We were all there watching on election night. Watching when a compulsive fibber was re-elected to the premiership and promptly promised to, “work for all New Zealand.” Yet another mistruth. But who’s counting?
One of the twitter conversations I followed on the night but didn’t engage with because I was so furious (at the result, not the conversation) was between a few teachers.
We were discussing how, now that National had the “mandate,” the entire education system was going to be thrust into a state of flux as all manner of weird policies were thrust onto the education system.
This weirdness was exemplified a few days later when a 12-year-old was appointed Undersecretary to Education. What the hell is that? It sounds like one of those double entendre from a Carry On film (“Ooo err Madam Undersecretary…. etc).
With ACT now a joke political party, the term sock puppet pops into my head whenever I hear them. Actually, when I think about it, I have not heard from them since around about the time David Seymour gave his maiden speech to parliament promising to, “lift all New Zealanders out of poverty by reducing their employment conditions, wages and housing opportunities.” I’m paraphrasing, but I think that was the general gist.
Back to our discussion. The idea was that no matter which government was in, or which policy was being implemented, nothing much changed in our day-to-day lives as middle class public servants.
At the time I thought about this and I thought that was possibly fair enough, but the longer time has gone on, the more and more I realise what an utter cop-out this argument is. It’s the argument of the people who voted National but don’t like their policies.
Every single National-led government since I’ve been born – Muldoon, Bolger, Shipley & this current bunch (too young to remember Holyoake) – have implemented policies that have had a huge impact on a vast proportion of the population.
- Cutting benefits – let’s reduce the income of the poorest people in New Zealand. That won’t have any impact on anyone. I’m sure nobody will resort to crime to cover the money missing from their weekly balance so they can feed their kids.
- Student loans – let’s make students borrow to pay for their education. That won’t have any impact on the people graduating. I’m certain they will all stay in New Zealand and not go overseas so they don’t have to pay their loans back.
- National standards – let’s measure every child in New Zealand against a set of arbitrary figures that we promise will not be used to measure schools against each other but then we publish them on a publicly accessible website and say “we don’t like what stuff.co.nz are doing, but . No… this won’t impact on the teaching profession. Labelling a student “well below” for the entire time they are at primary school will have absolutely no impact on them, their families or their teachers.
- Novopay – let’s outsource our payroll. That will have very little impact on anyone. At all. Because the people at Talent2 said so.
These are just a few policies. There are many, many more (90 day stand-down period anyone?) that have huge impacts on people’s lives.
Here are the stupidly weird things that are being proposed by this government (and by proposed I mean they are being put out for “consultation” with a committee of rubber stampers before being foisted on a beleaguered profession.
Hekia Parata has started making noises about the decile rating system. She was making these noises before the election. She likes talking about it being “messy” and “misunderstood.” The government want to move to a different funding model they have more control over. How can they achieve this? By linking funding to achievement. Your school will get money based not on the socio-economic standing of the residents within your zone, but the performance of those children against an arbitrary standard.
No. That won’t have any impact on the teaching profession.
How will schools work if this funding model is implemented? Well, if my funding levels required me to have more and more students achieving at the National Standard, then that’s precisely what would happen.
In the US where this policy has been in place for a while we have results fraud going on and special needs (or ESOL) students being excluded from even being assessed against standards in the first place (First rule of statistics: always boost your statistics by removing statistics that wreck your statistics).
People need security. If you are going to take their security away they start making stupid decisions. If my pay is going to be partly decided by the performance of the students in my class, then some decisions I might start to make could possibly be in the best interests of me. If my school is going to be funded partly on the basis of the performance of students against the National Standards then perhaps those students are going to perform awesomely against the standard.
As someone pointed out the other day, the year they bring in “value added” performance pay will be the year we have a massive spike in our National Standard results.
For whatever reason, well over 45% of people who turned out to vote that day in September decided to re-elect a lying money trader (is there any other kind?) to the premiership. If you are going down that route, then you need to expect the policies you are going to get are in line with those of a lying money trader.
Those from an industry that contributed the Global Financial Crisis should never have any control over any decision-making processes at any level of government.
Regular readers of this column will be well aware of my feelings towards National Standards, charter schools and other such data-driven middle management nonsense being imposed upon the public education sector by the various financial experts, economists, business and farming leaders heading our largest parliamentary party.
Of course, I’m not saying these people are utterly unskilled in what they do. You don’t make $50 million or accumulate vast tax-free property portfolios by being an imbecile. All I am saying is that making $50 million does not make you an expert in pedagogical delivery. Sure it makes you an expert in making money and if making money is what you want from your small children, reforming the education sector is probably the sort of thing you should go for.
So this week our million-dollar men and women released the latest National Standards data. I have pointed out before that data can be a wonderful way to measure something you need to reform, but it can also be used to point out: a) how stupidly unsuccessful your reforms actually are, and b) see what I said for point a).
How statistically insignificant the “increase” in the new National Standards data is I cannot say. Given more time and more statistical inclination I could possibly find out, but I won’t. Instead, here is a link to a story from Television New Zealand earlier in the week should give you an idea about what this government requires from we educationalists to create these statistically significant increases.
Many other stories on the standards release made mention of the performance of Northland, the West Coast and Gisborne. Stuff also pointing out Otago kids topped the tables. Huzzah for them! For a government that said National Standards data would never be used to rank schools and regions into league tables, they sure like ranking schools and regions into league tables.
Since the government love their rankings so very, very much, I went out of my way to make some of my own. I’ve put all the data into one table which I have then, quite helpfully sorted. Twice.
Table 1: National Standards achievement data against GDP growth and unemployment rates – by region (sorted by reading achievement rates)
Table 2: National Standards achievement data against GDP growth and unemployment rates – by region (sorted by unemployment rate)
And presto! Those table are pretty similar. Who’d’ve thunked it???? Of course, tighty righties reading this will point to Manawatu-Whanganui’s huge unemployment rate of 8% and their mid-table National Standards ranking (table 1) and say something like, “but look, that one is different so your argument is a load of effluent run-off.” Possibly, but that would be a load of effluent run-off.
And therein lies the issue. Poor socioeconomic prospects – few jobs, little prospect of future jobs – is directly linked to your chances of doing well in school.
Ignore poverty and you ignore the root cause of the issues you are trying to address. Mind you, the same people who ignore poverty are sniffing their ignore noses in the direction of global warming.
But then the educational reform movement is not actually about lifting achievement or outcomes for our poorest kids. If it was you’d see some kind of regional development strategy or something. At the moment the government seems more focused on getting a four-lane motorway built so they can get to their Omaha baches three minutes quicker on Labour Weekend.
Actually, that’s not fair. I think Bill English’s bach is in Dipton. Or a trust.
Ranking is a dangerous game. What will happen when the National’s Standards start to fall? Actually… come to think of it… I very much doubt the achievement results will fall under this government and their wonderful way with behind the scenes statistical manipulation or, if you prefer, which they sometimes do, up-front data misrepresentation through falsehoods.
Enjoy your data.
Otago children top the tables: Stuff – 25 July.
National Standards data (2013): Education Counts website.
Regional Gross Domestic Product: Year ended March 2013 (pdf): Statistics New Zealand.
Joint MSD/MBIE Quarterly Regional Labour Market Reports – At a glance: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
So… if you’re wanting an idea about how the teaching profession is going to exist now, look no further than this rubber stamp.
According to news from Radio New Zealand this afternoon, the Education and Science Select Committee have approved changes to the Education Amendment Bill that will allow the Minister of Education to appoint every single member of the new Teachers’ Council.
Just to clarify what this means: Every single member of the board responsible for the registration and disciplining of teachers across New Zealand is going to be appointed by Hekia Parata.
The new body is to be called EduCANZ (see my previous posting on this). It’s a pretty little acronym which flows off the tongue quite nicely – as opposed to the bile that rises in the back of my throat at the thought of the National Party being in complete control of my professional body.
Would the Medical Council let the Health Minister appoint all the members of their governing body? Would the Law Commission welcome the Justice Minister or the Attorney General having full and final say over the make up of that organisation?
These are all professional bodies who have strong ties to government funding. Many billions of our tax dollars are spent on health, education and administration of the law. What’s to stop the (National & ACT mostly) government deciding they want to control those sectors through appointments and such like? I doubt they would be allowed to get away with it, however. Those bodies have strong voices and would never let the government take control of their professional bodies.
ASIDE: I’m not saying we teachers are ‘letting’ the government take charge of our professional body. I made a submission, as did many thousand of others, but they were ignored. When has this government every listened to the education sector about any of its policies?
But then this government has shown in the past how little regard it has for the rule of democracy. Just ask the voters of Canterbury. Want a regional council? Well you can’t have one. We have important work to do.
At present the Teachers’ Council is a partly appointment, partly elected body. When the bill is passed this will be a totally appointed body – a body whose sole aim will be the destruction of the teaching profession (don’t believe me? Have a look at what is happening to professional teaching organisations and unions in the United States). Once you have a subservient profession, then you can mould and manipulate to your heart’s content.
Of course, if National don’t manage to cobble together their various has-beens into a coalition of the desperately willing, then we may not be forced to endure the ignominy of having our profession deconstructed in this way.
Education bill changes approved: RNZ, 15 July, 2014.
Choice – but only the kind we want you to have….
To apply for a school place, parents must use the OneApp system. Before that system was introduced, parents had to send in individual applications to all the schools they were interested in, and then hope. The OneApp system was brought in to make things easier and prevent any “funny business” taking place regarding who got what place.
Sadly, it’s not all gone to plan.
Parents interviewed by the Nola Defender, were not happy at all: “Yesterday, I got there at 7am and by 10, they told me to go home because there was already 300 people inside and they couldn’t take anymore,” she said. “Today, I got here at 8 and it took me about 4 hours to get this done.”
And it’s not exactly improved choice, despite reformers’ constant battle cry that charter…
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Hello there. Hekia speaking.
There’s been a lot of talk this weekend about things that are not me. I’ve been concerned. People are talking about Labour and their policy. This is very worrying for me. People should be talking National Party policy. We have some. I promise.
So when you’re looking at the Labour education policy it’s important to remember several things. I am going to outline those things for you now.
Firstly, everybody knows, following years of research by people I like to quote, that class size has absolutely no impact on learning outcomes for students. For example, if there was a school with say 7 teachers, and each of those teachers had the current class ratio of 1:28 that was increased, then nothing, if anything, would happen. Everybody knows that good teachers at all those schools in Mt Eden or Epsom or other places I’d like to live can handle a 1:30 or 1:32 ratio. As well as this, all those students in those schools do very well indeed. I’ve seen their national standards data and it’s quite arousing.
Secondly, Labour doesn’t know what it’s talking about. If you ask any parent across the country, they would much rather have their child attend school with heaps of other kids. I’ve been talking to many, many parents right across New Zealand and they all say to me that they would love their child to be in a class with 40 other excited and well-behaved learners. It’s a no brainer.
Thirdly, has Labour actually thought about the damage they will do to the teaching profession if they dispense with our Indoctrinating Educational Sycophants (IES) programme? We have worked incredibly hard, speaking at all relevant stakeholders and telling them that this will be the single most important thing we can do for our priority learners. Spending millions of dollars across the nation paying self-absorbed teachers outrageous bonuses for telling other teachers how to do a job they already know how to do is totally the way to go. That’s how the banking sector works and apart from the odd massive financial crisis / recession / severe depression from time to time, this form of top-down impositional management structure works perfectly well. I see no reason for there to be a dissimilar outcome when we apply this model to education.
Lastly, everybody knows the unions are behind this. They’ve always been against me. And what have I ever done to them? Nothing. That’s what. I work so very hard creating an education system that I think all billionaires would be proud not to send their children to and what do I get? Moaning and complaining from people who should know better.
I am a government minister. I’ve been on a board of trustees before. Apart from never having been a teacher or educational researcher or developer of educational policies based on years of research into best practice, I know EXACTLY what New Zealand learners need.
You ask anybody. It’s obvious New Zealand need an education system where huge profits are siphoned off from the taxpayer to private interests, where students are crammed in 40-45 to a class, and where they are tested twice-yearly against a set of arbitrary assessment benchmarks after which they are compared with other students / schools around them to make them feel more stupid and useless than they already do.
And Labour want to take this away from them. Appalling.