wilson, to the United States to look mostly at charter schools based around science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem). Among the schools visited was the successful Denver School of Science and Technology, which Mr Holtzman co-founded.

A Ngai Tahu charter school would be an excellent idea. I’d love to see Labour then campaign on scrapping charter schools!