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Posted by on in Charter schools

Act’s fresh-faced MP for the rotten-borough of Epsom wants a cabinet post, and John Key thinks it’s a good idea so he can get the extra funding.

 

David Seymour has his eyes on the education portfolio, on the basis of his work developing, in his words “the best charter school policy in the world”. These are the schools that are costing three times as much per student as public schools. In Whangarei two new ones opened in an area with 900 spare school places already.

 

Act’s education policy, as Jamie Whyte described it, is to make schools like supermarkets. I guess teachers can kiss goodbye to the idea of ever belonging to a respected, reasonably paid profession in that scenario.

 

Showing unusual self-awareness, Act also writes that “many in the educational establishment express intense hostility” to their policies.

 

Key assures New Zealand that his third term isn’t going to see a radical step to the right.  Appointing Seymour would put this under doubt.

 

What’s worse, it would antagonise a sector that the government is working with on the delicately balanced, but potentially very positive Investing in Educational Success initiative.

 

(An abbreviated version of this post appeared as a letter to the Dominion Post on 29/9). 

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Posted by on in Teacher salaries

Charter schools the future of education?

"Did you know what a charter school was?" a parent is asked.
No - she responds.

Maybe she doesn’t know because the NZ difference is not educational. The difference is one of ideology and, in order to encourage the development of this privatisation model, these schools get greater resourcing and support which in turn allows for smaller class sizes (1:15) and more attention to the child’s learning needs.

Resourcing and support that all schools would love to have access to. Smaller class sizes would provide a learning opportunity that all NZ children deserve – however children also deserve the safeguards that are in the (non-privatised) state system too, for their health, safety and education.

The question must be this - why are local and foreign entities - including trusts, profiteers, religious outliers, the mad, the bad, the disenchanted, the wheeler-dealers, the self-important, the rich, (or a combination of) - being encouraged to sign up for this.

Why does such an entity have to opt out of the NZ education system, and all the associated safeguards, to get the charter school level of resourcing and support? They opt into a business contracting model and, for higher dosh, have a lower level of responsibility for students and less accountability to the NZ public.

Why are models such as the South Auckland Middle School and Mt Hobson Middle School not OK for integration into the state school system but are OK as charter schools?
It seems that Mt Hobson Middle School (aka Alwyn Poole’s model) was operating successfully in Remuera without public funding. So why is the state (aka taxpayer) funding what is effectively the franchising of a private school model?

Is it because the authorisation board needs a charter school flag flyer  - a safe pair of hands and one that can be rolled out as a benign face and the reason for the scheme’s existence - regardless of the risk that the model poses to our education system.

It is not educationally innovative.

The expansion of the scheme does make it sound ripe for the picking ... especially if you are a wheeler-dealer.

Oh wait a minute - it was a wheeler-dealer or two that created imported the model in the first place.

 

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Students on Act’s Aspire scholarship cost the taxpayer twice as much to educate as students in the public system, yet results for these students are only marginally better than their publicly educated peers. 

The 250 students on these scholarships, who receive a public funding to attend private schools, cost on average $15,600 each year. Students in the public system are funded at around $7000 a year.

This programme is another example of Act’s bankrupt educational vision. Their only plan is to wildly over-fund private outfits, while somehow promising to shrink government spending.

In an NZ Herald story today David Seymour claimed "We are taking students who we know are disadvantaged and put them into independent schools and they have dramatically outperformed the New Zealand average."

This is bizarre. To get on the Aspire Scholarship students need to be from low income families (below $56,000) – but this does not necessarily equate to being disadvantaged. Having a family that will seek out the opportunity to apply for a scholarship to a private school is a likely indicator that this student comes from a background that values educational achievement. To a large extent, the most disadvantaged students are those whose families, for whatever reasons, are completely disengaged with education.

To be fair, this is complex, as incomes are a feature of disadvantage. But they’re certainly not the only one, and if Seymour thinks that being on less than $56,000 a year is disadvantaged, one has to ask – what’s his plan for the hundreds of thousands of other students in the same situation? If he really is proposing doubling the government spend on them, well, that’s great – but it might be a bit hard to do that while introducing that flat tax rate. Or does disadvantage only need to be addressed if your parents can be bothered to apply for this scholarship –i.e. they are the ‘worthy poor’ who will ‘do something about it’ – presumably kids whose parents aren’t doing something about it don’t deserve this massive extra resource.

And to claim ‘dramatic outperformance’ takes some dramatic license. 20 percent of the students on the scholarship who finished school in 2013 did not achieve the government’s bench-mark of Level 2 NCEA or equivalent. This rate was worse in 2012 and 2011.  In the state system in 2013 the achievement rate was 74%. There was a higher rate of Aspire Scholarship students achieving Level 3 than the average, but if there is still 1 in 5 not getting the bottom benchmark, that is a problem.

Furthermore, the Aspire Scholarships programme is not being evaluated. A high quality evaluation of a programme like this would involve tracking a matched group of students and comparing outcomes.  This would be easily achieved, by tracking the results of students on the programme with students who applied but didn’t get on. 

OECD research backs up the fact that the Aspire programme is a waste of money.  A PISA in focus report states that almost all of the advantage that private schools seem to have academically over public schools is a result of the socio-economic status of the students who attend.  Because of this, it states “…there is no evidence to suggest that private schools help raise the level of performance of the school system as a whole.”

Between charter schools, including the new ones, and this programme, Act’s educational programme gives almost $15 million a year to private providers for the education of around 800 students. A large secondary of double this size would be cheaper than that to run.

 

 

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

The Minister of Education wants it both ways. One hand  she says that teachers use out of school factors “as an excuse and an explanation” for everything bad that happens in schools, and then says a charter school losing students and falling apart is okay because they’re dealing with kids who have drug problems and tough lives.

What grates even more is that while these kids at the failing charter school are no doubt doing it tough, the resources that they have available to help are vastly more than similar kids get in public schools – around 3  to four times more.  Even students in Alternative Education centres receive far less government funding than charter school students. And these are ones that genuinely do have it tough - we don't have to rely on charter school operators to tell us. (Who knows how the kids at any of the charter would be doing at public school - there is no matched evaluation,  and we rely on self-reporting to know the demographics/baselines of their students.) 

Sure, these are new schools and the funding for new schools is always high. But they’re tiny, which makes them  particularly pricey, and the almost all the funds that the schools receive can be spent directly on the students as the overheads are so low. A new school like Hobsonville Point is also very expensive on a per student basis –but almost all of that cost is tied up in buildings. These schools don’t have that at all. The fact is, they have far more to spend on each student than any other school in the country. This should be making a difference.

 

To be charitable, maybe this is a ‘road to Damascus’ moment for Parata. Perhaps the lives of these kids at Whangaruru have made her realise the error of her ways and she’s now going to be more understanding of the realities of students and teachers in all schools. I’m not holding my breath. 

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So yesterday it emerged that Willie Jackson’s application for a charter school has been accepted. It’s not official yet, but it’s almost certainly true, given the wackiness of most of the rest of the applications.

This map tells you one crucial thing you need to know about this charter school. It will most likely be where the blue dot is – at Nga Whare Waatea Marae.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Mangere-map.jpg

 

That’s right, it’s within a couple of kilometres of a kura a iwi, a kura kaupapa Māori and numerous other schools.

Now, the local kura a iwi, Nga Tapuwae, won’t suffer as a result of this new school. They’re a designated character school, which means that they take students from all across Tāmaki whose parents chose to buy into the Tainui tikanga of the school. They have a long waiting list and are set to expand from 270 to around 600 students in coming years.

But over the other side of the motorway is Te Kura Kaupapa o Mangere. This school has 190 students, and is not a designated character school. In 2012 the ERO review commented on student behaviour that wasn’t being well managed. There is no waiting list at this kura. 

And check out this table which is from a parliamentary question in June this year.

b2ap3_thumbnail_surplus-capacity.jpg

 

There certainly are times when school should be closed down, and similarly there are times when new schools need to open. But applying the Starbucks approach of cannibalizing local schools isn’t the way to go about this, and the Minister knows it.  This should be about prudent fiscal management, good use of the school network – and as a result, much better and more equitable outcomes for students.

So, can the Minister guarantee that if Willie Jackson gets his kura, that students staying at TKKM o Mangere won’t lose curriculum breadth or extra-curricular options? And that student losses won’t put pressure on the viability of other local kura? Can she guarantee that, unlike with the first round of charters, an analysis of the impact on other schools in the area will be done, in the same way as when any other school is opened?

And it has to be asked whether there’s been an approach to any of the schools within a 5km radius letting them know that a new school is about to open? If not, this shows how seriously the Minister really believes in the IES rhetoric of collaboration.

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Posted by on in Charter schools

Every time Jamie Whyte opens his mouth the chance of Act having any influence on the next government plummets.

Native Affairs on Monday night was a case in point.

Act has been trying to appeal to Maori leaders with various anti-state policies for some time, promising to roll-back the oppressive burden of government and give autonomy to iwi groups. The latest manifestation of this is of course charter schools. Catherine Isaac asked Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi to jack her up a chance to speak at the iwi leaders forum this year to sell them to this influential group.

 It’s not hard to picture how iwi leaders would have responded when Jamie Whyte goes off on one about rolling back ‘Maori privilege’, including getting rid of whanau ora (which he, self admittedly, doesn’t even know what it is). I doubt too many of them are regretting not putting their hands up for the second round of charter schools – no major iwi groups applied, despite Isaac’s best efforts. No need to spell it out to this crowd when someone’s trying to pull a swift one.

What’s more, Minister Parata’s hardly going to be beside herself with joy at National’s preferred coalition partner’s ‘grotesque and inflammatory’ comments.  Remember, Parata left the National Party after Brash’s Orewa speech.  Even if, somehow, Act is returned in a National led government, I am sure Parata (who I suspect will still be Minister of Ed should National win) will be absolutely clear that her portfolio has had quite enough damage from the junior partner over the last three years, and it’s someone else’s turn to cop it.  

 

Of course, Whyte wasn’t fussed about the iwi leaders or Minister Parata with his latest rant; this was aimed at Louis Crimp and his type, and was about cajoling him to get out the cheque book again. However, 2014 isn’t 2004, and even Act party members are finding this dog-whistle politics grating. 

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The timing was immaculate. The day after the Auditor General condemned a school’s dubious spending, it emerged that its principal had applied to open a charter school.

The Auditor General report stated that at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori O Whakawatea – “The kura spent $5,120 on Christmas gifts and vouchers for its staff and board members bought from a business owned by the principal. In our view, spending of this nature illustrates waste and a lack of probity on the part of the board.”

 

The business is a beauty spa with a side-line in colonic irrigation – which offers such things as microdermabrasion (from $99) and Hopi Ear Candling (from $55). It's owned by the principal and her husband.

The principal, Susanne Simmons-Kopa, went in the local paper to claim that the spending was all above board and was after all, only $200 per person – enough for a coffeeberry yoga with enzyme mask specialised facial.

How they managed to find 25 staff and board members at a school with 110 students is mystifying – the school I’m on the board of has a lot fewer staff with more than double the students.

Anyway, it turns out that the principal had in 2013 applied to open a charter school as well, under the aegis of the Whakawatea Kaporeihana, a clever way to get around the rule that existing schools can’t apply. The application form is revealing. Simmons-Kopa calls herself the ‘innovator-director’ of the Whakawatea Kaporeihana, an incorporated society that is paid over $30,000 a year by the Whakawatea Kohanga Reo for ‘administration services’, as well as getting MSD funding for afterschool care, presumably at the Kura Kaupapa that Simmons-Kopa runs too.

At this point it’s obvious that she’s a very busy woman – nothing necessarily wrong with that, though most principals I know report that the job is fairly demanding on its own.

 

But what is wrong with this picture is that if she does open a charter school, spending tax-payers money on things like gift vouchers from her beauty salon won’t be picked up, as the Auditor General doesn’t have any oversight of charter schools. 

And, in the US and UK where this experiment is well down the track, cases of fraud, misspending and funnelling public money to dubious ends, are regular news. 

One question that strikes me - why isn't the Taxpayers' Union crying foul about charter schools?

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Random thoughts after reading about the faith based franchise charter school that wants to open up in Porirua.  

Charter school cartoon on Frank Macskasy blogWords that came to mind were missionaries, colonisation, deficit thinking.

Apparently children in Porirua don't need qualified registered professional teachers, just people passionate about education.

Some kind of choice aye. 

A choice the ACT party thinks those kids deserve and National are rolling it out for them.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

One of the promises of charter schools was that they would be innovative. And as every educational expert from business sponsored think tanks, marketing companies and discredited political parties knows, one of the biggest hurdles to innovation is the collective employment agreement.

The immutable laws of Freidman and Hayek tell us we can’t have 21st century, child-centred instruction while teachers have such industrial era expectations as a set number of hours, class size controls, non-contact time or payments for extra duties.

So, what is going on here then?

Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru, Whangaruru (2 positions)

(10 Mar 2014)

Our secondary, bilingual school, nestled within the picturesque setting of Whangaruru, is an inpiring land and water environment which will be embedded in our curriculum delivery. We seek registered, experienced teachers to fill two positions. (1) 0.5 junior science teacher. (2) Full-time English teacher. Applicants will have proven teaching ability, can motivate and engage students to learn to their potential, inspiring our students to excel. We offer small classes of 15 and individual contracts with high-quality working conditions – equivalent to the Collective Agreement. If you are seeking a teaching opportunity to make a difference for our youth and want to work in idyllic surroundings, we welcome your application.

 

Have they forgotten what they were established to do? They have to show that our ‘long tail of underachievement’ is all a result of the lazy, incompetent teachers hiding behind exactly such outdated protections as collective agreements.

 

 (Before you rush off to apply for these jobs, they’re now advertising three positions. Out of four teachers. Within two months of opening.)

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One of the premises of charter schools was that they would be funded at the same level as public schools – clearly a pretty crucial factor if comparisons between the two are going to be made. The Ministry states that the resourcing is intended to “provide a broadly similar level of funding to that for schools and students in the state system.”

What the Minister hasn’t said is that the funding – while ‘broadly similar’ is actually far more than almost all students in the public system receive. A newly released cabinet paper from October last year spells it out though. “The cost is particularly high, especially for small secondary schools…” and, the cost of these schools “is much higher on a per student basis” than others.

How much higher is revealed in the charter school contracts.

School sponsor

Establishment Payment

Annual operational payment, 2014

Students 2014

Per student funding, 2014

Villa

$1,019,533

$1,340,940

90

$14,899

ATC

$1,611,534

$2,123,804

108

$19,664

He Puna Marama

$1,880,693

$2,016,630

50

$40,332

Nga Parirau

$1,379,150

 

$1,508,560

71

$21,247

Rise UP

$391,945

$484,440

50

$9,688

Total

$6,508,389

$7,474,374

369

$20,255

 

Compare this to the average per student funding in the public system (2011- most recent year figures released for) including property, staffing and operations resourcing: $6,978

The Ministry of Education says that it’s unfair to compare these two, as these are new schools which always cost more. But the point is, they only build new schools when they really have to because of roll growth, not just for a political, or ideological point. Except in the case of charter schools.

And the greatest irony of all, this is a policy from the party that claims “Government spending is out of control.”

 

 

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A tall tale? Jet Star needs pilots in order to cover their flights – they overpromised and are unable to operate without these pilots. They have approached Air NZ requesting Air NZ pilots fly Jet Star planes - at Air NZ's expense.  This  means Air NZ will have to reduce both domestic and international flights.

Air NZ has refused.

Jet Star managers are up in arms at Air NZ's refusal to cover.  They are encouraging their passengers to write opinion pieces to the papers and to comment in social media damning this divisive approach.

Reasonable?

It seems that ACT supporters who encouraged the development of charter schools - an apparently different, new, innovative and exciting model of education  (and a well funded education model with - because charter schools can afford it - small class sizes) are now upset that local public schools (not as well funded) are saying they are not prepared to teach the charter school students.

Hang on a minute - isn't this supposed to be a new model of education? One that doesn't require qualified registered teachers? A model outside the state system - doing it differently.

Seems that for charter schools 'doing it differently' means - the ability to access and use for  free the teaching resources of state schools - so that the charter school extra funding  can be used elsewhere. The state schools are expected to juggle their resources for the benefit of the charter school.

Go figure.

If the charter school students will "miss out on opportunities" because they can't be taught in the state schools - then why was it we needed charter schools?

The NZ model of charter schools isn't about students. The NZ model of charter schools is about opening up the education market.

Lets close these schools before they open - stop the division - and resource all our state schools appropriately in order to support all our students.

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