Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: From soundbite to policy

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  • Kerry Weston,

    But aren't I lucky? My son can leave school in February if he wants to, when he turns 16. I won't have to face the Truancy Brigade.

    And I have to say, that as far as literacy is concerned, the best thing I ever did was teach my boys to read before they went to school, kept on reading to them and with them and expected them to talk "up" to my level. Perhaps the 1:15 ratio of teacher/pupils that's due to come in will make the most difference in achievement. It will certainly make teachers' lives a bit easier if they have to spend more time testing.

    Interestingly, our MP, Simon Power, came to visit a local school before the election and assured the teaching staff that the "testing" legislation was merely putting measures in place to ensure that the current testing was uniformly done in all schools. As, according to him, it isn't.

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    @Tom Semmens

    @BenWilson:

    All right then, how would all your benign middle class voters react if we truly did something revolutionary to ensure equality of education for all new Zealanders?

    I've lost the context of this question. Was it meant for someone else?

    If it is seriously meant for me, I have to say, the idea of abolishing private schools seems totally crazy to me. They fit so many niches that the public system shouldn't cater for, and they don't cost us anything. I'm well aware of the entrenchment of class that comes with extensive private schooling, but NZ fortunately is not in that particular boat. Our private schools mainly cater to niches like religious groups, and I can't see much wrong with that. OK there are some really good private schools too, but as far as I can see, that's a reason to keep them, rather than abolish them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Martin,

    I can't really think of a more boring existence.

    Being taught by those teachers?

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 187 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Martin,

    Plenty of private schools are in receipt of tax payers loot Ben.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 187 posts Report Reply

  • tim kong,

    Sorry, just need to edit that paragraph.

    The worst failing a teacher can have IMHO is an inability to continue to learn and listen. To learn on a professional level, from their colleagues, from their daily experiences and most importantly, to listen to and learn from their students.

    That requires constant humility matched with patient confidence.

    A fine balance for anyone - but one that we teachers sometimes forget to maintain.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr,

    vaguely re economy, ecology, nuclear war - Fran Wilde and Margaret Thatcher - my favourite Ronald Reagan quote is, 'I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency, even if I'm in a cabinet meeting.'

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report Reply

  • tim kong,

    @Peter Martin.

    Both sides really.

    Absolutely boring to be taught by one of those teachers.

    And I'd find my job skull-numbingly dull if I had to teach like that on a daily basis.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Plenty of private schools are in receipt of tax payers loot Ben.

    Peter, sure they are, but whatever private contributions are given/required, are not looted from taxpayers, and to abolish those contributions is madness. All it could possibly do is lower the quality of private schools, an outcome I can't see as worthwhile, just a manifestation of misplaced class jealousy. You can't stop wealthy kids from being advantaged, and I don't think you should try. Instead the focus should be on raising average standards. Think 'everyone up' not 'everyone the same'.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr,

    This behaviour is typical of high powered corporate players - quick firm decisions, don't give the opposition time to draw breath, act, and move on. Hesitation or consulting others risks losing your advantage.

    Exactly Roger Douglas's tactics in the late 80s. I think he may the Jiminy cricket sitting on Key's shoulder. A Natty sort of conscience.

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Martin,

    Of course Ben. I too have no problem with private schools. They all employ from the same pool of teachers...the buildings and computer suites etc may be in better condition , but I think the real difference is in the social networking that takes place there.

    State schools trying for a point of difference in having external exams such as the Cambridge are a worry though. I would rather a level playing field there...

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 187 posts Report Reply

  • snakeoil,

    The testing policy is indicative of the undervaluing of 'other' skills, often which are not learnt until later life...you will count numbers of visionaries, outcasts, creatives, activists etc (as well as numb-skulls, and there's a place for everyone) in the statistics coming out of the tests, and in truancy figures.

    Blue Lynn • Since Dec 2008 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • HenryB,

    Graeme:

    The law already makes truancy, for good reasons, illegal. This law just doubles the penalties, and allows the Ministry of Education, rather the schools(!) to bring prosecutions. It doesn't change the offence - exactly the same actions will be illegal after it as before it. You weren't prosecuted under the identical offence when it carried a $15 fine (max $150), why are you concerned that you would be now that it carries a $30 fine (max $300)?

    Fair point - though the figures you give are wrong if the news reports are anything to go by: add another 0 to all of them.

    However, if as AS has already said, this is only going to affect 87 prosecutions, presumably of parents who don't "give a f$&k", my guess would be that even if you put yet another 0 on the end if not two, it would not make the slightest difference to truancy figures. I don't see this as a revenue gathering device because I doubt that those prosecuted and convicted would have the wherewithal to pay the fines any way. If it is, on the other hand, meant to send a shiver down the spines of those parents whose children are truants in spite of their efforts then I am sure it has succeeded.

    But,again, I am sure - and certainly hope! - that all of this is just impression management - and perhaps, for some, to give themselves a feeling of righteousness. If it is more than that then we really, really should be worried that it has all been carried out under urgency.

    Palmerston North • Since Sep 2008 • 106 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    Do Schools Kill Creativity?

    Sir Ken is brilliant, for sure. His description of creativity as "being prepared to be wrong" is apt. I call it the Art of Making Mistakes. This over-riding idea that we don't have time to make mistakes (we're moving so fast now) and consequently reward being 'right' and stigmatise being 'wrong' is anti-creative.

    Occasionally I've been able to spend some time doing art, monoprints mainly, with primary kids. It's a blast, but the sad thing is they are already conscious of doing the 'right' thing, something that looks just like something they've seen somewhere, is recognisable, is safe. it takes alot of time - time to really relax into it and play around - to relearn not to be disappointed with the first or second effort, but to think of it as having good bits that you can carry over into the next one. That is actually the recipe for original thinking - to get lost in the process and play.

    Contrary to the popular thinking that we are a DIY nation, i think those skills are being lost. We don't use our whole selves, to play, dance, make stuff, make stuff up; we are trained to be consumers and workers.

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr,

    I can't think of anyone who thinks that's part of the purpose of the education system, consciously or subconsciously.

    Ah - you have powers from the dark side!

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report Reply

  • A S,

    Och take a look at the last PISA results for just reading literacy and see where we place on the league table of nations. Because it is all about league tables now...isn't it?

    Had a look at PISA, they are about where I remember them. Around 50% with literacy at less than level 3. Stellar performance. Not. Also in keeping with the IALS study, which carries those figures into the working age population. Again, not particularly great.

    Tim, what you describe in how you teach, is pretty much what all parents would love to hear.

    As you point out, passing the Bill won't change much really, and will simply mean that the Act reflects what is already done (which makes a nice change for legislation).

    Aside from the fashion in which it is being put through, it really isn't all that significant a change, and as I said earlier, the changes as they stand don't seem to warrant the gnashing of teeth of some of the posters.

    Of course not. I think what people are objecting to is the element of bait-and-switch involved in National's policy.

    Again, have you read the Bill? I didn't see any mention of any VRWC being given control of testing. Did I miss something, or is everyone getting worked up about someone's conspiracy theory?

    On another level, National's apparent desire to control what goes on in the classroom while deliberately excluding teachers and the Ministry of Education from discussion seems to speak volumes about their distrust, fear, and, perhaps, contempt for both teachers and Ministry expertise.

    Given that the Ministry of Education wrote much of the background info to the Bill, I don't think you could say they've been excluded.

    Teachers don't generally get consulted on changes. They, like the rest of the public sector have the usual choice of getting on with it and making the best of what they've been given, or looking for another job. How many Nurses get consulted about changes to the health system? How many police get consulted about police staffing levels, or ways to tackle crime? Not many. This isn't a new thing either, it has been the norm for my lifetime.

    Again, the way it was done wasn't great. But the actual changes proposed don't seem to warrant much of a reaction.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2007 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr,

    I introduce Rudyard Kipling's "If" by showing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal reading the poem.

    That nearly made me cry - and that's not easy for a dog.

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 395 posts Report Reply

  • HenryB,

    On a personal note, I have three children: the first found schooling a breeze, was an academic high achiever and is now nearly finishing a PhD; the second also found schooling a breeze up to a point, went to University, discovered Social Life 101 and muddled through to a BSc and is now a happy highly paid ($100,000pa) consultant; the third loved primary school but hated academic work - and this turned to pure hell in secondary school, with school refusal, school phobia, etc and ended up dropping out just before 15!....but has now, without even NCEA 1, been employed full time in two different jobs for 5 solid years and has a reputation for hard, steady, conscientitous labour. And, by the way, this record has stuff all to do with IQ. As part of the attempt to deal with the problems of the third, we did get a professional IQ evaluation - and, what ever these things mean, the score was in the high 120s.

    I tell you what: the first two would have done alright under any government. The third, on the other hand, found a job because we have lived with a government for whom "jobs, jobs, jobs" has been the mantra. Would testing numeracy and literacy have made the slightest difference? Give me a break. Would fining us for his truancy have helped us get him to school? If you think that you need to take some pills. Smacking? Good grief. Was it fault of the teachers? No - we had deal with so many: most very good, others OK, one or two pretty mediocre but, in general, they tried their best.

    The problem is that, for the Anne Tolleys of this world, the issues are pure abstractions and they think they can solve them by imposing `standards'and fining parents. I am afraid the world is far too messy to be so easily changed by stupid legislation like this. And it doesn't help to have the studidity compounded by rushing it through.

    Palmerston North • Since Sep 2008 • 106 posts Report Reply

  • tim kong,

    Teachers don't generally get consulted on changes. They, like the rest of the public sector have the usual choice of getting on with it and making the best of what they've been given, or looking for another job.

    The point is - no-one has been consulted. And there are direct implications for education and teaching - as the bill allows the MINISTER to publish what standards are applicable to all students, in all age and year groups. To my mind, you're getting quite close to the "Those that can't - teach" line.

    So yes - if the Minister decided, we could have SAT type tests for 5 year olds.

    There's also nothing in the bill as to what happens if a student does not meet the applicable standards? Do we hold them back a year, despite best practice being to keep students with their age group peers for the best learning. Do we lower the standard next year, to make sure more go through? Or do we - as is constantly said - teach all of our students what's on the test - so that they pass and the National party can claim credit for our nation's high scores on international rankings.

    I think you might find a direct correlation between an increase in truancy rates and teaching to the test. The students are bored already - don't make it easier for them to have a reason not to go to school.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Exactly Roger Douglas's tactics in the late 80s. I think he may the Jiminy cricket sitting on Key's shoulder. A Natty sort of conscience.

    You may have nailed it there. I recall a story from the production of Pinocchio , about the difficulty of creating an insect character. The solution was "a little guy with no ears".
    Whatever his strengths, fount-of-all-wisdom Roger has never given the impression of being a good listener.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Hi A S. I've read the bill, and despite its short nature, it raises very serious concerns for me. I felt they deserved a blog post, so I've replied in full over at g. blog.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Just saw Alan Peachey, National MP, at the supermarket. Not that I've met him before but I have seen him frequently n the last few days since Parliament TV came into our house. He is the chair of the education select committee - so even though he is not minister he has power.

    Shameless lobbyist that I am, I asked him about the Education Amendment bill and my concern about parents being fined for their autistic children being school refusers (the concern mentioned in Russell's original post on this blog), and my annoyance that we did not get a chance to make a submission on the bill. To his credit he seemed to understand the issue about parents of children with autism, and suggested I write to him at parliament.

    He was actually very pleasant and seemed as pleased as the rest of us that parliament had actually risen after that marathon sitting, although they will be doing it again next week. Poor man, after all those hours of debating to be accosted in the supermarket aisle while looking for toothpaste.

    I'm all for relationship building so will be taking up the offer.

    You never know who you will see at Thorndon New World.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3226 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Had a look at PISA, they are about where I remember them. Around 50% with literacy at less than level 3. Stellar performance. Not.

    AS, are we even reading the same report? From the PISA 2006 Key Findings:

    Only 3 of the other participating countries had a mean reading literacy score that was significantly higher than New Zealand’s. Two countries were similar, and the other 50 countries were significantly lower.

    Compared to other OECD countries, a relatively large proportion of New Zealand students were highly proficient in reading literacy and a relatively small proportion had low proficiency in reading literacy.

    There was no significant change in the mean reading literacy performance of New Zealand’s 15-year-old students in 2006 compared with 2003 or 2000.

    Figure 2 - graphically shows only one country with more than 50% of its population achieving above level 3. That's NZ in fifth place.

    Our spread of results is wider than most and sure, it's bad that 14% of school leavers don't currently achieve NCEA1 as the Bill and BIM note. Our adult literacy (IALS1996-ALL 2006) results seem more internationally average (can't link directly to the data page as the URL contains double underline which PAS renders as emphasis).

    So I'm really not sure how you arrived at your expectations - if they're not relative to other countries which trade in the same global markets and face similar challenges resourcing their education systems. Perhaps by "stellar" you really do mean not of this world? Anyway, do by all means point us to the reports of bad performance you referred to.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    Hey Tim, havin' just read your earlier post, I must say, I bet all your kids love what you do to educate them. Got all teary eyed, (and I think t'other half did too when I read it out loud to him). The sort of tears like when the dog in Santiago rescued another dog from the middle of the freeway. Cheers

    @ Ben,

    This year Kings School will be getting $1300,000.00 as the new funding for private schools is increasing and we, the tax payer are paying for that. Of course that has nothing to do with the fact that it is the school that John Keys son attends. Why do private schools have exemption from these Tolley standards?

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    it seems to me your comment "...You calling us..." is an unconciously ironic QED of my point. If Public Address is an "us and them" community, then whose values do you think are reflected within it?

    Tom, I was referring to the post on the other site - hence "us" meant PAS as a collective defined from outside. I really did find it amusing and should have added a smiley before leaving the building.

    I actually agree that class is the elephant in our national living room, and I'd say poorer people are probably doing things other than sitting here conversing. Maybe in other places, but here not so much.

    I don't think I'm alone in PAS-space in favouring aspects of both left and right policy and practice. I do regularly complain about assumptions that the playing field is level (just ask colleagues), and I prefer approaches like discourse analysis. I'm a fan of fairness as well as performance.

    Now I doubt most Kiwis would say that makes me "socialist", but I really don't mind if they do. Though I should note that I'm not so keen on white wine unless it has bubbles in it. :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Why do private schools have exemption from these Tolley standards?

    Good question. If you wanted to privatise the system, wouldn't you want their results listed along with all the others?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

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