Weekly Update on Hold

Hi team,

Those of you following me over the last month or so might be expecting a weekly update this coming Sunday. Fortunately for me, but not so for you, I have to head off to a couple of job interviews at the start of the week so I’m going to do a quick update tonight. You probably won’t hear from me until I get back mid-next week-ish.

Firstly I want to heap praise on John Campbell, Lachlan Forsythe and the team at Campbell Live for really getting stuck in to the Ministry of Education over their various issues – mainly the Christchurch closures / reorganisation and the continued issues with Novopay.

Here are the links to this weeks stories:

Christchurch school closures too soon? A look at the population growth projections from Statistics New Zealand as well as a look at a couple of schools due to close despite being right next to massive new subdivisions.

Novopay problems: this story is from last week. It’s teachers and employees talking about their incorrect pay.

And I’m just watching one while I type this featuring a Ministry of Education email conversation with the Christchurch City Council. Upshot: the Ministry is telling the council not to release information they have in response to an Official Information Act request. I will update with a link. Which I have now done.

Campbell Live is also having a special programme on the Novopay payroll system tomorrow night. If you’re a teacher I strongly recommend this item.

More as it comes to hand.

Mr B

STOP THE PRESS: Another full show on Novopay. No link is up on the Cambell Live webpage yet but the item is well worth a look. It’s followed by an in-depth interview with Secretary of Education Lesley Longstone. She must have the toughest job in the world at the moment since nobody has heard from Hekia Parata in a couple of weeks.






We Have the Official Information Act – in America They Sue

Morning everyone.

This Labour Day morning I’d like to share something I read on the Huffington Post education website the other day.

In summary the Los Angeles Times is suing the local school district to release information that would allow it to update its on-line teacher rating database. Here is a link to the Times’ value-added (sic) service. It lets you can type in any teacher or school name and instantly be taken to a page that shows their ratings on an ‘effectiveness’ continuum. Here is the link to the FAQs on how they do their analysis. In a nutshell they use a student’s past scores to predict future results and then their actual results to show whether the teacher is good or not. If their actual results are above the predicted, then the teacher is effective. If actual results are below…

If you don’t think this is going to happen in little old New Zealand, then think again. Fairfax already have their School Report website. I guarantee that this will morph into a teacher rating page since it is already a quasi-rating page for schools anyway.

Here’s what the LA Times say about their value-added measures:

Although value-added measures do not capture everything about a teacher or school’s performance, The Times decided to make the ratings available because they bear on the work of public employees who provide an important service, and in the belief that parents and the public have a right to the information.

Here is the what Fairfax say about their School Report website:

Anyone who read the National Standards results as a proxy for quality would be quite foolish. We wouldn’t do that and we don’t suggest you do, either.

Previously I have talked about how completely unfair this rating or ranking process is to teaching. However the mainstream media and the politicians like to spin it, there are so many other factors influencing test scores other than ‘teacher performance.’ Of course, they will argue that I’m making excuses. I’m not. It’s actually statistical. It’s bad maths to take into account just one measure when talking about student achievement.

Although it is nice and easy for them to use test results (or in our case national standards) to rate schools or teachers, the media and politicians need to be aware of one thing: New Zealand is currently 7th on the 2009 PISA reading list and we WILL drop down this scale if the neo-liberal ideology of charter schools, national standards, and teacher rankings becomes the norm. In turn this WILL result in poorer educational outcomes for New Zealand students.

Remember parents, this ideology is modelled on the education systems in the United States (17th for reading) and the United Kingdom (26th). It is a falsehood to believe the politicians when they say these changes will give you choice. This is not about choice. This is about opening up the education sector to the profit-takers. Education run for profit is not going to get the best from our teachers. We will end up being in the top 30 rather than the top 10. Guaranteed.

Sorry for the rant. Enjoy the rest of your long weekend.

Mr. B.

NOTE: I realise it might be foolish of me to use a rankings system to back up an argument against rankings systems. It’s just that Treasury, National and the media really love measuring and ranking things to justify their positions. The PISA results shows how wrong and uninformed their positions are. You will also need to note that not one single person arguing for these changes (media & politicians) HAS EVER BEEN A TEACHER EVER.







Computers, Christchurch and New Legislation

This week has been a quiet one for Hekia Parata. The minister would have been hoping for education to stay out of the headlines but the media have directed their questions in the direction of the Christchurch reshuffle and the new Education Ministry payroll contract providers Novopay. Also this week the Education Amendment Bill was introduced to parliament.

The new Novopay system has been running for eight weeks, which is four pay cycles. The Ministry have reported they are happy with the system and are successfully paying nearly 90,000 people correctly. On a Campbell Live item on Monday the ministry spokesperson Leanne Gibson expected there to be less than a hundred errors on the cycle that occurred Wednesday. The ministry spin backfired somewhat on Friday night when the programme said one school had told them they had one hundred errors for their staff and many others were being emailed in following the previous item. Campbell Live ended their Friday item by asking teachers and school staff to email them with their Novopay issues.

There is growing concern in Christchurch following the release of plans for a major reorganisation of schools in the city. Principals and schools communities are worried there is not going to be enough consultation time to fully go through the issues before the cut off date. On Monday the Press reported on continued problems surrounding the data the Education Ministry had given schools with further information released this week – well after the initial announcement of the plan. The union for primary school teachers – the NZEI – is saying the ministry should have released all the information at the start of the process and is calling on the government to reverse the ‘sham consultation process’. The Press also reported the NZEI were asking the Christchurch City Council to get involved. They say even though only 38 schools are involved, the whole city will be affected by the proposals.

The first reading of the Education Amendment Bill took place in parliament on Tuesday. Paving the way for charter schools (or as the government now calls them ‘partnership schools’) this new legislation raised a number of questions. The New Zealand Herald summed up one with the headline Education Amendment Bill Exempts Sponsors From Public Accountability in which they highlighted the fact that charter schools will be exempt from scrutiny under the Official Information Act and the Ombudsman’s Office. The secondary teachers’ union, the PPTA, were hugely critical of the bill saying the government ‘shunted it out at 5pm‘ because they were too ashamed of the content to release it earlier in the day. The term double bunking is now in the vernacular, referring to two schools running on the same site at different times in the day. The PPTA said this was fine following the Christchurch earthquake but it was fraught with difficulty.

Public scrutiny will be one of the main hurdles the government will face trying to attract ‘sponsors’ to their partnership schools. Privately owned companies have very different attitudes to accountability and openness when compared to the public sector.

Until next time – enjoy your teaching week. Hopefully there’s not too much assessment for you.

Mr. B.









How to Answer Questions: by Hekia Parata

Hi there everybody. I’m Hekia Parata and at the moment I’m your Minister of Education.

You know, many people come up to me all the time asking me questions. In by job as a member of parliament and cabinet minster I suppose this is to be expected. However, you might be surprised to find out how many of these questions I don’t actually want to answer. Sometimes it happens in parliament, but most of the time it happens outside in the street. You have to be on your toes.

In fact, someone came up to me the other day and said, “Minister, how come you are so good at not being able to answer the most simplest of questions?”

While I wasn’t answering his question I had some spare thinking time. It turned out that I agreed with this dishevelled voter. I am extremely good at not answering questions. So good that perhaps, like any good teacher, I should pass by wisdom on to the next generation.

So… someone asks you a question that you don’t want to answer… what can you do? I’ll use the example question: Excuse me, do you have the time? Although this seems fairly innocuous, I sometimes don’t feel like answering this question – especially when I’m asked it by some kind of person. So here are some ways I get around answering the question.

  1. Walk off without answering the question – this is the easiest option. Sometimes a well-placed “no comment” can make all the difference.
  2. Claim you are unable answer the question at the present time – another easy option. Pull your sleeve tightly down over your wrist and say, “I am unable to give you the time because I am not wearing a timepiece.” However, this option can backfire – particularly when you are wearing a strapless dress at the annual Post Primary Teachers Association AGM afternoon tea.
  3. Turn the question around and attack the asker – you need to be quite skilled to be able to pull this off. If you are asked the time, point out to the asker that time is an abstract concept and perhaps they should spend more of it saving up to by a watch than walking around the streets asking inane questions. I got this idea from Supreme Minister of Just About Everything in the Whole World, Steven Joyce.
  4. Answer a different question – if someone asks you for the time, direct their attention to the sun and suggest, “while asking the time is important, while the moon rotates around the earth, the earth actually rotates around the sun.”

I hope that’s been of some help. Any questions? No comment.

Hek x

A Little Something my Fellow Teachers

My friend posted this on her facebook page yesterday. I quite liked it so I cut and pasted it for your perusal…

From A School Principal’s speech at a graduation..

“Doctor wants his child to become a doctor………
Engineer wants his child to become engineer……
Businessman wants his ward to become CEO…..
BUT a teacher also wants his child to become one of them..!!!!
Nobody wants to become a teacher BY CHOICE” ….Very sad but that’s the truth…..!!!

The dinner guests were sitting ar

ound the table discussing life.
One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, “What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?”

To stress his point he said to another guest;
“You’re a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?”

Teacher Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, “You want to know what I make?
(She paused for a second, then began…)

“Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can’t make them sit for 5 min. without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental.

You want to know what I make?
(She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table)

I make kids wonder.

I make them question.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them how to write and then I make them write.
Keyboarding isn’t everything.

I make them read, read, read.

I make them show all their work in math.
They use their God-given brain, not the man-made calculator.

I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know about English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they
were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life

( Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)

Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn’t everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant. You want to know what I make?


What do you make Mr. CEO?

His jaw dropped; he went silent.

Indeed… what do you make?
Mr. Boon