The Herald reports:
A teaching revolution that’s helped turn around some of the world’s toughest schools has come to New Zealand – but not everyone is laying out the welcome mat.
Teach For All – a network of international programmes that seek to get ambitious university graduates into low-income schools after six weeks of training – will hold its global conference in Auckland today.
Hosted by the local iteration of the controversial on-the-job teaching model, called Teach First NZ, the conference will involve 200 overseas delegates mixing with local education experts.
Presentations on work done here, particularly to lift achievement among Maori, will be a highlight.
“We have been impressed with what the New Zealand community has done to reduce the opportunity gap for Maori kids,” said Wendy Kopp, co-founder of Teach For All.
“We are excited to learn about cultural responsiveness, about how relationships are at the heart of teaching here.”
So far, around 50 teachers have gone through the New Zealand programme, with chief executive Shaun Sutton hoping to increase the intake to 60 incoming participants a year by 2020.
But despite the organisation’s commendable goal – to close the gap for disadvantaged kids – not everyone in the sector believes the programme should be in New Zealand schools.
So this is a proven programme with great results overseas, and it is targeted as the most disadvantaged kids.
So of course the NZEI is against.
Critics have labelled it a “crash course”, and this week primary teacher union the NZEI said it believed disadvantaged students deserved experienced and qualified teachers, and should not be treated like guinea pigs.
Trying to improve their outcomes is not making them a guinea pig. The status quo system works well for 85% of kids but not for 15%. Why would you oppose something that has a great track record? Probably because it means less power for the union.
So far, reviews of the New Zealand programme have been good, with evaluation reports finding the teachers were having a positive impact in their schools.
Teach First UK founder Brett Wigdortz said results in London meant schools with a majority of low-income students were performing better than the national average. In 2003, none of those schools were better than the national standard.
“The norm has always been that kids from less wealthy backgrounds don’t achieve at the same level. If there is a shift, usually it’s just the wealthy kids doing a lot better,” Mr Wigdortz said. “But that has been consigned to the dustbin of history. In London, everyone is getting better and the gap is getting smaller.”
Such progress must be stopped.