Sir Toby Curtis on charter schools

Sir is a former chairman of the Iwi Education Authority and part of the Iwi Chairs Forum. He writes:

At a recent Iwi Chairs Forum hosted by Waikato Tainui at Hopuhopu, iwi leaders resolved to actively support the establishment of partnership schools (kura hourua) in their rohe. We also resolved to advocate that the Government expand this initiative and to advocate the concept publicly, in particular the importance of high-quality teaching, high educational achievement and strong supportive partnerships with iwi, communities and other organisations.

These resolutions follow unanimous support from iwi leaders at a hui in November 2014 for a recommendation that the number of kura hourua be expanded and that more Maori communities be encouraged to take advantage of them.

So the combined view of Maori leaders is to support as good for their communities, but Labour and Greens remain insistent they will be closed and banned.

We believe kura hourua can be a circuit breaker in closing the educational achievement gap between Maori and non-Maori students. While much has been and is being achieved through the kohanga reo, kura kaupapa and kura a iwi movements, a large and persistent gap still exists between the achievement of our children and all others.

Kura hourua is just one of a number of initiatives aimed at lifting Maori educational achievement but compared with other models it provides much greater autonomy and freedom for communities to be part of their children’s education within a culture of high expectations.

The culture of high expectations is critical.

With this model, schools can design the teaching, language, curriculum and organisational practices that work for their children. The use of te reo by both child and teacher can be a key determinant of a Maori child’s success at school. The schools can invest in attracting and developing gifted teachers and leaders, and partner with iwi, community organisations, businesses or philanthropists to support their establishment and their mission.

In return for these freedoms, kura hourua are contractually bound to achieve meaningful, measurable, high academic standards for all their students.

Basically charter schools are a model which focuses on educational outcomes, not educational inputs. It is about what do you achieve, not how do you do it.

The results in cities as diverse as New Orleans, New York City, and Chicago are remarkable. Since Hurricane Katrina, 93 per cent of students in New Orleans now attend charter schools. Of the 47,000 public school children in the city, 85 per cent are African-American and 83 per cent are economically disadvantaged.

The schools, which have open admission and public accountability, have almost closed the achievement gap between overwhelmingly poor students and affluent students. In the past 10 years the proficiency of African-American students in state tests has increased from 21 per cent to 59 per cent.

The reforms have been vindicated on every measure, including suspension/expulsion rates (much lower), achievement of students with disabilities (much higher) and on-time high school graduation and college enrolment rates (dramatically higher). It’s no wonder the Obama Administration has hailed its success.

But Labour can not say no to its union overlords, and keeps campaigning to ban them.

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