NZ Herald on class sizes

The Herald editorial yesterday:

Even the Treasury, which suggested the move this year, believes does matter. But it said the quality of teaching mattered more, and in a world where Governments had to make -offs, this was one that would have minimal effect on pupil achievement.

Using much the same language, Ms Parata announced that a standardised teacher-pupil ratio in Year 2 to 10 classes would free $43 million each year over the next four years to improve teacher quality. “We are opting for quality, not quantity, better teaching, not more teachers,” she said.

This policy is based on new research, led by an Australian think-tank, the Grattan Institute, which suggests improving teacher quality is far more cost-effective than reducing class size. To that end, the Government will invest an extra $60 million over four years to boost teacher recruitment and training. A post-graduate qualification will become the minimum requirement for all trainee teachers, and a new teacher “appraisal system” will be developed. Ms Parata said performance pay was one of “a basket of options” to recognise and reward teacher quality. It should, in fact, be at the head of any moves to encourage excellence in the classroom.

There can be few qualms about the accent on quality. The Treasury has suggested the effect on pupil learning of moving from a class with an average teacher to one with a high-performing teacher is roughly equivalent to the effect of a 10-pupil decrease in class size.

In one sense it is a classic about quality vs quantity when you have limited resource. Not that is not an argument to go crazy and halve the number of teachers. But it is an argument that when there is limited money to go around, the focus should be on quality over quality – especially when the shows a high-performing teacher is equivalent to a 10-pupil decrease in class size.

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