Monthly Archives: March, 2014

A few items from Hekia

Hi everyone. Hekia here. I’ve been thinking a lot recently (I’m currently banned from talking by the PM) and I’d just like to run a few ideas past you.

Performance Pay

I’ve been getting a lot of flack over this – particularly from teachers who don’t appear to understand the sheer simplicity of the plan. You have some students, you test them, you teach them for a year and then you test them again. If they get better, then you get more money. It’s quite simple really. It works all the time in the private sector. I know a guy who works in the forestry industry up near us and he’s got an excellent performance pay system going. The faster his guys work, the more money they get. He’s only lost seven workers this year but the guys that are left are creaming it. Why can’t teachers just see that they could make gajillions of ka-ching if they just used their pupils.

Annoying Unions

Recently there’s been a lot of negative publicity from the teacher unions highlighting all the things that they seem to think are going wrong. I’d just like to categorically state right now for the record that everything is totally going to plan. The plan I’ve got is comprehensive and involves everyone working together and doing it my way. If you can all just do as I say at all times then I think we’ve got a great future ahead of us. If you just keep complaining about things that I’m forcing you to do then we’ll never get anywhere.

Sexy Policy Meeting

Oh. My. Goodness! What an amazing festival of teaching we had on the weekend. We had loads of people here from all around the world. Great teachers. Great researchers. People who’ve spent years enforcing those stringent testing regimes we know all the kids love. We spent loads of time going over and over and over the PISA results. The delegate from the Chinese embassy kept rubbing our noses in it. “Shanghai! Shanghai! Our results are going up to the sky!!” We decided they were good at drilling their kids for 16 hours a day to pass a three-yearly maths test but not very good in the rhyme-zone. I wasn’t sure whether to ask them how many other of their cities would be taking the test next time, or if they would take it as a whole country like all the other countries. Best not to talk about PISA really. Just accept the results and get on with it. We finished the weekend with the newly Sirred Sir Toby Curtis pulling out his guitar and leading everyone in a rousing chorus of Cheryl Moana Maree. Genius.

The Election

I’m expecting to do very well in the election this year. When I’m walking down the street or when I attend events or meetings around the country so many people are yelling stuff at me. Loads of people are actually so excited to speak to me they actually can’t control themselves and yell over the top of me when I’m speaking at them. It’s wonderful that I have so many enthusiastic supporters out there sending me great support. I urge you to continue loving me in the way that you do and I promise to continue releasing policies that you have to implement.

Enjoy voting for me.

Love Hek x

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This is definitely where we are heading

In teaching assessment is a valuable tool. We teachers use it to find out the learning needs of our students so that we might prepare lessons and learning that is best suited to them. Even if there have been a full set of assessments done on a child at the end of the previous year it is very useful to carry out your own assessments when the child newly enters your class. You get to see for yourself where their strengths and weaknesses lie, how they strategise, and how they think.

What assessment shouldn’t be used for is comparing the performance of one group of children with another group of children or comparing one school with another or one region with another.

However, with the “reform” of our unbroken education system and the complicity of the unquestioning main stream media, that is precisely what assessment (the National Standards assessment) is being currently used for in New Zealand.

Despite what Anne Tolley and National said way back at the start of this process, schools are now in competition with each other instead of collaborating with each other. National standards results are published and school performance can now be compared nationally. That is the neoliberal model of education. It is only a matter of time before teacher “performance” will be publicised in this way.

Primary aged school children are now part of the corporate educational conveyor belt being gobbled up at five and spat out at 17.

We have only just started our journey down the reform path in New Zealand. Other less fortunate countries – the UK, the United States, Chile – have been going down this road for many, many years. And where has it got them?

Here.

The government in Westminster has announced British four-year-olds will be given a compulsory exam when they begin “formal education.”

The Department for Education says it will introduce a new assessment of children’s abilities entering reception classes – when most will be four years old – from 2016, designed to give a baseline measure of each child’s abilities when they enter formal education.

As I said at the commencement of this piece, I have nothing against assessment. I have used assessment. I still use assessment. The problem I have with this assessment is two-fold.

Firstly, this plan is not coming from a classroom teacher, a school or even a local authority (schools are run by local government in the UK, not centralised). This edict has come from the Department for Education. All schools WILL administer this assessment. All children WILL take this assessment. Baseline data WILL be established. No choice at all.

Secondly, you, me and everyone else who has been following developments in all these “broken” education systems knows one thing: this data WILL be collected, it WILL be collated and children, schools and teachers WILL be rated using the numbers the testing provides.

But it’s their first test… there’s nothing to compare it to. Bzzzzzzzzz – wrong!

I’m a faceless bureaucrat, I’ve listed all the results for all the four-year-olds in my county what do I do now? Give the results to the teachers? Yes, possibly. What would my boss, Michael Gove want me to do? Well, I’ll send the results to the Daily Mail so that they can tell Britain how dumb Manchester four-year-olds are. I’ll also issue a regulation linking reception (new entrant) teachers’ pay to the performance of their students on the test we’ve decided they will take when they are five. I mean what’s the point of having some baseline data if you have nothing to compare it to. And kids love taking tests. That’s why they come to school.

If you read the rest of the article the DfE say schools can opt out and they can choose from a range of “approved” tests (don’t you dare use it if we don’t approve it!). It may start out this way, but that is not where it will end up.

Make no mistake about it. If the UK government want to be giving kids a test when they first enter school they are going to be definitely using it to rank, compare and criticise schools and teachers. That’s how the reformery work. Pick a group of children, test them, publish the results, then blame the educators. It may not happen at first, but it will happen. Just like National Standards were never going to be published here in New Zealand. And lo and behold, that’s what we get every year from Stuff.co.nz. I refuse to link to their webpage comparing schools because I believe it is so very damaging to education.

New Zealand has already started down this slippery slope. Hekia Parata loves her standards. Because her standards are a statistical nonsense at the moment (ie: not standardised), she needs them to be so she has been spending wasting millions developing the PaCT system which will be used by teachers from 2015 (no opt out from this) to mark their national standards so that they are (finally) both national and standardised.

The next step is a national exam for Year 4, Year 6 and Year 8 children (they will tell us PaCT is not standard enough because there is too much teacher input). The step after that is many tests for many levels.

The next step is testing kids when they enter school.

After all… baseline data is important for our teachers to improve learning outcomes etc etc blah blah blaaaah.

I know from personal experience that kids turn up to school when they are five with a vast range of skills. Some are able to read and write, others there is nothing. No number recognition. No words. No letters. Nothing. I don’t have to reference that. I’m seeing it with my own eyes daily. Quite often they do not ever catch up to their peers. How fair is it

As I said last week (and the week before and probably all the way through last year as well), if you want an education system where constant testing is inflicted on children, then that’s what you voted for if you accept what National are saying about education.

All I ask you is this: Would you want your 5 year old sitting a government set exam as soon as they start school and those results to be published by Fairfax on their awesome school comparison website? If not you absolutely must vote against National in September.

Because THAT is definitely the education system they want for your children.

Mr B.

Sources:

Schools will be allowed to test four-year-olds from 2016, government confirms: Guardian – March 27, 2014

New national curriculum: primary assessment and accountability: http://www.gov.uk – March 27, 2014

Labour suggests law change over primary standards: NZ Herald – June 29, 2009

The stupid PaCT system: TKI.

Not sure what to make of this

This afternoon I was minding my own business when my phone beeped at me. It usually does this when I’m being notified of a tweet or some new item of news or my mother is texting me a question about her iPhone (that last one never happened. She’s absolutely fine with her iPhone and doesn’t even need me to help her. Dad still has a dumb-phone).

This particular beep notified me of a comment to a blog from a week or so ago where I was deeply critical of Hekia Parata’s plans for some parts of school funding to be linked to pupil achievement. Our gracious and all-conquering minister has since back-tracked from these remarks saying she: a) never made them and b) if she did make them (which she didn’t) her comments were taken out of context. Or something.

Here is the comment in full:

You should take this off immediately! All of it is untrue! The Minister has not ever said that funding of a school will be based on the achievement of students at all! Did you even bother to check the MOE website or any of the press releases from her office or even the transcript from that interview! You pretend like you’ve done all this research into what the plans are for schools in NZ but you obviously haven’t at all because it’s all there ready and public for you to look up! FYI- This defirmation of Character.

As my title suggests… I’m not sure what to make of this but it does appear suspicious to me. It almost sounds like something straight out of one of the more oily of right-wing National Party blogs – particularly the spelling of defirmation near the end.

Lots of passion with very little substance.

I, and many other commentators (NZ Herald, Stuff, and the interview transcript itself) disagree with you oh mystery comments person.

What Hekia Parata said when asked by NZ Herald journalist Jonathon Milne on whether she was, “pegging funding to delivering progress outcomes,” is:

What I’m talking about is that at the moment we fund into our 2500 schools and for every 2 out of 5 education dollars it goes on property, for instance, and I can unpack the other three dollars for you but what we’re wanting at the other end is achievement, kids having learnt well and secured qualifications and so forth. But at the moment those systems aren’t pegged together.

That is from the interview transcript. I’ve just typed it in myself. Reading the words while my hands were typing them. She said the words herself “pegged together” in terms of pegging funding and achievement. Pegging them together. To each other. With dirty great neoliberal policy pegs. She said it. Yes she did.

As Russell Brown of the Hard News blog over at Public Address puts it best in his commentary the other day:

I don’t know about you, but amid all the ministerial waffle, it really does seem that the minister said the decile funding scheme is for up for grabs and the government’s thinking is around a different funding model, tied to student performance.

So mystery comments person… Hekia is definitely saying she wants to link achievement outcomes to school funding. Her mistake was to accidentally announce the policy to a national newspaper.

Hopefully this post doesn’t end up with me being sued for defirmation.

Mr B.

POST UPDATE: thanks to some tech support, I’ve now discovered who posted the “anonymous” comment. Best not to use a real name and your personal gmail address when posting anonymous comments from your work computer.

Sources: 

School funding shake up looms: Herald on Sunday – March 16, 2014

Performance-based funding slammed: Stuff.co.nz – March 17, 2014

What Hekia Parata actually said: Russell Brown, Hard News – March 19, 2014

Yong Zhao Explains What Is Wrong with PISA

This is a very interesting analysis of the nonsense PISA test. Basically the various Chinese cities & Asian countries do well because they have a tradition of not questioning authority.Read on…

Diane Ravitch's blog

Yong Zhao posted the first of five blogs about the faulty claims of PISA, the international test that false reformers love to cite as evidence that our schools are failing and our kids don’t work hard enough. The five blog posts are drawn from Zhao’s much awaited new book. If you have not read his other books, order them now. Catching Up or Leading the Way and World Class Learners. You will enjoy them.

Zhao calls PISA “one of the most destructive forces in education today. It creates illusory models of excellence, romanticizes misery, glorifies educational authoritarianism, and most serious, directs the world’s attention to the past instead of pointing to the future. In the coming weeks, I will publish five blog posts detailing each of my “charges,” adapted from parts of my book “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China has the Best (and Worst) Education.”

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Festival of Education conference opening and welcome

Good afternoon. Talofa lava. Mālō e lelei. Hola. Aloha. Salute. Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Kia ora and welcome to the first ever Festival of Education being held here in a sunny and vibrant Auckland city in the wonderful country of New Zealand.

We’d like to extend a very special hello to all our international visitors who have come from all corners of the globe to share their views on where we think education should be heading.

Just a few admin bits and pieces before we start. Firstly, the group of parents protesting the closure of the school out the front of the venue – please ignore them. They are all members of the teaching union and have vested interests. There appear to be a number of children with them who appear to be protesting also. We assume they are the younger members of the union. When entering and exiting the building we ask that you give them a “speak to the hand” gesture.

Secondly, you will notice on your table there is a small carafe of Fonterra milk supplied free of charge through their milk in schools scheme. If you like the milk we urge you to go back and tell the government leaders in your country. This has nothing to do with our fear of losing the entire Chinese market if we have another fake toxin scare, but has everything to do with building our milky links across the world.

Lastly, you will notice a small envelope in your conference pack. Inside this envelope are a range of responses you can give to any media you happen across during the conference weekend. We’ve found recently there has been a bit of negative coverage of education in the local media. Various mishaps, mostly misreporting and misrepresentation by the media rather than through sheer ministerial incompetence, have meant the public have a very negative and cynical view of any government moves in education. We believe it’s important to present a united front and all speak from the same Crosby Textor PR card. Remember to answer all questions put to with the phrases printed on the card. Please do not ad-lib your responses or you will be expelled from the conference.

We are very excited about what is happening here in Auckland this weekend. We have spent over $35 million to bring you many, many speakers from around the world for your enjoyment. There are also a range of performances from award-winning school cultural groups. As well as this we will celebrate a range of excellent teaching from around the country from a many different non-union educators.

This is going to be an excellent conference and we thank you all for coming.

Remember our conference motto: If it doesn’t make the government look good, then it’s not worth doing.

Enjoy your weekend.