Tag Archives: Education

Charter school performance “off the hook”

The government had confirmed it is very happy with the NCEA results from its beloved charter schools. This follows concerns being raised about the different methodology being used to calculate pass rates in the privately run but publicly funded cash cows.

Undersecretary of Hekia Parata (pictured) has taken time out from his own exams to say how delighted he was with the results.

Student waits for exam results

“100% of charter school students passed their NCEA exams,” said a delighted David Seymour outside a Wendy’s he’d just been taken to by his mum, “and I’m not afraid to tell all those naysayers and woolly wowsers that they’re all egg-burgers for thinking charter schools would be a failure.”

Mr. Seymour said the seven charter school students who ended up sitting NCEA exams did very, very well with 100% of the students who passed the exams being counted towards the 100% pass rate.

Her Grand Highness Hekia Parata said she had no problem with charter schools not counting students who left or failed in their data because they were “losers” who would actually end up being counted in local public school data because, “that also makes the charter schools look good.”

John Key was reported as saying, “meh… I’m off the clock.”

Taking the PISA

Well, friends, today was PISA day. The day when all media outlets around the world breathlessly pronounce their education system is either “plummeting” down the tables, or, through some miraculous miracle, soaring to new educational heights.

Three years ago I ranted about this nonsensical test, run by the OECD, which tests hundreds of thousands of 15 year olds around the world on reading, maths and science. I’m listening to Garbage on the Spotify at the moment and that is an incredibly apt word.

Despite what the OECD and various governing governments say, PISA does absolutely nothing for teaching and learning around the world. It has been hijacked by the media in order to either hammer the education system of whichever country they are reporting from OR it has been hijacked by those wealthy billionaires who love to take over public education systems to make billions more via a range of government subsidies their charter school model siphoning from the public purse. “I don’t pay tax and I want to take your tax to make more income, which I won’t pay tax on.”

American billionaires suck the Federal Reserve dry

American billionaires suck the Federal Reserve dry

Either way, the OECD spends millions per year allowing countries like China to enter various cities (Hong Kong, Shanghai, & Macau) into the competition because China knows that those wealthy areas are likely to do very, very well. Presumably the authorities there are proactive in preparing the students of those cities for the tests. This happens in many jurisdictions around the world where high-stakes standardised testing rules the waves.

If you want to see the results for yourself you can do what I did and check out the Wikipedia page* on which some nice person has put all the results into nice tables so you can make your own comparisons. If you want gallons more statistical juice, then scroll to the bottom of the page for all the references to previous PISA results. It really can be an exciting evening trawling through tables of data to make a couple of points on an angry blog post.

Comparing the 2000 results to 2015 is like comparing apples with something that is the complete opposite of apples – sausages perhaps… or gardening gloves. In 2002 there were only 32 countries taking part. All the OECD members and 4 “partner” countries. In 2015 72 countries took part. New Zealand came 4th in Maths, 7th in Science and 3rd in Reading. Now we sit 22nd in Maths, 13th in Science, and 12th in Reading.

If you want to compare apples with apples by taking out all of the countries who’ve muscled in on the PISA party the figures are a bit different. in 2015 New Zealand sit 7th in Science, 16th in Maths and 9th in Reading.

To quote our retiring king John Key, at the end of the day, PISA doesn’t test anything important. All it tests is a student’s ability to score a certain number of marks on one exam on one day in 2015.

Exams are rubbish for testing all those important things like collaboration, problem solving, trial and error and innovation – all those important things that all employers are looking for. Don’t take my word for it, The Economist surveyed employers. Here are the results:


Sure Literacy and Numeracy are on the list, but way down the bottom and Science doesn’t even get a mention. All those wonderful key competencies our New Zealand Curriculum published back in 2007 are way up there at the top. And their ain’t no way yous are gonna test for that. **

Remember: millions of dollars are spent on PISA to make governments feel good about themselves, not to improve educational outcomes for our learners, no matter what the politicians or our beloved media owners.

I’ll leave the final quote to Radio New Zealand who disappointed me with their headline this morning. “NZ Scores Drop but Rankings Rise in International Test” it said. Later on in the article, however, the article admitted:

The falls were small – three to five points in scores of 495 to 513 points – and were not regarded as statistically significant.

Why didn’t they lead with the statistically significant stuff? Because that doesn’t make a good headline. Falling education numbers is the headline. We are falling!! Arrrghghghgh!!!! That’s the same kind of fervor Patrick Gower works up every time Winston Peters rises one percentage point in a survey with a margin of error of 3.5%. It’s utter bollocks.

Just like PISA.


2015 PISA results

PISA Wikipedia results page

The Economist Skills of the Future Report

Radio New Zealand: PISA test report 7 Dec, 2016

* I am aware how lame it is to reference Wikipedia in a blog post about education, but the PISA reports are hundreds of pages long and I want to remain angry rather than being bored to death by tables and tables and tables and tables of data and statistical methodology. Even writing that sentence killed me a little inside.

** That sentence has terrible grammar on purpose. Deals with it.


OECD and PISA – some twitter thoughts

Last night this tweet appeared in my feed…


So, of course, I replied…

And I replied to that one as well…


…because we all know what’s going to happen. Either we will go up or go down depending on who else goes up or down and where we are on the table. Certain countries will remain at the top because of top-loading their students for the testing season (except Finland, who will remain high despite their total rejection of the reformy types leading the educational charge across Western civilisation).

Then, when I awoke this morning, I started thinking about the time they released the last PISA results three years ago. Other thinks popped into my head…


Yes… Plausible Values… those values that replace missing values in a plausible way… that’s right… completely made up values that go in places where values should be but aren’t (for whatever reason).


Turns out, it’s a legit statistical thing (click pic for link).


I decided it was time to point out we were in the 21st century (click tweet pic for the full report from The Economist).


I thought I’d better back myself up, so I tweeted…


Then, bordering on trolling, I finished with:


As an educational thinker / ranter from way back, I will be very interested in how the National Party spin the New Zealand results in PISA when they are released (in 2012, the report was released in December, so it shouldn’t be too far away).

Remember… I called it first. If we drop in any way, the National Party will call this “just one result” or say things like “we have plenty of things in place blah blah etc.” But if we rise by the slightest amount, listen to them crow like a drunk All Black fan. There will be much back patting and high-fiving in the Beehive and I’m certain Hekia will trumpet her success from the ninth floor with a grand fanfare.

My final thinks: I doubt very much we will rise. The United Kingdom, the US and Sweden, all proponents of the global reform movement currently sit 23rd, 24th and 36th in reading respectively. In 2000 they were 8th, 16th and 10th. They will argue that “more needs to be done” – that is, the reforms haven’t worked so let’s continue with the same reforms and do them some more!

Only a genius tries to get rid of a headache by smashing their face with a cricket bat.

Time will tell.

Parata: I resign

It is with great sadness and extreme sadness that I announce my resignation from the position of Education Minister of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The role of champion of our young learners is a challenging poison chalice of death for any National Party minister, let alone one with my skill and talents.

I have undertaken this role with commitment and delivering all manner of deliverables to those receiving my deliverables.

I have been committed to consultation. I have consulted with many different stakeholders. It’s important that stakeholders know what policy platforms are going to be implemented against them.

By some time next year I will have committed nearly 10 years of my life to politics. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do and I’ve done with 1237% energy and passion, but there will be other opportunities in the “great blue horizon” beyond the beehive.

I am certain if the National Party are in power after the next election I will be offered plenty of them.

The Little Princess

Once upon a time there was a little princess called Hekia. She lived in a giant castle built out of hard bricks.

Little Princess Hekia had a dream. She wanted everything to be her way. It was so very important to her that everything went exactly as she wanted it. Be it staying up past her bedtime, a present she got for Christmas, or a government policy with far-reaching implications for many years to come. It all had to be as Little Princess Hekia wanted it.

Then one day darkness came to the forest. Princess Hekia was sitting in her castle tower brushing her long, flowing hair with a brush made from the dreams of homeless children when she heard a distant laugh. She ran to the window and looked, but she couldn’t see anything. Once again, she heard the laugh. This time it was louder. Hekia wondered what it might be.

Running down the stairs of her tall tower, Hekia called out to her father.

“Father!! Father!!” she cried out in the hopes that King John was listening.

King John was listening, but not to her. He was listening to his court jester Freaky Joycie who was entertaining him with a story about a drunk muldoon. Princess Hekia rushed into the room and called to King John again.

“Father, father! Someone is laughing at me,” she informed him, “I can hear them in the forest. They are laughing. And it’s at me! Me!!”

King John looked at his daughter. For years he had been troubled with her thin skin. If it hadn’t been such an ancient and fictitious time, King John believed he would need a micrometer to measure the thickness of her skin. Would he deal with this now? Or, like any good father, would he just brush off his daughter’s concerns with some gentle platitudes. He was enjoying Freaky Joycie’s current nonsense and he wanted to see how it turned out.

“Darling,” he said to his concerned daughter, “you’ve got nothing to worry about. Nobody is laughing at you. At the end of the day if anybody does laugh at you, it’s because you are funny. Just look at Joycie. He’s so freaky looking. That’s why people laugh at him. You are a lovely and beautiful girl and I love you with all my heart but go away please. I’ve got better things to do.”

Princess Hekia left the throne room. She was on her own. If she wanted to find where the laughter was coming from, she would have to do it herself. At that moment determination grew inside her like a giant mutant slug. She stormed up to her room, took off her pretty dress, put on her gardening tunic, and headed out into the forest to find the source of the laughter.

Two days later Hekia lay exhausted at the edge of the forest. She had made it out across the drawbridge successfully but then ran into trouble in the grassy stretch between the castle and the forest. As it turned out, being cloistered for years in a high tower away from any external influences had not set her up very well to deal with the outside world.

Princess Hekia took a deep breath. Rather than heading into the dark and dangerous forest alone, she would return to the castle. She would demand King John surround her with a phalanx of special advisors, at huge cost to the crown, who would tell her exactly what to do, how to act, and what to say during confusing and dangerous situations such as the disaster she had just failed to deal with.

As Princess Hekia returned to the castle a smile spread across her face as she realised how relaxing the rest of her life would be because she had decided she would never have to think again.

The End