Go Treasury go

John Hartevelt reports at Stuff:

More accountability for teachers and larger class sizes are again on the political agenda as Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf shapes up for a scrap with education unions.

He was urged yesterday by a teachers’ union, the New Zealand Educational Institute, to “stick to his knitting” after he went on the offensive, saying it was the quality of teachers that made the greatest difference to student achievement.

Here’s what’s funny. I would have thought a teachers’ union would absolutely agree that the quality of teachers makes the greatest difference to student achievement. They should be proud of the fact, and trumpeting it about how important teachers are.

Research suggested the impact on student learning of a “high-performing teacher” compared with an average teacher was “roughly equivalent” to the effect of a 10-student decrease in class size, Mr Makhlouf said.

So a good teacher with a 30 person class will be as effective as an average teacher with a 20 person class.

He suggested “a number of ways” to assess teacher quality, including in-class observations by other teachers, direct observations by principals, and feedback from students and parents.

At almost every school, students and staff know who are the most and least effective teachers. I certainly knew as a student at Rongotai College. Mr Jackson, Mr Reid, Mr Wilson were all great teachers, and all their students talked about how great they were.

A boost in class sizes of one or two students per classroom could free cash to invest more in quality teachers, he said.

Until we are out of deficit mode, extra funding is limited. So yes I agree investing more in quality teachers is more important than class sizes (within reason).

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