Tag 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 

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.

 

Pathways-ED: The Select Committee Bouquet

 

St Valentine’s Day – a day of romance, love, the joy of hope, the euphoria of positivity.

Just like yesterday when the Education and Science Select Committee started hearings on the Education Amendment Bill which among other things give the warrant for Charter Schools (now known as Partnership Schools Kura Houora).  As could be predicted the submissions did not require even the hearings for their content to be known.

Except for the Ombudsman who drew attention to what surely was a mistake in the drafting of the Bill – of course any sort of school should be subject to ombudsman scrutiny. Then I wondered – are independent schools subject to ombudsman inquiry? Must find out! Integrated schools? Surely!

The ombudsman’s reported comments simply said that in the education cases she dealt with, it seemed mostly to be about stand-downs and expulsions that schools had “cocked up”  and “cocked up big time”. This, I hope, was an exaggeration which flowed from the moment rather than a calm assessment of the workload.

But calm assessment seemed from the reports to have been something a little light on the ground at this first day of hearings.

I am amazed that education which ought to be identified with reason, with evidence and with scholarly discourse, prefers to present itself as something else.

No survey study of charter schools anywhere has found that they are without exception, a “bad thing”. Generally the evidence is that there are good charter schools, middling charter schools and poor charter schools. It is clear that there are good state schools, middling state schools and poor state schools – we aspire of course to have good state schools. An interesting piece of the charter school evidence is that the proportions of good to middling to poor reflects closely the proportions of good to middling to poor schools in the respective state system.

Would anyone set out to create a middling or a poor Partnership School Kura Houora? Of course not. Therefore blind opposition can only be ideological rather educational in origin.

It surprised me that there was so little reported commentary on the general issue of school success and failure or of disengagement and truancy as key education issues that any new development must address. If a new development does not engage in activity that will deliver higher levels of success and lower levels of disengagement it would be probably not worth doing. This might have formed part of the submissions. If it was, then it has failed to make an impact on the media.

In our peculiarly Anglo-Saxon education system (and in our peer systems of Australia, the UK, the US and parts of Canada) the key issues in education are the levels of success and  failure in the education system, levels of disengagement from it and professional support for teachers working in it.

It is therefore good to see that the Education Amendment Bill ties educational achievement to the responsibilities of the Board of Trustees. The key role of governance bodies such as Boards of schools is to provide returns to the shareholders and increase the value of the operation. In schools this is less about money but very significantly about the success that is brought into the homes of tax payers who support the schools through their investments of time and work.

Issues of health, housing, youth justice, for instance, have their solution in education. Not that schools should attempt to directly address health issues directly other than by playing a proper educative role and perhaps working closely with health providers, nor should they attempt to address hunger which is a role of central government – Finland feeds everyone in schools, the US and UK means test eligibility for lunch while we  struggle to put on a little breakfast in the odd place.

Getting the focus clearly and back on achievement is perhaps the matter in this Education Amendment Bill that has the potential to make the biggest difference.

As for Charter Schools – New Zealand, building on its long experience with charters for all schools, might be able to show others that with focus they can become another way of working. Of course working differently has never been very popular in New Zealand – that is a problem which often hides a solution.

We need lots of educational red roses!

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Pathways-ED: Is "most" good enough?

 

Auckland as a city has an ambition to be the world’s most liveable city, it’s something of an organising principle for aligning the efforts, goals and direction of this newly created entity.

One of the outward signs of this is the publication of a “Scorecard” that rates progress on a number of measures. In education the measure is the number of students in schools that attain NCEA Level 1 Literacy and Numeracy.

There are a number of issues with this.

First, it takes no account of those who are not in the NCEA net. We know that 21% of 16 year olds have already left school and are most likely not to have even attempted NCEA. The failure to take account of cohort measures continues to mislead us in our assessment of progress. That is why I presume the Government settled on “all 18 year olds” as the group that would be measured for the Better Public Service Goals.

Secondly, the performance is very unevenly reflected in the various ways that results can be diced. Along ethnic lines there are still worrying differences between Pakeha students and those who are from Maori and Pacific Island communities. Auckland carries a responsibility for a very significant number of young Maori and Pacific students, a greater proportion than other cities and global measures do not reflect progress when it occurs when they are reported as one measure. That is why I presume the Government settled on the principle with its Better Public Service Goal –  85% of all 18 years old having NCEA Level 2 (or its equivalent) – and stating clearly that the target would apply to each and every group, Maori, Pacific, Special Needs, Migrant, Pakeha, Rural, City and so on.

Thirdly, the Scorecard is not bound by target or time; it simply reflects what is called progress. But progress to where and in what timeframe? How will we know when the education system is performing well and contributing what is expected of it to the world’s most liveable city goal? Knowing simply that we are “getting better” by small increments” has a feel good factor but in reality might be lagging behind the pace of improvement needed. That is why I presume the Government settled on establishing 2017 as the point at which the Better Public Service Goal should be met.

Now the explanation given in the Scorecard is that NCEA Level 1 Literacy and Numeracy is “the equivalent of School Certificate”. Well, it is certainly not. Whether you use the old SC (200/400 in your best four subjects including English) or the later version (single subject passes), NCEA Level 1 Literacy or Numeracy nowhere near equates to neither. No one is going to burst onto the world of work or into a career with that as their qualification.

The irony of all this is that the Auckland Council somewhat led the way in settling on NCEA Level 2 as a sensible goal. That is because it reflects what can be considered as a satisfactory measure of a level of success at school. But even NCEA Level 2 is meaningful only to the extent that it is used as a foundation on which a post-secondary school qualification is gained. Auckland Council “joined the dots” in its Auckland Plan and in its Economic Development Policy ahead of the Government settling on its Better Public Service Goals. And both were right to do so.

I have long promoted the notion of “joining the dots” – access to early childhood education, NCEA Level 2 and a postsecondary qualification. All here are essential markers on the pathway to a secure future. Hon Nick Smith, then Minister of Local Government, in the last days of his tenure of this position, criticised the Auckland Plan for having such goals. Soon after we were to see the Government similarly “join the dots” in the Better Public Service Goals.

A seamless progression along the pathways of education at the pace that sees all students hitting the NCEA Level 2 (or its equivalent) marker by about the age of 18 years will lead to an educated and knowledgeable city. And a city that is educated and knowledgeable is likely to become a very liveable city because it will have opportunities for employment, quality democratic processes, vibrant art and culture features with participation, leisure and sport opportunities. Above all it will have a performing economy with growth that will sustain now over a third of the population of New Zealand.

Where you place the target tends to be about where the arrow goes. Let’s stick to worthy targets.

 

 

Pathways-ED: Get out the compass, we know where we are going!

Stuart Middleton
EDTalkNZ
28 June 2012

 

Is peace is breaking out in education?

The Minister of Education has announced the formation of a “Minister’s Forum” that will address the key goal confirmed last Monday in the Better Public Services goals: that by 2017, 85% of all 18 year olds in New Zealand will have NCEA Level 2 or its equivalent.

The Forum contains possibly the widest representation of education ever put together in one room. All major groups associated with pre-school, primary and secondary schools are there. So too are various governance groups such as trustees. There are some tertiary people also.

Chaired by the Minister, this group might be the best chance yet to effect the step change that will take achievement for all students up to levels that are competitive internationally and which will see increased contribution into the wealth of New Zealand.

The goal is that all 18 year olds will get there, not just a cosy percentage but a challenging one, And not only the Asian and European students but also Maori, Pasifika and other priority groups – it is 85% of each of these groups. No longer can our disparate performance be hidden in global percentages.

This is all good news. Yes the timeframe seems tight but the goal is beyond dispute. It represents something of true north for us to stroke some direction into the system. And what a great time of the year to set our eyes on a new star.

I say our eyes because a step change of this kind requires effort from everybody.

The foundations of education are constructed in family and early childhood education, well quality early childhood education. (A further Better Public Service goal calls for 98% participation in quality ECE). This then must lead to a primary schooling that focuses clearly and effectively on the foundational skills of education. We can no longer afford the luxury of having young people present themselves to the secondary school after 8 years of primary education still carrying weaknesses in basic skill areas, especially literacy and numeracy.

In an education system that is keen to boast that we are a “world class system” it makes no sense that students can slip through untouched by the teaching of these skills.

Then the secondary school takes over and faces several issues – keeping students in education and keeping them moving forward. Actually keeping students in education is also becoming a concern for senior primary levels. Progressions from secondary on to further education and training are also a challenge. Why are the transitions such an issue in our system?

The challenge for the secondary schools is on a number of educational fronts and seems to me to be clustered around the following:

 

  •           the development of pathways that clearly relate to further education, training or employment;
  •           a return to increased opportunities for some learners to respond to the challenges of learning in applied settings;
  •           closer co-operation between schools and tertiary providers both in the interests of increasing pathway options but also to re-introduce the rich opportunities for technical, career, and vocational education that once available to young people.

 

It seems to me that the 85% challenge will require us to bring new success into the educational lives of about 10,000 students, But the bigger challenge is that if the 85% target is to apply equitably to groups of priority learners, over 3,500 of this group must be Maori and over 1,000 Pasifika.

People from overseas, when I talk about such matters, are amused not by the gravity of the challenge but rather by its scale. With numbers such as those above, surely, they argue, you can get in there and “knock it off”. They come from systems in which the same issues have almost reach a scale of despairing numbers. In the US, a student drops out of High School every 9 minutes and 1.4 million a year are excluded.

World class? Of course we can be. Not just in measures of overall achievement (that after all is simply a league table!) but in our capacity to show that we recognise inequality of outcome and were prepared to do something about. To not achieve or get close to this target would be shameful.

 

Pathways-ED: What's the matter with size?

Stuart Middleton
EDTalkNZ
18 May 2012

 

It is all a little surreal. I am up in Samoa for a couple of days finishing a task for the National University of Samoa and it happens again! The minute I leave New Zealand controversy breaks out.

This time the issue clusters around the announcement that teacher/pupil ratios are to rise a little. This is no surprise when just several weeks ago the Treasury put forward the argument that if we wished to really address teacher quality, one way of doing this would be to squeeze the ratios up a little, create uncommitted education funds and spend it on giving teachers the opportunity to develop new skills, to hone up the skills that they had and to generally contribute to that one thing we know really makes a difference to student achievement – teacher quality.

The announcement yesterday by Minister Parata did make an effort to emphasise that the money saved is not lost to education in the way that, say, the MFAT cuts money seems simply to be vacuumed up into the consolidated fund. In this respect education (and health) is being treated more favourably.

And this puts teacher and educators into a rather delicate corner because there is only a tenuous link between teacher/student ratios and class size. Or put more starkly, the increase in the ratios will not automatically mean that all classes will be larger. Schools will continue to make professional decisions about the optimal size for classes of different kinds. Reducing class sizes is clearly not a mechanism for school improvement.

I was an English teacher so I always got to teach classes that were as large as the school could manage. On the other hand some teachers in some subjects had rather fewer students. In primary schools this sort of manipulation is more difficult but perhaps high decile schools can justifiably have larger classes than low decile schools simply because the needs of the students are so dramatically different. This would be thwarted because of the way resources are allocated and there is little capability to transfer between schools. Imagine the fuss if differential ratios based on deciles was to be proposed.

The real difficulty is that the business model that school function with is not very functional. Having so much of the teacher resource tied up, and I mean tied up, in an inflexible staffing structure and delivered as FTEs leaves schools with little room to move. That is why the standardisation of the ratios between Years 2 to 8 and Years 11 to 13 seems to me to be an excellent move. The first signs of flexibility are creeping in.

Those who write the press releases for the Minister may have been a little careless in describing the money saved as “extra” – some of it seems to be new but some is really a reallocation. And how long now have we known that if we wish to achieve different results we will need to behave differently, we will have to use resources differently.

I think that the biggest risk in all this is that achievement might not go up. This would then create a rather traditional response from teacher organisations of “we told you so” when it might actually mean that the indicators are still heading south but more slowly. It is imperative now that we get into reporting progress in meaningful and honest ways and that means cohort reporting. What is happening to each group of students. That is the test.

So the unique student identifier has now become urgent and critical. I sometimes joke that an IRD Number should be tattooed, discretely of course but in a place able to be accessed without embarrassment, to help us achieve this but this idea has not gained ground. I believe that the privacy lobby is still arguing about the invasive nature of such identifiers. Meanwhile we pay a heavy price in education through simply not being able to produce robust statics on how we are going.

Then there is the impact of truancy on class size. If 29,000 students are on average away from school each day (these are official figures) then the impact on class size must have been significant. We will have to be vigilant that class sizes do not balloon as we get on top of truancy.

Also, if we tackle the NEETs issue with vigour and succeed there could be a further 20,000 students at school. Solving the issues of disengagement and educational failure is a sure way to increase the number of teachers in schools!

This is a vexed issue. Oh, I forgot there are also the teen parents (25,000 I was told). Of course there is some double counting in all these figures. A side issue is that a teen Mum only has an entitlement until age 18 years. This is something that is an abrogation of human rights and applies only to them and, seemingly, to First XV aspirants in Auckland schools!

The thing that will silence the argument about class size will be a clear improvement in achievement. That is the challenge and that is why we go teaching in the first place.

 

 

Talk-ED: It's not working!

Stuart Middleton
EdTalkNZ
12 March 2012

I got into a discussion about youth unemployment recently with an interesting group of people. There was strong agreement that there was an issue, if not a crisis.

I suggested that we not only had the issue of youth unemployment but also an issue of unemployable youth. We are creating the confluence of two weather systems that will create a storm of Wahine proportions as the deep depression of youth unemployment meets the deep depression of unemployable youth to create dangerous waters and cyclonic winds that will in all probability rip the social fabric.

The issue of youth unemployment in New Zealand is exacerbated by a number of factors.

First, New Zealand has one of the highest proportions of youth workers aged 15-24 years in the labour force. Consequently when things turn tough we see a higher proportion of youth affected negatively. Nearly half of New Zealand’s unemployed is made up of this younger age group. Furthermore this youthful group splits into two clearly distinct groups – one is skilled and qualified while the other is disengaged from education and training and subsequently has little prospect of work.  No amount of improvement in the economy will address the issue of this latter group.

These two groups split along ethnic lines and hence the connection between this first exacerbating factor and the second. With the second group having such large representation of Maori and Pasifika youth the performance of these groups in the education system is critical.

NZQA has recently published the results of the 2008 Year 11 cohort in the NCEA as this group went through the senior school what was their level of achievement. This is a much more honest reporting than any that is based on the percentage of Year levels achieving since the cumulative percentages based on percentages inflates the result considerably. Now remember that this is the Year 11.

Remember too that this cohort is the group that actually made it to Year 11. So the cohort will be around 80% of the group that set out in education. And where numbers of Maori and Pacific students are higher the cohort will reflect an even smaller percentage of the actual cohort.

So with that in mind, this is the picture of real achievement:

In Year 11 students achieve in NCEA as follows:

NCEA L1 achieved…          … in Year 11          …In Year 12           ….in Year 13                         

NZ European                         72%                       81%                        81%                

Asian                                       70%                       80%                        81%                

Maori                                        44%                       57%                        59%                

Pacific                                      44%                       68%                        71%                

NCEA Level 2 has emerged as the level which all students should achieve prior to leaving school so as to have a good basis for further education and training. So what are the actual figures for the achievement of Level 2 by the end of Year 13?

NZ European                           68%                                                                                

Asian                                       74%               

Maori                                         43%

Pacific                                       58%

So even this basic measure of completing secondary school with the requisite achievement for further success is a cause for concern and those figures has in it a very clear message about youth unemployment.

Urgency must be brought to relating more closely the curriculum of the senior secondary school to the requirements of employment and to pathways that lead seamlessly from school into jobs and into further education and training. Each sector has a contribution to make to this. We will never solve all of the issues of youth unemployment if we cannot plug the flow of unemployable into the 15-24 year old group.

“Unemployment” should be a category for those who can work and want to work but who cannot get a job. Using it as a bucket category which in addition includes those who are unemployable and those who are in some form of social welfare trap, or both, leads to fuzzy responses that miss their mark.

What we do know is that the ethnicity of the demographics tells us that addressing this is urgent. A storm is brewing and like El Nino and La Nina they will not go away.

 

Talk-ED: A new year, a new response?

 

Stuart Middleton
EdTalkNZ
23 January 2012

It’s that time again when all over the country students set off to start another calendar year of schooling, education and training. Some of those students will be the first batch of the 30,000 or so who will start school for the first time having reached that magic day, their fifth birthday. What a wonderful thing it is that we retain this tradition rather than do the bulk lot thing that they do in other systems (the Feb or Sept start).

The social contract is clear. Students are required to attend school regularly starting at the appropriate age, do what is asked of them, develop appropriate social behaviours and wear correct uniform. For their part, schools are required to teach a specific curriculum to a set of specific standards. If each party meets its obligations a young person should be able to face a secure future with knowledge, skills and aspirations that will take them into adulthood and able to earn a family sustaining age.

Well, that is all very well and good in theory. Increasingly schooling in schools is not enough and a postsecondary qualification is essential. So that brings into play another set of complexities – tertiary education. The young one’s starting school do not realise the extent to which that will present challenges that they are not often able to control.

So all of these little ones and their bigger brothers and sisters setting off to school at the moment in their new polo shirts of primary colours and sun hats big enough to camp under, face a treacherous pathway ahead. Actually they would have walked to school once upon a time but now an armoured division of SUVs will see them safely to school in many suburbs while in others parents will walk to school with them.

Do they know what their chances are?

I did a little study – what a real statistician would call a quick and dirty job – of a cohort of 100 New Zealand babies, right numbers of different ethnicities and so on, and applied what we know to be the success/failure trajectories of each group. I concluded that of those 100 babies born last year, only 29 would achieve a postsecondary qualification on the current performance of the education system, 71 would not. And I do not mean a degree qualification. I mean anything from a postsecondary certificate up. So about one in three will reach the minimum level of qualifications required.

That aligns with what we know to be the picture of disengagement and I do not see evidence that suggests that there is a trend of improvement. The increase in disengagement is stubbornly resistant to the efforts of educators.

One reason is that the demographics are working against us – the groups of students we teach well and to internationally stunning levels are getting smaller while the groups that struggle (and have for longer than we care to admit) are getting bigger.

Add to that the steady placement of vocational education options at increasingly older entry levels along with a blind belief that the comprehensive secondary school might meet the needs of all students (it never has in the past why should it now?) and that figure of 29% successfully competing a postsecondary qualification looks to be a stretch in 30 or 40 years.

Change in the education system is urgently needed and that is up to the grown ups not the little ones. So here is an agenda for professional concerns in 2012:

First, all jurisdictions want accountability one way or another so get over it and move on. If National Standards are right then change them but work constructively in the system rather than continue to bamboozle the community by staunchly rejecting standards – well that is how it seems to an outsider.

Secondly, seriously question whether we have been pulling the wool over the community’s eyes on the question of what schools can actually do. Less is more in curriculum design so sorting out what matters and doing that will make all the other stuff easy to do. If someone can read well they can do anything. Equitable access to technology is more important than more programmes (admit it, you got a gadget for Xmas and gave it to your grandchild to show you how to get it going).

Let’s be adamant about what schools can do and then ensure that we do that stuff so well that each and every student will receive a brilliant start in life through education.

Thirdly, get purpose into the lives of young people at school. Why they are there is the most important factor – if I ask a child in school the question “Why are you doing that?” and they cannot answer I seriously question the quality of the teaching.

Related to this is that focus on the end game of education. Forty years ago when everything seemed to be working and most people were in fact working, a central goal of education was to equip people to work. Is that such a bad thing? Sanitising education so that it is not tainted by vocational goals is crazy. Actually the universities know this and are blatantly vocational under the guise of being the critics and conscious of other people.

Having a strong focus on employability in real jobs need not in any way jeopardise the attainment of a liberal education which is in fact one which liberates and what could be more liberating to those imprisoned by educational failure to have such a quality education?

None of this seems very difficult really. It is just that it is urgent! Those little fellows starting the journey over the next 10 days or so need to be assured that it is worthwhile. The results in the school success statistics in 2025 will not be some disembodied set of figures, they will in fact be each and every one of these little ones.