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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Former Alliance MP applies for charter school

September 18th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Opening a charter school in Mangere is a “strategic decision” that will help turn around Maori achievement, Willie Jackson says.

The Manukau Urban Maori Authority chief executive welcomes the Government plan to open four new charter schools next year, including two in South Auckland. The schools will cost $15.5 million over four years.

Jackson’s organisation will sponsor Te Kura Maori o Waatea, a primary school based at Nga Whare Waatea Marae.

Good to see more applications for charter schools, as run properly they can make a real difference with some kids who are not succeeding in the current system.

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Another benefit of charter schools

August 6th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The University Herald reports:

Low-income minority adolescents enrolled in California’s high-performing public charter high schools are less likely to engage in risky health behaviors, according to a new study by the University of California – Los Angeles.

Researchers said that these adolescents also scored better on Math and English tests as compared to their peers from other schools.

Previous studies have highlighted the link between health and K-12 education. But, the new study is the first to examine the impact of quality education on high school students’ risky health behaviors.

“These students’ higher cognitive skills may lead them to better health literacy and decision-making. They may be exposed to less negative peer pressure, and the school environment may promote the resilience that steers them away from these risky behaviors,” Dr. Mitchell Wong, the study’s lead investigator and a professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine and health services research, said in a statement.

“In addition, in a better academic environment students spent more time studying, leaving them less time to engage in risky behaviors.”

For the study, researchers categorised “Risky behavior” as any use of tobacco, alcohol and marijuana within the past 30 days.

One can see that these charter schools are so evil that we can’t even afford to trial five of them in NZ. Labour has declared they must be wiped out if Labour win the election.


Yet another study on the effectiveness of charter schools

July 26th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar reports:

A first-ever report released July 22 by the University of Arkansas, which ties charter school funding to achievement, finds that public charter schools are more productive than traditional public schools in all 28 states included in analyses of cost-effectiveness and return on investment.

All 28 states!

The national report, titled “The Productivity of Public Charter Schools,” found that  deliver on average an additional 17 points in math and 16 points in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam taken by students for every $1,000 invested. These differences amount to charter schools being 40 percent more cost-effective in math and 41 percent more cost-effective in reading, compared to traditional .

So when unions (falsely) claim charter schools do better because they get extra funding, remember this study.

The cost-effectiveness analysis of the report found that charter schools in 13 states were found to be more cost-effective in reading because they had higher student achievement results despite receiving less funding than traditional public schools. Charter schools in 11 states were more cost-effective in math for the same reason. The remaining states produced equal or slightly lower achievement with significantly lower funding.

Better results off less funding. Do you get some idea of why the NZ unions are terrified by the trial of charter schools. Think if they produced the same results here!


Charter schools rated just as effective as reducing class sizes

July 11th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Now this is very interesting. The meta-meta study of 50,000 studies of 139 factors influencing education outcomes had class size at 106th with an effect score of 0.21. At 107th was charter schools with an effect score of 0.20.

So reducing class sizes has much the same impact as charter schools – a mild improvement.

So how on earth can Labour be vowing to abolish charter schools, yet put hundreds of millions into reducing class sizes?

The answer is the former policy results in fewer teachers in unions, and the latter results in more teachers in unions.

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A school that doesn’t accept failure

June 27th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young reports:

Charlene Reid is what you might call a rockstar among teachers.

It’s not what she would call herself.

She is just getting on with it at what used to be an ordinary school in the Bronx district of New York where she is Head of School.

But she is being noticed for the results being achieved there.

It’s a charter school, privately run but publicly funded, and fees cannot be charged to the parents. …

In state-wide testing, it was ranked the highest K-8 charter school in New York state and fourth among all.

The other top five were schools for gifted and talented or specialty schools that can choose their students. At BCSE they don’t. Anyone from the local area gets precedence. If there are 60 applicants from the area, they get automatic entry; if there is more, there is a ballot. About 10 per cent of the students have special needs.

Isn’t that a stunning result. Up in the top five with schools restricted to gifted students, and they’re in the Bronx and have 10% special needs students.

Having high expectations, said Reid, was a big feature of her school’s success.

“Expectation, confidence and attitude that you can deliver. I don’t think any teacher goes into the classroom saying they want a kid to fail. I think what happens is that you don’t know how to get a child to learn, then it is very difficult to look at yourself and say ‘I’m the reason why’.

“What we’ve done here at BCSE is we have pointed the finger at ourselves and said if it is not working, it’s our fault. It’s nobody else’s fault. We took this job on. We are educators.

“We are going to figure it out. We are adults. There is no way you should blame a child who has only been on this Earth 60 months if they can’t read or they can’t write or that they’re poor or their parents were educated or they live in a particular environment.

This is what I find so appalling by the apologists for poor performance on the left. Their worldview is that poor achievement is all about the family’s income, and that you shouldn’t expect students from poor backgrounds to be able to achieve at the highest level. The bigotry of low expectations.

This principal shows what you can achieve when you don’t buy into that.



The success of US charter schools

June 11th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Philanthropy Roundtable writes:

Twenty-five years ago, charter schools hadn’t even been dreamed up. Today they are mushrooming across the country. There are 6,500 charter schools operating in 42 states, with more than 600 new ones opening every year. Within a blink there will be 3 million American children attending these freshly invented institutions (and 5 million students in them by the end of this decade).

It is philanthropy that has made all of this possible. Without generous donors, charter school could never have rooted and multiplied in this way. And philanthropists have driven relentless annual improvements—better trained school founders, more prepared teachers, sharper curricula, smarter technology—that have allowed charter schools to churn out impressive results.

Studies show that student performance in charter schools is accelerating every year, as high-performing models replace weaker ones. Charter schools as a whole already exceed conventional schools in results. The top charters that are now growing so fast elevate student outcomes more than any other schools in the U.S.—especially among poor and minority children.

This is what Labour and Greens are vowing to end.

An extract from the report:

Bill Gates explains that after his foundation decided in the mid‑1990s to focus on U.S. schooling, it poured about $2 billion into various education experiments. During their first decade, he reports, “many of the small schools that we invested in did not improve students’ achievement  in any significant way.” There was, however, one fascinating exception. “A few of the schools that we funded achieved something amazing. They replaced schools with low expectations and low results with ones that have high expectations and high results.” And there was a common variable: “Almost all of these schools were charter schools.”


By 2014 there were 2.6 million children attending 6,500 charter schools in the U.S. Every year now, more than 600 new charters open their
doors for the first time, and an additional 300,000 children enroll (while a million kids remain on waiting lists, with millions more hungrily waiting in the wings). Charter school attendance began to particularly accelerate around 2009, and as this is written in 2014 it looks like there may be 5 million children in charters before the end of the decade.

This is the worst nightmare of Labour/Greens and the educational unions. That charter schools in NZ provide successful and popular. Once they do, they’ll never be able to abolish them. They have to kill them off before they have a chance to prove themselves.

And some highlights:

  • The 9,000 students at Uncommon Schools are 78 percent low‑income and 98 percent African‑American or Hispanic, yet all seniors take the SAT, and their average score is 20 points above the college‑readiness benchmark
  • At KIPP charter schools, home to 51,000 pupils in 21 states, 96 percent of eighth graders perform better than their local district counterparts on reading, and 92 percent perform better in math
  • Among charter school students in Washington, D.C. (almost half of that city’s public school population), the on‑time high‑school graduation rate is 21 percentage points higher than that among conventional school students: 77 percent to 56 percent
  • In New Orleans—long an educational disaster zone—the city schools rank first in the state for student growth now that more than eight out of ten students attend charters (some details on the Big Easy’s charter experience will follow in just a few pages)

Wouldn’t it be great if in the next decade we could get some results like that.


A good start

May 15th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Vanguard Military School have announced:

Initial NCEA results illustrate the outstanding start Vanguard Military School students have made to the 2014 school year, achieving an average 89% success in term 1 assessments, Vanguard Chief Executive Nick Hyde said today.

Mr Hyde was commenting on Term 1 NCEA assessment results that showed Vanguard students across all demographics had significantly lifted their success rates from their previous schooling. 

European and Other students were achieving 93% success, up from 58% success prior to attending Vanguard, while Pasifika students were now achieving 90% success, up from 62%, and Maori students achieving 85% success, up from 57%.

“We’re thrilled to see our students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, already demonstrating the attitudinal and academic excellence we strive for at Vanguard”, Mr Hyde said.

The Labour/Green Opposition have vowed to close schools such as Vanguard down. We can’t allow them to do this well.


Sense from US education secretary

April 2nd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Nicholas Jones at the Herald reports:

Efforts to ensure all Kiwi kids can access early childhood education are “way ahead” of a similar American push, says the US Secretary of Education.

Arne Duncan has been in New Zealand at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in Wellington, one of the biggest events in world education.

In an interview with the Herald, America’s top education official also said charter schools could be a valuable opportunity for New Zealand.

Mr Duncan, who has previously hosted Education Minister Hekia Parata, said he was keen to learn more about New Zealand’s early childhood education while here.

“We are pushing very, very hard back home in the States to increase access to high-quality early learning opportunities,” he said.

“And I think, frankly, New Zealand is way ahead of us in creating those kinds of opportunities at scale.”

The National Government wants 98 per cent of children starting school in 2016 to have participated in quality early childhood education.

In the 2007/08 year $807 million was spent in ECE. The budget for the current financial year is $1.48 billion which is a massive 83% increase in six years. For some reason, Labour and Greens call this a cut!!

The US has more than 5600 public charter schools in 42 out of 50 states, and one in 20 students nationally attends one, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Despite being widespread they do face opposition. Newly elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, has been highly critical of charter schools.

Asked for his overall verdict on them, Mr Duncan said there was “huge variation”.

I’ve visited some amazing, amazing schools that are absolutely closing achievement gaps. We need to learn from those examples and replicate them. [But] when you have low-performing charter schools you need to challenge that status quo as well.”

Duncan is a Democrat, and a former head of the Chicago public schools. When he says some charter schools have done amazing work at closing achievement gaps, he is worth listening to. Why does the left want to close them down in NZ, rather than give them a chance to succeed?

Mr Duncan said the idea for the schools came from union leader Albert Shanker, who hoped to establish “laboratories of innovation”. Successes could then be spread to the wider education system.

“I think there’s a great opportunity there for this country.”

The left in NZ should embrace charter schools, as many of the left in the US have done.

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Vanguard Military School

March 26th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A video from Vanguard Military School, one of the new charter schools. Doesn’t look like their students have an obesity problem!


Flavell on PPTA boycott

February 23rd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell says:

Te Ururoa Flavell, Maori Party Co-Leader, has expressed disappointment at the influence of PPTA in advising Whangarei Boys High teachers to not teach students who attend Te Kura Hourua Te Kapeha Whetu.

“As I understand it the Board of Trustees at Whangarei Boys High was happy to support Kura Hourua students in specific areas such as the visual arts. That type of cooperation has been modelled in the relationships that many other kura establish with general schools, wananga, polytechnics and other education providers across New Zealand. It represents a dynamic relationship that we should surely be fostering in our communities – that the education and learning of our students impacts on us all,” says Te Ururoa Flavell, Maori Party Co-Leader.

“I recognise that Partnership Schools is a major political issue and teachers have a right to their views on educational policy, but what about the kids? Surely we should be putting the best interests of our young people ahead of our politics.”

That would be nice. Boycotts have no place in our education system.

“I was a teacher for many years and I know that the profession prides itself on putting the interests of our children first, but this flies in the face of those values. I would have thought as teachers, that what matters is that every student experiences success. That’s what Te Kapeha Whetu want. That’s what the Maori Party wants. Come on PPTA – surely there are other ways of making political statements that do not impact so immediately on our kids.”

The PPTA must be gravely concerned that charter schools will be successful.

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The NY battle over charter schools

February 20th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Wall Street Journal writes:

For several months running, the Bill and Eva Show has been the talk of New York City politics. He is the new mayor, Bill de Blasio, an unapologetic old-school liberal Democrat, scourge of the rich and of public charter schools. She is Eva Moskowitz, fellow Democrat and educational-reform champion who runs the city’s largest charter network.

Note she is a Democrat. Many Democrats support charter schools as they have done so much to improve educational outcomes for the most disadvantaged.

As she reminds every audience, the 6,700 students at her 22 Success Academy Charter Schools are overwhelmingly from poor, minority families and scored in the top 1% in math and top 7% in English on the most recent state test. Four in five charters in the city outperformed comparable schools.

One can understand why some in public schools hate them.

Union leaders dismiss the charters as a boutique effort, with only 4% of the national school population—yet teachers unions and their political allies also treat charters as an existential threat. Charters hire teachers who don’t have to join and pay union dues, and who work outside the traditional system.

This is the real motivation for some. Charter schools don’t pay protection money to the unions.


Lies, damn lies and Labour’s stats

February 13th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour has accused the Government of “throwing money” at charter schools with new figures showing they cost as much as five times more than state schools.

Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said today that newly established charter schools were receiving up to $40,000 per student per year compared with the average of $7000 for state schools.

“A handful of children are being funded at a much greater rate than the bulk of Kiwi kids,” Hipkins said.

This is beyond misleading. Charter schools get the *exact* same funding as public schools. That funding is dependent on size. A smaller school gets more per pupil than a larger school. So Hipkins is comparing small tiny schools with massive schools. Also new schools get funded for basically one off capital and property expenses.

“There is no doubt every state and integrated school in the country could dramatically improve their students’ results if their funding was increased to match that given to charter schools,” Hipkins said.

Their funding is the same as charter schools.

Education Minister Hekia Parata told Parliament that small schools cost more whether they were charter schools or state ones.

“There is a different range depending on what the size of the school is, what the nature of the achievement level required,” she said.

A brand new public school of 100 students will get the same funding as a brand new charter school of 100 students. Chippie knows this.

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More charter school benefits

February 9th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal revolution blogs:

Private and charter schools appear to have significant but modest effects on test scores but much larger effects on educational attainment and even on long-run earnings. A new working paper from Booker, Sass, Gill and Zimmer and associated brief from Mathematica Policy Research finds that charter schools raise high school graduation, college enrollment and college persistence rates by ~7 to 13%. Moreover, the income of former charter school students when measured at 23-25 years old is 12.7% higher than similar students. Similar in this context is measured by students who were in charter schools in grade 8 but who then switched to a traditional high school–in many ways this is a conservative comparison group since any non-random switchers would presumably switch to a better school (other controls are also included).

The effect of charters on graduation rates is consistent with a larger literature finding that Catholic schools increase graduation rates (e.g. here and here). I am also not surprised that charters increase earnings but the earnings gain is surprisingly large; especially so when we consider that the gain appears just as large among charter and non-charter students both of whom attended college (i.e. the gain is not just through the college attendance effect).

I wouldn’t bet on the size of the earnings effect just yet but what we are learning from this and related research, such as Chetty et al. on teachers, is that better schools and better teachers appear to have a significant and beneficial long-run impact that is not fully captured by higher test scores.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could replicate that impact in New Zealand.


First charter school opened

February 1st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The first of five controversial charter schools was opened today by Prime Minister John Key, in South Auckland.

South Auckland Middle School (SAMS) is co-educational, caters for years 7 – 10 and is particularly focused on Maori and Pacific students. It will begin its first term next week with a role of 110.

Called partnership schools by the government, the programme was part of a confidence and supply agreement with ACT, and offers an alternative education for parents looking for something different for their children, Key said. 

“I think this is important because it gives parents choice. It is just one small addition to the education system in New Zealand,” Key said.

Five new schools in some of the most deprived areas.

The new charter school in Manurewa features a four-hour academic morning, while the afternoon is devoted to sport, music and culture. 

It’s that flexibility which is important for charter schools.

“The strength in the system is that you are contracting for performance and if you don’t get that performance then you can cease to continue with the contract,” Key said.

More accountability than standard schools.

The school’s website is here.


Competition helps all

January 10th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Eric Crampton writes:

A few years ago, Jerry Hausman showed that Wal-Mart does a lot to benefit even consumers who don’t shop there. When a Wal-Mart opens, competitor local supermarkets cut their prices to keep customers. And poor customers reap most of the benefits

Figlio and Hart, in the latest AEJ: Applied Economics, show a similar effect with school vouchersAn ungated version is here.

Suppose your worry about school vouchers is that low social capital parents’ stick with a local underperforming school while kids whose parents have better social capital all flee with their vouchers to the better private schools. And suppose further that you care way more about the potential losses to the former than about the gains for the latter. You might then oppose voucher systems.

Figlio and Hart show that public schools facing competitive pressure from private schools under a new voucher system provided stronger student score improvements. All that concern about kids left behind as the private schools cream off the best voucher kids? Not much of an issue if the public schools facing the competitive pressures perform better as consequence. They find the biggest positive effects in public schools facing strong financial incentives to retain low-income students.

There has also been studies showing that charter schools not only improve the performance of students at those schools, but neighbouring public schools improve their performance also.

For some strange reason, this is seen as a bad thing because it clashes with an ideology that competition is bad.

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NY charter schools

January 5th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Nina Rees at USA Today writes:

New York¹s public charter schools are upending old assumptions about urban education. And they can help even more students if New York¹s incoming mayor lets them.

Earlier this year, Stanford¹s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) revealed that in just one school year, the typical New York City charter school student gained about five additional months of learning in math and one additional month of learning in reading compared with students in traditional public schools.

These gains, repeated year after year, are helping to erase achievement gaps between urban and suburban students. A rigorous 2009 study from Stanford professor Caroline Hoxby found that students who attend New York City¹s charter schools from Kindergarten through 8th grade will make up 86% of the suburban-urban achievement gap in math and 66% of the gap in English.

Closing the gap in educational achievement. We can’t have that. This is so evil, that we must boycott anyone involved in such a school.

New York has roughly 70,000 students enrolled in public charter schools, and the numbers are on the rise. This school year alone, 14,000 new students in the city enrolled in charter schools ­ with the vast majority in low-income neighborhoods.

Even worse, low income students are being helped by them, and they are growing in popularity.

Remarkably, several charter schools in low-income neighborhoods are showing some of the most impressive achievement gains. For instance, while just 30% of students citywide passed New York¹s new Common Core math exam, 97% of students passed the exam at Bronx Success Academy 2. The passage rate was 80% at Leadership Prep Ocean Hill in Brownsville, a community that has suffered academic failure for generations.

But, but, but they are stealing resources from other schools. It is better for everyone to equally fail than some students do well.

Mayor Bloomberg introduced “co-location” as a way to turn unused classrooms into productive learning environments. Sharing space also tests the hypothesis that environmental factors make it difficult for children in certain neighborhoods to succeed in school. Charters quickly proved that theory wrong. For example, 88% of third and fourth graders at Success Academy Harlem 5 passed the state math exam. The traditional public school located in the same building only managed to attain a pass rate of 6%.

Same buildings, same neighbourhood, but what a variance in pass rates.

Across the country, charter schools have produced particular academic gains among students in poverty, minority students and students still learning English. The sameCREDO study that revealed impressive learning gains among New York City¹s charter school students also showed that, nationwide, black students in poverty who attend charter schools gained the equivalent of 29 extra days of learning in reading each year, and 36 extra days in math, compared to their traditional public schools peers.

That’s awful. That may lead to them breaking out of poverty. Why should kids whose parents decide to send them to a charter school be allowed to do better than those who do not?

Nina Rees is the president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

We should invite Nina to New Zealand!


A charter school responds to the PPTA

November 20th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A further guest post, responding to the PPTA guest post, from the Villa Education Trust:

The Villa Education Trust is one of the 5 organisations given the opportunity to begin a Partnership School to start in Term 1 of 2014. The new school is South Auckland Middle School. The Trust is not for profit and also runs Mt Hobson Middle School in Newmarket and has done so for 11 years. The process to get permission from government to begin a new school has been, rightly, arduous and rigorous.

We have never looked for a confrontation but I am interested in a number of the PPTA comments as they have certainly tried to be obstructive to the new schools and I do not believe all of their points are accurate.

Also of interest is that we are not getting the feeling from teachers that the PPTA are trying to convey. We had 105 applicants for our 8 teaching positions – many of them current PPTA members – and have been able to appoint a very good staff to South Auckland Middle School. 

That’s a good level of applicants. Will the PPTA expel members who take up a job with the South Auckland Middle School? 

In terms of their statements.

1. Yes – the PPTA does represent many secondary teachers within NZ but not all. Given their claim of being democratic (and support of referendum: – have they had a members’ referendum on their opposition to Partnership Schools? Maybe the question could be:

Do PPTA members want their subscriptions spent opposing 5 schools and a model designed at improving outcomes for children who are struggling in the current system?


Would members prefer their money was spent investigating methods to help these children?


Would members prefer the money was used to improve their pay and conditions?

 2. Re consultation. The PPTA presented to the Select Committee. One in 18 of their members also felt strongly enough to fill in a PPTA written pro-forma and send it in. We have tried repeatedly to talk to the PPTA. The only response back was to from a previous exec member who said:

“Thank you for your invitation to visit your school which I will need to pass on to the incoming president, Angela Roberts.  I have to be honest and say I am not sure what would be achieved by this visit. I do not doubt that you are doing the best you can for the students in your school so I don’t need to visit to confirm that reality.”

We have never heard from Ms Roberts except when they sent a letter to us which we published here –

One of the exec, Hazel McIntosh even conceded on the Larry William’s show – that she had not even read the Stanford research – or was remotely interested in it.

3. In Northland the Partnership School operators are clearly willing to co-operate with local schools. How can this be a bad thing? They see the clear good in some areas and then also see how they can make a difference in others. They are clearly passionate people who will not be bullied and will overcome all manner of hurdles to see the young people there have greater success in their lives.

4. Choice for families is important. At South Auckland Middle School we have only been open for enrollment for 6 weeks and already have 85 children/families applied for places. Education is a massive choice for these parents and if they are not happy with the current pathway their child is on they have every right to look for other options. I am astounded that the PPTA would state that “there was about the right balance prior to charters”. Seriously? Have they researched the comparative results for Maori and Pasifika children in many areas? They are pretty easy to find here: How on earth are the current discrepancies between groups “a good balance”? How do you claim to be against poverty, etc, and advocate for the status quo in education – a major determinant of outcomes? The PPTA, and affiliated organisations, want parents of children to accept this level of failure because it is their role as being a part of the greater good; “efficient use of resources, fairness and other good things too”? Was that post really written by someone involved in education? 

Previously some have commented that there was already the opportunity (integrated and special character schools) to set up new schools. Our experience, and that of others, is that both of these were near impossible options and not likely to yield a differentiated opportunity for families. The Partnership Schools option is new and provides an opportunity that most definitely did not exist previously. It is also new funding – the budgets for state education were also increased.

5. We have no necessary problem with our teachers being union members. It is the PPTA constitution that forces those we are employing to resign their membership. Given that our teacher student ratio is 15:1 we will employ a good proportion of teaching staff (and yes – they are all registered). Fail to see anything but benefit here.

All registered teachers!

6. Please note. We are happy to share anything we learn and many of our resources with PPTA members and other teachers. In our case we have, so far, had absolutely nothing but support for families and organisations we have spoken to. We are more than happy for the PPTA to visit either of our schools and talk. In fact we would welcome it – which is why we had sent invitations.

7. Please note airlines do share resources around the world.

For our part: We have permission to begin a Y7-10 school for 120 children and have a location in Mahia Rd, Manurewa. We have employed a staff and are very quickly filling the spaces available for students. The stories these children and their parents are bringing would already make a book worth reading. They are making it massively clear there is a NEED and I would think it is one that will generate a lot more interest than just 5 schools.

We will have a class size of 15:1, teach the NZ Curriculum in formal classes, have opportunity for project based learning and the skills development that goes with it, employ qualified and registered teachers, have a split day with an academic morning and activity based afternoon (including good provision of sport, art, and music). Our teachers will have little admin and will be do what they have been trained to do – prepare, teach, assess and feedback to parents and the children. Our clear focus is on the academic improvement of every child that comes to us. 

Sounds pretty good to me. 

We are very open to visitors and interested people. We are also open to supporters who want to get along side what we are doing.

Alwyn Poole
Villa Education Trust

Further guest posts on this issue are welcome.

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PPTA responds on charter schools boycott

November 18th, 2013 at 3:11 pm by David Farrar

A guest post from the PPTA in response to my post strongly critical of their boycott of staff and pupils at charter schools.

Thanks for the chance to respond to your post about PPTA’s ban on working with charter schools.  Here are some points that I doubt will satisfy many of your readers, but I think need to be on the record.

  1.  “I love how the union dictates to teachers.”  Absolutely not. PPTA is democratic, and 90% of secondary teachers choose to join. The policy of bans was agreed on at National Conference where 150 teachers representing their regions, including Northland of course, decide significant policy. A union’s power comes from collective action; we have to be democratic for this to work.

  2. “It’s about control.” Again, not at all. Teachers need to be involved in and engaged with in regards to significant decisions for the education sector – we don’t expect to get our own way always, but we need to have genuine engagement. This process didn’t do that at all – neither from the charter school working group, the select committee process, the authorisation board, nor the applicants.

  3. “It’s not about the kids.” Here’s the great irony – students are being encouraged to leave the local schools to go to the new charters, but then they will be sent back to those same schools for most of the NCEA teaching which is how the charters will be assessed. If, as the charter school operators believe, the local public schools are so bad, why would they use them for delivering the curriculum to their students?

  4. “Listen up dumb parents, we know what is best… we do not think you should have a choice of where to send your children…” I think most people would accept that choice is not an absolute good – i.e. there needs to be a balance struck between choice and efficient use of resources, fairness and other good things too, right? Our view is that there is that there was about the right balance prior to the introduction of charters – our highly devolved school system is pretty much unique and allows for a lot of variety. And, this may grate, but choice between schools as a driver for improving school systems just doesn’t work – even the OECD and Treasury recognise this.  Ideally, schools would be able to offer lots of choices and variety of experiences at each local school, meaning that different cultural backgrounds, interests, skills etc…would be catered for and developed, while also getting the benefits of mixing with different people, economies of scale and so forth.

  5. “Fewer resources for the schools and, ultimately, the threat of lost jobs for PPTA members”.  This isn’t a concern for the reason you think, it relates to the previous point. Schools that lose teachers generally end up narrowing the curriculum. This disadvantages the students that are left. We had a simple solution to the ‘threat’ of lost jobs for PPTA members, which was to offer membership to staff in charter schools, like NZEI are doing. Our position was that we couldn’t do that –as it would be very difficult for us to advocate for closing schools that we had members in.

  6. “Boycotts are reminiscent of the apartheid era…” Indeed, and they contributed to changing an invidious system. This isn’t a boycott against Maori schools and students, it applies equally to all five schools and is mischievous to imply otherwise.  Every teacher in Whangarei and Northland is a teacher of Maori students. Political change is brought about in many different ways; for unions, denying our labour is one of the ultimate and strongest tools to bring about change that we have. We don’t use it lightly.

  7. And anyway, what’s the story with these schools that were supposed to “compete on an equal footing with the state education system – thus driving up standards for all through competition” using the resources and teachers of the state system?  This is like Jet Star over-selling some flights and running short on pilots, and demanding that AirNZ lends them pilots to cover them. We didn’t ask for the market system in education and don’t want it – the charter school proponents did. They can’t have it both ways. 

My view remains that it is one thing for the PPTA to say they are against charter schools, to lobby against them, to advocate people vote against the Government that introduced them.

But to go beyond political action, to a boycott of staff and students at these schools that is designed to damage the educational opportunities of those families who think a charter school may help their (probably) struggling kid, is misguided and wrong. It is using kids as pawns with a philosophy of the ends justify the means.

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PPTA introduces apartheid-era type bans

November 15th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Northern Advocate reports:

Northland teachers have been banned by their union from any interaction with charter school staff, in a move a Whangarei charter school chief executive has described as “bully tactics”.

I love how the union dictates to the teachers!

The Post-Primary Teachers Association has instructed members to deny charter school staff and management professional, sporting or cultural interactions or support.

Maybe they could issue yellow stars to the charter school staff so other teachers can cross the road if they see one of them coming?

Raewyn Tipene, the chief executive of the trust establishing Te Kura Hourua ki Whangarei Te Renga Paraoa and the director of the Leadership Academy, said she feared the PPTA’s stance would result in vulnerable Northland children being left behind.

It’s not about the kids! It’s about control.

There are 38 boys in the Leadership Academy and enrolled at schools in Whangarei.

If the boys and their whanau choose to enroll in the kura hourua, the kura has plans for some senior students to take certain classes, such as economics or trade studies at external schools such as Whangarei Boys’ High School and NorthTec.

The ban on interaction between PPTA members and charter schools means this couldn’t happen and students would miss out on opportunities.

“The principals [in Whangarei] are rattled. They are being stood over by the PPTA and they have no room to move,” Ms Tipene said.

If a school defies the PPTA, then they’ll face a boycott also no doubt.

The president of the PPTA, Angela Roberts, told the Advocate communities thinking the charter schools would raise Maori achievement were mistaken.

Listen up dumb parents, we know what is best for you. You do not get a say in this. We do not think you should have a choice of where to send your children and we will use our might to crush anyone who co-operates with these schools.

She said the kura would mean roll declines for other schools in Northland and fewer resources for the schools and, ultimately, the threat of lost jobs for PPTA members.

Now we understand the real concern. Nothing to do with helping under-achieving students.

Natasha Sadler, curriculum director for Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru, took the opportunity to dispel some myths at a series of community hui in Northland recently.

“A common myth is that the kura will have unregistered teachers – we have hired four registered teachers and hope to hire more,” she said.

She also said the kura would be teaching from New Zealand curriculum.

Both kura hourua directors said registered teachers and staff had been vetted by the police.

Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru will have 71 students next year and Te Kura Hourua ki Whangarei Te Renga Paraoa will have 50 students.

Boycotts are reminiscent of the apartheid era. However in this case the boycott is against Maori schools and students. So what does that make the PPTA comparable to? Maybe the Broederbond?

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More advantages of charter schools

November 6th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Walter Read writes:

We’re already seeing a growing body of evidence that charter schools improve students’ academic performance, but a new study suggests that the benefits continue even after students leave the classroom. Researchers from Harvard and Princetontracked a group of students from the Harlem Children’s Zone’s Promise Academy and found that, in addition to having higher test scores compared to their peers, these students were also less likely to engage in risky behaviors and enjoyed lower rates of teen pregnancy and incarceration. 

So what is the data:

That focus appears to be yielding results: surveys completed by the students—who were paid between $40 and $200 to participate—show that teenage girls who won the school lottery were 12.1 percentage points less likely to be pregnant; boys who won the lottery to Promise Academy were 4.3 percentage points less likely to be in prison or jail than counterparts who didn’t land spots in the school. Lottery winners scored higher on math and reading exams; they also were more likely to take and pass exams in courses such as chemistry and geometry. They also were 14.1 percentage points more likely to enroll in college.

Charter schools are of course an evil experiment that must be stopped!

As the researchers themselves note, Promise Academy is something of an anomaly in the charter school world. It is extremely successful and makes use of a number of rarely practiced techniques, including performance-based incentives for teachers, long school hours, and data-driven monitoring of students. So it may not be an accurate gauge of the charter world overall.

Maybe not a gauge, but a model!

Then again, one of the key advantages of charter schools is that they give faculty and administrators the chance to experiment with techniques like these without running afoul of the bureaucratic red tape and union regulations that are endemic to many public school systems. Its precisely this flexibility that makes it possible for charter schools to offer better results for students.

All for flexibility, and judging them on results.


NY Times on charter schools

October 21st, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The NY Times editorial:

In all the bombast it is worth making two points. First, there’s little question that New York has one of the nation’s most successful charter school systems. A study published earlier this year shows that the typical New York City charter student learned more reading and math in a year than his or her public school peers.

The New York Times is one of the most consistently left voices in the US (it has endorsed only Democrat presidential candidates since 1956), so when its editorial boards say NY charter schools are sucessful, you can’t claim this to be a right wing view.

The second point is that the next mayor can improve the system, in part by shutting down poorly performing schools, awarding new charters only to groups with proven track records, and smoothing relations between charters and traditional schools by making sure “co-locations” take place only in buildings big enough to house both.

All for shutting down poorly performing charter schools – and poorly performing non-charter schools!

The teachers’ union is never going to fall in love with charter schools because a vast majority of them are not unionized

Hence the opposition.

and they have real financial advantages because their work force is younger and more transient and their payrolls, pensions and medical costs are lower. Many charters plow these savings back into educationhiring social workers, lengthening the school day, or staffing classrooms with more than one teacher as a way of helping disadvantaged children

How awful!

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Another charter school

October 5th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Vanguard Military School chief executive is defending charter schools against the threat of a teachers’ union boycott and promises from opposition parties to scrap them.

Nick Hyde is running the North Shore’s first partnership school and says he wants to “dispel the myths”.

He says the current education system is good for 80 per cent of students.

“Our place on the education map is to provide a place for those who are struggling.”

To be fair, I think it is around 85% who are doing well. The tail is around 15% not 20% according to latest research.

Vanguard Military School in Albany will be sponsored by Advance Training Centres (ATC), the military prep school Mr Hyde manages in Rosedale.

It is one of five partnership schools due to open at the start of 2014 in Auckland and Northland.

Labour and the Green Party have promised to repeal charter schools and the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) is considering a boycott of any sporting, cultural or professional contact with them.

PPTA junior vice-president Hazel McIntosh says they are “a terrible experiment on New Zealand’s children that must be stopped in its tracks”.

A terrible experiment that is 100% voluntary. Not one family will have their kids attend a charter school unless they choose to do so. Unlike most state schools where uif you are in their zone, you have basically no alternative but to attend.

It is the choice that the PPTA opposes. They do not believe in it.

Vanguard Military School will cater for 108 year 11 and 12 students and expand in 2015 to include year 13.

Registered teachers will be used for core NCEA subjects like science, Maori, English and physical education. Non-registered teachers will take defence force studies and engineering classes.

“We felt someone with experience in these roles would be a better fit,” Mr Hyde says.

Students will also be taught computing, CV writing, leadership skills and will work towards their driver licences.

There will be a student-teacher ratio of 1 to 12.

Sounds terrible eh?

And they are not getting any extra state funding. They are getting the same as any new state school would get.

One of the reasons Mr Hyde decided to set up a charter school was over-demand for places at ATC.

“The horrible part of my job is to write to parents and say ‘Your child is eligible but we can’t take them on’,” he says.

ATC is entitled to have each student for only a year.

“It’ll be nice to have them for two or three years and we can take some of our most gifted students all the way through to university which is exciting,” Mr Hyde says.

He says charter schools have a place in the system as long as they are of a high quality.

The focus should be on quality. The five approved to date look promising.


A good example of educational innovation

September 29th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Villa Education Trust have announced:

The Villa Education Trust is delighted to announce the appointment of Bryce Anderson as the Community Liaison Manager for South Auckland Middle School being established to begin at the start of the 2014 school year.

For the past two years Mr Anderson has been the Team Manager for the Blues rugby team in the Super 15 competition.

In announcing the shift Auckland Rugby CEO Andy Dalton stated:

“It is a new and exciting role – based in South Auckland – and focuses on the development and welfare of the school and the kids in this low-socio economic area.

The role also requires the integration of the local community into the school – which includes Auckland Rugby and the local clubs.

This is an area Bryce was keen to move into so it’s all very exciting for him”

His role with South Auckland Middle School is to build relationships between the school and the families as well as developing links into the local community. Not only will he be ensuring the day to day welfare and family involvement of the children while at South Auckland Middle School but he will also track and support them through their Year 11 – 13 schools where they will be seeking their NCEA qualifications.

That’s a smart link up and a good example of innovative thinking.

South Auckland Middle School will begin in 2014 with a maximum role of 120. Class sizes will be limited to 15. The school will have an academic focus with core subjects being Maths, English, Science, Technology and Social Studies taught by highly qualified teachers. The students will also have independent study time each morning where they will complete cross curricular projects. In the afternoon there is a programme involving Music, Art and Sports.

One aspect of Mr Anderson’s position is to develop the relationship between the school and the highly supportive Auckland Rugby organisation who will be working with the school to provide fitness, skills and rugby coaching. The school will be aiming for students to make outstanding progress not only as academics but also in the activity based afternoon opportunities.Enrolment at the school is open to all students of Years 7 – 10 and is not zoned. Tuition will be entirely free and no school donation will be asked. Uniform and stationery will also be supplied with ample state of the art Information Technology on site.

Sounds terrible. No wonder Labour and Greens are vowing to close them down regardless of how successful they are.


Espiner on charter schools

September 23rd, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Colin Espiner writes:

I’d thought that centrally-controlled, one-size-fits-all approach to education policy had disappeared with the introduction of Tomorrow’s Schools more than 20 years ago. But I reckoned without the teacher unions.

The vitriol spouted by the Post-Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) and the Educational Institute (NZEI) at the Government’s announcement last week that it would fund five privately-run Partnership Schools took me back in a flash to my early days as a reporter covering teacher union rallies and marches.

Back then, it was bulk funding and the devolution of central control to community boards of trustees the teacher unions didn’t like. Oh, and Lockwood Smith.

They went on to oppose NCEA, National Testing, religious schools integration, private school funding . . . in fact pretty much anything that threatened the status quo and the teacher unions’ privileged position within it.

NZEI specially seem incredibly reactionary. They have fought a four year campaign against simply having an extra page in a kid’s report cards that states where they are at compared to a national standard for their age in literacy and numeracy. Incredible.

What’s so wrong with trying something a little different? With offering students failing in the mainstream education system an alternative? A little military training wouldn’t go amiss with some of them. And is a spot of faith-based teaching and some Maori immersion learning really going to do any great harm?

Apparently. According to the PPTA, these schools are so evil the union is considering asking its members to boycott all cultural, sporting, and professional events involving Partnership Schools. Marvellous – that’ll help those kids already alienated from the mainstream feel like they’re wanted.

Matthew Hooton describes how the planned boycotts will work:

In practice, it means that if students from one of the five schools enter a netball team in their local competition, the PPTA will order its members to stop their students from playing against them.

If partnership-school students qualify for the regional swimming sports, the PPTA will prevent other students from entering the pool for fear of political pollution.

The same goes for the local debating, kapa haka or Mathex competition.

Who would have thought that unions would be pushing for effective segregation of students, like the US had in the 1960s.

Espiner concludes:

No one is suggesting the state education system should be dismantled. It provides a mostly adequate, sometimes excellent, service. But even the bureaucrats in Wellington admit they don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. So what are the unions so afraid of?

Possibly more flexible working hours, fewer holidays, a greater range of pay rates, and non-unionised workers. A system outside state control, where commercial success is actually encouraged. A bit like the world the rest of us live in.

At worst, these schools will not live up to their potential and will be shut down, probably by Labour. But what if they succeed? It won’t just be the students who stand to benefit. It’ll be all of us.

And unlike state schools, not one student or parent will be forced to attend a charter school. There are no zones for charter schools. Every pupil who attends will be there because they and/or their parents have decided they think they will do better at that school. That choice, is what the unions are trying to prevent.

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