The Dim-Post

November 24, 2011

Anne Tolley walks into an advertising agency

Filed under: education — danylmc @ 11:32 am

JP writes another letter to Anne Tolley. Excerpts:

  • Your policy states that one in five students leave school without any qualifications.  Could you direct me to statistics that show me a breakdown of this group?  Do they all come from all parts of New Zealand and all schools; do they come from a wide range of socio-economic groups; are any ethnicities over represented?  Is it generally true that schools with poor academic results tend to be in certain areas and in many schools the statistic of one in five is not true?
  • If national standards are supposed to help parents to compare their child’s achievement with a national average why is there no consistent test across schools, and why are these results not moderated?  It seems that a lot of parents misunderstand this point and believe that their children’s results are being pegged against a national average.
  • Your policy states that your party has spent $36 million to fund new intervention programmes to help students who are failing.  If 20% of the students are failing this seems a very small amount of money.  What is this intervention programme called, and how does it work?  I couldn’t find anything about it, and I am interested to hear about it.
  • Your policy also states that your party has put $60 million towards stopping bullying, and promoting good behaviour.  What has this programme been called, and how has it encouraged good behaviour?
  • What will a Student Achievement Function Practioner actually do?  Helping schools support struggling students is fantastic.  Will they work one to one with teachers on targeted students?  This would be great.  How do you envision this working?  We already have RTLBs in the school system.  Will you be rebranding them, or creating something new?  If you are creating something new could you explain how it will be different from the old system?
  • I realise I am raising a lot of questions so I will focus on only one sentence I am unclear on at the bottom of page six: “We’ll also shift the resourcing model so that it incentivises performance.”  Could you explain this for me in plain English?

I think teachers are baffled by National’s education policy because they assume it’s about the education system, and they don’t understand what problems National are trying to solve, or what the outcomes are supposed to be. Once you understand that it’s about market research and electoral strategy – that National’s focus groups tell them many swing voters are parents who feel anxious about their children’s education, and that their policies are designed to play upon those fears by creating the illusion of a crisis that National will solve – they make perfect sense.

36 Comments »

  1. Look forward to any answer Tolley might give you!!

    Comment by kutarere — November 24, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

  2. Is your friend’s name actually John-Paul?

    i.e. If you were speaking to him, would you say (for example) “What flavoured iceblock would you like, John-Paul?”

    Sounds awfully formal, I’m fascinated.

    Comment by Bed Rater — November 24, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

  3. The National party declined to answer these questions.

    Comment by Sanctuary — November 24, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

  4. I’d take rants/questions about policy a little more seriously if people bothered to do a quick google search on there own questions.

    According to Statistics New Zealand, almost one in five of all students leave school without any formal qualifications. For Māori students, the figure is one in three; for Pasifika students, it is one in four.

    http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/education_and_training/secondary_education/school-leavers-with-no-qualifications/school-leavers-no-qualifications.aspx

    Comment by WH — November 24, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

  5. WH, perhaps this J-P fellow was looking for more up-to-date information than some statistics that only cover 1991-2000. Though that does suggest that National made no progress on this issue last time they were in charge.

    Comment by Nick — November 24, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

  6. I think teachers are baffled by National’s education policy because they assume it’s about the education system, and they don’t understand what problems National are trying to solve, or what the outcomes are supposed to be. Once you understand that it’s about market research and electoral strategy – that National’s focus groups tell them many swing voters are parents who feel anxious about their children’s education, and that their policies are designed to play upon those fears by creating the illusion of a crisis that National will solve – they make perfect sense.

    I think this is an accurate summing up, with the possible addition that a showdown with the NZEI over it is one of the govt’s desired outcomes and also explains much about the approach they’re taking. You certainly see the target market out in force on any Kiwiblog thread on the subject.

    I’d take rants/questions about policy a little more seriously if people bothered to do a quick google search on there own questions.

    He’s not asking for information with that question, he’s highlighting what a stupid figure it is to bandy about. The point is that an average across the entire system tells nothing about individual components of the system – same problem applies to things like average wage, life expectancy etc.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — November 24, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

  7. A survey published a week or so ago had the respondents putting concern about the environment as the top issue of concern and I think concern about schools as 2nd equal. Funny that National’s Education plan published just before polling day would focus on those concerns. Focus group?
    Tolley’s refusal to engage in dialogue over National Standards give a pretty good indication on how many of the above excellent questions from JP would be answered or even slightly addressed.

    Comment by xianmac — November 24, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

  8. By the way Labour’s final address for release Friday night is pretty good.
    Hope you don’t mind the link:

    Comment by xianmac — November 24, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

  9. I doubt that Tolley would have an inkling of what you are on about. Australia, anyone?

    Comment by thawed-out — November 24, 2011 @ 1:59 pm

  10. Tolley is dog tucker anyway. She’s off in the NY reshuffle, for sure.

    John Key now has some direct experience of how counterproductive it can be to piss off the very people you need to be alongside in order to make headway.

    Comment by Neil — November 24, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

  11. It really doesn’t matter if Tolley’s off, she has never really owned National’s education policy. English is still astride that particular horse and will remain so no matter who gets shuffled in to replace her.

    Comment by Hugh — November 24, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

  12. “By the way Labour’s final address for release Friday night is pretty good.”

    It might be pretty good but it’s too little too late.

    Comment by Ross — November 24, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

  13. It has been painfully obvious that National Party has been gunning for all along – the introduction of league tables for schools http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/6006461/Nats-open-door-to-primary-school-league-tables .

    It’s the perfect confluence of real National Party interests: property speculation, chummy old boys networks, the private school lobby

    Comment by taranaki — November 24, 2011 @ 2:40 pm

  14. “He’s not asking for information with that question, he’s highlighting what a stupid figure it is to bandy about.”

    He’s effectively asking for league tables.

    JC

    Comment by JC — November 24, 2011 @ 2:46 pm

  15. It’s the perfect confluence of real National Party interests: property speculation, chummy old boys networks, the private school lobby

    And the idea that good people do well because they are good, and thus high-performing schools do so because of their inherent righteousness. This, along with a great deal of their policy is driven primarily by an overarching psychological worldview rather than an evidence base or consultation amongst the sector (who reject the premise, for the most part).

    Comment by George D — November 24, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

  16. Re 13 and 15 It’s the perfect confluence of real National Party interests: property speculation, chummy old boys networks, the private school lobby

    If your statement was true then National would seek to retain zoning and the no national standards. Since this is more the agenda of labour, it would suggest that in fact the unintended consequences maintaining the status quo. This is not an argument for national standards per se, more that things are a bit less reducable to labour good/bad, national good/bad, greens good/bad.

    Comment by WH — November 24, 2011 @ 3:43 pm

  17. the answer to fourth bullet point is the Positive Behaviour for Learning action plan. At least that’s what Tolley keeps harping on about >>> http://www.minedu.govt.nz/theMinistry/EducationInitiatives/PositiveBehaviourForLearning.aspx

    Comment by gifkid — November 24, 2011 @ 5:45 pm

  18. I think teachers are baffled by National’s education policy because they assume it’s about the education system, and they don’t understand what problems National are trying to solve, or what the outcomes are supposed to be. Once you understand that it’s about market research and electoral strategy – that National’s focus groups tell them many swing voters are parents who feel anxious about their children’s education, and that their policies are designed to play upon those fears by creating the illusion of a crisis that National will solve – they make perfect sense.

    Very well put Danyl and so utterly, utterly depressing. The cynicism is astonishing. Does this make Stephen Joyce the Karl Rove of NZ politics?

    Comment by TerryB — November 24, 2011 @ 6:32 pm

  19. This issue will always be an easy win for National, especially as middle-class anxiety rises in the face of economic slow-down and growing unemployment.
    It also provides a useful scape-goat,too: NZ’s poor economic performance caused by poorly educated , beneficiaries etc etc which is ultimately the fault of schools. Nothing to do with business failings like underinvestment, inadequate R & D, or weak management.

    And everyone’s been to school and has memories of incomprehensible/inflexible/boring teachers, haven’t they? Nothing like bit of stick to stimulate our Calvinist genes.

    Comment by Galeandra — November 24, 2011 @ 6:46 pm

  20. The nice thing about education, from a policy maker’s standpoint, is that it’s a potential solution to any problem, anywhere, ever.

    So fiddling with education is a great way to appear to be doing something without actually doing it, or, for a higher level of cognitive dissonance, to convince yourself that you’re doing something. Why tax emissions when we can educate people to prefer low-emission products? Why put tariffs on imports when we can educate people to buy free trade? Why put money into poverty alleviation when we can educate people to get jobs? (Hi Pete!) Etc etc etc.

    Whenever somebody proposes “education” as a solution to a problem that isn’t directly related to numeracy or literacy I always translate it as “Gee, wouldn’t things be great if everybody voluntarily did what I wanted them to”

    Comment by Hugh — November 24, 2011 @ 7:11 pm

  21. This issue will always be an easy win for National, especially as middle-class anxiety rises…

    not just the middle class. working class people I know are rediscovering their Catholic roots and sending their kids off to Catholic schools.

    (every middle class liberal family we know is or will send their kids to a private school. and vote Labour of course)

    Comment by NeilM — November 24, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

  22. He’s effectively asking for league tables.

    I expect that, to the target market for these policies, that’s exactly what it would look like.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — November 24, 2011 @ 9:15 pm

  23. National’s ed polices are for slack parents who want the State to handle it all.

    Anyone who relies solely on the State to educate their children should feel anxious. Primary school teachers/ administrators that I know are brilliant but who go to some effort to get parents involved. If you don’t know your children’s progress back to front then National is just the party to put your mind at ease.

    Comment by Simon — November 24, 2011 @ 9:22 pm

  24. There are all kinds of flaws in my questions, but yes – I am playing slightly dumber than I actually am – and trying to point out that saying the one in five statistic is very misleading. So I am being disingenuous.

    I will go and look at the Positive Behaviour for Learning plan.

    @Bed Rater – John-Paul is not a cunning alias. If we meet, and you would like me to pass you an iceblock, you could call me JP if you like.

    Comment by John-Paul — November 24, 2011 @ 10:39 pm

  25. > the one in five statistic is very misleading.

    The stat might actually be close to the mark (I don’t know) but it doesn’t really say anything, except that in the minds of some, teachers are failing a significant minority of kids. That is possibly well wide of the mark. Kids might leave school without a qualification for various reasons, one obvious reason being that they hate the place and can’t leave quickly enough. Another might be that they want to get into paid work asap.

    Comment by Ross — November 25, 2011 @ 6:56 am

  26. In 2006, 24% of school leavers left without a qualification. That’s almost 1 in 4.

    http://theyworkforyou.co.nz/portfolios/education/2007/aug/07/school-leavers

    Comment by Ross — November 25, 2011 @ 7:05 am

  27. Academic ability follows a bell curve. You could design a school qualification to be achievable by the bottom end of the bell curve, but it would be a very easy qualification to obtain and essentially meaningless, a certificate that says you went to school. In other words, if there isn’t a percentage leaving school without qualifications, it reflects poorly on the qualifications. Whether 20% or 24% are particularly high percentages is a matter of opinion, but historically I bet they aren’t.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — November 25, 2011 @ 7:50 am

  28. Psycho Milt wrote: “You could design a school qualification to be achievable by the bottom end of the bell curve, but it would be a very easy qualification to obtain and essentially meaningless, a certificate that says you went to school.”

    alternatively, you could provide a range of different qualifications. then the people at the bottom end of the bell curve could be taught and assessed for qualifications that were realistic for them, but people with greater academic ability would do different qualifications.

    Comment by Kahikatea — November 25, 2011 @ 8:26 am

  29. Sure – a qualification for the bottom end of the curve doesn’t rule out other qualifications. But how would leaving with a bottom end qualification be different in practical terms from leaving with no qualifications? It would be clear enough to employers what it meant. What National and the Kiwiblog ranters are on about is the failure of schools to get 100% of pupils to pass the existing qualifications – which is hardly a realistic goal.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — November 25, 2011 @ 8:47 am

  30. It’s time to educate the fossil fools!

    Climate change is going to be the number one issue that affects the younger generation.

    Want to find out how to use your vote to ensure a safe and thriving future for your children?

    Go to http://www.electwho.org.nz!

    Comment by 2050alliance — November 25, 2011 @ 9:44 am

  31. Psycho Milt:
    You are correct that a Qualification designed to be achievable for the bottom end of the bell curve (in one area) would be worthless. The idea isn’t to provide an easier version of the same subject, but to provide qualifications in area where those some kids fall at the UPPER end of the bell curve.

    Just because you aren’t a strong reader / writer or mathematician, doesn’t mean you might not be a good builder, experimenter, orator, leader, sportsman, etc etc.

    Comment by Aaron — November 25, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

  32. This issue will always be an easy win for National, especially as middle-class anxiety rises in the face of economic slow-down and growing unemployment.

    Everyone thinks they’re middle class these days. There is no working class anymore, only the underclass, consisting of the working poor and the unemployed.

    But no one’s going to admit to being underclass, so everyone buys into the middle class bullshit National peddles.

    Comment by pollywog — November 25, 2011 @ 7:20 pm

  33. “Does this make Stephen Joyce the Karl Rove of NZ politics?”

    More like the Dick Cheney, I think. Crosby/Textor is the Karl Rove in this instance.

    Comment by DeepRed — November 25, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

  34. And I should add that my own schooling experiences taught me that private ed is more about connections and ‘keeping up appearances’ rather than excellence.

    Comment by DeepRed — November 25, 2011 @ 8:07 pm

  35. @Deepred

    You’re saying that like it’s a bad thing.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 25, 2011 @ 8:32 pm

  36. John Key was recently quoted in the Hutt News as saying:

    “about one in five children leave school with hopelessly inadequate numeracy and literacy skills.”

    I wonder where he gets these stats from, or is he assuming that all of those leaving school without a qualification have hoplessly inadequate numeracy and literacy skills?

    Comment by Ross — November 26, 2011 @ 6:50 am


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