Educational Reaction

Generally excellent reactions to the major educational reforms announced yesterday. First the positives starting with the PPTA (a phrase not uttered often):

Government plans to put resources into teaching and learning rather than finance and administration are being greeted with optimism by PPTA.

President Angela Roberts said Prime Minister John Key's announcement that $359 million would be invested in teaching and school leadership over the next four years was a positive one.

She praised his commitment to ““support a culture of collaboration within and across schools” and said the creation of principal and teacher positions to provide leadership and support across communities of schools marked the beginning of a collaborative approach long sought by PPTA.

The Principals' Federation were almost gushing:

Principals' Federation President Phil Harding said the announcements were significant for both principals and teachers.

“It's hard for me to say it but I'm pretty damned impressed. It is a huge amount of new money and I have never seen such a transformation of ideas and discussion into policy and money in my life. It has gone from a theoretical discussion about how the system needed to evolve and change just last year to the appropriation of significant resource.”

The Secondary Principals Association were even more positive:

Secondary Principals' Association president Tom Parsons called it a “wonderful initiative”.

“It's super, what a game changer, what a tremendous thing.

“They've taken the politics out of this and are just looking at the welfare and the benefits for every New Zealander at school now, and in the future.”

Parsons, who is principal of Queen Charlotte College in Picton, has been a critic of many Government policies in the past two years, including the introduction of national standards.

But he joined the PPTA in its view that industry involvement was crucial and the new policies would lift student achievement.

The only union which couldn't overcome its political antipathy to National was the NZEI:

Creating a new elite group of “change principals” and “expert teachers” misses the biggest reason children do not succeed at school – New Zealand's high rate of child poverty and deprivation.

With “change principals” the government is again imposing a failed overseas experiment and putting ideology ahead of what will really work for children's education.”

The NZEI couldn't bring themselves to saying one good thing about the announcement. This speaks volumes about their motivations.

Meanwhile the school Trustees are excited:

It is good to hear the commitment to working through the practicalities through consultation with the sector, and NZSTA is looking forward to playing a constructive part in those discussions. We have all shown a lot of good faith over the last year or so, including principals' groups and teacher unions, by engaging in open discussions with Minister Parata. The Ministerial Cross-Sector Forum is a good example. It hasn't always been easy, so it's good to see that investment in relationship-building bearing fruit.

If we do this right, there is potential for these new positions to make excellence contagious through all our schools. That will be our opportunity for 2014.

I like the phrase “to make excellence contagious”.

Also in support. The NZ Initiative:

The New Zealand Initiative has welcomed the introduction of a four new tiers of teaching positions as a huge step toward lifting the educational performance of New Zealand's schools.

The think tank has long been a strong advocate for such a policy

The Canterbury Education Pro Vice-Chancellor:

A University of Canterbury (UC) education expert has endorsed the Government's focus on quality teaching and strong school leadership.

Professor Gail Gillon, UC's College of Education Pro-Vice Chancellor, says the Government has accurately identified one of the key challenges in the New Zealand schooling system.

“Closing the academic achievement gap between our high achieving students and our struggling learners must be a priority for New Zealand.

“Resourcing Expert and Lead Teachers, as well as Change and Executive Principals to help support a substantial shift in academic achievement in areas such as literacy and science education is a very positive step in the right direction.''

Business NZ:

Targeted investment in principals and teachers is a strategic move that could significantly improve student skill levels, says BusinessNZ.

Chief Executive Phil O'Reilly said funding for leadership and expert teaching in schools would be well placed, as research shows the quality of school leaders and teachers has a big impact on student achievement.

An Auckland University Education Professor:

Professor Graeme Aitken, the University of Auckland's dean of education, said those in and considering the teaching profession had been given an “inspiring message” about career progression. They would be energised because of the prospect of not having to leave the classroom to progress their career.

And high-quality school leavers would have more reason to choose teaching as a career choice, he said.

The NZ Secondary Principals Council:

Allan Vester, chairman of the NZ Secondary Principals Council and head of Edgewater College in Pakuranga, said the sharing of knowledge and ideas between schools was crucial.

Vernon Small:

Ask anyone which party is most likely to boost the pay of more than one in ten of the country's 50,000 teachers by $10,000 a year, no wage wrangling needed, and it's a fair bet National would not be top of mind.

But that is exactly what John Key did with his education announcement yesterday in a cheeky foray into Labour's heartland.

It was the latest example of National's election year plan to trash suggestions it is inflexible, doctrinaire or plum out of new ideas.

Tracy Watkins:

As Key observed after this morning's announcement, there wasn't a parent in New Zealand whose heart would not sink if they found out next week their child's new teacher was a dud – or in Key's words, “not that great”.

That is why today's plan will resonate not just with National's core constituency but also with Labour's.

National's plan is to give teachers a reason to stay in front of the classroom rather than move up into management positions in pursuit of better pay.

The Dom Post editorial:

Debates over education tend to be dust-ups in the desert: hot, dry, and futile. John Key's new proposals are welcome because they are fresh and do not simply cover old ground. They try to build on the strengths of the system and they offer co-operation with the workforce. These are welcome ideas and worth serious discussion. …

Rewarding teachers and principals for sharing their knowledge fits well into the cooperative style of the workforce. And who could object to the sharing of that talent with the more deprived schools? It is the long tail of underachievement, as everyone knows, that is the weak point of our school system. We need to use our inevitably small pool of talent to help kids in poor areas. The new scheme will help with this.

The NZ Herald editorial:

The Government's bold overhaul of the teaching system presents a challenge to any opponents. How can you be highly critical of steps to lift schools' performance that have been recommended by the OECD's leading educationalist and are backed by a large body of international research?

It's difficult, but the Greens have managed it! They just ignore the research. I'll come to them.

The cost will not be cheap. A sum of $359 million will be allocated over four years with an ongoing cost of more than $150 million annually. But astutely targeted investment is always worthwhile. And teachers will not be the only winners. Ultimately, children, and especially those in poor socio-economic areas, will benefit. So, too, as performance lifts, will the reputation of this country's education system.

A worthwhile investment.

Audrey Young:

Prime Minister John Key is on to a winner with his big plans to financially reward excellent teachers and principals.

Key has identified an age-old problem in schools that really good teachers often leave the classroom to progress their careers.

Credible research over the years has linked good teaching to good results by pupils.

Most of us know that anecdotally because we've experienced it.

Indeed we have.

So who is against. Matthew Hooton calls it a bold step left and giving into the unions.

Labour can't really find anything to attack, so merely say we'll do something like it also and have the normal blame it all on inequality:

National's underwhelming announcement fails to address the real cause of poor educational performance, which is growing inequality, Labour Leader David Cunliffe says.

NZ First is mainly supportive:

New Zealand First has commended the extra $359 million the Government is investing in education, but has pointed out that there is no extra funding to get more teachers in our schools.

The most hysterical (not in a good way) reaction was on Twitter. The level of Key Derangement Syndrome there is so great that National could announce free tertiary education for every New Zealanders and many of the normal suspects will decry it as a right wing policy designed to enrich Merrill Lynch. Bryce Edwards has a summary of the tweets, and it is a good reminder of how deranged so many people there are with one labelling it “corporatisation of the education system” which is hilarious considering it is all about sharing and collaboration.

The most negative of all was the Green Party:

National's announcement of four additional teacher roles won't address the key reason for our decline in education performance, growing inequality, says the Green Party.

“Growing inequality in New Zealand is negatively impacting on our kids learning. Sick and hungry kids can't learn. This policy does nothing for kids and families living in poverty.

Let's put this one to bed. Even if this was true (it is not), this is an announcement on education, not welfare. Turei seems to say we should do nothing to improve the education system while some families are poorer than others. How depressing. I want to see more families doing better, but there is no magic wand. Getting people out of poverty is often a generational thing as you have to confront parenting skills, welfare dependency, employment, drug and alcohol issues, and oh yeah education.

But let's deal with the big lie. I call it a lie, because the amount of research on what influences educational outcomes is massive. There have been over 50,000 studies. Over 800 meta-analysis done involving 200 million students. Professor John Hattie has done a meta meta analysis of all these studies and identified 138 factors that influence educational outcomes. Not one factor, but 138. Greens think there is just one.

Now socio-economic status is important. It definitely is an influence. There have been 499 studies that looked at its effect. But is it the biggest influence. No. Is it second? No. Third? No. Top 10? Still no. Top 20? Still a no. It is No 32 and home environment by the way is No 31.

So the next time the Greens say the key reason for educational decline is poverty or income inequality, don't beat around the bush. Call them a liar.

I'm delighted though the Greens have condemned the plans. Parents deserve a choice about the future for their kids, and it looks like they will get one. Bring on the election.



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