This week education has been notably absent from the political headlines in New Zealand. This is not because nothing is happening (we were on the last week of holidays), but because more pressing issues have been facing the National-led government. Also, after the nonsense from Education Minister Hekia Parata last week I suspect her minders deliberately kept away from the education sector.
In saying that, on Tuesday the NZ Herald reported Parata as ‘standing by’ her comments at the PPTA conference last week. Since then, she hasn’t said much. I would imagine it is far harder to be controversial if you don’t say anything.
On Thursday, Fairfax reported some Christchurch principals had asked for more time to consider the proposed ‘super school’ idea for Aranui. The government has mooted the idea of closing 5 schools in the suburb and merging them into one campus catering for years 1-13. Schools in the earthquake-hit city that have been put on the list for possible closure or merger have been given until December 7 to respond. With principals asking for more time this suggests they might see some merit in the idea and they need more time to think it through properly. On the other hand, Labour leader David Shearer has suggested the government is using the earthquake damage as a ‘smokescreen’ to implement a range of closures and mergers around the country. Only time will tell whether this is actually the case, or just the opposition having another crack at National in an area where they are performing poorly.
The link between poverty, hunger and learning has been on the mind of many in the last month or so. Campbell Live ran their mini-telethon raising about $500,000 as part of their Lunchbox appeal. So much so that the government has even started talking about the issue, albeit in an ‘guarded‘ way. However, this morning, Fairfax have countered the idea with the article ‘Learning Link Rubbished‘. The Auckland University study looked at 423 students at decile 1 to 4 schools and found the reported feeling ‘less hungry’ but that there were no effects on learning. It is a fairly small report on the stuff.co.nz website without much information on the study other than the findings and the sample size. Useful questions that could have been answered: How big was the control group? Were they given no breakfast? How did you measure learning outcomes? Were in-class behaviour observations carried out? Towards the end of the article, study author Associate Professor Cliona Ni Murchu said there there was a chance her study did not capture the children who most needed the breakfasts.
Finally this week a story in the New York Times caught my attention. Dear Teacher, Johnny Is Skipping the Test reports on the increase in parent-led protests against the high-stakes testing that has been dominating the US education system this century. THe most revealing passage in the report was this:
The tests are not cheap: Pearson, the company that creates the standardized exams and the field tests, charged the state about $7 million for testing services for the 2012 calendar year — 30 percent of that budget went toward field testing.
Until next time, good afternoon class.