Tag Archive for secondary

Facing the New World Cautiously: Hobsonville and NCEA

Stuart Middleton

EDTalkNZ

1 December 2015

There was a rather troubling article in the weekend papers. It was about the “bold” move of Hobsonville Point Secondary School to do away with NCEA Level 1.

Now let’s be clear, this school is clearly setting a high standard in its commitment to the new pedagogy and in its comfort in giving to students a higher degree of responsibility for their learning. It is innovative in its use of space and in all respects seems to be pushing the direction of secondary education towards a much more positive set of outcomes than is typical. So, all power to their bow for this.

If I could be a little more mischievous. I read reports are that a group of parents have removed their children from this school to send then to such schools Conventional College and the Examination Excellence Academy. This encourages me to think that the HPSS is headed in a positive direction. When you see who is against them you have to want to support them!

But I believe that their desire to jettison NCEA Level 1 is based on some misunderstandings about NCEA and is to misjudge its usefulness in supporting the very things that HPSS wishes to emphasise.

For a start, NCEA is not about examinations. This could have been the journalist speaking but the article claimed in support of the move that this would free students from the pressure of examinations. The tragedy of NCEA is that schools have had great difficulty in understanding the freedom that NCEA offers, assessment by examination is not essential and a whole array of assessment techniques can be brought into play – especially at Level 1.

Secondly, NCEA is not in any shape or form related to either time served or age reached. There is no connection in regulation or law between Year 11 and NCEA Level 1, Year 12 and NCEA Level 2, or Year 13 and NCEA Level 3. Furthermore, there is no requirement that assessments be restricted to one level at a time. For a school aiming to liberate the curriculum I cannot think of a more ideal assessment framework. For a school aiming to devolve power to students I cannot see a more motivating assessment framework that allows for assessment at any time and at multiple levels.

 

Could the school not have chosen simply to free up the curriculum with NCEA being available for students to nominate the points and levels at which they wish their progress to be assessed? This could start in Year 8 with no problems.

Well, the argument might run, what would you do in the more senior years if the students have attained earlier than Year 13 their New Zealand “school qualification”? The answer to that is: do what a school qualification intends, use it as a staging post for getting on with non-school / postsecondary qualifications. This would allow students to lay a sound basis for future careers while they can still access education at no cost to the parents.

Each level of the education has a role to play – primary lays down the base of essential foundation skills, secondary hones those skills into sets of discipline related pathways into careers and employment while tertiary delivers the technical skills required to start and continue in those careers.

Nobody in education plays the role of being the be-all-and-end-all to a young person’s journey through the system – we all play only a part. Using the flexibility that NCEA was designed to bring into the system is a key.

One day NZQA will deliver (and it will!) on its promise (as outlined by CE Karen Poutasi in her SPANZ 2013 speech) to make available “assessment to anyone, anywhere, anytime, online and on demand.” We need schools such as Hobsonville Point Secondary School to start showing us the way forward towards this new world.

There’s more than one way to reach the stars!

Rather than let off a few sky rockets on yet another silly day we remember, hard on the heels of that even sillier day called Halloween, I thought I would throw a few ideas up in the air as we head towards the end of the year. These are called game-changers. They would lift educational performance in New Zealand. We have known most of these for a long time but other things get in the way. On Thursday I will give a complementary list of show-stoppers.

Principals of secondary schools are welcome to use these lists as they put the final touches to their prize-giving addresses.

The “Game Changers” List

1. Access to early childhood education

It astounds me that in this rich country we still have uneven distribution of opportunity for early childhood education. I do not need to repeat the evidence, it is over whelming. And the lack of equity in the area is hidden by two factors – quirky gatherings of information about actual participation (likely to be lower than reported) and the evening out of statistics into regional and national figures.

A stark statistic: In the Tamaki suburb in Auckland there are 7,000 youngsters under the age of five and there are 2,000early childhood education places.

A quick but excellent fix: In areas of low participation, add an early childhood facility to each primary school – same Board, same management, shared outdoor facilities, great savings. Best of all, it would be goodbye to the entangling bureaucracy that surrounds the development of conventional centres.

2 Greater attention to basic skills in primary schools

I might be naïve but it is bizarre that in the country that led the world not only in reading performance but also in the teaching of reading that so many children fail to reach a safe standard in the eight years of primary schooling. The same can be said of mathematics (sometimes called numeracy). Add to the list the development of knowledge, social skills, preparedness for further education, and exposure to arts and practical skills all in a context of new technologies and you would have not only an interesting programme but one which didn’t place so many students on a trajectory of failure.

A stark fact: Students show a decline in learning in key areas between Year 4 and Year 8.

A quick but excellent fix: Demand that primary schools do less but that they do it to higher standards. The foundation skills are taught in primary schools. Isn’t it ironic that the term “foundation skills” has been transferred to the first several years of post-secondary education and training for those who have failed to accrue such skills and this is clearly too late.

3. See a clear distinction between junior and senior secondary schools.

Education systems that we admire and would wish to emulate invariably have a clear distinction between what is in New Zealand Year 10 and Year 11. The first two years of high school are years of finishing off the processes started in primary school and the preparation for discipline focussed study that is in a context of future employment. Years 11 and 13 in these overseas systems are clearly differentiated with the availability of clear vocational technical opportunities emerging to complement the university track (which is working well in New Zealand). In other words, young students have choices about their futures.

Another shared feature is that at that age students are credited with much greater maturity but also supported to a much greater degree. The style and organisation of schooling is more akin to a tertiary institution than to the primary schools from which the secondary schools evolved.

A stark statistic: By age 16 years 21% of 16 year olds have dropped out of New Zealand schooling system.

A quick but excellent fix:  Sorry folks, but there isn’t one. This area is where the most comprehensive reforms are needed. Put simply, apart from the track to university, the New Zealand senior secondary school is broken. That style of education no longer suits too many of our young people. Don’t despair – we share this with our sibling systems in Australia, the United States, the UK and most of Canada. WE need to look elsewhere for evidence of what works and then craft our own responses for our particular circumstances.

4 Cement the output of graduates from tertiary education to employment.

There needs to be a clear line of sight between tertiary programmes and employment. I know that the universities resist any such notion – I have been told by those who know that such a connection is not helpful – “We do not train people, we educate them.” Just think of it, all those untrained doctors, ophthalmologists, engineers, lawyers – what rubbish such a claim is.  And in light of the unrelenting marketing of universities as the place to secure a future, to get high earning powered positions it is simply not sense.

Tertiary education is expensive both for the taxpayer and for the students who are the sons and daughters of taxpayers. They have a right to know that their investment in education at a tertiary level be it at a university, an ITP, a PTE a Wananga or wherever will lead to a job. If a degree in business has prepared you to look after the valet parking desk at the airport (as was a case I came across recently) then it can only be concluded that the programme offered little in the way of access.

A stark statistic:  About one half of those who start a post-secondary qualification actually complete it.

A quick but excellent fix:  it seems as if we are drifting towards a situation where tertiary providers are to be held accountable for the progress into employment of their graduates. If this were applied to all levels and types of tertiary education it might well be a good thing. Of course it would have to be first accepted that a key purpose of post-secondary education and training is to get the appropriate job. This might also require a better connection between demand and supply in the labour market. Consideration of these a matters need to be sped up.

Pathways-ED: Relationships up against a wall

Stuart Middleton
EDTalkNZ
1 August 2012

 

It was not done lightly when they named the parts of Berlin after the Second World War that had come to be considered as exclusive property of this super power or that super power, “sectors”. The Americans had the American Sector and the Russians theirs. Movement between the two was restricted by that ghastly wall and Checkpoint Charlie became synonymous with freedom of access.

They had, after all, the lessons to be learnt from education where sectors had similarly become territory won and territory to be defended. The No-man’s Land was territory to dispute and little consideration was given to what is best for the citizen / students.

I was astounded that recently a one-day seminar on relationships between sectors with top presenters was offered by a reputable Australian organisation, ATEM, but was able to attract only 7 registrations from throughout Australia – well, it might have been six because I had registered.

Issues related to educational sectors and to relationships between them in Australia seemed to me to be an issue that demands attention. Especially in the tertiary area where chickens hatched in the late 1980s have all the appearance of coming home to roost. In New Zealand they also demand attention.

Relationships between higher education, further education, vocational education, academic education are simply beyond resolution by considering them each to belong to a “tertiary sector”. And just as the spoils of war are commemorated and held to be holy long after the fighting stops, much of the sector debate in education is based on the spoils of past wars and the now somewhat jingoist slogans of the factions – We are academic, protect the standard!  We are vocational , they need us to dig for victory! We are primary, we teach people! We are secondary, we teach subjects to people!

It is all nostalgia for a past age when education systems had the appearance of working. Let’s face the realities of peacetime.

The transitions between sectors has become dysfunctional with too many students successfully navigating through the checkpoints which have become chokepoints. The old academic / vocation distinction no longer applies. Education systems in Anglophone countries are characterised by unprecedented rates of failure and dropouts – casualties of this war. These countries all share the dilemma of skill shortages and increasing youth unemployment.

Lets calmly look at these sectors. Early childhood education is critical to later success in education and while we boast of pretty good national levels of access, the disparity of access between certain groups in the community is a less happy picture. A solution would be to subsume the ECE sector into the primary sector thus increasing the ease of access without increasing the need to escalate governance and capital works costs. Australia in ahead of New Zealand in halving the K Level entry group but this seems to be more of a Level 0 for primary than a dedicated pre-school effort. And one year is too short.

All systems know the importance of the primary, elementary part of the education system. The issue with this sector is that it is not encouraged other than through mechanisms of name and shame to have a successful but more narrow focus on the teaching of basic skills. I am not suggesting that we return to the old inspection when an Inspector of Schools would arrive at a school to hear the students read to ascertain whether Standard 4 or 5 or 6 had been achieved. But clear statements about exit levels would help with the critical platform that is primary education.

Where the primary sector has identity issues is at the upper end when it seems to grapple with the dilemma of being like a primary school but wanting to be like a secondary school. The solution is clear, create a new sector, Years 7-10, and let them get on with the job of making a successful transition from primary into the discipline-based secondary style programme. Introductory work on real pathways would replace the current work that is reduced to dabbling by the lack of clear pathways with continuity into post-primary education and training.

This would mean taking the senior secondary school out of the “school” sector and placing it in the “tertiary” sector. Having reached Year 11 students would have multiple pathways for further education and training which would be both, and simultaneously, academic and vocational. The different institutions of the senior secondary school, the university, the ITPs, Wanānga, PTEs ITOs and so on would then have a distinctive contribution to make to providing appropriate pathways, rich in their diversity, rewarding in their outcomes and  connected to the real world of family sustaining incomes, of employment and of continued learning.

A brief flypast over the battlefield cannot do justice to a complex issue but the general point is clear. Our current sectors have developed by accident not design, they have resulted in the development of distinctive features (unions, qualifications, sites etc) that are more intended to distinguish territory than they are based on what we know about learning and young people.

I would love to have got together with those six people who shared my enthusiasm for starting the conversation about sectors and the relationships between them. Who knows, it might have led to change somewhere ahead of us. One day the public will want to push the walls over. How much better it would be if we could do it before contempt for institutionalised education reaches that level?

 

Talk-ED: A “snapshot” view of a secondary / postsecondary interface programme in America

 

Guest blogger, Colleen Young, Administrator, Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways, joins us today.

 

The “one-size-fits-all” education system is tearing our secondary student body apart.  Granted, for some students the academic route is working, but for an increasing number of students in the English speaking countries, senior school students are becoming bored with the curriculum on offer, experiencing little educational success and they are very likely to fail within the current system. Educational policy-makers are constantly searching for answers. 

Recently I visited two Early College High Schools in the United States. This is a new form of schooling founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aimed at improving student success for minority students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.  It was refreshing to see re-engaged students who knew their future career pathways and how they were going to get there. In one of the schools, two Grade 10 (Year 11) students took me on tour.  They were so proud of their school.  They loved their integrated secondary/postsecondary programme and when they introduced me to their teachers; it was obvious that they had formed quality relationships with them.  So, what did these schools have in common and why were both schools achieving such excellent educational outcomes for the students?

For a start, like the Tertiary High School, based at Manukau Institute of Technology, for Year 11-Year 13 students, both schools are situated on campus.  There are no tuition or book costs for up to five years. Studying on site at the College eases the students into the new postsecondary environment and makes for a smooth transition.

In addition, the funding of the institutions differed from a traditional school. Both schools were initially, (and one of them still is) funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which gave the schools complete autonomy and removed them from the state system.  Fierce marketing done by each of the schools allowed prospective students and their families to understand the Early College High School concept. The target audience is similar to the Tertiary High School where students may apply who come from lower socioeconomic, low income families, underrepresented groups and who are possibly first generations, college going students. 

Demand for places always exceeded supply.  Students who were lucky enough to gain a place in one of these schools are able to learn in a small school between 100 and 200 students.  As a result these students are able to receive more one-on-one academic and social support. Teachers work individually with students to remove any barriers they may be facing that may be inhibiting their educational success. Knowing some students miss out on a place may mean the students valued their place more than the place they had in their previous school.  This appeared to be the case as from what I saw wandering around the classrooms the students appeared to be working hard and enjoying their learning experience.  Staff that I spoke to said they had very few behavioural problems.

To conclude, there appear to be four differences in these two schools in comparison to the traditional school model.   These are:  the way a school is funded in terms of staffing and resources, the autonomy for decision making, the creation of a collaborative and flexible integrated programme between the two institutions which is relevant, interesting, challenging and rigorous for the students; and a small school which in turn allows for smaller class sizes therefore providing more time for individual teacher and student interaction.

The question remains:  Can our senior secondary schools change the way the programmes are developed and delivered to the senior students which in turn would mean increasing the collaboration between secondary and tertiary institutions?  In addition, could the policies be adapted so that funding can follow the student?  If so, then more students at risk of failing in our traditional school system could be given access to a variety of career options and opportunities in order to create a brighter and happier future for them.