The Dim-Post

December 7, 2011

Building the knowledge economy

Filed under: education — danylmc @ 7:37 am

ACT’s only apparent pre-election endorsement of charter schools was this sentence in their policy manifesto:

Meanwhile, education policy in Australia, Sweden, parts of Canada and the United States, and Great Britain is showing the benefits of making education more market-like and entrepreneurial. Such policies lead to a wider range of education opportunities being available.

So how’d all these countries do in the most recent OECD education rankings?

Country Rankings for Science:
  • New Zealand 8th
  • Canada 9th
  • Australia 12th
  • UK 26th
  • USA 48th
  • Sweden 65th

48 Comments »

  1. Yep well, those poor results show current policies are not working and need to be changed.

    Great point and excellent objective commentary.

    And here was I thinking this blog was vehemently against Charter schools. Silly me.

    Comment by Redbaiter — December 7, 2011 @ 7:50 am

  2. PARTS of Canada and the United States – and if remove the apostrophe Great Britain as well – PARTS is the key word sir.

    Clearly, the ACT party selects the PARTS of those countries education systems that suits its arguments, and discards the rest as failed socialism.

    As for Sweden and Australia, ACT will just not talk about them anymore.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 7, 2011 @ 7:51 am

  3. “…those poor results show current policies are not working and need to be changed…”

    To something resembling what New Zealand currently has perhaps? If the USA were to adopt our public school model, by the look of things they could vault 30-40 places up the tables, and if the Swedes did they would have a transformational education experience.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 7, 2011 @ 7:54 am

  4. Why just the science result in your post?

    And why the citation hyperlink that doesn’t show the actual results?

    Comment by Rick Rowling — December 7, 2011 @ 8:13 am

  5. Sweden’s poor showing is simply a result of it’s overly socialist policies in other areas.

    Grin.

    Comment by Bed Rater — December 7, 2011 @ 8:20 am

  6. Charter schools are only available to a very small percentage of students in those countries. Even if they were twice as good as regular schools they would have no significant effect on the overall OECD ranking.

    Comment by Dave — December 7, 2011 @ 8:32 am

  7. Wow, Sweden has 57 more than us!

    Comment by garethw — December 7, 2011 @ 8:34 am

  8. ED Blog makes a claim that Dr Brash also announced (a type of) charter schools in one of his speeches: http://www.ed.co.nz/2011/12/06/the-nz-charter-schools-debate-1/ Of course, he did make that speech in Browns Bay rather than Manurewa or Chch, and probably to an audience of seven sycophants?

    Comment by stevedore — December 7, 2011 @ 8:40 am

  9. Danyl, it was in Don Brash’s campaign speech on education – I read it when I was reviewing all the parties’ education policies. I’ve excerpted the key details below. I also covered it in more detail at my blog last night. Anyone involved in education policy would have recognised it as charter schools, even if Brash didn’t use that phrase.

    “…In addition, there should be no reason why educational entrepreneurs such as David Selfe, let’s call them edupreneurs, should not be able to set up completely new schools to attract government funding. These proposals may seem radical, but in fact the danger is not that New Zealand might stray too far from orthodoxy by adopting choice, competition and entrepreneurship in education. The real danger is that we will be left behind.
    …Ladies and gentlemen, the ACT Party presents a clear choice on education this election. We can choose to continue with the status quo. We can choose to ensure that there is limited choice, limited innovation, and that only the few can access it. If that’s what you want, then any other party will deliver it.…It is a choice to be able to see your child’s share of the education funding go to the school that you choose… You needn’t pay twice, and those who can’t afford to pay once would have choice too.…It’s a choice to let successful schools manage themselves as trust schools. It’s a choice to let groups of innovative teachers set up new schools like Corelli and Tū Toa.”

    Comment by Dave Guerin — December 7, 2011 @ 8:54 am

  10. So after intensely reviewing several reports of entrail viewings, the chicken watchers of ACT can confidentially report they did, indeed, see signs of charter schools pre-election.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 7, 2011 @ 9:01 am

  11. Even if ACT didn’t make huge speeches about charter schools, it’s hardly suprising that they would be in favour of them.

    Comment by helenalex — December 7, 2011 @ 9:14 am

  12. Reading some of the comments on this topic, supporters of charter schools (or rather, opponents of the teacher unions) usually start with an assertion that our schools are rubbish, followed by a statement that this because the teachers are only interested in themselves and their comfy sinecures.

    The assertion is a plain lie that flies in the face of all the certifiable, reliable, and authoritative evidence of the excellent performance of our school system. The statement is simply a gratuitous insult to the professional bodies whose professionalism have created the certifiable, reliable, and authoritative evidence of the excellent performance of our school system.

    Yet a lie and an insult appear to be held as a bedrock belief by an ignorant irreducible minority of the population.

    Strange.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 7, 2011 @ 9:28 am

  13. Don’t get me wrong, that is interesting and significant.

    But it’s probably also significant the John Banks wasn’t able to point to that speech at the press conference announcing the policy win. If they were going to put it up for a deal you’d think they might put it in their actual policy doucment http://www.act.org.nz/policies/education where a less motivated voter might see it.

    Comment by lyndon — December 7, 2011 @ 9:29 am

  14. If anyone’s interested, the full OECD Pisa 2009 results for “reading, science, mathematics” (graded, not ranked, sorted by ‘overall reading scale’ score):

    http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/54/12/46643496.pdf

    (stupid PDF wouldn’t let me copy DOI properly)

    Comment by kimshepherd — December 7, 2011 @ 9:35 am

  15. the excellent performance of our school system.

    Overall, comparatively, our school system does work ok, but it is widely acknowledged that it fails an alarming number of students. Teachers shouldn’t be offended (or surprised) if the failings are identified and discussed, and solutions sought.

    Comment by Pete George — December 7, 2011 @ 9:45 am

  16. I don’t see how people are interpreting this as a bad thing:
    “The provision to set up a trial charter school system – under sections 155 (Kura Kaupapa Maori) and 156 (designated character schools) of the Education Act – for disadvantaged communities, specifically in areas such as South Auckland and parts of Christchurch where educational underachievement is most entrenched. A private sector-chaired implementation group will be established to develop the proposal for implementation in this parliamentary term.”

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1112/S00034/national-agreement-nets-significant-policy-gains-for-act.htm

    Comment by Fielding Norris — December 7, 2011 @ 9:57 am

  17. FFS sake they are not talking about converting the entire education system, it is trial of a small number of extreme case schools. The kids at those trial schools would hardly do better under the present system, so why deny them and others the chance to have an improved education if it can be adapted to work successfully here.
    Maybe for once some of the left wing extremists who think NZ is permanently in the 1950’s should remove their ideological monocles, and stop reverting to their stereotypical abuse as the automatic first response.

    Comment by gn — December 7, 2011 @ 10:01 am

  18. I’m perplexed how a country with a swag of tech industry like Sweden can be dumber than us when we have a third word commodity economy. Our results haven’t been doctored have they? When my son did NCEA year 11 science, his teacher simply didn’t cover a few chunks of the syllabus. They get away with it because they make up the exam and leave questions on those topics out.

    Comment by Dave Payne — December 7, 2011 @ 10:11 am

  19. “so why deny them and others the chance to have an improved education if it can be adapted to work successfully here”
    Absolutely. But why not also pick a system with a better than 17% success rate?

    Comment by Roger Parkinson (@RogerParkinson) — December 7, 2011 @ 10:21 am

  20. “…Overall, comparatively, our school system does work ok, but it is widely acknowledged that it fails an alarming number of students. Teachers shouldn’t be offended (or surprised) if the failings are identified and discussed, and solutions sought…”

    Educational experts (which includes teachers) have identified the problems and suggested solutions. Here is an idea. How about instead of fucking trying to re-invent the wheel and second guessing the actual experts in the field with an idea you pulled out of your ass, you actually listen to them and put in place some of their ideas? You know, like spending the small fortune you are going to throw at Charter Schools to prove an ideological point on a school breakfast program for decile one and two schools instead?

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 7, 2011 @ 10:37 am

  21. I am not sure why ACT are getting all the attention on this issue. If National were opposed to charter schools, I’d doubt the issue would’ve seen the light of day. I have to say I doubt the sincerity of John Key’s comments, a few days prior to the election when he said:

    “for the vast bulk of New Zealand children that go to school, their parents can feel very confident that their children are getting a world-class education.”

    Comment by Ross — December 7, 2011 @ 10:40 am

  22. I’d rather parents fed their kids properly and not leave it to schools.

    But why not also pick a system with a better than 17% success rate?

    Why not copy what the 17% of successful charters are doing?

    Comment by Pete George — December 7, 2011 @ 10:45 am

  23. “Teachers shouldn’t be offended (or surprised) if the failings are identified and discussed, and solutions sought.”

    Well, quite, if it was as simple as that. But the subtext for this debate is that some kids are failing and it’s the teachers are to blame. If only we had better teachers, we wouldn’t have this problem. That begs the question: where are the teachers for charter schools going to come from?

    Comment by Ross — December 7, 2011 @ 10:47 am

  24. But the subtext for this debate is that some kids are failing and it’s the teachers are to blame.

    Who’s claiming that? Family and social systems fail many kids, and the education system as it is isn’t capable of dealing with the problems.

    Comment by Pete George — December 7, 2011 @ 10:58 am

  25. Why not copy what the 17% of successful charters are doing?
    Good lord, you’re being serious, aren’t you?

    Comment by garethw — December 7, 2011 @ 11:26 am

  26. “…I’d rather parents fed their kids properly and not leave it to schools. ..”

    Says the man who supports Peter Dunne – the same Peter Dunne who went on Radio New Zealand this morning to defend tax cuts for the rich and besmirch the OECD report on growing inequality.

    You are a rank, stinking, sanctimonious hypocrite.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 7, 2011 @ 11:31 am

  27. There is some interesting work being done with new technology.- tablets, iPad, iPod etc.
    These devices with the appropriate software and teachers are inherently interesting to kids.
    There is also some very impressive literacy results reported using iPods. I will get the link if any one wants it.

    This may be a better path to follow.

    Comment by DS — December 7, 2011 @ 11:42 am

  28. Ah, yes, technology will save us.

    Comment by MeToo — December 7, 2011 @ 11:59 am

  29. ‘Why not copy what the 17% of successful charters are doing?’

    Which is what exactly Pete?

    Comment by Peter Martin — December 7, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

  30. “When my son did NCEA year 11 science, his teacher simply didn’t cover a few chunks of the syllabus. They get away with it because they make up the exam and leave questions on those topics out.”

    Speaking of people making things up, you know that NCEA exams (just like previous systems) are set nationally, right? So your son’s teacher, actually, didn’t set his exam? In fact he sat the same exam as Year 11s all over the country.

    Comment by Tui — December 7, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

  31. >>Ah, yes, technology will save us. MeToo

    It certainly could help do you think? Ever seen little kids operate that stuff?

    Comment by DS — December 7, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

  32. “The kids at those trial schools would hardly do better under the present system, so why deny them and others the chance to have an improved education if it can be adapted to work successfully here.”
    @ gn – you’re assuming the trial schools will uniformly hold just the failing kids. In reality, each school has a proportion of failing kids. So if you chuck in a new (proven failed) educational system for these charter schools, you are gambling with the education for the vast majority of kids who attend those schools and would (under the existing system) pass. Students seem reluctant to be guinea pigs for dodgy charter schools, or any other experiment where they wear the costs, not you.

    ” Why not copy what the 17% of successful charters are doing? “
    @ Pete George – because you would have to isolate the reasons for that 17% of charter schools being successful. Recall the rest (ie 83%) of charter schools did no better or worse than conventional schools. So the 17% must be viewed in context of the total trial, not just cherry picking the few schools that succeeded. Because those charter schools may have been successful for reasons unrelated to the charter methodology.

    I taught a (maths) student once who was so naturally bright he always scored 98% or better. Nothing to do with my teaching sadly – he was just incredibly gifted. His results should not be used to justify performance pay bonuses to me, nor adopting my teaching methods more widely. You need to look deeper than that, for the reasons for success or failure over the whole student body.

    Health and education are the two big state sectors where their staff get judged by results that may not be due to their good or bad performance. Do we trial ‘charter hospitals’ because a significant number of medical patients die each year? That would be daft. Ditto for schools.

    Comment by bob — December 7, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

  33. DS: Ever seen little kids operate that stuff?

    All little kids? If gadgets help the under achievers and non-achievers it’s worth considering them.

    Peter Martin – I don’t know, but it should be possible to find out why there are successes and how that might be replicated, and to not pursue models that are found to be unsuccessful. It’s a fairly standard sort of concept. I know people who work with failures of our main education system, and they keep trying different approaches and learning methods to see what is most effective.

    Comment by Pete George — December 7, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

  34. …and to not pursue models that are found to be unsuccessful.

    Says the man suggesting we pursue a model found to be worse or at least no better than the public system 83% of the time…

    Comment by Psycho Milt — December 7, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

  35. @DS “There is some interesting work being done with new technology.- tablets, iPad, iPod etc.”

    Hey DS – great post..

    Out of interest is your first name Nintendo?

    Comment by Richard29 — December 7, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

  36. ‘I don’t know, but it should be possible to find out why there are successes and how that might be replicated’

    Well Pete I have a feeling that folk are already trying to do this. I understand some of the answers could well be better resourcing for schools, smaller classes,better resourcing,assistance for the families of the ‘failing’ children, better resourcing…that sort of thing.
    Will the money for these charter schools come out of vote Ed as it is now..or will more money over and above be needed do you think?

    Comment by Peter Martin — December 7, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

  37. Psycho Milt – Charter Schools are not ‘a model’, they are not all done the same.

    Quite a few seem to do ok and some do better, that should be something that can be learnt from rather than dismissed because some haven’t been a success.

    If you dismissed everything that had some degree of failure we would have no Labour party any more.

    Comment by Pete George — December 7, 2011 @ 1:13 pm

  38. @ bob

    But if hospital A consistently has death rates twice as high as the national average, you’d probably be looking closely at not just the patients but also the doctors, nurses, systems and general care, and not just shrugging your shoulders and saying ‘it’s the patients’ parents and general society’s fault they are all dying of post operative blood poisoning, not the fault of our care’.

    To be fair, a hospital is probably not the best comparison as cause and effect are clearly able to be demonstrated in many areas. Education is much tougher to draw direct linkages, more like the justice system I’d say.

    Comment by insider — December 7, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

  39. Peter Martin – yes, of course, you might have missed this post which included

    They showed that traditional solutions like class size, per-pupil expenditure, and the number of teachers with advanced degrees are not correlated with effectiveness, and in fact, “resource-based solutions” actually lowered school effectiveness.

    Comment by Pete George — December 7, 2011 @ 1:17 pm

  40. “Family and social systems fail many kids, and the education system as it is isn’t capable of dealing with the problems.”

    But that’s the whole point, Pete. Kids will continue to fail irrespective of whether there are charter schools. But at the moment the perception is that some kids are not doing as well as they might which must be the fault of teachers, who – after all are at the centre of the education system.

    Comment by Ross — December 7, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

  41. Thank you Pete. What makes you assume that NZ schools don’t already do this? That makes them perform and achieve at a rate so much higher than US schools?
    Perhaps you might like to have a read of this
    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/Why-Are-Finlands-Schools-Successful.html?c=y&page=1
    For an insight into a system that outperforms us all.

    Comment by Peter Martin — December 7, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

  42. Rob Salmond has a (long) sensible take on how we should reallu be dealing with the Charter School issue:

    We should be asking what makes successful charter schools successful, not declaring all charter schools a failure on the basis that some charter schools failed.

    It is hard to see how a large-scale charter school system, which relies for its success on hiring all of the most cost-effective teachers for themselves at the expense of other schools, is good for the education system as a whole. But that is very different from saying that no charter school system can help alleviate some of the most glaring inequities in our current schooling arrangements.

    People who are about progressive educational outcomes should ask hard questions about the government’s proposal. Where will the schools be placed? How will the schools select their students? How many will there be? The answers to those kinds of questions will determine how supportive I am.

    What we should not be doing is writing off charter schools en masse. There is evidence that charter schools, done right, are progressive institutions. Our challenge is to make sure the government does them right. That will involve battling the natural instincts of ACT. But it should not involve battling the very idea of charter schools.

    http://www.pundit.co.nz/content/charter-schools-friend-or-foe

    Comment by Pete George — December 7, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

  43. DS – I think technology can be a great tool for learning but it is not the silver bullet. There are some marvellous educational applications – I am familiar with 3 different ones for maths, for example – but it’s not as simple as giving kids new toys and saying “go for it!” Being a sceptical character I automatically dismiss assertions about a technical utopia.

    Comment by MeToo — December 7, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

  44. There is evidence that charter schools, done right, are progressive institutions.

    And if Rob thinks Banks and Key would regard the appearance of progressive institutions as evidence charter schools had been done right, he wants his head read.

    We should be asking what makes successful charter schools successful, not declaring all charter schools a failure on the basis that some charter schools failed.

    How about: we should be asking why a couple of ignoramuses in the field of education are pushing charter schools on us despite not being able to explain why it’s a good idea? Or was there some explanation other than “Well, that’s MMP for you” that I missed?

    Comment by Psycho Milt — December 7, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

  45. Sanctuary:

    “Educational experts (which includes teachers) have identified the problems and suggested solutions. Here is an idea. How about instead of fucking trying to re-invent the wheel and second guessing the actual experts in the field with an idea you pulled out of your ass, you actually listen to them and put in place some of their ideas?”

    This seems to cut both ways. About 3 years ago, I remember reading a report of an extensive doctoral study out of Otago Uni (I think it was Otago, it might have be Auckland) which stated that the most significant factor in education effectiveness was teacher quality (class size, homework allocation and decile were insignificant once adjusted) and hence advocating performance pay. It didn’t seem to be a particularly partisan study, which made me wonder why Labour and the Greens were so against this.

    I realize this is a bit off-topic, but it is education related and I am interested in people’s thoughts on potential improvements to the system.

    Comment by enjiner — December 7, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

  46. I would accept performance based pay the day the government issues a directive that withdraws all government funding fom private schools and directs that every school, private included, must match the economic, social, racial and gender makeup of the nation as exactly as it can from within a 25km radius. If that means AGS has to bus in poor kids from South Auckland, and Daddies little princess has to go from Epsom to Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate every day – then so be it. Only then, when the playing field is level, I might think that performance based pay has merit.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 7, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

  47. @ Sanctuary – Oh I get it! You are a parody bot, you can’t be for real surely…

    Comment by will — December 7, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

  48. @enjiner, 3.13pm “the most significant factor in education effectiveness was teacher quality…..and hence advocating performance pay”

    Why? Finland also identified teacher quality as a key part of their nationally-agreed strategy and John Hattie (Ed Prof at Unitech) has done too. But Finland didn’t just blindly assume that this meant performance pay, which many have said would put an end to collaboration and co-operation amongst teachers and may in fact make for worse results. They actually insisted on a Masters degree as a minimum and then implemented what they call a high-trust model ie let teachers bloody well get on with the job.

    It’s also worth noting that the model for charter schools here allows for the hiring of untrained (read “cheap”) teachers and also allows them to be paid outside the scale that currently applies to teachers (read “cheaper”). It’s no surprise that the most significant cost in vote education is teacher salaries.

    Comment by Neil — December 7, 2011 @ 7:33 pm


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