Archive for Achievement

Giving credit where credit is due

One of the key findings of the Pathways and Transition suite of programmes at Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) is that students who otherwise might find school hard reveal considerable talent and ability to learn when an early experience of applied learning triggers some inactive, inert ability that has not been released. The experience at MIT in 2015 suggests that given the different right stimulus, different learners will respond.

In sum, the total credits gained in the 18 classes across 10 different technical disciplines averaged out at 18 credits per student from a course that was the equivalent of one day in school. Two things stand out.

First, Māori gained on average 17 credits per student, Pasifika 16 credits per student and “other”, 20 credits per student. So success seems to be not displaying the same levels of discrepant outcomes that we are working to improve, it is more equitable.

Secondly, literacy and numeracy taught in the context of these 10 is such that progress seems not to be the hurdle that schools would have us believe. This is also the experience of students at the MIT Tertiary High School. The programmes that are done have literacy and numeracy embedded in them – you learn the skills of literacy and numeracy in a context where they can be applied.

It was therefore disappointing to hear the radio interview with the Principal of a large school claiming that NCEA Literacy and Numeracy was not working. He called for a return to having dedicated literacy and numeracy teachers – that would, he claimed, get the system back on track.

This would of course be taking the teaching of literacy and numeracy back to the 1950s where the notion of teaching in a context of use had never occurred to any one. This also characterized schooling in the 1960s but it received a jolt in the 1975s with the publication of James Britton’s A Language for Life. It was from this that the notion of “language across the curriculum” gained ground. The argument was simple – every teacher uses languages therefore every teacher is a teacher of a language.

Reading in Secondary Schools was a real focus of the late 1970s and into the 1980s. This was a good thing – you learn to read by reading and you also learn to write by reading – schools dabbled with reading sessions for all in one way or another.

The University of Waikato back then and on into the 1980s did pioneering research in Science that showed that students succeeded in science largely to the extent that they could master the language of science.

The evidence at the Tertiary High School, and in Trades Academies suggests that only in a few instances is specialist intervention in language/English and numeracy/mathematics needed. Of course, as happens in education, as soon as something is described as if it is a specialist task, an aura grows around it and the job is handed over to the experts. In the Tertiary Sector all lower level courses have literacy and numeracy embedded in them and the tutors are required to be trained to do so.

Embedded literacy and numeracy trumps literacy and numeracy for no obvious reason every time.

The education system has put on Edward de Bono’s seven hats ad nauseum but it doesn’t show. That is what is coming to the surface in secondary/tertiary programmes and not only in New Zealand. Early access to applied learning (e.g. trades, STEM, etc) develops cognitive skills in learners who have not until then been excited by learning. In other words, they become academic. A group of students who enter the MIT Tertiary High School because they are making worrying progress at school in Year 10 discover through the NCEA / Technical integrated programme that they can learn, and that they want to learn, and they carry on to get NCEA Level 3 and University Entrance. That is a small group but the rest of the cohorts achieve Levels 1 and 2 with some ease (and a lot of sound teaching!).

The NCEA results (as reported by NZQA) underline this. The 2014 results were NCEA Level 1  100%, Level 2, 94.4%, and Level 3, 83.3%. The 2015 results are similar – L1 – 80%, L2- 87.9%, L3 – 100%. (Remember that the L3 groups are small). Most schools would feel pretty good with results like this!

But wait, there’s more folks!

In addition to NCEA achievement the THS students also get a range of technical qualifications at various levels simultaneously.

Now this is not a competition between secondary/tertiary programmes and schools. It is simply evidence that multiple pathways that see education/school delivered in different ways, will get different results. We simply have to develop a level of comfort about those pathways and celebrate that it offers to many students better levels of success than they would face in the conventional school setting.

Programmes such as the THS and Trades Academies are making a contribution to the outcomes for many and NCEA is a wonderful vehicle that allows students to bring their achievements together.

Did I mention that MIT through its STAR courses programme allowed students to gain 40,914 credits (that is an average of 12 per student)? It couldn’t happen without NCEA.


 

FINAL DAY FOR EARLY BIRD REGISTRATIONS

taw16-logo250px

Te Ara Whakamana is New Zealand’s largest forum dedicated to education and employment pathways and transitions.  Now in its sixth year, this event brings together educators from both secondary and tertiary sectors, industry representatives, policymakers, and researchers to share good ideas and practices, and to be challenged by different perspectives.

Go to:   https://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/tearawhakamana2016 

The results of collaboration are starting to have impact

 

The NCEA Level 2 struggle continues and while the newspapers report the incremental progress towards the BPS target of 85% of all 18 year old’s with NCEA Level 2 by the end of next year, it’s all been tougher then it should have been.

The secondary system by and large has had to make a huge effort to understand that the targets were never achievable if it was left to the schools themselves, it never was and while existing approaches to senior secondary schooling persist, never will be.

For a start there is a significant number of 18 year old’s who as 16 year-old young people had quit education, they were not even in the system. This statistic is stubborn and progress in reducing it is slow. The reason is not that schools get it wrong but that school is not right for many of that group. In other words it was the lack of flexibility that created over 30 years that situation and it will be flexibility that is our best change of addressing the issue.

But the focus remains solidly on those in the system and even among that group there are the disengaged. I have long promoted a view of disengagement that describes the traditional “drop-outs” as “physical disengagement“– they are not there.

There is also a group who is still in school that can be described as being the victims of “virtual disengagement.” They relatively consistently, have the appearance of doing all the right things, are not too much trouble, but for whom nothing much is happening. I know they are there because teachers tell me that they are.

Finally there are those who do all they are asked, achieve moderately well, who might even cobble together Level 1 and 2 in NCEA. However due to “unintended disengagement” the fruits of their labours have been a mess of academic potage that does not represent a basis of moving forward. Harvesting credits will achieve the BPS but it will not in itself create pathways.

I have raised the disengagement aspects of school performance because that is where ten years ago I started to work for change by first proposing, then developing and implementing New Zealand’s first Tertiary High School. This eased the way for the creation of trades academies, for the umbrella policy of Youth Guarantee and the relatively quick growth in the numbers of students who now rely not solely on schools for their outcomes but are lucky to be in schools that see that by working on collaboration with tertiary providers their students get better results both in terms of quality but also in terms of quantity. Their line of sight is extended through many of the programmes to real futures.

Last year the Manukau Institute of Technology gave opportunities for secondary students to gain in excess of 46,000 NCEA credits. This is not insignificant as a contribution to the BPS targets nor is it insignificant to the futures of young people.

More importantly, many of the students have through the experiences discovered that they can learn, that they want to learn and that school does provide an opportunity to do just that. The early access to applied education unleashes the brain in some learners to tackle more effectively the demands of what some persist in calling academic work. But the close to 4,000 secondary school students that MIT worked with last year were the lucky ones who go to schools where management sees opportunities where others see only risk to the roll numbers, management that puts the student at the forefront of planning rather than being blinkered by arguments about the budget, the staffing levels and so on.

One Principal who subscribes with energy to all the opportunities collaboration between secondary and tertiary now openly attributes the substantial growth of senior school numbers to that collaboration.

In the end, all the opportunities of secondary tertiary programmes are good for students, good for schools and good for the taxpayer.


 

taw16-logo250px

Te Ara Whakamana is New Zealand’s largest forum dedicated to education and employment pathways and transitions.  Now in its sixth year, this event brings together educators from both secondary and tertiary sectors, industry representatives, policymakers, and researchers to share good ideas and practices, and to be challenged by different perspectives.

Earlybird registrations are open now.

Go to:   https://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/tearawhakamana2016 

And the winner is…. !

Nashville TN

“ I want to tell you that you are greatly under-rated!” he said to a resounding round of cheering and clapping. You can’t go wrong when you say that you say to a group of educators.

So began US Secretary of Labor, Thomas E. Perez, in addressing the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) Awards Dinner in Nashville TN last night.  A crowd of 1,000 educators gathered to acknowledge the sector leaders in quality in a range of categories. Interestingly, also included were an ACTE Business Leader of the Year, an ACTE Business of the Year, and an ACTE Champion of the Year Awards. It was great to see that the awards acknowledged that partnerships and support outside of the sector were critical to the successes.

The Secretary of Labor apologised for the way in which governments (both state and federal) had turned away from career and technical education in the false belief that the American Dream could only be achieved if every child was headed towards college (university). Now, he argued, the effort put into career and technical education was central to economic prosperity and he underlined the critical importance of a skilled workforce.

As usually happens in such speeches, he dwelt on the amazing record of the Obama administration in creating jobs and used this to segue into the theme that despite this, too many young people lacked the skills to fill the positions. There was a need, he challenged the audience, for educators to “re-invent yourselves”. This would require a “dramatic re-design of how people are prepared with the skills to succeed in the future.”

He outlined his view that there would be three clear factors in this: it would be demand-driven, there would have to be multiple pathways and any success must be scalable. I gave a one-person silent cheer to this. I like demand driven, I adore multiple pathways and I am totally puzzled at the push-back in New Zealand on pathways that have been shown to succeed in achieving just such a set of goals.

He then spoke of what seems to be a uniquely American view that it is really the middle classes that are the victims. He described the middle classes as facing an “existential crisis.” No it could be that “existential” has an American meaning just as “momentarily” has. But I really do not know what he means. The portraying of the middle class as the victim in the changes of the last forty years and in the performance of the education systems is too cute for words. But then he provided the clue. The ‘multiple pathways’ he wanted were to be “multiple pathways to the middle classes”.

The citation for his award as ACTE Champion of the Year for Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mayor of Austin, Texas, spoke of ”industry / education partnerships” and the importance of high school students having “hands-on experience” and “experiential learning” that would lead to career exploration and an improvement in “employability skills”. A particular project with which he was associated was one in which students after “two years of coursework are offered paid internships during their senior (i.e. final) year.” He has placed high value on the students’ developing employability skills and noted the value of work experiences in achieving these. He had led the City of Austin in working with the Austin Independent School District in achieving this.

New Zealand should find ways of acknowledging excellence in such partnerships. This had been an excellent evening and to achieve this in such a vast country should encourage us to think that we could do this easily in such a small country as ours. I have a plan in mind!

 

To be young is heaven

Don’t you get sick of the focus on the All Blacks as New Zealand’s seemingly only group of blokes who fly the New Zealand flag overseas? It defies the facts to think that they claim the headlines of the world outside of some of the remnants of the British Empire and even there they come somewhat down the list.

Australia lauds Rugby League, Australian Rules, Cricket and Tennis ahead of Rugby. Canada is crazy about Baseball, Ice Hockey and Basketball with Rugby somewhere behind. Britain is warmer about Rugby but only a country mile behind football while South Africa…… yes, well South Africa. They love Rugby and are pretty good at it!

This week we will be obsessed about the All Blacks playing the United States in Chicago. The field will be sold out no doubt due to the sponsorship of AIG who coincidentally are sponsors of the All Blacks. Conveniently forgotten will be the fact that the US is the only country to have won a gold medal at the Olympics for Rugby!

Meanwhile, who is really bringing the name and flag of New Zealand to the world stage? Not the All Blacks but a remarkable bunch of young New Zealanders who are succeeding in a range of sports that are genuinely world sports.

Lydia Ko amazes the golfing crowds at an unbelievably young age and seems unable to be shaken out of the No. 3 spot in the world of women’s golf. This is am amazing feat in a sport that is global and greatly loved by amateurs of all abilities. Not only that, she does all this with a modesty and charm that could serve as a model for many others among our sports communities.

Motor racing fans have followed the high-speed fortunes of Scott Dixon, the lad from South Auckland, who win races in the fanatical and frantic world of American motor sport. Again this young man whose ability to be articulate is matched by modesty. He continues the stream of young world motor racing champions including Chris Amon and the great Bruce McClaren.

Next we have the Adams family – Val Adams and younger brother Steven – who both throw things, Val the Shotput and Steven the Basketball. Val Adams (another South Auckland sporting champ!) has maintained her spot at the top of the world over many years and does so without the drama of injuries and what-not. In fact her recent surgery was simply fitted in to the end-of-season gap without a fuss. Meanwhile we have daily press coverage of a certain No. 10’s medical aches, pains and breakages.

Younger brother Steve Adams has literally burst onto the world of US basketball and after a year playing at the college level has seemingly become a frontline player in the NBA. Yet when he comes back to NZ he seems to be still connected to the local roots from which he started.

Of course sport is not all that we are good at. Think of music and the many young opera singers who are claiming successes in competitions. Some are going further, the three young Samoan lads from South who combine both formal study as opera singers with a lighter touch as the popular SOL3 MIO. And there are others young singers breaking onto the world’s opera stages – Marlena Ott Devoe, Elisha Hulton and Isabella Moore are just three Samoan singers to emerge.

And then there is Lorde – the phenomenon from the North Shore who in some ways defies the understanding of some age groups but who grips the tastes of so many young and seemingly all age groups in what is called “the industry”. She is truly taking New Zealand to the world.

Of course there is the issue that Australia will claim all of these as their own and if they can’t get away with it will try the description “Australasian” – it’s just too cute for words!

No doubt about it – we are being proudly taken to the world by young people, all stars in their own right and who collectively are arguably among the most widely known New Zealanders on the face of the planet!

I bet teachers had a hand in influencing all of them!

 

Labour’s Lost Loves

You really have to wonder what’s going on. Here we are, 90 days out from an election and Labour at last releases some of its education policy. It’s a grab bag of unusual ideas at this stage – a copy-cat, a bribe to be good and a return to the scene of the accident.

The Manaiakalani copy of the digital device for all students in Years 5 – 13 is the best of the policies they have announced to this point. But the real challenge is not to see if the idea will work – they have shown that it will in Tamaki. It is not to see if parents and caregivers will stump up – they do in Tamaki.  It is not to see if it has a beneficial impact on achievement – it seems to be worthwhile in Tamaki. The real challenge is to see if an idea that works well within a defined project can actually be scaled up to be the normal way of working across the whole country.

There is no need for them to take this risk. The middle classes, the employed and medium and high earning parents are already giving these advantages to students. Many schools in middle and high decile areas are already asking students to bring devices to school. Again, and this is something of a repeated pattern for Labour, the policy is very poorly targeted. In seeking but not being seen to do something for its bedrock support it sprays the resource across everyone at wide groups of students both vertically (5-13) and horizontally (all schools) and while everyone is slightly better off, the key groups to whom priority should be given remain at a relative disadvantage.

Have they forgotten their classically un-targeted approach taken with the 20 hours free pre-school resource?

Then we have the “We’ll-Pay-You-To-Stop-Acting-Illegally-But-It-Is-OK-For-the-Rich-To-Carry-On-with-Gay-Abandon” Policy related to school donations. Schools that are Decile 1 – 8 will receive $100 per student if they agree to not ask for school donations. Yes, it will help low decile schools, no doubt about it, but remember that they are generally smaller than higher decile schools. And don’t forget that the $100 a student payment will be made to Decile 1 – Decile 7 schools. That is another “spray and walk away” approach to policy. the differences between Decile 1 and Decile 7 are huge, the differences between Decile 7 and Decile 8 are negligible.

The fact remains – demanding school donations is not allowed in neither law nor regulation. But Labour has said in almost conciliatory tones that it will not ask Decile 8 – 10 schools to take part in the scheme. Why would a Decile 10 school of 2,000 students forgo $1.8m in order to show solidarity with the low decile community? And why would a political party dare to take them on as a matter of principle?

I celebrate the extra cash that low deciles schools will get but this approach to deal with a reprehensible practice does not bring credit to those promoting it. Let’s have the financing of a few beers for those who don’t drink and drive, petrol vouchers for those who agree not to flee from the police when asked to stop, Countdown cards for those who agree not to shop lift.

This is bizarre!!!

Then we have the “Lower the Teacher/Student Ratio” policy.  It is almost a case of “Let’s-have-a-policy-that-denies-the-evidence” approach. The evidence is overwhelming – lowering the student/teacher ratio will have a low impact, if any, on student achievement. New Zealand’s pre-eminent researcher John Hattie has provided plenty of evidence that the effect size of lowering teacher / student ratios, especially the negligible -2 students impact of the policy will be not worth the effort. The scuffle with Minister Parata on the question of a couple of years ago saw the system lose some real potential gains (but not in the intermediate schools) and so we have the teacher union and principal associations appeasing policy back on the list.

And how much will this cost? Surprise surprise! About the same as the Government’s “Investing in Educational Success” policy will cost! Actually a key factor that will improve student achievement is the use of our most talented teachers and principals in spreading best practice. Is that not what Labour wants?

Elections are always fraught. Perhaps the issue is whether they are fought or taught!

 

Renewed energy for the journey

The MIT Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways in partnership with Ako Aotearoa has just finished its fourth annual National Symposium in Wellington. Over 200 educators gathered to continue their journey along Te Ara Whakamana, considering possible pathways, transitions and bridges from secondary education into tertiary education.

Flashback to Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2011 when the first gathering was held at MIT and 120 people got together to ask tentative questions related to the “new” policy setting of the “Youth Guarantee”, the approach to the new proposals for a more orderly view of NCEA credit that the Industry Training Federation had developed and called “Vocational Pathways”. The first secondary / tertiary programme in New Zealand, the MIT Tertiary High School, was up and running into its second year, and various academy programmes had started up.

MIT has established the Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways to be a centre of excellence for discussion, development and advocacy of the ideas that would allow students to find new and different ways of moving seamlessly through secondary and on into tertiary education and training.

In particular, the initiatives were aimed at addressing the dysfunctional approaches to senior secondary schooling that saw too many students fail to achieve educational outcomes of which we could be proud and, to not put too fine a point on it, which were acceptable to a high-performing economy. And this in addition to the numbers of students that were dropping out of school prior to approaching the threshold for secondary education.

So the 2014 Symposium was a very different affair. Policy is in place, there was very little discussion and grizzling (as there had been back in 2011) about funding other than its lack of flexibility and reports were made on a wide range of successful new ways of working that were bringing success to some of those who had previously failed or perhaps more correctly, been failed.

An inspirational session came at the end of the second day when a team from Christchurch reported on developments that have arisen from the disruption and damage of the earthquakes. Working differently had become not only possible but also necessary – the old approaches would no longer be adequate nor would they have the urgency that was now needed. Key messages I took out of the session were: 

  •          It is possible to do something about what seem to be intractable problems. They took the dirty statistic of NEETs in Canterbury and by elimination reduced the numbers to produce a list of names. “From numbers to names to action” has been a call for action by Minister Hekia Parata for some time. The Key benefit of such an approach is that it gets the scale of an issue out into the light and able to be tackled.
  •          They showed that you manage transitions by doing something about them. Organizing the employment sector (manufacturing in this case) was a first step and then connecting that sector to those coming out of training programmes plugged the gaps.
  •          There is a high level of connected activity, one party addresses the issue of another party by adjusting the way they work. It is collaboration in practice.
  •          An idea that intrigued was the development of a Destinations passport that gave students a mechanism for systematically noting the ways in which they had developed the so-called soft skills that employers sought. No need to wait for schools to act, allow the students to use their real lives!
  •          There is a strong focus on evidence-based activity.

Trevor McIntyre leads much of this work and he issued a challenge to those present. What is your earthquake? Certainly there are many things that need a good shake up.

Steve Jobs always claimed that “the journey is the reward.” There is a group of educators in New Zealand that grows larger steadily that is on a journey to a place where students have access to equitable outcomes. Dr. Peter Coolbear, director of Ako Aotearoa, invited the symposium to consider the impact of the changes that were being discussed. In the four years since the symposium started, 14,000 students have engaged in a pathway that is different from a conventional track through the conventional school. 

I noted, in bringing the deliberations to a close, that a wide-spread adoption of a “multiple pathways” approach (“linked learning” it is being called in the US) could well be the means by which we address the issues of the bipolar education system and see equity matching achievement in our school system’s performance. 

Momentum is building.

 

 

Party at Hekia’s Place – BYOE Bring Your Own Excellence along

It looks as if 2014 is shaping up to be somewhat unusual for education in New Zealand – three key developments are happening.

In March a set of Education Festivals will be held in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Developed by Cognition Education and with the four key themes of COLLABORATION, INNOVATION, COHESION and CELEBRATION.   The festivals are co-ordinated by Cognition Education with the support of the Ministry of Education and will coincide with the 4th International Summit on the Teaching Profession, jointly hosted by the OECD, Education International and New Zealand through the MOE.

The festivals focused on two key dimensions, the performance of students, teachers, schools and institutions in our community and the proud record New Zealand has inspired improved educational achievement in other countries by sharing our expertise and systems.

The press education receives is generally at best miserable and at times plain negative. I have frequently pointed out that the profession too often contributes to this. Here is a golden opportunity for education to put on its best clothes and strut its stuff in public and rather then spout clichés  about a “world class education system” , to allow the outcomes of the work of schools and other education providers be seen and enjoyed by a wider community. Let the work and skills of our students be the push for the excellent brew that comes out in most schools.

An added opportunity is to be able to do this while an international community of educators is here as our guest – a chance not only to show and teach but also to listen and to learn. The participating countries at the 4th International Summit are the top 20 education systems as measured by the PISA  results and the five fastest improvers.

This is a unique opportunity for New Zealand to learn and to gain insights into how we can match achievement data with greatly improved equity measures.  Both the festival and the summit will allow us to share insights with others and to learn from the insights of others. This is not a bragging contest but potentially could be a fine week for education n New Zealand.

The Minister of Education Hon Hekia Parata is behind both of these initiatives and her leadership deserves strong support from the sector and from all levels within the sector.

The third element that could lift the image of education in New Zealand is the announcement, also from Minister Parata, of the inaugural Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards to be introduced for 2014. The tertiary education sector has had just such a set of awards for about 10 years and they have been markedly successful under the astute leadership of Ako Aotearoa.

This new set of awards will focus on early childhood education, primary and secondary schooling and collaboration between secondary schools, tertiary providers and employers. This last award – collaboration – is particularly pleasing coming at a time when it is emerging that pathways between sectors will be a critical feature of the new environment that will allow us to address equity.

Ands that brings us back to the festival and the summit. We need to see these three developments as a set of tools that the education system can use to create a better education sector, one characterised by collaboration, by clear evidence of excellence and by a commitment to improved equity of outcomes. We will do this in part by seeing collaboration (bringing the fragmented sector together for the festival) and celebrating (excellence in teaching through the awards) as necessary to lifting our game. Necessary but not in themselves sufficient – long term change will require us to make a habit of collaboration and celebration.

In summary:

  •          Festivals of Education  – Auckland (21-23 March 2014), Wellington (29 March 2014) and Christchurch (23 March 2014)
  •          The 4th International Summit on the Teaching Profession – March 2014 
  •          Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards – entries close 31 March 2014

Roll on March I say.

 

 

Pathways-ED: It’s not just another project!

“You mean that you don’t have any scheduled classes on a Wednesday?” I asked wondering what was happening here.

“That’s right, the students spend that time doing their impact projects,” the Principal replied. “We call them the Impact Projects and it gives them a chance to bring their learning together and apply it for a practical purpose.”

I had been invited to participate in the celebration evening at the Albany Senior High School. Thinking about it as I headed across the Harbour Bridge, I wondered if this would be like so many of the many Science Fairs I had attended, or the other efforts I have seen where students generate hugely disproportionate amounts of energy and fun but produce not a lot – never mind the quality, or the warmth.

I was sure that what I was about to see would not challenge the amazing activity I had once seen at High Tech High in San Diego. There the students were nearing the end of the semester and this school, located in buildings in an old and historic naval base, had developed a project-based approach. Students were too busy to talk to me but they took time out to quickly explain what they were doing, etc. It was greatly impressive as they gave voice to the learning they had. Mature scholarship and youthful inventiveness characterised the typical project.

In New Zealand many tertiary programmes, especially in IT, have a requirement for a keystone project towards the end of the course. Would the high school projects be like these but perhaps at a lower level?

Well, was I in for a surprise. I saw that evening some of the most advanced and mature work I have ever seen high school level students produce. It was remarkable.

Microsoft had agreed to publish an app developed by one student that simply but incrementally taught a learner the basics of music theory. It was clever in its conception and beautiful in its execution. Clean lines, simple instructions. The student was articulate both about the IT and the music. Other music projects included performance, original compositions and, the building of a “copy” Les Paul guitar. To this last student I was able to chat about a concert I had seen Les Paul give in a jazz club in NewYork. We shared an enthusiasm.

Another student saw his project develop out of his after-school / holiday job in a surf store. He had set about developing the complete array of programmes and IT services needed to run the business especially the customer end of it – using barcode for stock control, an interactive and youthful internet store (increased turn-over = ten-fold). This was IT, business, strategic thinking, all wrapped into a very smart piece of work.

It was appropriate that in that very week where those daring young men, sailors in their flying machines were bouncing around San Francisco harbour, a further project had built a small craft that lifted out of the water on foils. The group had encountered issues, all tackled and resolved as the project unfolded.

There were dance performances, art projects (original painted shoes, a graphic novel, an origami chandelier), environmental projects (I loved the recycled furniture project – from inorganic collection to art work) and so on.

What was the point of all this? Well, quite clearly in the face of such explicit evidence of learning, some excellent teaching had occurred. But that seemed minor in light of two more important elements.

There had been extensive engagement with the community across this array of projects. Business, local government, tertiary education providers, retailers, primary schools, and sports organisations both local and national. This is just a sample. Students were faced not only with finding a confidence in doing this but also a security about their own learning as they interacted with busy people. The school had confidence in these exchanges which might have caused some nervousness in a more conventional setting.

The other exciting element was that the students were clearly demonstrating the qualities and skills that are so often spoken about as the soft skills of employment. Certainly they are the skills sought by tertiary education providers as students move into the higher levels of learning and qualifications. Team work, strategising, planning, implementing, setting of goals, ability to think creatively, to be articulate about technical knowledge and suchlike are the key outcomes of a good grounding in the basic skills.

Schools such as Albany Senior High School are leading the way in showing that having confidence in the quality of your programmes and in the the teaching / learning dynamic of the school then liberates the students and allows them to use new learning and develop new skills in ways in which the quality of the activity is nourished by personal interest, need and passion. I say need because one student had realised that she was light in physics given the direction her interests had developed – she saw an opportunity in her project work to do something about this.

Perhaps all this was summed up for me in a comment from Lucy in a reflective piece that looked back on her Impact Project experience – “The highlight for me was being able to learn from Amy.” This captured the essence of a good programme where the teacher stood aside and students saw the real lifelong learning resource -those around them.

Proud parents and grandparents, excited and animated young people, teachers who knew their job had been well done – education at its best.

 

Pathways-ED: Lauren Boyle’s “Hard goals”

Written by Marilyn Gwilliam – Principal, Papatoetoe Central School

When NZ swimming star Lauren Boyle met with outstanding success earlier in the year, our associate principal dropped her a line and invited her along to our school.

She said that she would love to come and recently she took time out from her intensive training schedule to speak at our weekly assembly.

We felt truly privileged to spend some time with one of our most successful swimmers. In 2 weeks of world class performances in August, she won 3 medals at the World Championships, followed by 2 gold and 2 silver in 5 days in the World Cup and a clutch of records in the process.

As you might anticipate, the theme of her talk was about drive, determination and character.  Lauren started swimming when she was 5 years’ old and joined a swimming club when she was 8.  She had several other hobbies as well, but when she turned 11, she had to decide about whether she could fully commit to swimming, or not.

It was her year 6 teacher who advised her.  He told her that she should “go for it” and the simplicity appealed to her – in her words, she just needed “togs, goggles and maybe a cap!”

In her time with us she spoke about her own rewards, that she is proud of her achievements and that she really wanted to get a medal.  She spoke warmly about her swimming family community and her “teamy community” that started at school.  She described the friendships she has made and that being part of a sporting community that feels like a family “is just as rewarding as trophies and trips away”. 

One of her key messages was about being dedicated, motivated and determined and setting herself goals that challenged her.  She referred to “hard goals that scare me” and how failing is just a part of learning.  She has learned “to get up and get going again”.

She spoke about having a positive focus and urged our students to have something strong to work towards and that setbacks don’t have to be negative.

As I listened to her, I thought about her comments in relation to her personal rewards and her “hard goals”.  I reflected on the importance of young people giving things a go, accepting defeat, picking themselves up and really striving to succeed.

She told us that “there is no downside to setting goals that you may think are impossible.  Chances are, even if you do not achieve what you set out to do, you will have rich experiences you can learn from and draw on in later life”.

However, the key message for me was Lauren’s sheer ambition. It was very clear and almost tangible.   I thought in turn, about the importance of the teachers and students in our schools being ambitious and setting what Lauren called “hard goals”.

Recently our senior team consulted with Professor Glenda Anthony, Co-Director of the Centre of Excellence for Research in Mathematics Education at Massey University in relation to the current review of our school’s maths programme.  

The key take away message from our very worthwhile time with Glenda was around ambitious teaching.  She spoke to us about the critical importance of teachers always teaching ambitiously and planning challenging learning tasks for their students.

Lauren was very inspiring.  Tall and gracious, smiley and kind, humble and sincere, and jam packed with all the qualities that we appreciate and admire in our kiwi sports stars.  Her messages of ambition, determination and learning from setbacks were clear and simple.  They were wonderful for our students to hear.

Lauren is great kiwi woman with an equally great message.

 

Pathways-ED: Bridging the Divides with Pathways

 

 

Over the past two days 260 educators have been meeting in Auckland at the third National Conference on Pathways and Transitions – Bridging the Divides : Secondary-Tertiary-Employment Transitions for Learner Success.

The conference was organised by the Manukau Institute of Technology Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways in association with Ako Aotearoa, the University of Auckland, the Ministry of Education, Cognition Education and Cyclone Computers. This “family of six” reflects the importance given to the topic and the extent to which it has moved more and more towards centre stage in the awareness of those who care about improving students outcomes.

There are two key concepts – the notion of “transitions” and that of “pathways”. We know that the transitions between and within the different parts of the education system are choke points in the journey students face as they pursue an education. The shift from ECE to primary, primary to intermediate and subsequently for all, into secondary, then on into some postsecondary education which finally move into employment is a reflection of a system that is built for the adults that survived rather than the learner/student.

Dr Joel Vargas from the Jobs for the Future Foundation in Boston U.S. showed that the loss of students at transition points was an issue that went well beyond our shores. We know that we “lose” over 4,000 students between primary and secondary, that 20% of students drop out, that half of those starting a postsecondary qualification do not complete. Much of this waste of talent and potential is the result of the issues surrounding transitions. And there is that transition form the stages of education into employment.

Associate Professor Leesa Wheelahan (University of Melbourne) reminded the conference of the weak link between education and employment, a point reinforced by business leaders who addressed the conference.

Transitions need to have “pathways” if they are to lead to the levels of seamlessness that will address the issues of the dysfunctional transitions which might more correctly be thought of as fractures.

Pathways are seamless, start somewhere and arrive somewhere else. In themselves they are an organising principle that calls for connection and quirks each of those who work on each side of the crevasse to work together. It is interesting that some of the systems we admire have solved this issue through looking to sector reform to shape a system based around the needs of young people rather than around the sensitivities of adults.

260 educators working to address these issues simply have to make a difference. There is developing a community of practice that is seeking to construct new pathways and transitions with a more seamless approach to create increased likelihood of more positive educational outcomes for more students.

This was a clear message of the Minister of Education Hon Hekia Parata who in addressing the conference emphasised the Better Public Service goals as clear markers for outcomes which the system must work towards.

This will require us to work differently but this will not always require us to embrace startling and new or radical ideas. As has been a theme of recent EDTalkNZ pieces, some of the ideas have moved across the education stage before. The notion of a “jagged edge”, even “seamlessness” and the reforms of Post Compulsory Education and Training in the 1980s had canvased many of the changes now being seriously considered – a point made elegantly by Professor Gary Hawke who led the reforms back then. Professor Hawke made an interesting point in his reminder that we need to focus on post compulsory rather than postsecondary.

So it was an exciting gathering where ideas surfaced and were considered, where for two days there was a coming together of people working towards shared goals. The things that divide us in education were parked at the door and students were considered. Many were impressed by the eloquence and directed energy of the students, especially one who had gone through the MIT Tertiary High School.  He had made the transition from risk to reward, from being given no hope in school to seeing a pathway that would take him into a job he loves and which opens up a big wide world.

It is early days but directions are emerging that hold the promise of an education system that will deliver pathways to students that see them college (postsecondary) ready and career ready. If we can achieve this we will perhaps avoid the demographic time bomb that ticks away and was so clearly described by Sir Mark Solomon.

 

It could be that in time is not on our side in these issues.