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!


The Myth of Charter-School ‘Cherry Picking’

February 10th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Eva Moskowitz writes in the WSJ:

There is a concept called the big lie, which holds that if you repeat a falsehood long enough and loudly enough, people will begin to believe it. Sadly, fearing the success of charter schools in New York City, the United Federation of Teachers and other education-reform opponents have been telling a big lie for years.

The UFT and its backers have kept up a steady drumbeat of false claims against charter schools in New York City: Charters cherry-pick their students, push out those who need extra support, and generally falsify their impressive results.

We hear this here also, even though charter schools in NZ can not pick their students – if there are a surplus of applicants, they must choose by random ballot.

Well, a recent report from New York City’s Independent Budget Office, a publicly funded, nonpartisan agency, proves that these accusations are false.

So what does it say?

The IBO report, released in January, found that—contrary to what some people have come to believe—“students at charter schools stay at their schools at a higher rate than students at nearby traditional public schools.” The IBO reported that charter schools in the city retain 64% of their students, compared with 56% of students retained by district schools. Among special-education students, the IBO found that 53% stay at their charter schools, versus 49% at district schools.


The vast majority of Success Academy students are children of color from low-income families. On last year’s state exam, our schools ranked in the top 1% of all New York state schools in math and the top 3% in English, outperforming schools in affluent areas of the city and wealthy suburbs. On the science exam, 100% of our fourth- and eighth-grade scholars passed, with more than 90% scoring at the highest level.

Success Academy schools have reversed the achievement gap: 94% of African-American students and 96% of Hispanic students passed the math exam, compared with 56% of white students citywide.

Imagine if we could replicate that in South Auckland!


Why charter schools improve over time

January 10th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Cato Institute looks at charter schools:

or a deeper understanding of charters as a market-oriented reform, it is necessary to examine the dynamics of the charter sector.

Our research on charter school quality in Texas brings new evidence to bear on these important issues. Our analysis clearly indicates that charter school quality has improved over time. As seen in the figures below, the distribution of charter school quality initially lies to the left of that for traditional public schools but then converges and subsequently moves slightly to the right of the public school distribution.

This improvement is the result of three consistent changes. First, schools that close are drawn disproportionately from the least effective charter schools. Second, schools that open during the period of study far outperform those that close; the average value-added for new charters is roughly equal to the average among existing charters. Third, charter schools remaining open throughout the decade from 2001 to 2011 exhibit increases in average school value-added.

This is a key thing to understand. A charter school that performs badly will close.

Non charter schools that perform badly rarely close. Even when students flee them, nearby schools are now allowed to expand to allow more students in, so students are forced to keep going to these badly performing schools.

The Cato research shows that school performance improves when you allow failing schools to close.



Guest Post: Partnership Schooling – Year 1 – A Chink of Light.

December 14th, 2014 at 8:23 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Alwyn Poole:

Whenever anyone in New Zealand talks of making a difference to the lives of children and their families then the topic of education is not far away.

 I began thinking about the NZ education system as far back as 1988 when I took some Education options while completing and Economics degree (I hadn’t thought education  much when I was at school as I was too busy playing cards in class or running around on the sports fields when I shouldn’t have been). The massive preoccupation with the content of  the Education papers was with the under achievement of Maori and Pasifika children and the subsequent over-representation of those groups in statistics of social ill. Given the left wing bias of the lecturers and the material presented the claim was that these outcomes were semi-intentionally generated to perpetuate power structures within society and serve Capital. It almost goes without saying that the “high flying” academics proposed nothing of effect/worth to change anything. There are still a lot of these hopeless finger pointers in NZ today pretending they have something to say about education.

A quarter of a century later much has changed in the world. New Zealand is materially better off. Around the world rates of poverty are in decline, people live longer, opportunities are expansive. The variety of careers has broadened immeasurably. The understanding of how children learn and how it can be enhanced has improved exponentially. Information technology and the availability of high quality learning resources – at very low cost – has exploded.

A quarter of a century later much is the same. Maori and Pasifika children and those whose families are on lower incomes are over represented in underachievement and qualifications statistics. So are those with defined learning difficulties even though we now know how to do a lot about those (although sometimes parents also have to have the trust, knowledge and courage to stay with a programme).

The other thing that is the same is that academics and those on the political left would rather point out and perpetuate problems than openly evaluate every possibility of solving them. Maybe it is their power structures that now feel a little threatened in the field of education and they have circled the wagons.

Twelve years ago the Villa Education Trust (VET) was established. It was done so because there is a need to provide innovative models to produce excellence in Education. It was also done because after the Economics degree I did a teaching qualification, a masters degree specialising in programme design for teaching high ability children, a sports management diploma, traveled overseas to look at ideal models, taught at 3 high quality schools in NZ, did system wide study of NZ schooling, talked to anyone who would share their ideas and read widely about how to assist children and young people to develop knowledge, attitudes and skills. The VET was established after massive hours spent on model and curriculum design. It was established through my wife and I deciding that the reward of making a difference to the education of children was worth the risk of selling all we have to start a Charitable Trust.

In 2003 the VET began Mt Hobson Middle School ( It is a private Year 7 – 10 school for 48 children (12 per class). It teaches the NZ curriculum through core classes in Maths, English, Science, Social Studies and Technology. The children also have an hour of guided independent time each morning working on fully cross curricula topic based projects – e.g. Architecture, Flight and Space, Oceans (that set the context for the school). They do 8 projects a year – learn a massive amount in terms of self management, research and academic product skills. They also develop their knowledge base superbly. The afternoon programme is activity based – Art, Music, Sport, Community Learning, Community Service. We work with a broad group of children – from those with fantastically developed all round abilities looking for extension to those who have areas to overcome to set them up for Year 11 and beyond. It is demanding and effective. We have significant data and case studies of generated change and improvement. We also continue to innovate – for instance – a complete rethink going into 2015 with many new start aspects in response to further changes/understandings in education.

Given that background in 2013 we gained permission from the New Zealand government to take the developed model to Manurewa and begin South Auckland Middle School (SAMS: We had looked for this kind of opportunity before but under past legislation it was not even close to feasible (NB Labour party). We were allowed an establishment period of four and a half months and an establishment fund of $1.3 million dollars (compared to a two year lead in for a State School and at approximately 5% of that model’s establishment cost). We are funded at a decile 3 level on a per student basis each year and, like State schools, have a guaranteed fund during the establishment period. We were not given a zone and there was no certainty that anyone would come. We attracted high quality staff even though the PPTA took out ads in the Education Gazette telling teachers not to work for us (very sporting of them – must have made their members proud). We leased premises and outfitted them to facilitate the tried and tested model from Newmarket.

After a year is is worth thinking about the progress:

– A full SAMS roll is 120 students. In Year 1 our Year 7, 8, 9 were all full with waiting lists. We have averaged seventeen Year 10 students coming in for a year or less to re-boot their education.

– We are full for 2015 and have substantial waiting lists.

– The children have thrived on the day structure and have worked very hard through the academic mornings.

– The children have excelled on the Projects and produced some remarkable work – both individual tasks and completed projects.

– We can evidence significant progress in the basics of all 5 core subjects in our morning programme.

– To ease the financial pressures of families we provide uniform and stationery (and do not ask them for per annum donations) and have a Community Liaison Manager who is working hard at getting to know and to help solve the external pressures that impact on learning.

– We are significantly under local school averages for truancy, disciplinary actions and transience. 

– We have a very good ERO report and have students able to eloquently express their experiences:

– Like MHMS will be SAMS will be better in 2015 than in 2014 because when you see areas of needed change in education smart educators make the changes.

We are able to make many of our choices, such as a student:teacher ratio of 15:1 through receiving our funding in bulk. We don’t carry large infrastructure items, our Principals/Academic Managers teach large programmes, and we keep much of what we do simple in terms of resourcing.

The long established Mt Hobson model and the immediately evidenced success of SAMS earned the Villa Education Trust the opportunity to begin Middle School West Auckland ( which will grow to 240 students from a beginning in February of 2015. Again – our establishment period is short but we already have a remarkable staff in place under former St Peter’s College Deputy Head James Haggett. Great teachers want to work in an innovative situation. We are setting up quality facilities and have a good level of enrollments coming in. We are confident that this will also become and outstanding academic school.

To ensure that all we do is cutting edge I had the privilege of travelling to New York City and spending 3 days meeting with a group of the very best educators I have ever met – who happen to be running sets of simply outstanding Charter Schools that are changing the lives if under-served children and their families. These were the top organisations such as KIPP, Achievement First, Uncommon Schools, Success Academies. Their success is clearly evident and given that we have visited them and Charter Schools in Tampa, Jacksonville and Andre Agassi’s school in Las Vegas the dishonesty of the teacher unions in NZ and the political Left for saying that this is a failed model overseas became crystal clear. As the Stanford Credo report 2013 stated: (

Black students in poverty at charter schools gain 29 additional days in reading and 36 additional days of learning in math.Students in poverty, English language learners, and special education students all benefit from attending charter schools as well. 

On Friday December 12 I was a guest at North Shore’s Vanguard Military School’s first prize-giving. The testimony of the children, the evidence of academic success, the pride of the parents and the job satisfaction of the staff was clear to all.

As I think back to the readings of systemic failure thrust upon me in 1988 through to misguided people today stating that schools can achieve nothing because of socioeconomic disparity – I see a light in the tunnel that is not just a train coming the other way. There is growing hope of a genuine means for Partnership Schooling to be a part of systemic change and a quiet revolution in the provision for children who are otherwise not doing well. Like all changes and challenges it will not be smooth at every stage or with every establishment – but for the children and families that need innovation and choice the necessity to persevere and enhance the model is clear.

For those who doubt and have genuine interest in the well being of the young people of New Zealand our doors are very open and we are willing to collaborate and share our experiences. For those that criticize from a distance – have some courage and come and see.

 Alwyn Poole
(VET Board member, Principal MHMS)

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Charter school funding facts

December 3rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Ministry of Education has done something very well – a clear easy to comprehend brochure on charter school funding that dispels the myths put out by opponents.

Some key facts:

  • Charter school funding is $14.1 million vs state school funding of $5,570 million
  • There are five charter schools and 2,438 state schools
  • State schools have the Ministry pay for property and insurance costs on their behalf, while charter schools pay themselves, so to compare funding you have to allow for this
  • A decile 3 primary state school gets $8,235 per student and a decile 3 primary charter school gets $7,588 once you remove insurance and property costs
  • A decile 3 secondary state school gets $9,594 per student and a decile 3 secondary charter school gets $8,452 once you remove insurance and property costs

I encourage people to circulate the pamphlet linked above.


Vanguard Military School

December 1st, 2014 at 7:45 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Green Party has attacked the Government’s charter school policy after one school’s roll dropped by a quarter this year – but Vanguard Military School says that’s because its students have qualified and moved on to other courses.

The North Shore charter school, which starts every day with a military parade, had 79 students attending in October this year – 25 per cent below the 108 it was funded to teach, Green Party education spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said. …

But Vanguard Milliary School chief executive Nick Hyde said roll numbers had dropped because students had already passed their qualifications and had moved on to other courses, including some in the military or, in a few cases, at other schools.

“The reality is these kids have gained the qualification they signed up for, and we should be celebrating that, not throwing stones at them.”

He said 41 out of 45 students sitting NCEA level 2 this year had already passed the course, and 84 per cent of students had passed level 1.

So this is what the Greens are against – a 90% pass rate for NECA Level 2 among students who traditionally have very low pass rates.

Delahunty said she disputed that education was about getting children over the line and then moving them on.

“It doesn’t stop because they’ve had one assessment.

Vanguard is only set up for NCEA Level 1 and 2. But Catherine will be pleased a solution is in sight.

However, Hyde said taxpayers were getting “good value for money” with charter schools, which were “making an impression” on the 20 per cent of students who were not succeeding in other schools.

“If they’ve got their level 2 qualification and don’t want to do level 3, then why should we make them stick around until the end of the year when they could be going on to do other things?”

Next year the school roll would increase to 144 students, when the school expanded to include NCEA level 3.


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The focus should be on students not schools

November 22nd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Free uniforms and stationery are on offer to those who enrol at a new charter school.

How terrible. Helping poor families.

Millions of dollars will be spent on new charter or “partnership” schools despite hundreds of spare places at surrounding state options.

I don’t care about schools. I care about outcomes for students. The outcomes in these communities to date have been pretty poor.

That has not stopped disquiet from one principal who says it is unfair to expect lower decile schools to compete with charter schools offering free uniforms, stationery and no donations.

They complain that fees are too high and then complain when a school is innovative enough to not need them.

Six intermediate schools are near the site of Middle School West Auckland, a Year 7-10 partnership school that will have a maximum roll of 240.

The schools have enough spare places to enrol an additional 588 students at Year 7-8, according to the ministry document.

Yes, but they are all offering much the same, while the charter school is offering something different, Parents will have a choice.

Partnership schools cannot charge donations, and the school would provide free uniforms and stationery, Mr Poole said, but not as “sweeteners”.

“What we want is that every child walks through the gate at 100 per cent equal.”

Shouldn’t the left be cheering this on?

Mr Poole said that, despite attacks from opponents of charter schools, they did not get more funding, and start-up costs were well below usual amounts for state schools. Creative budgeting and a lack of expensive infrastructure like playing fields enabled them to offer smaller classes and items such as uniforms, he said.

It’s about flexibility. A charter school has greater ability to set its own priorities.

What’s interesting is that the principal complaining about a charter school offering free stationery took part in a protest march where he complained about funding for stationery.

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