Archive for Fees

More blessed to give donations than to receive a compulsory fee?

Something seems to have gone a little awry when the principal of a large Auckland school calls for state schools to be allowed to charge a compulsory fee especially when that school collects $1.9 million from 78% of its families through school “donations”.

The claim is made that a student in a low decile school gets $932 more than a student in a high decile school.  This might be true but I do know that some time ago I did a little exercise to compare the low decile school of which I was Principal with a particular Decile 10 school and, when roll numbers were equalised and other factors such as incidental costs and other forms of income taken into account, the high decile school had an overall funding advantage of about 25%.

Now that was a long time ago (mid-1990s) and I accept that the gap has narrowed a little as governments have set out to address the differentials in student achievement and student need.

That is why it is a little less than the whole picture to claim advantage for low decile schools – that is perhaps why the principal was careful to note that the differences were for state funding. The whole picture needs to include:

  • the capacity of the school to collect “donations” from its parents and a high level of fee (oops, that should read “donation”) from a very high percentage of parents;
  • the capability of the school to attract international fee paying students which is generally income at the margins with perhaps additional support with English – but it is a worthwhile income stream for high decile schools;
  •  the willingness of parents to pay the costs of participation in many activities;
  •  the support that is derived from alumni of the school;
  •  the response of parents when asked to provide digital devices for the students
  •  the generally large size of the high decile schools’ rolls;
  •  and so on…

The fundamental principles of the New Zealand education system are that it be universal, free, and secular.

The first of these, universal education, is clear and remains the goal. The level of children under the school leaving age who disengage from school challenges the system in achieving universal education which could well be better measured in terms of outcomes rather than the simplistic and now inadequate measure of whether they can get to a school.

The third of these, secular education, was strengthened with the development in the early 1970s of the category of “state integrated” schools. Most school systems have their church school with varying degree of independence and that provides for parent choice in the matter of values and religious observance.

But “free” means “free” – no child should be denied an education because they cannot pay. It does not mean that those who can pay more shouldn’t do so, but in “state schools” parents cannot be forced to pay more. Of course schools all over the country test this principle with donations requested in a manner that implies compulsion, extravagant school uniforms that cost ridiculous sums of money, demands that students have their own digital devices, and increasingly charges associated with activities.

State schools are state schools. I am not troubled, as Chris Hipkins seems to be, by the thought that the schools raising the matter of compulsory fees would become more elite. Too late Chris. They already are. Look at housing costs in the XYZ Zone. The recent report in the newspaper about all this concluded that rather than buy houses at inflated prices to get into the XYZ Zone and taking into account the subsequent cost of schooling, parents might be better off to buy outside the zone and send their child to an independent school. That is a telling conclusion that surprised me.

 

Objets trouvés

San Francisco

Protest still alive and well at UC Berkeley #1

I stumbled across a student protest meeting on the campus at UC Berkeley on my way to meet with colleagues. They seemed to be responding with great enthusiasm to an articulate speaker who was making an argument that capitalism was dead. The focus of the protest was about the designs of the university to use six acres that they owned for an old folks home but in the meantime students had occupied the land for community gardens. My mind went back to the famous occupation of the UC Berkeley land in Telegraph Ave in the 1960s. I went off to the Freedom of Speech Café that commemorates the events of those halcyon days of protest at UC Berkeley for a coffee.

Protest still alive and well at UC Berkeley #2

Chalk notices are scrawled on the pavements calling for students to gather at Sproul Hall, 2.00pm Tuesday to protest the raising of tuition fees by $US 3,000.

Who doesn’t pay tuition fees at some of the universities?

Students who meet the entry requirements,  are selected for the University of California system and whose family income is less that $US 40,000 pa, do not pay tuition fees. This is covered by what is a called a Pell Grant and 33% of UC Berkeley first year students are covered by this. At Stanford the threshold for qualifying for full asistance is $US 100,000.

Famous in New Zealand and the US

I searched for mention of New Zealand but, honestly, the only mention of our country was Lydia Ko and her performance in some golf tournament. She was, the media suggested, a person to watch. I took comfort from the fact that I had written about this just a couple of weeks ago. Eat your hearts out All Blacks!

The Bus is brought to you by the letters F and S

I adore the fleets of Sesame Street school buses that toddle around the town taking students to and from school and to and from such amazing places as the Exploratium on the waterfront area of San Francisco. I do regret the fact that they no longer have signage that confidently identifies them as a “School Bus”.  Stating this clearly on the side was a great help to young readers. They are now styled as “First Student”. It is a sentiment I relate to but is it yet a reality?

North Beach sinking into respectability

The development around San Francisco seems breathtakingly fast. And the gloss seems to be going off Vesuvius, the favourite drinking hole for Dylan Thomas, and the next door book shop, Unity Books, that Lawrence Ferlinghetti established and the whole little micro-district that saw Jack Kerouac and his entourage produce all that stuff in the 1950s. And this within spitting distance of the church in which Joe Di Maggio married Marilyn Monroe. But who cares? Are some things not sacred? That is being replaced by respectable!

The Imperial Approach to Metrics

I am amused by the weather reports on TV that report the rainfall as 1.3”. Is this the metrimperial system?

Identifying Career Direction

There are some very smart projects taking place that assist students to develop a view of career. One which appeals is the CA Career Café. Students snack on experiences that introduce them to possible careers and a web site assists them to develop and refine their thoughts. As they approach the exit zone then internships play an important role in shaping the detail of their choices. It is student driven. What is impressive is the connections to employers who embrace the scheme not only with opportunities for such internships but also in supporting the programmes as students move through school and college. There are lessons in all this.

The Rectangular Hands

You could be forgiven for wondering if Californians are mutating and losing their fingers. The you realize that their arms end in rectangular blocks simply because they are clutching mobile phone incessantly. In the evening faces of pedestrians are illuminated by the soft glow of the screens. Couples sit in restaurants gazing closely at their phones. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were texting each other. For a hundred years our phones were as close as the cord was long.  Now the phone is liberated to pursue us wherever we go. I think it’s called progress.

 

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!

 

It’s not the party it used to be.

“Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day…….”

We would sing songs such as this lustily at parties when I went to university in the 1960s and we really did believe that “they would never end.” Especially when it came to free tertiary education.

Well, it was as close to free as you could wish – I recall paying a services fee of perhaps $70 and that was it. Added to that was the fact that I also had a Secondary  (it might even have been Post-Primary then) Teacher’s Studentship which meant that a wage was paid while I was at university and this bonded me to teach for the same length of time as I had been supported. And…. In addition to all that, holiday employment was easy to get.

So we worked hard and had a really great time at university. I say we because my twin brother and I stuck pretty closely together on these matters. And our only academic distinction is that we were the first set of twins to graduate from the University of Waikato.

These things come to mind as I face going down to Hamilton on Saturday to meet with the “Early Students Reunion”. This is for those who attended Waikato in its first two years 1964 and 1965 and it is part of the year’s 50 year celebrations. It will be great to see what was a pretty tight bunch of students who formed the core student body in those first two years at the Hillcrest site. There were some part-timers as well and especially so after the teachers college opened on the site in about 1965.

And thinking about students and money it is hard to see that the current situation where students stack up debt to quite a considerable degree in order to get a degree is actually an improvement on what used to happen.

This might have driven the odd (in all senses of the word) “professional student” out of the system – there weren’t such people of course in provincial Hamilton back then but when I spent a year at the University of Auckland I was surprised by the apparent occupational class of “full-time-students-not-engaged-in-serious-study and perhaps-in-no-study-at-all!”.

But worse, it leaves graduating students not with the thrill of making a real start in life, a job that might lead to a career. Now, it’s a case of getting an income that will allow them to pay off debt. This means that it takes time for them to develop savings. I wonder, is this part of the issue of young people not being able to afford homes in their mid-twenties? They will just be starting to gain momentum free of debt when other sets of responsibilities come along.

It is pleasing that the Government is countenancing increasingly programmes and initiatives that are free of fees – Youth Guarantee is a good example although this is also driven by the issue of allowing students the same right to a free education that secondary school students enjoy to the age of 19 years. The Maori and Pasifika Trades Training initiative is another good example but again this is in one sense simply giving priority to an under-served group labeled as “priority learners”.

The tired old argument about whether tertiary education is a public good or a private gain needs to be put to one side – it is clearly both. And both outcomes – public good and private gain – are good for the family, the community, the economy and the country. And finding ways of engaging our best young people in teaching by schemes such as the old Div C Studentship should be considered. Ignoring quality can be the only way that the old tired market view that there is no shortage of people wanting to teach therefore there is no need for such an approach can be pursued.

We need top students who will become top teachers, students who are excellent in mathematics and sciences and other subjects, those who are clearly destined to be good leaders, the articulate and the enthusiastic – all qualities and characteristics that can be gauged at a school leaving age.

We thought they’d never end and those might well have been the days – but they did end and these days are not so great for students.

I hope we don’t get morose thinking about this at the reunion.

Cue in music. Start singing.

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we would do