Minto accidentally endorses charter schools

July 7th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

John Minto writes:

We should fund private schools ONLY when they enrol students on the same basis as public schools and abandon their fees.

Which is exactly what charter schools do – no fees, and open enrolment.

South Auckland Middle School vs other Decile 1 schools

June 23rd, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The South Auckland Middle School is a charter school and its student population makes it a decile 1 school.

So how has this school done against the average decile 1 state school for national standards. The data follows,. Note the SAMS data is for 2015 and the national average is for 2014 (as 2015 not yet available), but probably will not have changed much.

  • Year 7 reading 73% vs 58%
  • Year 7 maths 63% vs 57%
  • Year 7 writing 77% vs 51%
  • Year 8 reading 70% vs 62%
  • Year 8 maths 77% vs 51%
  • Year 8 writing 70% vs 52%

Again I remind people Labour has vowed to close this school down.

Bishop on PPTA and charter schools

June 16th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Bishop wrote on Facebook:

This just makes me want to weep.

I encourage people to read the whole article along with the correspondence (which has put up online too), but here’s a summary of the story:

Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa is a partnership school based in Whangarei which opened in 2014. It’s a new school but since opening it’s been doing well – its roll increased from 50 to 72 in 2015, it graduated five year 13 students all with UE; it placed 4th at the regional kapahaka competition, to name a few. All of its students in 2015 were “priority learners” (Maori, Pasifika, kids with special needs or from low socio-economic backgrounds). The exact kids we really want to be helping.

It’s achieving great NCEA results for its students – 100% NCEA Level 3 and 2 achievement rates in 2015; and 84.2% at Level 1 – well above the average for Maori.

Earlier this year a local high school, Kamo High School, offered to let the kura use their chemistry fume cupboard to mix chemicals for students’ science experiments. Sounds sensible right? Who could possibly be opposed to that? As the Principal of Kamo said, she “saw this as an opportunity to support a highly successful emerging school in our area, and to improve the chemistry results for Maori students.”

Well, the PPTA it seems, the union for secondary teachers. This was a “major issue”. The executive turned up unannounced at the school for a “vital” meeting with the staff. Soon a long menacing letter arrived, threatening all sort of legal repercussions – all over the simple offer to let a nearby school use some science resources.

So now the offer’s been withdrawn. What a shame for the students of the kura. Once again, the PPTA is putting its ideological (and frankly wrong) views about partnership schools ahead of kids in our education system – and kids whom the system has largely failed so far (that’s why partnership schools exist).

This is not an isolated incident. In 2015 a teacher studying to become qualified was asked to leave one of his placements because he was employed at the kura. The PPTA has instructed all its members to “refrain from all professional, sporting and cultural contact with charter schools” – so no playing rugby against them, participating in arts festivals, no debating competitions – nothing.

I find all of this really sad. Partnership schools are a genuine, well-intentioned attempt to try and tackle the long tail of under-achievement in our education system. Every kid deserves a good education. For some, the existing system doesn’t work well. Partnership schools may help them; and the evidence so far is that they are. Nobody is forced to send their children there. No teacher is forced to work there. They’re a choice. I haven’t been to the kura (yet), but I’ve visited South Auckland Middle School in Auckland, and looked at their results. Sadly, many opponents of partnership schools have not bothered to do the same.

So this school agreed to allow students at another school their chemistry fume cupboard and because of that they had almost the entire PPTA Executive descend on their school to threaten them.

UPDATE: I’m informed that it was not the entire PPTA Executive, but just two people – the President and a staffer. Also the visit was known in advance.

So why do the Opposition want to close this school down?

June 2nd, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Just been reading the 2015 annual report for Vanguard School.

Their results have seen them in the top ten schools for all of Auckland. Their students got 100% success for NCEA Level 1 and Level 3 and 93% for Level 2.

Now is this a school cherry picking the brightest and best students from all over Auckland? No, it is generally students who were failing in other schools.

56% of their roll is Pasifika and Maori. 53% come from South and West Auckland.

Have a read through their annual report, especially the quotes from the students about what a difference this school has made to them.

And then ask your local Labour or Green MP why they are determined to close this school down.

Obama celebrates charter schools

May 25th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The White House announced:

Our Nation has always been guided by the belief that all young people should be free to dream as big and boldly as they want, and that with hard work and determination, they can turn their dreams into realities. Schools help us uphold this ideal by offering a place for children to grow, learn, and thrive. During National Charter Schools Week, we celebrate the role of high-quality public charter schools in helping to ensure students are prepared and able to seize their piece of the American dream, and we honor the dedicated professionals across America who make this calling their life’s work by serving in charter schools. 

Charter schools play an important role in our country’s education system. Supporting some of our Nation’s underserved communities, they can ignite imagination and nourish the minds of America’s young people while finding new ways of educating them and equipping them with the knowledge they need to succeed. With the flexibility to develop new methods for educating our youth, and to develop remedies that could help underperforming schools, these innovative and autonomous public schools often offer lessons that can be applied in other institutions of learning across our country, including in traditional public schools.

This is from a Democratic President.

Seven more charter schools

May 22nd, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government has announced seven new charter schools will open in 2018 and 2019.

The new schools will expand the flagship ACT policy that saw five schools open, mostly in Auckland and Northland in 2014 – one of which, in Whangaruru has since been closed by the Education Minister – and another four in 2015. 

Good. Charter schools are not a magical fix, but the evidence to date is that they have been effective for hundreds of students who were failing in other schools.

US charter schools doing well

May 6th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Nina Rees writes:

The latest U.S. News & World Report ranking of the best high schools in America is particularly strong on this point. U.S. News ranked schools on the basis of academic quality, as reflected in test scores. But rather than simply take into account raw data, U.S. News also looked at which schools are serving all students, across socioeconomic backgrounds. This year, for the first time, schools also had to meet a minimum graduation rate requirement.

Given the emphasis on serving all students at high levels of quality, it’s no surprise that charter schools are disproportionately represented on the list. Charter schools are public schools that are given greater autonomy and freedom in exchange for raising student achievement. They tend to cater to a largely minority and disadvantaged student population, particularly in inner cities. Though they only account for about 7 percent of public schools in the United States, they make up one-third of the top 100 schools in both the U.S. News and Washington Post lists. About 1.5 million students have graduated from charter high schools over the past 25 years.

Tell me again why some are so against charter schools? Oh it’s because they are not controlled by unions/

ERO on charter schools

May 3rd, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Radio NZ reports:

Three new charter schools have made a good start, according to the Education Review Office.

The reports covered two of the publicly-funded private schools in Auckland, Te Kura Māori o Waatea and Pacific Advance Senior School, and one in Whangarei, Te Kāpehu Whetū -Teina.

The report for Pacific Advance Senior School said it had 105 students in Years 11 and 12 at the start of this year and the school had done a good job of engaging them in their learning.

It said many students started at the school well below achievement expectations for their age level and to get students confident and able to complete Level 1 NCEA qualification was a significant success for the school.

It said 36 students were awarded Level 1 NCEA, which was 57 percent of the student body.

“Most of these students had been out of school for at least half a year prior to coming here. The ongoing challenge for staff is to accelerate formal student achievement.”

Many students at charter schools were failing in other schools, or had failed. Charter schools are not for everyone, but they are doing a good job helping some of the most educationally disadvantaged who are failing in mainstream schools.

Yet Labour and Greens want to close down every charter school and force these students back into the schools where they were failing.

A Hurricane on a charter school

April 27th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Buried in a rugby piece was this nugget:

From the Hurricanes’ perspective, Fatialofa began exceeding expectations the moment he arrived.

The 23-year-old lock was preparing to play for Auckland in last year’s provincial premiership final when the Hurricanes called. He’d figured a chance in Super Rugby had passed him by again, until that offer of a wider training group berth in Wellington came through.

It was in February’s pre-season match against the Blues in Eketahuna that Fatialofa first began to indicate he would be more than just a body to hold hit shields at practice.

“That was actually a funny story, old Eketahuna, because I wasn’t meant to play that game,” Fatialofa said.

“Then I found out on the morning of the game that I was in the 23 and then much closer to kickoff I found out I was starting. Two other locks were meant to play but James Blackwell went down and Blade [Thomson] went down and I ended up playing 80 [minutes].

“But that was probably the chance I needed to show what I’m about.”

This time last year the 2010 New Zealand Secondary Schools’ representative was working as a teacher aide in west Auckland. He was grateful for it too, given how hard it can to find gainful employment when you your provincial side requires you fulltime for four or five months of the year. 

“It was a pretty cool school, a charter school,” said Fatialofa.

“The kids there were on their second or third-chance school but I enjoyed them. They were mostly Pacific Island and Maori.

“It was testing times for the first couple of weeks, while they were sussing me out. But I ended up really enjoying that job and was pretty gutted when I had to leave when the ITM Cup started.

Remember that Labour, Greens and NZ First want to close down every charter school in NZ.

The Education (Charter Schools Abolition) Amendment Bill

April 7th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

This bill by Chris Hipkins would abolish and close every charter school in New Zealand, forcing the pupils and parents who have chosen to enrol there, back into state schools.

Even worse, the bill retrospectively abolishes them from the 1st of January 2016.

I’m glad this has got drawn from the ballot as it will remind people how Labour puts ideology and unions ahead of students. They want to close down schools like Vanguard, despite the fact they have 95% of Maori students achieving NCEA Level 1 – 22% higher than the NZ average. And their students come from some of the most disadvantaged and low decile areas.

It will be interesting to see if every Labour MP  votes for this bill, as some of their Maori MPs such as Peeni Henare and Kelvin Davis have praised the work being done by certain charter schools.


UK turning every school into a charter school!

March 25th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The BBC reports:

Chancellor George Osborne has used his Budget speech to say all schools in England will become academies and extend the school day.

Schools must become academies by 2020 or have official plans to do so by 2022, he told MPs. …

Mr Osborne said: “Providing schooling is the single most important thing we can do to help children from a disadvantaged background to succeed.”

It was also the single most important thing that could be done to boost the long term success of the country, he added.

Therefore, he pledged to “set schools free” from local bureaucracy, so by 2020 all schools must have converted or be in the process of converting to academy status.

This is huge.

Academy schools are very similar to charter schools. They have enhanced flexibility. They were set up by Labour and have proved so popular that half the schools are now academy schools.

Peter Lyons on charter schools

March 16th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Peter Lyons starts off saying:

I hate the concept of charter schools. Charter schools are meant to release the power of free enterprise and market competition to ensure better outcomes for disadvantaged students.

An entrepreneur can set up a school and employ untrained staff. The Government provides funding.

These schools are meant to be more accountable than state schools. They will be closed if they fail to perform, but this has yet to happen, despite significant problems in at least one Northland charter school.

It is also very unclear how their performance will be measured. It is largely an exercise in ideology driven by political compromise.

I hate the concept of charter schools because they undermine the status of teaching as a profession.

But he goes on:

I hate the concept of charter schools, but then I met Alwyn Poole.

Alwyn contacted me because I had written several articles critical of the charter schools experiment. We caught up recently in a local cafe.

I was expecting a sharp-faced, smooth talking entrepreneur. But Alwyn was dressed casually and was very matter of fact.

He had spent many years teaching in mainstream schools and he was well aware that they lack flexibility, particularly in meeting the needs of the most disadvantaged students.

Alwyn set up Mount Hobson middle school in 2000. It is a private school catering to year seven to 10 students. He felt strongly that this group was poorly served by the current system and that a school targeting this age group could better serve their needs.

Central to his philosophy is smaller class sizes with a maximum of 15 students. He believes learning should be integrated with an element of inquiry learning, where each subject area is linked to an overall theme, such as volcanoes, or architecture, or the Olympic Games. The students’ lessons in English, maths, science and other subjects are then related back to this theme. It aims to make learning in each subject more relevant and integrated.

He says learning is best concentrated in the morning. Afternoons are dedicated to sport, project work, cultural events, guest speakers and community work.

Alwyn believes his approach has worked well at his Mount Hobson school, but he was frustrated that it was only available to parents who could afford the fees. So when the Government offered the chance to extend his educational philosophy to charter schools he grabbed it. His first charter school was in South Auckland and he recently opened another in West Auckland.

I’m a cynical man. I am deeply suspicious that the Government is providing extra funds to these schools to ensure their success. I quizzed Alwyn on the finances of his charter schools. He provided the figures for his South Auckland school – if his figures are correct, he is unlikely to make a fortune.

Alwyn is passionate about improving outcomes for kids, and finds the state system is not flexible enough for him.

He assured me he employs only registered teachers and was paying above the state rate. I said I was dubious that he could do this as well as provide uniforms and computers for his students. He explained that leasing the premises and tight budgeting ensured a stringent control of expenses.

I still dislike the concept of charter schools. Entrepreneurs with the skill and passion to improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged students are a rarity and I have an uneasy feeling Alwyn may end up a casualty of political change. We should be closely monitoring his progress. He said he would welcome such scrutiny.

If his model works, then it should be replicated. We need to acknowledge that mainstream schooling does not serve the needs of the tail-end particularly well. They need an educational environment that provides a sense of belonging and a curriculum relevant to their needs.

Peter Lyons is saying the model should be given a chance to see if it works, and if so it should be replicated.

If only Labour will change their policy to close down all charter schools.

Scotland urged to do charter schools

March 6th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Nicola Sturgeon has been told to take her head out of the sand after one of Scotland’s most high-profile entrepreneurs questioned her why education reforms that have closed the attainment gap in England have not been adopted in Scotland.

Sir Tom Hunter praised the freedom to innovate and academic success at academy schools south of the Border, which are outside local authority control, and asked the First Minister “why we wouldn’t give our kids a chance to have this?”

Speaking during a programme broadcast by BBC Scotland tonight, Mr Sturgeon repeated her insistence that her drive to close the gulf between the best and worst state schools was not limited by political ideology.

But the First Minister has previously said she is not convinced that freeing schools from the control of Scotland’s 32 local authorities would help and she has instead focused on directing more public money to the councils with the worst-performing schools.

 So what has happened in England?

The businessman concluded at the end of the programme, which is titled BBC Scotland Investigates: Educating Sir Tom, that one model of schooling “doesn’t fit all” and questioned whether Scotland’s political leaders were “afraid” of taking the steps required.

He added: “I would say we’d be doing Scotland’s children a disservice if we were afraid.” The programme sees the businessman visit King Solomon Academy in London, which serves a poor area but has achieved the best GCSE results of any non-selective school in England.

One in five state-funded schools south of the Border is now outside local authority control. Academies receive direct funding from Whitehall and have power over their curriculum, budget and staffing.

The key is one model doesn’t work for all. You wouldn’t want every school to be a charter school, but for mant students they offer the best chance in life for them to get ahead.

Vanguard Military School 2015 NCEA Results

February 5th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Vanguard Military School is a charter school that Labour and the Greens want to close down.

It’s students come from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds, and were often failing in other schools.

Here’s their 2015 NCEA results.

  • NCEA Level 1 – 93.2% vs 83.7% NZ average
  • NCEA Level 2 – 100.0% vs 87.4% NZ average
  • NCEA Level 3 – 93.3% vs 81.3% NZ average
  • NCEA Level 1 Maori students – 95.2% vs 73.0% NZ average

Maori and Pasifika students at Vanguard are achieving 20% better than the national average.

There are already 160 enrolments for 2016. Hopefully they will not be closed down by a change of Government in 2017.

ERO on Middle School West Auckland

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

The NZ Herald ran a number of stories earlier this year alleging Middle School West Auckland was bribing kids with KFC, had bullying issues, behaviour problems, safety and drug issues etc etc.

It is a charter school, so hence of course ideological opponents are out to plant these stories.

Anyway the ERO has just published their New School Assurance Review Report. They don’t find anything to do with KFC, bullying, drug issues etc.

Some extracts:

Middle School West Auckland has made a successful start to operating as a school that aims to provide a strong learning foundation for emerging adolescents. The curriculum is a model that the sponsor is successfully using in other Villa Trust schools. It uses project-based learning and incorporates a number of projects that are designed to provide broad coverage of the essential learning areas of The New Zealand Curriculum. The afternoon programme provides opportunities for te reo Māori and kapa haka, sports, the arts, and trips related to project work.

Sounds pretty standard.

Students respond positively to teachers’ high expectations. The students we talked to were very positive about the school. They reported that they get plenty of individual help from their teachers, and that, while some of the work is hard, they enjoy the challenge and variety of learning in this way.

Very different to what the media reports portrayed, which were based on second hand allegations.

The school has faced significant challenges during the year in regard to changes in staffing and in their shared occupancy of the Henderson site. School leaders have demonstrated resilience and a clear commitment to building an inclusive, learning-focused school culture. They acknowledge the need to provide Māori learners with an environment and programme that builds learners’ language, culture and identity. Strengthening this aspect of school provision is an ongoing challenge.

Basically there was a big of a fall out with the school they shared the site with.

A significant proportion of students who have previously been disengaged from schooling have enrolled at the school.

The kids at this school are the ones most at risk of falling through the gaps.

Improved attendance at school has been a significant and pleasing outcome this year for many of the students.

Can’t learn if you don’t go.

Students at Middle School West Auckland are enjoying a model of teaching and learning that supports and challenges them. Good systems are in place to support learners and their families and to build a school culture based on mutual respect.

Looks like a solid start.

I wonder if the NZ Herald will give the ERO report the same prominence in reporting as the unsubstantiated allegations?

Putting the record straight on Middle School West Auckland

December 21st, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Mulitalo Filipo Levi from Middle School West Auckland writes:

It was with significant dismay and anger that I saw that a statement of an attempted suicide was repeated, even though that is not accurate. For the record, the following statements are important.

* It is a fact that children at MSWA were never bribed with KFC nor brought KFC on any occasion. We do have shared lunches but the only high value incentive provided was full sets of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia for some children who had completed extraordinary reading tasks.

* There was no suicide attempt and to report that there was caused significant pain to a family who thought it was directed at them. If and when such occurrences occur in a school, they are of such importance that they should never be used for political point-scoring or to try to cause further damage.

* To the best of my knowledge, and I am there a lot, there has been no drug use within the school.

Relatively early in the year a group of families quite rightly raised concerns through a proper process. We met extensively and addressed those concerns and made changes as fully as we are able to under the terms of our contract with government. We even employed one of the group’s members to assist further within the school.

Some of what they had expressed was highly inaccurate and other points had a level of validity that we were not afraid to address. For some families the clarifications as to what our contract specifies around the level of academics, mode of provision and behavioural expectations meant that they exercised their right to leave the Pohutukawa site. For others, our response was just what they had looked for and they stayed and have seen significant progress for their children.

Responding positively to concerns and perceived failure is exactly what a good organisation should do.

Our first ERO report was good, and we expect the recently completed one to be the same. We work closely with that organisation and hope and expect they will tell us how to get better and better as is their job. As a staff and organisation we are resilient and expect to grow and learn on a daily basis. It is on those terms that we expect the same from the children and families that work with us. We are an organisation with very high expectations and aspirations for the young people.

It’s appalling that you can just make up allegations against a school, have politicians repeat them and media report them – despite them being false.

It is important to note we do not believe that that there are subject pathways and careers in New Zealand that some cultures are not capable of. Sadly it is the case in our country that “cultural awareness” is all too often used as an excuse for a lack of achievement by young people. Earlier this year, when confronted by University Entrance results, some Auckland principals chose to state that UE may not be for “our children”. By that they could only mean their predominantly Maori, Pasifika and lower-socio-economic students.

As a Samoan I found that offensive. Some politicians seem to believe that being culturally aware means excusing patterned failure and having lower expectations for children from certain races and social groups who have a massive historic achievement gap.

When the very supportive Maori Party MP Marama Fox visited our sister school in South Auckland earlier this year and asked a class how many wanted a university education, every student raised their hand. That is the level of aspiration that was imparted to me as a part of my “cultural awareness” as a young person and my “responsiveness” were the achievements I outlined above.

The education and lives of young people is not about political points scoring. It is about expectations of excellence and clear pathways of which I am a proud to be a part. There is a Samoan proverb which states “E le sili le ta’i ilo le tapuai”; “One cannot achieve without the help of many”.

It is my hope and prayer that we come together and help our children and provide an opportunity for academic excellence.

I look forward to the ERO report on them.

Charter school axed

December 18th, 2015 at 7:27 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Government has spent $4.8 million on a charter school it now plans to close.

Education Minister Hekia Parata announced this afternoon she is proposing to terminate one of the country’s first charter schools because of poor teaching, low achievement and an inadequate curriculum.

Te Pumanawa o te Wairua, at Whangaruru in Northland, has until January 15 to give feedback on the proposal, but it seems unlikely the school will continue.

This is the right decision, and if anything should have happened earlier.

There’s nine charter schools now, and eight of them are doing well and a couple excelling. This one has been a basket case, and there should be scrutiny as to why it was thought capable, and what happened.

However this is absolutely a strength of the charter school model – a non performing school gets closed down – and quickly. In the state system we have scores and scores of non performing schools that never get closed down – they just carry on for years and years and years – and students are forced to attend them due to school zones.

I’d love to see state schools go down the charter school model more – greater flexibility of funding, and explicit performance targets they must meet.

A great charter school applicant

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

Stuff reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doesn’t that sound great?

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

I support a comparison

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

The Herald reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds like it will happen, just not yet.

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

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

The Herald reports:

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

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

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

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

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

Sir Toby Curtis on charter schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The culture of high expectations is critical.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Courtney on charter school finances

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

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

NZ Charter Schools_Finances 2014

Will Bill Gates help fund a charter school?

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

The Herald reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Gower on Labour and charter schools

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

Patrick Gower writes:

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

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

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

It shows a major policy divide within Labour.

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

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

Davis is not captured by the unions.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Kelvin puts kids ahead of his leader

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

The Herald reports:

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

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

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

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

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

That was despite leader Andrew Little asking them not to.

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

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

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

Yet Labour wants it closed down.

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


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