Why charter schools improve over time

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

The Cato Institute looks at charter schools:

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

A guest post by Alwyn Poole:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After a year is is worth thinking about the progress:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- We have a very good ERO report and have students able to eloquently express their experiences: http://www.southauckland.school.nz/dir/index.php/admissions/what-students-say/

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

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

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

To ensure that all we do is cutting edge I had the privilege of travelling to New York City and spending 3 days meeting with a group of the very best educators I have ever met – who happen to be running sets of simply outstanding Charter Schools that are changing the lives if under-served children and their families. These were the top organisations such as KIPP, Achievement First, Uncommon Schools, Success Academies. Their success is clearly evident and given that we have visited them and Charter Schools in Tampa, Jacksonville and Andre Agassi’s school in Las Vegas the dishonesty of the teacher unions in NZ and the political Left for saying that this is a failed model overseas became crystal clear. As the Stanford Credo report 2013 stated: (http://credo.stanford.edu/documents/NCSS%202013%20Final%20Draft.pdf

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

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

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

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

 Alwyn Poole
(VET Board member, Principal MHMS)

Tags: ,

Charter school funding facts

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

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

Some key facts:

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

I encourage people to circulate the pamphlet linked above.


Vanguard Military School

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

Stuff reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tags: ,

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.

Tags: ,

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.

Tags: ,

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

Phys.org 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.

Tags: ,

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.

Tags: ,

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.

Tags: , ,

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.

Tags: , ,

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.

Tags: , ,

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. http://www.southauckland.school.nz/dir/index.php/ The Trust is not for profit and also runs Mt Hobson Middle School in Newmarket http://www.mthobson.school.nz/dir/index.php 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: https://www.facebook.com/NZPPTA/posts/295024260594180) – 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 – http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2013/08/union-bullying-target-responds/#axzz2kvgmWrbz

One of the exec, Hazel McIntosh even conceded on the Larry William’s show – http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Knsf0ZwyEG4 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 http://www.maoritelevision.com/news/regional/northland-ppta-members-deny-support-charter-schools 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: http://schoolreport.stuff.co.nz/2013/index.php 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.

Tags: ,

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.

Tags: ,

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?

Tags: ,

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.