More flexibility for schools a good idea

August 2nd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government has considered giving schools discretionary power to decide their opening hours, and putting one principal in charge of several schools. 

The proposals were contained in a document leaked to Radio New Zealand, which also detailed the idea that schools could own and operate early childhood centres. 

The document followed on from last year’s Taskforce on Regulation as Affecting School Performance, and said education legislation was not clear about what the education system was trying to achieve. 

Radio New Zealand reported the document suggested four specific changes:

* Giving schools greater flexibility to provide early childhood education;

* Giving schools greater flexibility to set their minimum opening hours;

* Letting principals be in charge of more than one school; and

* Extending the National Student Number to support student participation in digital environments.

Schools must be open for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, which cannot be changed without permission from Education Minister Hekia Parata. 
 
The document proposes removing the requirement for ministerial consent, RNZ reported. 
These look sensible to me. Each school and their community is different and the focus should be on how schools perform, rather than how they operate.
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Trade academies

July 20th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Teachers’ unions always insist they are professional bodies serving the interests of education, not just their members.

How disappointing, therefore, to discover the Post Primary Teachers’ Association’s secondary principals’ council has suggested schools limit the number of pupils admitted to their new “trades academies” so as not to put staffing positions at risk.

Trades academies — technical courses, as they were — have been reintroduced to schools for 15- and 16-year-old students who do not want to take academic subjects much further and can get NCEA credits in subjects of more use to their employment prospects.

The courses are funded from an account for all industry training providers and the funding of schools is reduced accordingly.

The PPTA principals have warned schools that “depending on how many you enrol (in trades academies), the changes would also be likely to reduce the number of salary units, middle management and possibly the number of senior management allowances the school would receive”.

Their concern is understandable to a degree. It seem fair that salary units would be reduced since the technical classes are being funded from another source, but with the total number of pupils in the school remaining the same, management positions should not be reduced. A professional response, though, would not make the pupils suffer.

Unfortunately, that is what will happen if principals follow the advice of the PPTA to cap admissions to trades academies. One of them in our story today admits, “It doesn’t make me feel very good at all.” Yet she is following the advice, reducing opportunities for students in her school.

The purpose of schools is to give students an education, not to ensure there is a certain level of salary units and managements jobs.

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Why millions on maths returned little

June 4th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Initiative has released a new report – Un(ac)countable – Why Millions on Maths Returned Little.

Some key findings:

  • This report documents the 15-year history of the Numeracy Development Project (the Numeracy Project), a nationwide centrally devised approach for improving maths. The Numeracy Project existed officially as a professional development (PD) programme for teachers in most primary schools in New Zealand between 2000 and 2009. It put more emphasis on teaching children a range of strategies for solving maths problems, with greater emphasis on mental problem solving and less on written methods.
  • New Zealand policymakers have been lamenting the state of maths education for over 30 years. However, maths performance did start to show signs of improvement in the late 1990s, around the same time that many localised teacher PD programmes for maths (that were precursors to the Numeracy Project) were in play. But maths performance has since been in decline.
  • TIMSS 2011 showed that New Zealand students spend much less time memorising basic facts and much more time explaining answers compared to students in the top five performing countries.
  • While the basics (like times tables) are likely limited in use unless they are understood conceptually, they are still important because knowing the basics off by heart helps to free up working memory for children to learn more complex maths.
  • A 2010 study found that a third of new primary school teachers could not add two fractions (7/18 + 1/9).

That is 9/18 or 1/2. Took me around three seconds.

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Guest Post: Educational Aspiration in Crisis

May 25th, 2015 at 11:30 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Alwyn Poole:

In New Zealand it is acknowledged that a University Education is an important pathway to change socioeconomic outcomes. Back in October 2014 Professor Stuart McCutcheon noted:

Each year, some 10,000 ordinary, mostly young people leave the University of Auckland armed with a new degree or diploma. Their qualifications will lead to them having lower unemployment rates, higher salaries and better health outcomes than those whose education terminated at school. The lifetime salary benefit of a degree is estimated to be in the range $250,000 to $500,000. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11350829)

You would therefore think that any major disparity in University Entrance results would have opposition politicians, teacher unions and educationalists raging – and parents on the street.

The PPTA used to campaign on this. In a 2009 report they stated:

New Zealand has a tail of students with low academic achievement. Although internationally standardised test data for literacy, numeracy and science show New Zealand does very well in terms of its average performance, we have high quality but low equity achievement. Almost all of the students “at risk” are found in state schools, the highest proportion of which is in lower decile schools. The skewed nature of educational disadvantage correlates with family income and ethnicity. However, there is increasing evidence that genuine solutions can be found to reduce this problem.

http://www.ppta.org.nz/events-info-forms/doc_view/582-secondary-education-and-the-economic-crisis

The Labour Party manifesto in 2011 acknowledged the problem:

Some children are missing out on a quality education. A good education is a human right and we will work to make sure the most vulnerable students don’t miss out: Māori, Pasifika, children from low-income families, children with special needs, victims of bullying and violence, and those who struggle to achieve academically and don’t have a clear post-school pathway to work or higher education.

https://www.labour.org.nz/sites/default/files/2011%20Labour%20Party%20Manifesto.pdf

However, after the 2011 ACT/National agreement to introduce Charter Schools as a small part of a solution to address the problem for priority learners the issue stopped being of importance. Any effort to point it out might be seen as an endorsement of a policy that the Opposition and associated unions had chosen not to like. Since that moment almost all of their protest energy has gone into trying to eradicate Charter Schools as opposed to trying to find solutions to the huge disparities in the outcomes of young people in NZ. This expensive, false, and misdirected protest finally reached the point of outright comedy when Labour and the unions raged about how a Charter School spent money from multiple sources on a waka. They currently say very little about the outcomes for priority learners in many of our high schools. These schools that receive tens of millions of dollars every year. They have tied their own hands with the mantra of “world-class” that they dreamed up to imply that there was nothing to see here and no need for change. They have fallen silent about inequitable outcomes when this generation needs them to stand strong.

Recently the NCEA and UE qualifications data was released for 2014.

In terms of UE a sample table is as follows (referenced from NZQA published tables).

School Name Decile 2014 UE Roll Based Pass Rate
Northland College 1 12%
Tamaki College 1 10%
Southern Cross Campus 1 18%
James Cook High School 1 7%
Mangere College 1 12%
Papakura College 2 9%
Huntly College 1 6%
Fairfield College 4 17%
Flaxmere College 1 5%
Melville High School 4 15%
Edgecumbe College 3 0%
Opotiki College 1 12%
Otorohanga College 4 6%
Tokoroa High School 2 15%
Te Kuiti High School 3 14%
Ruapehu College 3 8%
Wanganui City College 2 9%
Rangitikei College 3 18%
Wairoa College 2 12%
William Colenso 2 16%
Makoura College 2 7%
Mana College 2 10%
Naenae College 2 18%
Some Comparisons
Glendowie College 9 65%
Howick College 10 48%
St Kentigerns College 10 77%
Pakuranga College 8 65%
Epsom Girls Grammar 9 81%
Rosmini College 9 74%
Wellington Girls College 10 81%
Samuel Marsden Collegiate 10 93%

The discrepancies in outcomes speak for themselves but it is worth reading the above table two or three times to really get a handle on it. This is a blight on our society and that almost no one is talking about it and/or reporting on it has me flummoxed. I won’t name them here but two lower decile school Principals who stated that UE and University wasn’t for “their kids” must, I hope, have had their statements taken out of context.

Keep in mind also that these are the roll based statistics for Year 13 students. It says nothing of the children in these schools that have left through attrition in previous years – i.e. the actual percentage of any cohort achieving at that level is even lower.

Schools in New Zealand are set up and funded to bring about progress, development and change. Blaming the circumstances of the children, or the surrounding area, isn’t an option as a society, and it doesn’t help. The reason we have state funded schools should be to ensure that education can precede changes in circumstance. If we were to wait for social equity before we felt we could educate children we will be throwing a portion of another generation on to the heap. With education, being Left or Right does not help.

In saying that, there is no denying the disease. We have to look for massive aspirational approaches to overcome this. It should be all hand on deck for these young people. Twenty years ago I was studying for a Masters degree in Education and all of the talk was about how to overcome the outcome problems for Maori, Pasifika and lower socio-economic children. The difference with today is that at least twenty years ago it was being talked about.

Solutions have to be found. There are a lot of tyre-kickers in education in NZ. People who criticise outcomes, criticise attempts at solutions, attack all manner of people who are doing the job but do nothing to assist. The kids who are missing out don’t need theoreticians – they need on the ground solutions. The vast majority of those solutions involve people and not flash buildings. People who understand the new learning paradigm understand that all children, given quality teaching/coaching, repetition/practice and opportunity can develop remarkable skills and knowledge sets. These young people need to be surrounded by adults who understand aspiration and change.

I know these aspirations are worthwhile. I managed to get through one of the decile 1 schools listed above and get to University. I had three teachers in that time who communicated to me that it was possible and I was unsophisticated enough to believe them.

What are some of the solutions within the school system that are worth discussion?

– Communities need to take this on and need to militant about it. Every community needs to demand schooling that generates results that allows their children to move into the higher levels of education in roughly equal numbers as any other community. Passive acceptance of the status quo should not be an option.

– Revisit bulk funding and give Principals in schools much more discretion on how they spend their money. They know the children, families, and locality so allow them more say in provision.

– Differentiate teacher salaries across the deciles. Pay a premium to teachers working in decile 1 – 3 schools to bring about change. If there is not a will to differentiate for results by teacher then incentivise the whole school for externally evaluated improvements. Allow the Ministry and management to bring financial and other incentives for bringing about great outcomes for kids. If it is acknowledged that working in some of these schools brings a different level of challenge then reward people who take it on and succeed.

– Children in the lower decile schools are not having special exam conditions applied for. Of the 5454 students with exam help last year only approximately 330 were from decile 1 schools – as opposed to 1440 from decile 10 schools. Something is significantly amiss here that needs to be fixed immediately.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/68447944/teenagers-with-learning-difficulties-missing-out

– These students don’t arrive at Year 13 from a vacuum – continually revisit the base and the provision there – particularly in the subjects the Universities have designated as key. Ensure that all primary school teachers can teach Maths, English, and Science well and a start would be to have strict entry qualifications to teacher training in those areas (e.g. at least level 3 NCEA).

There will be other suggestions out there that can make a difference. It is time to get things done.

(Note: I would also have a concern that too rapid a transition to computer based qualifications may exaggerate the gaps further.)

Alwyn Poole

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Labour’s assumption wrong

April 23rd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Thousands of students in Auckland suburbs including Ellerslie, Lynfield and Te Atatu will be part of a radical education reform that aims to spread the best teaching and leadership.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has announced another 129 schools across the country have signed up to the flagship Investing in Educational Success (IES) programme.

The schools have more than 45,000 students between them and will be divided into 18 groups or “communities”.

Good to see so many schools signing up.

New Zealand’s education system gives a high degree of control to each individual state and state-integrated school and its board of trustees, and studies have pointed to a lack of collaboration as a major problem.

Who would be against collaboration?

The scheme uses $359 million over four years to create “communities of schools” where principals and teachers are paid extra to collaborate and provide additional teacher-learning time for the schools involved.

There is also a teacher-led innovation fund, which provides funding and time for teachers to research with colleagues within schools.

Today’s announcement by Ms Parata brings the total number of schools involved to 222.

Hopefully over time we will be able to measure progress in schools taking part, against schools that are not.

Labour’s education spokesman Chris Hipkins said that paying bonuses to teachers and principals from schools in wealthy communities would only enforce inequality in the schooling system.

Ms Parata said almost 60 per cent of the 129 schools signed-up in the second round were decile 1 to 5.

So Labour assumed it was wealthy schools taking part, but in fact 60% are from lower decile schools.

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Teaching by phenomenon

April 1st, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Quartz reports:

Finland is considering itsmost radical overhaul of basic education yet—abandoning teaching by subject for teaching by phenomenon. Traditional lessons such as English Literature and Physics are already being phased out among 16-year-olds in schools in Helsinki.

Instead, the Finns are teaching phenomena—such as the European Union, which encompasses learning languages, history, politics, and geography. No more of an hour of history followed by an hour of chemistry. The idea aims to eliminate one of the biggest gripes of students everywhere: “What is the point of learning this?” Now, each subject is anchored to the reason for learning it.

Sounds intriguing.

Pasi Silander, Helsinki’s development manager, says the world has changed with the spread of technology and many of the old ways of teaching have no practical purpose. “Young people use quite advanced computers,” he told the Independent. “In the past the banks had lots of  bank clerks totting up figures but now that has totally changed.”

Many teachers in Finland, many of whom have been teaching single subjects their whole careers, oppose the changes. It is not hard to see why. The new system is much more collaborative, forcing teachers from different areas to come up with the curriculum together.  Marjo Kyllonen, Helsinki’s education manager and the person responsible for reforming the system in the capital, calls this “co-teaching” and teachers who agree to it get a small bonus on top of their salaries.
Could be a good area for the new Education Council to look at.
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Schools improving at looking after special needs pupils

March 9th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Most schools are catering better for students with special needs, according to a recent report.

The ERO report released yesterday, Inclusive practices for students with special needs in schools, found almost 80 per cent in its sample were “mostly inclusive”. The Ministry of Education says inclusive practice is when schools “adapt to fit the student rather than making the student adapt to fit the school”. …

The latest report ranked 78 per cent of schools mostly inclusive, up from 50 per cent in a similar report from 2010. The proportion of schools with few inclusive practices dropped 19 percentage points in the recent survey.

But CCS Disability Action warned that the two reports were not directly comparable because the 2010 report focussed solely on students with high needs while the latest report covered all students with special education needs.

Still seems to be good progress, and definitely going in the right direction.

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Walking the talk in education

February 14th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting article at CIS:

Jennifer Buckingham is a prominent advocate of school choice. She’s middle class and strongly believes parents should be able to choose where they send their children to school. So which primary school did she choose for her two daughters? ­Raymond Terrace Public School, located in the low-income town of the same name, just north of Newcastle in NSW.

More than half its students are from the bottom quartile of socio-economic rankings and about a fifth are indigenous, both indicators that are statistically linked to lower academic outcomes. Buckingham says that when her eldest daughter, who has just graduated from year six, started at Raymond Terrace in kindergarten it was perceived by many in the town “as a school people wouldn’t deliberately send their children to”.

What makes her choice of school all the more interesting is that Buckingham is an education policy specialist and research ­fellow at a right-wing think tank, the Centre of Independent Studies (CIS). From her perch at the CIS, Buckingham is a strong advocate of private schools and their role in providing wider choice to parents.

Yet she chose a struggling public primary school for her daughters. Why? “I could see the potential at Raymond Terrace Public School, and thought that I had something to contribute,” she says.

And how did she contribute:

But along with the right to choose, another part of Buckingham’s education credo is that parents should be able to be influential in their children’s schools – and that is exactly what she has done.

With Picton at the helm, and plenty of input from Buckingham, Raymond Terrace has seen a remarkable lift in performance. In 2008, Raymond Terrace’s Naplan results were level-pegging with similar schools in the area. The latest available 2013 figures show it is significantly ahead of its peers. It is also well ahead of the three other primary schools in the town – two public, one Catholic.

At a time when Australia’s schools are seen to be failing – with literacy and ­numeracy standards falling against ­comparable countries, and a sharp ­ideological divide over the Gonski funding scheme and the national curriculum – ­Raymond Terrace stands out as an example of what can be achieved in an individual school by a ­committed principal who has solid support.

The Raymond Terrace story is also notable on another level. ­Buckingham is an education commentator who walked the talk and enrolled her own children in a failing school she intended to help improve.

So school success is not predetermined by socio-economic status.

One key development was a visit from noted educational reformer John Fleming in 2010. Fleming’s 10 years in charge of Bellfield Primary School in Melbourne is one of the celebrated success stories of turning around a failing school, and last year Fleming was appointed by federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne to be deputy chair of the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership. Fleming came to Raymond ­Terrace to offer his advice.

It was a turning point in Picton’s ­willingness to engage with Buckingham.

“Had John Fleming been a waste of time, I probably wouldn’t be here talking to ­Jennifer today,” says Picton.

It led to three “pillars” – principles set then which the school still operates by.

One is explicit teaching, where the key skills of reading, writing and maths are taught explicitly and directly to students and then practised repeatedly until testing shows they have got it. This is in contrast to still-popular education theories in which children are expected to master these ­fundamental building blocks of knowledge by exploring for themselves.

Another is building a relationship with the children, and expecting teachers to get to know each child well and understand what they are capable of, with the aim of boosting self-esteem.

Last, there is creating high expectations, in which children and parents are ­encouraged to aim for the best.

The three pillars seem very sound.

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NCEA achievement increasing

January 29th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Hekia Parata announced:

The provisional results, released by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), show the achievement rate for NCEA Level 2 increased from 85.7 percent in 2013 to 86.8 percent in 2014. Since 2010, Year 12 achievement rates have risen by 7 percentage points.

The same data shows that the 2014 Level 1 rate is up by a hefty 7.6 percentage points since 2010 and the Level 3 rate is up 4.4 percentage points over the same period

So Level 1 achievement rates are up 7.6%, Level 2 7% and Level 3 4.4%. Good to see them all heading in the right direction.

Level 2 is regarded as the minimum necessary for school leavers so having that almost hit 87% is welcome. The more we can do to reduce the under-achieving the tail, the better.

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Education and profit

January 8th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Jamie Whyte writes in the NZ Herald:

On these pages late last year, Linda Mitchell, an education lecturer at Waikato University

I tend to stop reading when I see the phrase “education lecturer at Waikato”! But Jamie did read it.

She claimed the quest for profits damages the service provided. Or, as she put it, an interest “in making profits for owners or shareholders positions Evolve Education Group at odds with more community spirited aims to invest fully in the service itself”.

That profits injure consumers is a familiar idea. But this should not blind readers to its absurdity.

Kindergartens, like most enterprises, need capital and labour. The capital pays for the buildings, equipment and so on, and provides cover for “rainy days” when costs exceed revenue. The labour at a kindergarten is mainly teaching but people also work on administration, cleaning and maintenance.

Ms Mitchell is right that if the people who contributed capital were not paid for it then more could be spent on educating the children.

Yet the same is true of those who provide labour. Imagine a kindergarten with four teachers. If they all took a 20 per cent pay cut, they could hire a fifth teacher on the same pay and give more attention to each child. If they worked for nothing, they could hire even more extra teachers and pay for all sorts of other services that might benefit the children.

Why does Ms Mitchell not lament the fact that teachers are paid for supplying labour? Why is paying teachers not also “at odds with more community spirited aims to invest fully in the service itself”?

Excellent points by Dr Whyte.  Why do they argue against a return on capital, yet for a return on labour.

Second, eliminating profit harms the intended beneficiaries: in this case, children receiving preschool education. A kindergarten that gets its capital from profit-seeking investors must provide a good service. If it doesn’t, parents will take their children elsewhere and profits will decline. If the kindergarten performs very poorly, it may even go out of business and lose its shareholders the money they invested. A privately owned kindergarten, like any privately owned enterprise, has a powerful commercial incentive to provide a good product or service.

Yep. Unlike at school level, pupils are not forced into their nearest school.

Ms Mitchell pointed to the insolvency of ABC, an Australian preschool company, as evidence against private ownership. This is the crowning glory of her confusion. That underperforming private firms are subject to insolvency is a virtue of private ownership, not a vice.

The same applies to charter schools. A charter school that fails will be closed down. State schools that fail get given more money.

 

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Improving teaching

December 16th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

An interesting interview in the NZ Herald with Bali Haque. His background is:

Bali Haque is well known in education, having headed schools, a principals’ association and as the former deputy chief executive of the Qualifications Authority.

And

Mr Haque – a former executive member of the PPTA

So what does he see as a problem:

Mr Haque stresses that most teachers do a great job and that socio-economic factors are most important when looking at the “tail” of student underachievement.

But he doesn’t shy away from what he sees as problems within the profession. A big one is teachers he terms “free riders” – those he says refuse to work past 3.30pm, do nothing during their holidays and the very minimum required in class.

The collective agreement has provisions for incompetence – themselves often not acted upon – but not for the relatively few teachers who “hover in the only-just-competent area”, Mr Haque says. In the book, Changing our Secondary Schools, he argues that under the current collective such “free riders” will be paid much the same as those who go above and beyond.

We need to better reward the great teachers, motivate the mediocre teachers to improve, and weed out the teachers who are just not able to connect with students.

He says this should be addressed through a version of performance pay – not linked to one measure such as student achievement, but likely judged by the principal and possibly paid as an end-of-year bonus.

Principals should have more flexibility in how they pay their teachers.

also believes that teachers, through their unions, should look at reducing their holidays from 12 weeks to four or five.

The workload pressures that some teachers complain about are often self-inflicted, he says, and other professions work more flexibly to cope. Because most of the workload happens during the 38 weeks of term time, many teachers cope by working evenings and weekends, leading to stress.

Using some of the current holiday time to call all teachers in to school to carry out tasks such as planning meetings and professional development could go a long way to reducing the overall stress levels in most staffrooms, Mr Haque argues.

I can’t see the unions or teachers agreeing to giving up eight weeks holiday!

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The lack of male teachers

November 17th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Students are now less likely to have a male teacher, with many going through their early education years without ever encountering a male role model.

Ministry of Education figures show fewer than one-in-five primary school teachers are male.

Principals want more research on what is putting men off the profession, but fear pay and high-profile sexual abuse cases are to blame.

The Ministry of Education is “very conscious” of the gender imbalance, but says with no shortage of teachers there are no recruitment drives aimed at men.

“Evidence tells us that the most important factor in lifting achievement is the quality of teaching, not the gender of the teacher,” said Dr Graham Stoop, the ministry’s head of student achievement.

But that doesn’t mean the gender is insignificant. There is a wide and growing disparity between the achievements levels of boys and girls at school. Girls on average are doing significantly better. It should be a priority to close this gap by improving the outcomes for male students, and I would not dismiss the possibility that the lack of male teachers is a significant factor.

9% more female students achieve NCEA Level 1 in Year 11, 8% more achieve NCEA Level 2 and 13% more achieve NCEA Level 3. These gender gaps are larger than the gaps between decile 4 to 7 schools and decile 8 to 10 schools.

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NZ 6th for education efficiency

September 15th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A report assessing 30 OECD countries for their educational efficiency (results vs money spent) has New Zealand as 6th best. The top 10 are:

  1. Finland 87.8%
  2. Korea 86.7%
  3. Czech Republic 84.4%
  4. Hungary 84.1%
  5. Japan 83.9%
  6. New Zealand 83.3%
  7. Slovenia 83.3%
  8. Australia 81.2%
  9. Sweden 80.6%
  10. Iceland 79.4%

Of interest the two most efficient systems have relatively large class sizes. Finland averages 1:16.5 and NZ 1:13.5.  Greece by the way has a 1:9.7 ratio!

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Issues that matter – education

September 15th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Another series of graphs for those who think the election should be focused on policy. All data is from data.govt.nz and compiled by me.

I thought we should look at all four sectors from pre-school to tertiary.

ECE

The proportion of new school entrants who did not have early childhood education has halved from 6.4% to 3.1%.

ece2

 

And where have the greatest gains been made? The ECE non participation rate for decile 1 school students was 19.2% in 2010 and has dropped to 12.5%. That is what makes a difference to equality of opportunity.

The Maori non participation rate has dropped from 10.7% to 7.1% ad for Pasifika from 14.1% to 9.7%. Real gains there.

nat standards

 

In just two years, there have been significant increases in the number of primary students making the national standards for reading, maths and writing. National standards have allowed schools to better identify which students are struggling, allow the Government to give more assistance to schools that are struggling, and given parents much clearer information on how their kids are doing.

ncea

 

If someone leaves school without at least NCEA Level 2, their future employment and income prospects are bleak. National has lifted the achievement rate from 68% to 79%. The gain is even greater for Maori and Pasfika students. The Maori achievement rate is up from 45% to 63% and Pasifika from 51% to 71%. Not bad for just five years.

Maori tert

 

Then at tertiary level, we have almost 50% more Maori gaining a tertiary qualification than in 2008. Again this is how you reduce inequality – rather than increasing taxes.

doctorates

 

And in case you think not enough people are graduating at the top end, the number of doctorates granted has increased from around 800 to 1,100.

tertiary

 

And possibly the most important tertiary indicator – the completion rates. This has gone up from 75.6% in 2008 to 82.95 in 2014. The tertiary system is now better incentivised for people to actually complete their degrees and diplomas.

All these improvements despite inheriting an economy rocked by the Global Financial Crisis, and serious funding constraints.

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Voters reject Labour’s class size policy as best use of money

July 23rd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealanders would rather money was spent on improving teaching standards than on reducing class sizes, a Herald-DigiPoll survey reveals.

Education has become a political battleground before September’s election, with both major parties promising to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on it.

Asked about their priorities, more than 60 per cent of those polled said they would spend money on trying to improve teaching standards rather than cutting class sizes.

Labour has included reducing class sizes in its election policies.

Another of its policies, a promise to pay schools which do not ask parents for donations, gained support in the poll.

National has pledged $359 million for a scheme that would pay the best teachers and principals more.

Labour countered by promising to use that money to instead hire 2000 more teachers and reduce class sizes.

Asked about those policies, 61 per cent of those polled said the money was better spent on trying to improve teaching standards.

Thirty-five per cent thought it should be used to cut class sizes.

Excellent. Voters understand quality is more important than quantity.

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Teacher unions at war with Obama

July 17th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Hill reports:

Teachers unions have turned on Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Obama administration, creating a major divide in the Democratic Party coalition.

The largest teachers union in the country, the National Education Association (NEA), called for Duncan to resign at its convention on July 4, arguing his policies on testing have failed the nation’s schools.

Tensions between Duncan and the unions had been building for some time.

The administration’s Race to the Top program, which has provided $4.35 billion to states, incentivized changes that unions strongly oppose. One of the most controversial policies backed by Duncan is using students’ improvement on standardized tests to help evaluate teachers and make pay and tenure decisions.

“Our members are frustrated and angry,” said NEA president Dennis Van Roekel. “Number one is the toxic testing. There is too much.”

An added spark came on June 10, when a California judge ruled the state’s teacher tenure laws are unconstitutional because they keep ineffective teachers in the classroom and deprive poor and minority students of their right to an equal education.

Teachers unions, which are strong defenders of tenure, expressed outrage when Duncan said the plaintiffs in the case were just some of millions of students disadvantaged by tenure laws. He called the decision “a mandate to fix these problems.”

Heh if Chris Christie becomes President, then they’ll really have something to complain about.

According to a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, at the beginning of the administration, in 2009, no states had clear policies that ineffective teaching was grounds for dismissal. By 2013, 29 states did. 

You can’t sack teachers for incompetence. That’s heresy.

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Slippery on education

July 10th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

On The Nation:

In principle, do you like super teachers as an idea, good teachers getting paid more?

In principle I agree that having excellent teachers is really important but it’s not the only thing we have to do and you’ll find out more tomorrow.

In principle, do you agree with them being paid more though?

In principal I agree with great teachers and great schools. And you’ll find out more tomorrow.

Because will there be a choice here between having an iPad and no donations or having your good teachers paid more?

No, we can do both.

Will parents face a choice?

No, they won’t.

That was on Saturday. And then on Sunday they announced they will not pay good teachers more, as they will use the money elsewhere. So Cunliffe’s answer on Saturday was very misleading. He should have said “Yes, they will face a choice, but we think our priorities are better” – but he gave the very misleading impression that they will fund both.

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Modern classrooms

July 8th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Convincing parents their children learn better in open-plan classrooms with dozens of pupils and multiple teachers can be a tough sell for schools, a Christchurch principal says.

At Pegasus Bay Primary School all 420 pupils were part of shared teaching and learning spaces and principal Roger Hornblow said about 80 per cent of parents understood it.

The school’s new approach to teaching has been heralded as the way of the future by the Government – in direct contrast to the Labour Party’s education policy announcement at the weekend of smaller class sizes.

“The same skills are still being taught but the way they’re being taught is different,” Hornblow said.

“Bringing ratios down to one teacher to 23 kids would be great but it’s not the world we’re working in.”

He said it was more than just three teachers working with 75 kids.

“It’s three sets of eyes picking up on any negative or off-task behaviour. It’s more help to answer questions, and the collaboration between staff is going on 24/7.”

This is very true. The future will not be one teacher with one class. It is about shared teaching and learning spaces. Teaching will be very different in the future to how we traditionally knew it. That is why the focus should be on training teachers better.

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Experts say class size has little impact

July 7th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour’s proposal to reduce class sizes at schools has failed to win a universal gold star, with experts saying the small cuts without improving teaching would do little to raise the bar of student achievement.

Associate Professor John O’Neill, of Massey University’s Institute of Education, said the Labour Party’s proposal to cut school class sizes if elected in September would not achieve much without changes to teaching itself.

At the Labour election-year congress yesterday, leader David Cunliffe announced the party would fund an extra 2000 teachers, which would see primary and secondary school classes shrink by an average of three students by 2018.

But O’Neill said recent research suggested making classes slightly larger or smaller did not greatly alter the achievement levels for average students.

Indeed. Here’s a list of the 105 things which have been found to have a larger impact on student achievement than class size.

  1. Self-reported grades
  2. Piagetian programs
  3. Providing formative evaluation
  4. Micro teaching
  5. Acceleration
  6. Classroom behavioral
  7. Comprehensive interventions for learning disabled students
  8. Teacher clarity
  9. Reciprocal teaching
  10. Feedback
  11. Teacher-Student relationships
  12. Spaced vs. Mass Practice
  13. Meta-cognitive strategies
  14. Prior achievement
  15. Vocabulary programs
  16. Repeated Reading programs
  17. Creativity Programs
  18. Self-verbalization & Self-questioning
  19. Professional development
  20. Problem solving teaching
  21. Not labeling students
  22. Teaching strategies
  23. Cooperative vs. individualistic learning
  24. Study skills
  25. Direct Instruction
  26. Tactile stimulation programs
  27. Phonics instruction
  28. Comprehension programs
  29. Mastery learning
  30. Worked examples
  31. Home environment
  32. Socioeconomic status
  33. Concept mapping
  34. Challenging Goals
  35. Visual-Perception programs
  36. Peer tutoring
  37. Cooperative vs. competitive learning
  38. Pre-term birth weight
  39. Classroom cohesion
  40. Keller’s PIS
  41. Peer influences
  42. Classroom management
  43. Outdoor/Adventure Programs
  44. Interactive video method
  45. Parental Involvement
  46. Play Programs
  47. Second/Third chance programs
  48. Small group learning
  49. Concentration/Persistence/Engagement
  50. missing
  51. Motivation
  52. Early Intervention
  53. Questioning
  54. Pre school programs
  55. Quality of Teaching
  56. Writing Programs
  57. Expectations
  58. School size
  59. Self-concept
  60. Mathematics programs
  61. Behavioral organizers/Adjunct questions
  62. missing
  63. Cooperative learning
  64. Science
  65. Social skills programs
  66. Reducing anxiety
  67. Integrated Curricula Programs
  68. Enrichment
  69. Career Interventions
  70. Time on Task
  71. Computer assisted instruction
  72. Adjunct aids
  73. Bilingual Programs
  74. Principals/School leaders
  75. Attitude to Mathematics/Science
  76. Exposure to Reading
  77. Drama/Arts Programs
  78. Creativity
  79. Frequent/Effects of testing
  80. Decreasing disruptive behavior
  81. Drugs
  82. Simulations
  83. Inductive teaching
  84. Ethnicity
  85. Teacher effects
  86. Inquiry based teaching
  87. Ability grouping for gifted students
  88. Homework
  89. Home visiting
  90. Exercise/Relaxation programs
  91. Desegregation
  92. Mainstreaming
  93. Teaching test taking & coaching
  94. Use of calculators
  95. Values/Moral Education Programs
  96. Competitive vs. individualistic learning
  97. Special College Programs
  98. Programmed instruction
  99. Summer school
  100. Finances
  101. Illness (Lack of)
  102. Religious Schools
  103. Individualised instruction
  104. Visual/Audio-visual methods
  105. Comprehensive Teaching Reforms
  106. Class size

Now remember this doesn’t come from one study. This is a from a meta-analysis of 50,000 different studies. There have been 96 studies just on class size, and they have found the impact on learning is quite minor.

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Labour schools policy

July 6th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour’s 21st century schools policy is here. The summary:

  • put in place a programme that provides an affordable option, available to all schools, for Year 5-13 students to have access to a portable digital device, in the classroom and at home.
  • commit $25 million to provide teachers with professional development during the 2016 and 2017 school years to assist them to make the most effective use of digital devices in the classroom.
  • partner with schools, local government and communities to put in place infrastructure that will allow students, particularly those from low-decile schools, who do not currently have internet connections to use their portable devices to access the internet at home.
  • develop a comprehensive plan for rebuilding out-dated and worn-out school buildings, so that every school has access to modern learning environments by 2030.

This looks a very sound policy. It is very much in line with the unanimous recommendations of the Education and Science Select Committee inquiry into 21st century schools, that was chaired by Nikki Kaye a couple of years ago.

Nikki points out that most of this policy is already underway:

Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye says Labour has clearly not done its homework in the education area and is promoting “new ideas” that have already been put in place by National.

“Most of what Labour has announced today is already being delivered by the Government through its 21st century schools programme. We have a massive build plan underway to modernise school facilities, upgrade school broadband networks and partner with communities to provide digital hubs through those networks. Our Ultrafast broadband and rural broadband initiatives are delivering fibre broadband with uncapped data to nearly every school in New Zealand.

“Labour’s announcements today prove they have no idea what is already going on.”

Labour want to put money into professional learning development for ICT over the next few years. National has already invested $35 million in Professional Learning and Development, specifically targeted at learning with digital technologies.

Labour want to build an unspecified number of new schools and classrooms by 2030. Under the National government, hundreds of millions of dollars has been spent building new classrooms and upgrading older schools with the help of the Future Investment Fund, which Labour opposes. National has opened 12 new schools in the past three years in areas of growth.

And Labour wants to enable students to access the internet at home. Last year, National announced a change in policy to enable schools to extend their school internet to the surrounding area so students and families can access the internet from home.

It’s not a bad thing that National and Labour are broadly in agreement on steps to modernise our schools to take best account of the opportunities for  learning.

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We need better teachers, not more teachers

July 6th, 2014 at 2:43 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour will fund an extra 2000 teachers under its policy to reduce primary class sizes to 26 students by 2016 and secondary schools to an average of 23 by 2018 – a step expected to cost $350 million over the next three years.

Labour leader David Cunliffe has announced the policy at Labour’s Congress alongside a suite of associated education policies.

It will pay by scrapping National’s $359 million ‘Investing in Educational Success’ scheme, under which the best teachers and principals are paid more and used to help work with other teachers and schools.

This is a bad and disapponting policy, that flies in the face of reams and reams of international and national evidence.

Hundreds of studies have concluded that the quality of a teacher is the biggest influence on a child’s learning. The same studies have also concluded that the impact of class size is quite minor in comparison.

Labour’s policy is about politics, not education. Again there are hundreds of studies that confirm teacher quality is far more important than class size. There are meta-studies of meta-studies. This is not an issue there is serious dispute over.

Basically Labour has gone for quantity over quality, It’s one of their worst policies. Some of their stuff on 21st century schools is very good, but this aspect is basically appalling. Not the reducing class sizes in itself – but choosing to do that rather than fund an initiative to have great teachers share their success with other teachers.

Here’s what global expert John Hattie said on Q+A on this issue in 2012:

Well, we’ve certainly done many many studies looking at the effects when we reduce class sizes, certainly by the one or two that were suggested in New Zealand, and it’s very very hard to find that they make that much of a difference. The major question is why is it that a seemingly obvious thing that should make a difference doesn’t make a difference, and that’s what’s beguiled a lot of people over the last many decades. I think we have some good answers for that, but the bottom line is it hardly makes a difference.

SHANE Why is that?

PROF HATTIE Well, I think the major argument seems to be when you have teachers in class sizes, like, of 26, 27, 30 and you put them in the class sizes of, say, 18 to 23, and they don’t change what they do, that seems to be the reason why it doesn’t make a difference. So could it make a difference? Yeah, it probably could if we changed how we went about our teaching. But that doesn’t seem to happen. When the many many thousands, tens of thousands of teachers have gone from one size to another, they don’t change how they teach. So, no, that’s why it doesn’t make much of a difference.

A presentation by Professor Hattie here, find’s class size is ranked only the 106th most powerful influence on learning.  That’s 106th out of 130. Labour are putting  Now this is not his personal view. This is a summary of 50,000 individual studies and 800+ meta-studies.

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Cunliffe being tricky with figures again

July 4th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

3 News reports:

“Would slippery John like to confirm why the education budget is 2.3 percent lower today when he took office?” rebuts Mr Cunliffe.

I thought this couldn’t be right, so I checked.

In 2008 Vote Education was $10.78 billion.

In 2014 Vote Education was $10.12 billion.

So maybe David Cunliffe is right. Has National cut education spending?

Nope.

A bit of detective work determines that in 2008, Vote Education includes tertiary education. In 2014, it is a separate vote. Very tricky, eh.

So what is Vote Education in 2014, if you include tertiary education, as was done in 2008.

That adds on $3.04 billion to make it $13.16 billion. That is not 2.3% lower. That’s 22.1% higher!!

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Sounds like a good Labour policy

July 4th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour is planning two major education announcements, expected to include a plan to provide iPads or laptops to school students, at its three-day congress starting in Wellington today.

In 2011 Labour said it would spend $75 million over four years to put laptops into the hands of 31,000 year 7 to year 13 students in low-decile schools, but it is expected to drop the plan to target the policy and make it universal at a much higher cost.

This sounds like it could be quite a good policy. I think we should be aiming for every student to have an Internet capable device they can learn on.

Labour is also tipped to announce plans to upgrade schools and reallocate the $359m that the Government earmarked in January for specialist teachers and principals.

But I don’t want it either or. Paying out best teachers more, to share their success is also vital.

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Boys do much better at single sex schools

June 19th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Boys in single-sex education are performing better than in co-educational and appear to be ditching the sporty stereotype for one where it is “cool to achieve”, an education researcher says.

Forty-two per cent of boys-only school leavers between 2010 and 2012 attained University Entrance, 83 per cent at least NCEA Level 2, and 8 per cent gained no qualification.

This compared with 23 per cent of male co-educational school leavers attaining University Entrance, 69 per cent with at least NCEA Level 2, and 17 per cent without any qualification.

But a Canterbury co-educational school principal argues the quality of the school is more important than gender variables.

The research clearly shows that single sex schools do better overall.

Of course an individual co-educational school may do better than a particular single sex school, but 42% gaining UE compared to 23% is a very significant difference.

This makes you wonder why (off memory) successive governments have had a policy that new schools must be co-educational. A while back I read there had been no new single sex boys school for over 25 years.

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N4L

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

Stuff reports:

New Zealand spends millions of dollars on software to work out what and when to feed cows to maximise the yield from dairy herds.

But Chris South, team leader at Ministry of Education spinoff N4L, says that if you asked five history teachers at schools that were in the same deciles and areas, and had the same-sized rolls, what they used in their classrooms to help with their lessons, “you would probably get five different answers”.

“There is not just a disparity in knowing what resources are out there, but also in knowing how to use them,” he said.

“There are lots people getting totally different results from the same things.”

That could all change with Pond, a portal being developed by N4L.

It is designed to be the place in cyberspace that teachers will visit to find, use, adapt and comment on educational content uploaded by fellow teachers, professional providers of educational resources and useful material available on the wider internet.

Next year, the portal will also be opened up to students.

It could transform education or turn into an unholy mess. Failure won’t be through a lack of resourcing.

With a total cost of about $3.5 billion, the ultrafast broadband initiative is one of the country’s biggest infrastructure investments, and the priority is to hook up schools.

On top of its $1.35b contribution to the UFB initiative, the Government has committed a further $211m to pay for a managed network offering uncapped broadband to schools.

A big reason for all this spending is to provide better access to the content in Pond, which, like the managed network, is the responsibility of N4L, which has been set up as an independent Crown entity.

“The problems Pond solves are the difficulties of accessing fantastic content,” marketing manager Andy Schick said.

“We all know there is no such thing as page 2 on Google. You just look at page 1 and if it’s on page 2 it may as well not exist.”

So true.

I think the high speed Internet has huge potential for the education sector, It is potentially transformative. The investment in N4L could be one of the most important the Government has done – if it is managed well.

A few hundred teachers gathered in Wellington last month to get some hands-on time with the portal, which N4L is intentionally opening up only slowly to schools.

N4L is recruiting about 500 teachers to become “pioneer educators” in Pond.

Their job is to help N4L knock the portal into shape, so when N4L opens up Pond to the other 64,500 teachers this year there should be less chance of them navigating away forever in horror.

Trialling and testing is vital. 500 is a decent number to trial.

Also the Herald reports on a modern Christchurch school:

A high-tech new Canterbury school, which produces all of its own power and even boasts an internal radio station, was today described by the Prime Minister as a “window into the future” of what all New Zealand schools will eventually look like.

Pegasus Bay School, 30km north of Christchurch, is the first major school project completed as part of the Government’s $1.137 billion shake-up of greater Christchurch’s schools after the devastating earthquakes.

With solar panels on its roof, it is the first net-zero energy school in New Zealand.

It has ultra-fast broadband, its own radio station, and large, open classrooms — without any desks.

“It’s probably vastly different from what many people will have experienced in their own education but it’s the modern face of the future, and it’s what will be the hallmark of Christchurch as we build 21 of these schools as a result of the rebuild of Christchurch schools,” said Prime Minister John Key as he officially opened it today.

“This is a window into the future. All of the academic research shows you that these open, modern learning environments, with bigger classrooms, but with shared teachers, they are the way of the future, the way of making sure we life the professional development of teaching, but also doing the very best for our kids.”

The Herald has a photo. Looks great.

Ms Parata and Mr Key said that while Christchurch “went through a lot” while the government unveiled its education shake-up for the region, Pegasus Bay School has set the example for other schools as to what can be achieved.

“In the end, it’s like all of those things — people often resist change, but when they actually get to see the new product — as we said at the time of the debate — parents will be flocking to bring their [children] here,” Mr Key said.

I think parents and kids will e pretty happy.

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