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Charter Schools – Another lie from John Banks!

2 August 2012 43 comments

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Somewhere in New Zealand is a building. It’s not signposted and it most likely looks like any other building in any other town or city.

The only difference is what this building contains.

This building contains all the stupid ideas that humanity has ever come up with in the last 100,000 years or so. It’s quite a big building, because there are so  many stupid ideas that have been collected; filed; and lovingly stored. There is practically  a stupid idea for every occassion.

This is the building where National and ACT Ministers go to get their next big, “bright”, idea.

This is where John Banks, along with Hekia Parata,  went in search of  the lunatic concept that is known as “Charter Schools”. It was stored in a little shoe-box, labelled,

“Dumb and Dumber – how to Dumb Down Your Child Using Taxpayer’s Money

Stupid Idea #2,717,990: Charter Schools”

The idea goes something like this;

  • Organisations  and/or private companies will set up schools – Charter Schools
  • Charter Schools would be managed by said Organisation/Church/Company, but funded by the taxpayer
  • Charter schools could be run for profit, or non-profit
  • Charter schools need not employ qualified, trained teaching staff
  • Charter School managers would negotiate salary levels and employment conditions directly with employees – so a “teacher” could be hired on minimum wage – $13.50 an hour
  • Charter schools would set their own hours, term dates, etc.
  • Charter schools can set their own curriculum
  • Charter schools could be run by religious groups such as the  Destiny Church cult

Education Minister Hekia Parata and Associate Education Minister, John Banks, today announced the framework for the New Zealand Model of Charter School  – or, as they have euphemistically branded them, the Orwellian-sounding  “Partnership Schools”, or pandering to culturally-sensitive niceties,  “Kura Hourua” .

In effect, ACT and National will be using tax-payer’s  money to fund private schools. Not since farming subsidies has National  come up with such an odd way to throw our taxes at private companies and organisations.

Private schools and educational institutions have always been a part of New Zealand’s social structure. They were usually religious-based, such as Catholic high schools; Jewish schools; or private training  institutions.

Many have now become “State integrated” schools,

There are three types of school: state, private (or registered or independent) and state integrated schools. State and state integrated schools are government funded. Private schools receive about 25% of their funding from the government, and rely on tuition fees for the rest.

State integrated schools are former private schools which are now “integrated” into the state system under the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act 1975  “on a basis which will preserve and safeguard the special character of the education provided by them”.

According to Ministry of Education statistics, of the 286,886 secondary students (Years 9–15) enrolled in New Zealand schools at 1 July 2011, 81.9 percent (235,048) attend state schools, 12.4 percent (35,631) attend state integrated schools, and 5.6 percent (16104) attend private schools.

See: Wikipedia Secondary education in New Zealand

The odd thing about Charter Schools is that they are an American construct, originating in 1988, and with the first Charter School law enacted in 1991 in the US.

See: Wikipedia Charter Schools

It could be  justified that Charter Schools is an  American attempt to employ  free-market principles to produce better education outcomes,

Caps on the number of charters in a state drag down performance as much as lax oversight, because they cramp the diversification of the market and discourage investment…

[abridged]

Since 1993 15% of charter schools have shut their gates, most because of low enrolment, a sign that the market is working.”

See: The Economist – Charting a better course

It’s hardly surprising that our American cuzzies would turn to their precious capitalist Market Place for solutions to their poor education system.

In a recent OECD PISA report, member states were ranked according to education outcomes for reading, mathematics, and science. The results were… educational.

See: OECD PISA report Education at a Glance, 2011

The graphic below is an abbreviated version of data gleaned from the report,

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It’s interesting to note that in reading achievement, Finland, New Zealand, and the US ranked;

# 3 Finland

# 9 New Zealand

#18 United States

In mathematics,

# 2 Finland

# 9 New Zealand

# 26 United States (below OECD average)

In science,

# 2 Finland

#10 New Zealand

# 23 United States

Any reasonable, rational adult could conclude that Finland must be doing something better with it’s  education system than either New Zealand or United States.  However, since  right wing political parties like National and their low-information supporters don’t always engage in issues on a reasonable, rational level, it’s usually left up to the public to persuade National to review policies that are incoherent and based more on dubious  ideology, rather than proven methods.

One simple fact; Finland does education better than us, and way better than our American cuzzies.

When it comes to charter schools, it’s mostly an American ‘game’. Few other countries follow it.  Finland certainly doesn’t,

“… What can we learn from Finland and South Korea?

Finland probably has the most successful school system in Europe. Tests of 15-year-old students from 34 nations find the Finns leading in reading, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy. Finnish schools have been in a reform mode for the past 40 years.

Yet, Ms. Ravitch says, “Finland rejects all of the ‘reforms’ currently popular in the United States, such as testing, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, competition, and evaluating teachers in relation to the test scores of their students.”

The Finnish system is built on rigorously prepared teachers. Teacher training in Finland is an elite profession, open to only the most qualified and offered at only eight universities, which have formidable entrance requirements. Teachers are high achievers, well paid and highly respected.

Ms. Ravitch, who was in Finland last year, found bright and cheerful schools where students engaged in music, dramatics, play, and academic studies with 15-minute recesses between classes. She found that: “Free from the testing obsession that consumes so much of the day in American schools, the staff has time to plan and discuss the students and the program”. “

See: Lessons from Finland, Korea

How do our Finnish cuzzies do it, you may ask. Perhaps a clue can be found here, by Paul Frysh, from CNN,

The most important lesson the United States can take from Finland is the “preparation and development of high-quality teachers,” Paine said.

This starts with honoring the profession, he said.

“In Finland, it is a tremendous honor to be a teacher, and teachers are afforded a status comparable to what doctors, lawyers and other highly regarded professionals enjoy in the U.S.,” he said.

In addition, like other professions, teachers gain seniority and tenure primarily on the basis of training and experience, and teacher unions have a strong voice in shaping education policy — all very controversial in the United States.

The profession is held in such high regard that competition to get teacher training is fierce. Nationally, only about 10% of some 7,000 applicants to primary school programs are accepted annually to Finnish teacher training programs, according to statistics from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.

And it’s not about the money.

“In Finland, they do attract the very best and brightest into the profession, and it has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with the respect that is given to the profession,” Paine said.

In fact, teachers in Finland are paid about the same as teachers in the U.S.

One young Finnish teacher, asked why he went into the profession, told Paine: “Because it is the most honorable of all professions. It is a patriotic, national calling to be a teacher.”

But what he learned in Finland, Paine said, is that the respect must be more than just lip service.

Administrators in Finland really listen to teachers, then back up their words by giving teachers autonomy and resources, said Paine.

“If you want enduring, lasting student learning, there’s no easy way around that but to invest your time and your resources, including money, as close to the classroom as you can possibly get and that’s with the teacher.”

Part of this investment is in initial teacher education.

In the U.S., most teachers accumulate debt paying for their education, teacher-mentoring is rare and training ranges wildly from a few weeks of training in alternative teacher training programs such as Teach for America to world-class four-year and graduate college programs.

In Finland, by contrast, teachers train for free, receive a stipend and begin hands-on teaching with a mentor almost immediately. All school teachers must hold a master’s degree in addition to four or five years of undergraduate training to be permanently employed, and teachers without a master’s are given time and resources to get it.

And it turns out that well-respected, well-educated teachers stick around longer.  “

See: West Virginia learns Finland’s ‘most honorable profession’: Teacher

So Finland did not achieve it’s high education outcomes through short-cuts and fads such as “charter schools” and  performance pay. Their strategy was a greater investment in the teaching profession itself. It wasn’t about the school structure – it was about the teachers – the men at women who actually front up, at the chalk-face, of our class-rooms.

By comparison, Charter schools have had a poor education outcome in the US, according to a 2009 report by Stanford University’s Centre for Research for Education Outcomes (CREDO),

The group portrait shows wide variation in performance. The study reveals that a decent fraction of charter schools, 17 percent, provide superior education opportunities for their students.

Nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are no different from the local public school options and over a third, 37 percent, deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their student would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools.

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A study done by Stanford University found that charter schools on average perform about the same or worse compared to public schools.

Source: Wikipedia Charter Schools

These findings underlie the parallel findings of significant state‐by‐state differences in charter school performance and in the national aggregate performance of charter schools. The policy challenge is how to deal constructively with varying levels of performance today and into the future…

[abridged]

… Our national pooled analysis reveals, on the whole, a slightly negative picture of average charter school performance nationwide.

On average, charter school students can expect to see their academic growth be somewhat lower than their traditional public school peers, though the absolute differences are small. “

See: Stanford University: Charter School Performance in 16 States (USA)

So the question we now pose is; Why do it? Why borrow from a country that has worse education outcomes than us – instead of looking toward an education system from a country near the top of the OECD?!?!

Hekia Parata stated,

We want all our students leaving school with the skills they need to reach their potential in the modern economyPartnerships schools or Kura Hourua will be based on international best practice and will ensure high levels of accountability and flexibility, while being tailored to New Zealand’s education environment.  “

See: Ministers announce framework for Partnership Schools

In which case, who in their right mind emulates a nation’s education system that has a worse ranking on the OECD scale than we do?  Because if that’s the standard that John Key, Hekia Parata, and John “I-can’t-recall” Banks is searching for, then perhaps we should emulate Indonesia.

They’re at the bottom of the scale.

If anyone knows the answer to this question, you may have unlocked the enigmatic, convoluted inner-workings of a right wing politicians brain.

As for John Banks – he was interviewed on today’s (2 August) Radio NZ “Checkpoint” programme, where he stated,

“… because I know, Suzie [RNZ interviewer] , that for the kids that are not engaged in the education system today, abandoning them to the dole is not good enough. This does work in Britain, does work in America, does work in Finland, does work in Switzerland, and this special partnbership schools are going to work here.

Radio NZ Checkpoint: Associate Education Minister on charter schools

Unfortunately for Banks, his comments are not supported by evidence,

  1. Charter schools “does not work” in the United States. The CREDO report states quite clearly that only 17% showed any appreciable improvement in outcomes. The remainder showed either no difference (46%) or a worse outcome (37%).
  2. Finland does not use the Charter schools system; Finland rejects all of the ‘reforms’ currently popular in the United States, such as testing, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, competition, and evaluating teachers in relation to the test scores of their students.”
  3. This blogger can find no evidence that Charter schools exist in Switzerland. Indeed, quite the oppposite; “In Switzerland, most children go to public schools. Private schools usually are expensive and people tend to think that students of private schools probably didn’t make it at the public school. Public schools include “Kindergarten”, “Volksschule” (elementary school), “Gymnasium” (secondary school) and “Universitäten” (universities). Most municipalities provide kindergarten, primary and secondary schools. Most cantons provide at least one secondary school. There are eleven universities in Switzerland, nine are run by cantons, two are run by the confederation“.  See: Information about Education in Switzerland
  4. Of the countries mentioned by Banks, only Britain has Charter Schools, which they call academies. This blogger can find no peer-reviewed study to confirm their effectiveness or otherwise.

Once again, John Banks appears to be lying to the public. Nothing that escapes his lips can be taken at face-value.

There are  further points that warrant attention,

Subsidies

ACT has, in the main, been quick to oppose  subsidies.  It is a Party that prefers the “free market” approach. Indeed, it went so far as to oppose subsidies for superannuitants for  GP visits, power bills, and insurance.

See: John Banks –  Speaking Truth To (Grey) Power

ACT has condemned Kiwisaver subsidies –  incentives for people to save for retirement  –  as a “bribe”.

Likewise, subsidies for doctor’s visits and University education were condemned as not in the “public good”.

See: Saving New Zealand: Building a More Prosperous New Zealand

ACT condemned the previous Labour’s job-creation programme, which invested $251 million subsidising young people into work, as an  “expensive band-aid”.

See: Labour Created Record Youth Unemployment

Yet, at the same time, ACT sees no contradiction in subsidising private organisations, churches, and corporations to set up and run Charter Schools?

One can only surmise that corporate welfare is still very much an integral part of ACT policy. “Money for mates” – business mates – is one way to put it.

If someone wants to set up a school, within certain Ministry of Education guidelines, then let them spend their own money on such a venture. This blogger sees no reason why the taxpayer should be spending our taxes on private enterprises. That is not why we pay our taxes.

Untrained Teachers

The prospect that Charter Schools will be staffed by untrained “teachers” beggars belief. This is not how a modern nation upskills it’s people – by engaging untrained staff instead of highly educated professionals.

If National is  going for the cheaper option, where untrained “teachers” are paid minimum wages to teach vulnerable, low socio-economic children – then what is the point of spending millions of dollars on teacher training?

Especially when Education Minister Hekia Parata recently  announced last week that a postgraduate qualification would become the new minimum requirement for all trainee teachers.

As Hekia Parata stated, on 16 May, National’s new policies would include,

1. Invest an additional $60 million over four years to boost new teacher- recruitment and training

2. Ensure that student teachers are equipped with the best teaching practices for 21st century learning

3. Shift to a post-graduate qualification for new teachers

4. And give stronger mentoring and coaching for those teachers working towards full registration.

See: Hekia Parata: Raising achievement for all in Budget 2012

Parata went on to say,

Even so, our National-led Government is committed to improving the quality of teaching through an ongoing investment of just over $300m over the next four years in professional learning and development.

 · Today I am pleased to announce that in Budget 2012 we will invest a further $511.9m of new money into quality frontline education services.

 · Quality teaching is about holding high expectations of, being able to relate to and finding what works for every single child in the classroom. That’s what every one of our teachers needs to be able to do.

So if National is pushing for new teachers to attain postgraduate qualifications – an expensive investment in on-going education – then what is the point of spending taxpayers’ money on setting up  Charter Schools staffed by untrained or poorly trained staff?!

On what planet does this make sense to anyone? Planet National?

The Finns certainly did not achieve their #2 and #3 rankings on the OECD scale by dumbing down the teaching profession and opting for second-best.

In contrast to Parata’s 16 May statement, it is sobering to note that the 2 August media release by Hekia Parata and John Banks, announcing the advent of Charter Schools, did not once mention teachers or improved teacher training.

Not once.

See: Ministers announce framework for Partnership Schools

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That little fact speaks volumes about National/ACT’s reliance on ideology rather than common sense.

John Key’s insistance that we shouldn’t get “hung up” on the issue of untrained teachers in classrooms simply boggles the mind.

See: Key: Don’t worry about unqualified teachers

In this instance, his casualness will have raised eyebrows and probably a few hackles.  His suggestion that “he would be happy with his children being taught by unregistered teachers” is a derisable joke – Key sends his kids to expensive private schools.

The stench of hypocrisy…

But I’ll leave the last word to investigative journalist/documentary maker, Bryan Bruce,

So… charter schools will not have to employ qualified teachers. What a brilliant idea!

Let’s see …next we could have charter doctors, charter dentists, charter architects, charter engineers… all totally unqualified.. and Hey! we could get rid of universities.. Think of all that lovely money we’d save.

Goodbye student loan – who needs one?

Hip hip! for our charter politicians John Banks and Hekia Parata . Hurrah !

Now our Charter kids won’t have to worry about the future.

They won’t have one.”

See: Facebook -Inside Child Poverty

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Previous Blogposts

Privatisation of our schools?!

Additional

Education shake-up ‘biggest for years’

Destiny Church may get funding for new school

Key defends state-funded private schools

On charter schools – Gordon Campbell

OECD:  Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science

OECD: PISA – Education at a Glance 2011

Ministers announce framework for Partnership Schools

Charter schools could employ unregistered teachers

Keep religion out of schools

Charter Schools Still A Pig

Government allows non-qualified teachers into school system

New charter school model ignores findings of research

Key: Don’t worry about unqualified teachers

Stanford University: Charter School Performance in 16 States (USA)

The Economist: Charting a better course

Radio NZ: Checkpoint – Plan to allow unregistered teachers into charter schools

Lessons from Finland, Korea

West Virginia learns Finland’s ‘most honorable profession’: Teacher

Majority against hiring unqualified teachers

From around the world

Salon: Education reform’s central myths

allthingslearning: Can a teacher “create” LEARNing THAT LASTS?

BBC: Academies told they can hire unqualified teachers

New Statesman: The American revolution in English schools

Huffington Post: In Support of the Whole Child

Other Blogs

No Right Turn: Charter schools are bad schools

Local Bodies: NZ Charter Schools Defined

The Standard: Incoherent education policy

The Standard: Robber’s charter

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Privatisation of our schools?!

13 December 2011 8 comments

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This bizarre policy was never presented to the public during the recent election campaign and is a patent privatisation-by-stealth.

National are implementing this crazy right wing policy as a time when New Zealanders are tired  of politics and the Christmas shopping season is nearly upon us.

It is also the time when the news media winds down.

In effect, National and ACT are pushing a quasi-privatisation agenda far greater in scope than anything John Key disclosed to the public.

The questions that now beg to be asked are,

  • How far is National planning to go in this second term?
  • What else is on the block for privatisation or semi-privatisation?
  • Will socially conscious, liberal-minded National MPs accept this? Or will one or two balk at this a-bridge-to-far step?
  • Will schools accept this extreme policy? Or will we be seeing wide-scale resistance to this policy in the education sector?

How will National hope to implement such a controversial policy when they had considerable opposition to National Standards?

And what mandate does National have for such a plan? The answer is: none whatsoever.

What is even more paradoxical is that “Charter Schools” is an American concept – and yet their education system lags far behind ours in a recent OECD report,

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Full Story

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New Zealand came seventh on the OECD’s latest PISA survey of education performance, just below Canada and Singapore.

Our American cuzzies, by contrast, came fifteenth-equal with Poland and Iceland. The full rankings list can be seen here.

The obvious question that springs to mind is; why is National pursuing an education programme from a country that is lower down on an international ranking-list of educational outcomes? What possible gain is there from borrowing a system from a country that has worse outcomes than we do?

And why stop at a US system? Why not follow Kyrgyzstan, which is at the bottom of the OECD scale?

The only answer is that  National’s intention to adopt this dubious programme is based on ideology and nothing more. Like partial asset sales, National is banking on the free market and competition to improve education outcomes for our  low decile schools.

A laudible goal – but choosing a programme from a country that has education outcomes worse than ours? That is simply insane. Especially when, according to at least one comprehensive study, “Charter Schools” produce minimal improvements to education outcomes.

Our national pooled analysis reveals, on the whole, a slightly negative picture of average charter school performance nationwide. On average, charter school students can expect to see their academic growth be somewhat lower than their traditional public school peers, though the absolute differences are small

[abridged]

…Perhaps most revealing is the distribution of charter school effects relative to their immediate TPS comparison groups. Realistically, the relative standard of performance – whether charter schools are producing student outcomes that are at least as good as the schools in their community – is a fairly low threshold.

This study provides a level playing field for that test. The Quality Curve shows that there are a substantial number of charter schools that provide superior and outstanding results for their students; 17 percent of the charters in this study deliver learning gains that are better than the results that their TPS peers   achieve. These schools fulfill the promise of charter schools — both for the students they educate and for their collective demonstration that such schooling is feasible.

But the good news of the top performers is diminished by the preponderance of charter schools that do not perform to that high level. Thirty‐seven percent of the charters in this study produce learning gains that are significantly worse than what equivalent TPS students accomplish. This proportion is both alarming and regrettable. These underperformers put the better charter schools and the more general charter school promise at risk.” – Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), Stanford University, CA – http://credo.stanford.edu – June 2009

Yet again, we have a right wing government motre interested in  ideology than common sense.

“Charter schools” appears to be part of National’s secret agenda to transform schools into quasi-business models and transfer responsibility for management from the State, to private enterprise and organisations.

Our own educators seem thoroughly unimpressed,

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But even our American cuzzies seem to be viewing “Charter Schools” with suspicion,

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Full Story

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What are we going to cut and how’s that going to impact our students? How many teachers are we going to have to lay off, how many Kaplan programs are we going to get rid of, how many early childhood education programs are we going to have to cut?” asked Unified Board member David Reeves. Ibid

It seems that “Charter Schools” are not simply intended for low socio-economic areas.  Parents living in more affluent suburbs should take note of what may lie in store for them,

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Parents in Remuera, Khandallah, and Fendalton should take note, perhaps?

As with so many New Right “reforms”, it appears that ideology outweighs common-sense and communities are left to deal with the consequences of policies that have dire consequences and questionable outcomes.

This is the experiment that National is planning to dump on us.

The next three years will not be a happy time for this country, I fear.

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Additional

Listen to a representative of principals on Radio NZ Checkpoint

TVNZ Close-Up:  What is so special about Onehunga High School?

OECD’s latest PISA survey of education performance

OECD:  Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science

Report: Charter School Performance in 16 States, CREDO, Stanford University, CA, USA

Destiny Church may get funding for new school

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