Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stop Stealing Dreams - Seth Godin








A good friend sent me this manifesto on education written by Seth Godin. It is worth a read. It is rather long but written in a very assessable style.


 Message from Seth:

"Feel free to read and share. But don’t edit or charge for it.
If you’d like the other editions, including a handy PDF on-screen edition, click here.
 'if you don’t underestimate me, I won’t underestimate you'
Bob Dylan
 Dedicated to every teacher who cares enough to change the system, and to every student brave enough to stand up and speak up"

www.stopstealingdreams.com is ready to read and share

"What do you think we ought to do about education?"
My readers ask me that question more than just about any other. So here's my question back: What is school for? (Click the link to get to the free download).
I've just published a 30,000 word manifesto, totally free to read, share, translate, print and, most of all, use to start an essential conversation. It took a lot to get it to you, and I'm encouraging you to take a few minutes to check it out. After you read it, perhaps you'll write one of your own.
This is an experiment in firestarting--I'm hoping that removing friction from the sharing of this idea will help it spread.

If you're interested in the topic (and I hope you are), please tweet or like the project page, download the files, post mirror copies on your own blog and if you can, email them to every teacher, parent and citizen who should be part of the discussion about what we do with our kids all day (and why). If just a fraction of this blog's readers shared it with their address book, we'd reach a lot of people.
If you get a chance, visit the page and give a shoutout to a teacher that's made a difference to you or your kids.

 Ultimately, our future belongs to a generation that decides to be passionate about learning  and great teachers are the foundation for that

The economy has changed, probably forever.

School hasn't.

School was invented to create a constant stream of compliant factory workers to the growing businesses of the 1900s. It continues to do an excellent job at achieving this goal, but it's not a goal we need to achieve any longer.

In this 30,000 word manifesto, I imagine a different set of goals and start (I hope) a discussion about how we can reach them. One thing is certain: if we keep doing what we've been doing, we're going to keep getting what we've been getting.

Our kids are too important to sacrifice to the status quo.

Printable copy of manifesto

Try this is above not working

Friday, February 24, 2012

Time for some new thinking.

This view  from space  makes it clear the world is an interconnected environment -  a world increasingly being placed at risk by politicians who place human greed at the centre.

I am not much involved in day to day working in schools these days and have become more concerned than ever about the direction education is taking - or being taken by the ideology of the current government.

There is no doubt education does need to change to improve the life chances of all students. This however will not be achieved by looking back to the past for answers  as with the present  governments  imposition of simplistic National Standards, nor their relying on privatisation of education through Charter Schools

Currently schools  seem to have no choice but to comply with the government's requirements and as a result principals are becoming bogged down with assessing progress ( in narrow range of learning areas)  and in  proving 'added value' to their political masters. Principals are increasingly being seen as educational accountants not professional leaders.

This is all very sad as what is really required is for schools to evolve  a more holistic personalised approach to learning - one that helps all students develop their own unique gifts and talents. The opportunity provide by  the 2007 National Curriculum to develop a learning centred style of teaching, in line with the innate learning dispositions of  learners,  is being  unfortunately sidelined. The 2007 curriculum provided a  relief from all the strands,level  and learning objective nonsense of the earlier technocratic N Z National Curriculum.

Any real change in education  will have to wait for new political leadership but so far the Labour Opposition has been silent on the issue  of developing a new vision for our country.Let's hope they come up with something better than the failed reactionary  ideas of the current government.

Future orientated politicians need to see education  as a vital part of developing a new consciousness as  current thinking is leading the world into an unsustainable position. Current 'right wing  market forces' ideology , with its faith in the 'invisible hand' of the market and the self interest of those who have been successful financially,  is running out of ideas. There was never any level 'playing fields' and the  'trickle down' economy was a myth.

Without a change of direction  things can only get worse - the rich will get richer and the poor poorer ( creating in the process the so called school 'achievement gap'). .The world is  increasingly becoming economically, socially and ecologically unsustainable. We face an unprecedented spectre of global breakdown - economic, social as well as ecological.

As Einstein once said that we cannot solve the significant problems we face at the same level of thinking at which we were when we created the problems yet this is exactly what the current government is doing. Profit and growth at the cost of social stability  and environmental despoliation cannot be the answer. The current distribution of wealth is unsustainable. The cult of  competition,efficiency and rationality is creating problems that are not easily measured.

A decade into new millennium we can no longer ignore the negative current trends that are building up to a  unsustainable scenario.

We need a political party that questions current values  and  provides the leadership needed to develop a new world view,  new values , new aspirations and new  priorities to replace current  individualistic destructive thinking.

We need a political  party that has the courage to lead us into a new sustainable era, one we all can benefit from, not just the rich and powerful

Defining a new direction is a challenging but not an impossible  task as increasingly people are becoming disenchanted with current solutions.

Rather than wealth and power for a few  we need to create communities we can all feel part of and contribute to; and one based on living in  a sustainable environment  To do this we need  the development of a new  creative image of being human - a move towards a caring 'we' rather than a selfish 'me' world.

What is needed is to appreciate the interconnection of all things -  an ecological mindset. And this is where education has an important role to play if we are to reject the  current materialistic and fragmented concept of the world that had its genesis in the  Industrial Age. The new education need to be based on the belief at all students have gifts to develop rather than the current achievement based, sorting out,  pass/fail standards ideology that schools are being pushed into.

Schools could lead this new thinking - in the early years this holistic humanist education is already in place but within a few years of current schooling such integrated personalised learning is replaced by a fragmented learning that all but ignores the talents of individual children  resulting in too many students leaving with the bitter taste of failure.

Margaret   Mead  wrote  'never doubt the power of a small group of people to change the world.  Nothing else has'.

When people change their consciousness they have the power to do just this.

People are losing faith in the myth of the market.

Victor  Havel the then president of Czechoslovakia said , 'Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness nothing will change for the better...and the catastrophe towards which the world is headed - the ecological, social, demographic, or general breakdown of civilisation - will be unavoidable.'

The Green party is well on the way.

The Labour Party has this opportunity to create this new consciousness

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kelvin was right!

By Kelvin Smythe
The government administrative moves mooted this morning

The government has made its move to establish a chain of charter schools to push the privatisation of education as a means to weaken the teacher unions, to push the neo-liberal ideology, to narrow and industrialise teaching, to have education for profit, to tie New Zealand to global corporations, to demean public schooling, to bureaucratise schooling, to de-professionalise the school work force, to reduce parent voice, and to increase bureaucratic and centralised control of schools.

All this, even though New Zealand’s system is the most successful in the world and, as part of that, doing best with children from less well off families.

This is a very quick response because I am working on some other postings and I have a few health issues to face.

Before the election I wrote in a posting (‘Jackboots in the classroom’):

‘In New Zealand, after the election, I predict a dramatic ramping up of the bureaucratisation of education, this will have the effect of entrenching political control of what happens in classrooms to the most minor of details. As we know, all the ‘services’ presently available to schools are already bureaucratised, from academic and professional development services right down to RTLBs, or in the process of being so.  I anticipate that after the election, Public-Private-Partnerships will have quite an impact on how schools are viewed, but this will be small beer compared with what I believe will be a major reorganisation of the administration of schools to remove the last vestiges of Tomorrow’s Schools. It will be done, of course, in the name of efficiency but the real purpose will be control for revenge, ideological, and financial purposes. I anticipate the closing of many smaller schools and the ones remaining being clustered under a larger school with a supra-board of control, sometimes with a non-education person in control, leaving individual schools with only nominal powers. Similar structures will be put in place in cities and provincial towns.’

And some months before that in a posting (‘Horizons, whirlpools, Sartrean secrets John Hattie and other symptoms of the continuing tragedy’) in which I exposed John Hattie for what he was, I commented on his criticism of the New Zealand system as being one of a thousand flowers:

‘Hattie’s justification, it seems, is that because schools have been allowed to develop their own standards this has resulted in school system of a thousand flowers which, according to him, is a bad thing. We need national standards and its national moderation, says Hattie, to bring things together. So we have the apparently contradictory argument being advanced that the way to avoid one-size-fits-all is to move from a system of many flowers to one of greater uniformity through moderated national standards.  This variety of flowers, his concern about this untidiness, is Hattie’s main justification for national standards.’

The reorganisation mooted this morning by Hekia Parata is mainly intended to allow private providers to take over the running of schools, particularly new schools. These providers will reduce community control, sometimes have non-professional heads and administrators, be bulk funded, have a form of voucher system, not be subject to union agreed conditions of employment, be free to set the full curriculum aside, and gain extra resources from the private sector for government tax breaks. This is the task Lesley Longstone has been working on since her appointment in July.

As for the organisation of schools in clusters and their super-boards, these organisations will eventually be run by non-professional administrators. Primary schools, their principals, parents, boards of trustees will have limitations on their roles related to property and appointments, and curriculum organisation. The greater bureaucratisation of the system will mean that policy and curriculum change could happen at a tick of a clock and contrary voices easily stifled.

The School Trustees Association will, of course, naively say it has some organisational changes in mind too, and the government will say, good, so do we – but the point is that the changes in mind will be very different, and guess whose are going to prevail.

Lorraine Kerr will, once again, of course, take a policy position without genuine consultation with boards and communities.

And that will be the key to the government prevailing: keeping well away from communities, boards, and parents having a genuine say

I expect the NZEI and the NZPF to put a good fight; as well, NZEI had a meeting with the PPTA the other day – I hope the prospect of bulk funding serves to draw the organisations together.

This is a big one, a big one the government has no mandate for – start now with your boards and communities – make your communications principled, talk about participatory democracy, about education and the grassroots, and this being, of all times, no time for distractions from teaching and learning

If you haven't completed this survey do so now -and share widely.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lessons from a nursing degree course

My daughter has decided to undertake a three year nursing degree course. Last week I attended an introductory  night for parents and family of those undertaking the  degree to learn about what it will involve for the students.

I was curious to learn about the course  but came away very impressed with the evening  thinking schools might have a lot to learn from those who have designed the course. Evidently it is a newly designed course and differs considerably from earlier years.

The main difference will be the amount of time the student nurses will spend doing practical work in hospital wards. Last year students only visited the hospital towards the end of the first year.

Along with those training to be teachers it seems nursing had become more theoretical and academic and so the realisation that nurses need to link their studies to the reality of nursing from the start is a good move. Once , I believe, nursing training was even based at the hospitals.

The second aspect that caught my attention was that, rather than doing stand alone  courses in the various aspects of nursing ( comparable to the subject areas in a secondary school), such aspects, such as cultural studies, would be infused the into contextual studies. To me that seemed very sensible.

The various tutors then explained their specialist roles in the programme.

During a break for nibbles and a drink and a time to look around the facilities students were asked to write any questions they had on a whiteboards for tutors to answer - which several did. Other than clarifying various queries the main point the tutors made was for students never to leave any session with an unanswered question on their mind - that questioning was a vitally important aspect of learning.  Students also learned that specialist areas of learning would be personalised to their needs as much as possible but that all would cover basic core content.

It was also reinforced that students would need the support of their families to gain success and that as family members we should do our best to support them.

The most impressive part of the introductory meeting , and the one school could learn the most from is how the tutor/mentor  groups were formed.

Tutors stood up and then the students straight from secondary schools were asked to share themselves equally  with the tutors. Then those with other degrees were asked to do the same, along with older students coming back to beginning a career and, finally, younger students who had done a preliminary year completing a course on general study skills.

The tutors explained that the reason for this heterogeneous grouping had important and well researched benefits. Such groups, it was said,  learn better by interacting with the  range of  members than if they were grouped by similarities.

Educational research into secondary  schools ability grouping reinforces this point. Research studied the achievement gap between those using traditional ability grouping/tracking/streaming with  students taught in mixed ability groups. Research showed that ability grouping widens the achievement gap.

Unfortunately schools seem to be moving away from such insights  due to the pressure to ensure achievement.

Primary schools have long practiced ability grouping in literacy and numeracy and some now are returning to setting children across classes. All this does is make teaching easier for the teachers but at a cost for learners in the groups with lesser ability - which research shows is more linked to student socio-economic background and cultural differences. This creates what some call the 'Mathew Effect' - 'the rich get richer  and the poor get poorer' - in schools lower ability groups learn less and develop a negative attitude towards learning

The main problem with such ability grouping, along with fragmented subject teaching, is that the natural links between learning areas are lost that are present in contextual learning. Another concern is that ability grouped students are not able to make use of the expertise or experience of others. Even helping peers who don't quite understand is of benefit to the helping students.

So it seems to me that the training nurses were to get several benefits

A greater emphasis on reality based learning.

The importance of family  support.

Traditional  learning areas, in the past taught separately, were now to be integrated by means of authentic contexts -and personalised where possible to suit individual students.

Students working in undifferentiated groups are able to learn from each other rather than being limited to those of similar ability or experience.

A lucky group of students.

Lots of  lessons for fragmented secondary schools and ability ridden primary schools.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Seven mythsabout teaching - common sense to me !

Seven myths about learning  from an American source - common sense to insightful New Zealand teachers?

Many people — educators included — still cling to some of these misconceptions about learning because they base what they think on their own experiences in school, ignoring what 21st century science and experience are revealing.

Here are seven of the biggest myths about learning that, unfortunately, guide the way that many schools are organized in this era of standardized test-based public school reform.

Basic Facts Come Before Deep Learning

This one translates roughly as, “Students must do the boring stuff before they can do the interesting stuff.” Or, “Students must memorize before they can be allowed to think.” In truth, students are most likely to achieve long-term mastery of basic facts in the context of engaging, student-directed learning.

Rigorous Education Means a Teacher Talking

Teachers have knowledge to impart, but durable learning is more likely when students talk, create, and integrate knowledge into meaningful projects. The art of a teacher is to construct ways for students to discover.

Covering It Means Teaching It

Teachers are often seduced by the idea that if they talk about a concept in class, they have taught it. At best, students get tentative ideas that will be quickly forgotten if not reinforced by a student-centered activity.

Teaching to Student Interests Means Dumbing It Down

If we could somehow see inside a student’s brain, its circuitry would correspond to its knowledge. Since new learning always builds on what is already in the brain, teachers must relate classroom teaching to what students already know. Teachers who fail to do so, whether due to ignorance or in pursuit of a false idea of rigor, are running afoul of a biological reality.

Acceleration Means Rigor

Some schools accelerate strong students so that they can cover more material. Schools in the Innovative teachers are more likely to ask such students to delve deeper into important topics. Deep knowledge lays a stronger foundation for later learning.

A Quiet Classroom Means Good Learning

Students sitting quietly may simply be zoned out -- if not immediately, then within 15 minutes. A loud classroom, if properly controlled, includes the voices of many students who are actively engaged.

Traditional Schooling Prepares Students for Life

Listening to teachers and studying for tests has little to do with life in the world of work. People in the work world create, manage, evaluate, communicate, and collaborate

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Field Trip to a Strange New Place: Second Grade Visits the Parking Garage

A simple but powerful story from the New York Times

P.S. 142 is a high poverty school so close to the Williamsburg Bridge that during recess children can hear the cars above them driving to Brooklyn. Almost all of the 436 students qualify for free lunches.
On the first day of school, when they walk into Frances Sachdev’s kindergarten class in Room 117, most are already behind. By age 4, the average child in an upper-middle-class family has heard 35 million more words than a poor child. Studies have shown that while about two-thirds of kindergartners from the wealthiest 20 percent of households are read to at home every day, about a third of children from the poorest 20 percent are.
Experiences that are routine in middle-class homes are not for P.S. 142 children. When Dao Krings, a second-grade teacher, asked her students recently how many had never been inside a car, several, including Tyler Rodriguez, raised their hands. “I’ve been inside a bus,” Tyler said. “Does that count?”
When a new shipment of books arrives, Rhonda Levy, the principal, frets. Reading with comprehension assumes a shared prior knowledge, and cars are not the only gap at P.S. 142. Many of the children have never been to a zoo or to New Jersey. Some think the emergency room of New York Downtown Hospital is the doctor’s office.
The solution of the education establishment is to push young children to decode and read sooner, but Ms. Levy is taking a different tack. Working with Renée Dinnerstein, an early childhood specialist, she has made real life experiences the center of academic lessons, in hopes of improving reading and math skills by broadening children’s frames of reference.
The goal is to make learning more fun for younger children.
Earlier this year, Ms. Krings’s second grade visited an auto repair shop where, for the first time, Tyler sat in a car. “I sat in the front seat and then I sat in the back seat,” he said. It made him feel like the star in one of their library books, “Honda, the Boy Who Dreamed of Cars.”
While many schools have removed stations for play from kindergarten, Ms. Levy has added them in first and second grades. One corner of Ms. Krings’s room is for building blocks, another for construction paper projects. There are days when the second grade smells like Elmer’s glue.
Several times a month they take what are known as field trips to the sidewalk. In early February the second graders went around the block to study Muni-Meters and parking signs. They learned new vocabulary words, like “parking,” “violations” and “bureau.” JenLee Zhong calculated that if Ms. Krings put 50 cents in the Muni-Meter and could park for 10 minutes, for 40 minutes she would have to put in $2. They discovered that a sign that says “No Standing Any Time” is not intended for kids like them on the sidewalk.
(They were not ready yet to decode alternate-side-of-the-street parking signs; that’s more appropriate for students with doctorates in hieroglyphics.)
One day last week Ariana Flores said: “We’re going to see a municipal parking garage today. We’re getting a good education.”
When reading, children are taught to make predictions of what is to come in a book, based on a variety of evidence — the cover, chapter headings, foreshadowing. Ms. Krings’s students used their field trip booklets to do the same before their visit to the Delancey and Essex Municipal Parking Garage.
Several predicted that drivers would have to pay to get in.
To be out of school on a sunny winter’s day and walking to a municipal parking garage — it doesn’t get any better than that. Kammi Poom skipped the whole way. Alan Zhao thought it was hilarious to walk like Frankenstein. Evan Nuñez, the smallest, hurried so he could be up front with Ms. Krings.
“There it is,” shouted Julissa Jirmnson. All of them had passed a municipal parking garage before, but few had been inside one. They walked up a ramp, past a blue handicapped zone, orange cones and a red Big Apple sign, then watched the cars coming in. They could see the drivers press a green button and take a ticket, but they didn’t see anyone paying money as they had expected.
In such situations, Ms. Krings recommends consulting an expert, so they asked the man standing in the front booth, whose name was David.
David stepped out, they crowded around, and he said, “They don’t pay to get in, they pay to get out.”
“I knew it,” said Ariana.
“I knew it, too,” said Kammi.
After that, well — there’s too much to tell it all. On the way back they stopped to copy down words from interesting signs. Ariana wrote, “Sprinkler Control Valve Located in Basement.” Jairo Fermin wrote, “Thru Trucks Use Houston Street.”
“I want a decibel level of zero,” Ms. Krings said as they walked back into the school.
For the next hour they did field trip follow-up. Ms. Krings gave them Muni-Meter math problems. At the block station the boys kept building racing tracks and knocking them over while Yudy He Wu made a municipal parking garage and lined the top with Matchbox cars. They never stopped chattering to one another, which Ms. Krings said was good. “They’re working together to resolve problems and developing their verbal skills,” she said.
When Ms. Dinnerstein first came to the school, staff members ran for cover. One of the miseries of being a teacher is that every year, someone shows up from Tweed Courthouse headquarters with a new plan to raise test scores.
But after four years of academic lessons built around sidewalk trips to the Essex Street Market, the subway, several bridges and a hospital emergency room, Ms. Krings is moved by how much learning goes on.
Daniel Feigelson heads the network of 30 schools that P.S. 142 belongs to. He said that he wished more principals would adopt the program but that they were fearful. “There is so much pressure systematically to do well on the tests, and this may not boost scores right away,” he said. “To do this you’d have to be willing to take the long view.”

 Read more: Marion Diamond -  US creative kindergarten teacher

A great book for environmental learning.

Check out other early education blogs

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How to run an education system: questionnaire by Kelvin Smythe

How to run a managerialist education system: questionnaire

You are charged with running a managerialist, American-style education system, how might you go about that?  New Zealand’s National government’s example, under the leadership of John Key, might well prove instructive.

If you are business person with the right political and wealth connections, who knows, you might very well be asked to run an education system. 

In anticipation of that possible eventuality, the following multi-choice questionnaire is, as a Kiwi, proudly offered. 

Before beginning answering it is important for participants to know that the correct answers may, at times, seem counter-intuitive, but that is all part of the wonder of the managerialist philosophy, and the New Zealand’s prime minister’s leadership genius for tapping into another vein of logic, and alternative morality, beyond the reach and understanding of the rest of us.

Take your inferences from the following happenings in the New Zealand’s current education system and let them be your guide for how you might proceed. 

For which one of the following should you not use the select committee process?
Dog control 

Freedom camping

Early detection of prostate

National standards 

Answer: National standards (they were part of National’s mandated policy therefore exempt from challenge and incapable of improvement).

For which one of the following should parliamentary urgency be used?
Dog control

Freedom camping

Early detection of prostate

National standards

Answer: National standards.

Which statistic, in 2009, was correct in expressing the number of New Zealand primary schools successfully using literacy achievement data?



Answer: 92% 

Which statistic, in 2009, was correct in expressing the number of New Zealand primary schools successfully using mathematics achievement data?




Answer: 84%
Which statistic, in 2009, the only one included in the national standards’ legislation, was used to express the number of primary schools successfully using literacy and mathematics achievement data?




Answer: 56%

From where did this 56% statistic come from immediately?
A piece of Professor John Hattie research 
A 2008 National Party election pamphlet

John Bank’s thought processes 

Investigate magazine

Answer: A 2008 National Party election pamphlet.

What explanation did the National government give for using this particular statistic?
Who cares?

It is more accurate than any other you are likely to get 

We make up our own statistics using processes beyond your ken

It passed the scrutiny editors of the Herald and Dominion, and the ministry and review office without demur, so what’s the fuss?

Answer: Who cares? It is more accurate than any other you are likely to get; we make up our own statistics using processes beyond your ken; it passed the scrutiny editors of the Herald and Dominion, and the ministry and review office without demur, so what’s the fuss?

When National repeatedly promised (through the then minister of education) that there would be no league tables, how is it that league tables are now be being contemplated?
That was then

The present minister of education, on a recent trip, to her considerable surprise, discovered Australia was using them

It’s what parents want 

They aren’t league tables, just what some people call league tables

Answer: The present minister of education, on a recent trip, to her considerable surprise, discovered Australia was using them; it’s what parents want; they aren’t league tables, just what some people call league tables.
What salary do you think the new ministry chief executive gets (someone called Lesley Longstone from England)?




Answer: $660,000 (plus $50,000 relocation expenses)

Following the completion of the national standards’ community consultation process, what was done with the results?
They were hidden

Quickly released to prompt lively discussion befitting life in a social democracy

Characterised by the ministry as confirming parents were strongly in favour of national standards

Released under pressure after seven months of delay

Answer: They were hidden; characterised by the ministry as confirming parents were strongly in favour of national standards; released under pressure after seven months of delay.

Latest OECD survey: New Zealand ranked fourth out of 34 OECD countries in reading literacy, fourth in scientific literacy, and seventh in mathematical literacy (Overall, NZ was only headed by ethnically homogeneous populations such as Finland, Korea, and Japan.) New Zealand does much better in educational achievement than its degree of inequality would predict.  In literacy, pakeha students had a mean score higher than any other country.
In the light of the above statistics, how did the prime minister of New Zealand characterise teachers in an election debate?
As national heroes worthy of a collective Queen’s Service medal

Up there with Fonterra 

An inspiration to government

As letting New Zealand down

Answer: As letting New Zealand down.

In the light of the above statistics, how did the prime minister of New Zealand characterise teachers’ opposition to national standards?
As being bullied into it by the unions

As being unwilling to be accountable

As placing their interests ahead of children’s

As doing anything to avoid lifting their performance

Answer: As being bullied into it by the unions; as being unwilling to be accountable; as placing their interests ahead of children’s; as doing anything to avoid lifting their performance.

In the light of the above statistics, how did the government respond re Australia to New Zealand teachers’ success?
Publicised the success of New Zealand schools to lift national morale

Noted Hattie’s move to Melbourne as one likely to further widen the education gap

Went out of its way to undermine New Zealand’s public schools to the benefit of private schools (private schools dominate schooling in Australia)

Expressed an intent to have league tables like Australia’s

Answer: Went out of its way to undermine New Zealand’s public schools to the benefit of private schools; expressed an intent to have league tables like Australia’s.

In the light of the above statistics, how did the government respond in a wider sense to New Zealand teachers’ success?

Went out of its way to import many ideas from the American and England education systems

Appointed an England person with career experience in establishing charter schools to be the ministry chief executive

Flew in many foreign consultants 

Promoted New Zealand schools as being in the forefront of curriculum delivery

Answer: Went out of its way to import many ideas from the American and England education systems; appointed an England person with career experience in establishing charter schools to be the ministry chief executive; flew in many foreign consultants. 

In his 2012 Waitangi speech, in response to concerns about asset sales and Maori poverty, what was John Key’s one reported policy idea?
A commitment to raise wages for lower income workers

Greater investment in state housing

A willingness to look again at the asset sales policy

National standards and charter schools

Answer: National standards and charter schools.

In looking at ways to reduce education expenditure, but not affect frontline services, in what areas have reductions been mooted?
Ministry executive salaries 

Abolition of SAPS (a low status group selected to promote excellence in education)

Expenditure on foreign consultants

Increasing the number of children in teachers’ classes

Answer: Increasing the number of children in teachers’ classes.

What were the main government justifications for introducing national standards?
Other countries are using them

Teachers can spend months in close proximity to children and their earning and not be aware of those in difficulty

Teachers aren’t measuring achievement 

National ministers of education know something no-one else does

Answer: Other countries are using them; teachers can spend months in close proximity to children and their learning and not be aware of those in difficulty; teachers aren’t measuring achievement; National ministers of education know something no-one else does.

How will the government ensure charter schools succeed?
Pour in resources not available to similar schools

Filter the school population

Play on the Hawthorne effect and ignore the sustainability issue

Cramming and narrowing the curriculum 

Have carefully selected quantitative academics carry out the research

Public relations and careful cultivation of the media

Answer: Pour in resources not available to similar schools; filter the school population; play on the Hawthorne effect and ignore the sustainability issue; cramming and narrowing the curriculum; have carefully selected quantitative academics carry out the research; public relations and a manipulation of the media.

John Hattie’s research is infinitely manipulable – which policies can the government presently count on him supporting?

Performance pay

Increasing class sizes

National standards (even though he is credited by the government with the inspiration for them)
Charter schools (even though they are based on performance pay, national standards, and smaller classes)

Answer: Performance pay; increasing class sizes.

Re charter schools: An Inter-Party Working Group mainly for charter schools was set up in April 2009; the recommendations from that Working Group were published in Step Change in February 2010; policy work was then commissioned on Step Change between 2010 and 2011; in the lead up to the 2012 election work negotiations took place between the prime minister’s office, the ministry, and ACT for implementing charter schools; the prime minister’s office made the decision to bring in charter schools with the ACT Party as cover if possible, and, if not, to bring them in regardless; neither National or ACT, according to a secret agreement, would mention charter schools in their election policies.
In the light of this information, how did Key respond to accusations that charter schools were not mandated?
Point taken – it just means we’ll need to gain a broad consensus before we move

It was an inspirational idea that came simultaneously to John Banks and me post-election 

Who cares – after all it’s anti-public schools and teacher unions

That’s MMP for you, isn’t it?

Answer: That’s MMP for you, isn’t it?

How has New Zealand’s premier newspaper responded to the implementation of managerialism – which of the following statements appeared in its editorial columns?
New Zealand schools and teacher deserve our respect and trust

Most fundamentally, National’s policy on national standards was put to the electorate at the last election, so it comes with the stamp of democracy

Critics claim the National-led government has no mandate to establish charter schools, that claim can be dismissed immediately

Ultimately, the parent, the customer is always right

Teachers must learn to obey government’s orders

Answer: Most fundamentally, National’s policy on national standards was put to the electorate at the last election, so it comes with the stamp of democracy; critics claim the National-led government has no mandate to establish charter schools, that claim can be dismissed immediately; ultimately, the parent, the customer is always right; teachers must learn to obey government’s orders.

When editorialists and the government refer to measuring school achievement, to what achievement are they referring?

Achievement in all parts of the official curriculum

Achievement in responding skilfully and imaginatively to all parts of learning

Achievement in preparing children for a future of rapid social and economic change

Achievement in challenging children cognitively and affectively in all parts of learning
Achievement in those parts of literacy and numeracy amenable to measurement 

Answer: Achievement in those parts of literacy and numeracy amenable to measurement.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The standards agenda :history repeating itself?

Charlie Chaplin was well aware of the dehumanizing effects of the industrialisation ( standardization) of society.

While tidying up and sorting out unwanted notes I came across one page of a five page article which made me stop and think.

The full article must have been about the need for greater democracy in education in the United States - a humanitarian approach that encouraged students to take a greater responsibility for their own learning and actions; I guess influenced by past writers such as educationalist John Dewey .

Such a student centred approach ( often now called personalisation of learning) was well established in New Zealand primary schools led by innovative teachers  and educators post world war two but is now at risk by the 'neo' standards approach favoured by the current government.

Now,as then, being a truly creative professional educator was a subversive business.

In the early years of the 20th century  those outside the school were determined to impose a 'scientific approach' to learning one based on efficiency and measurable progress against set standards. In a book of the time the need for unquestioned obedience' was stressed as the 'first rule of efficient service' for teachers.

New Zealand teachers are facing the same requirements as they are being forced to comply with the 'new' standards agenda.

In 1914  one commentator observed 'there were so many efficiency engineers in school houses in big cities that the teachers can hardly turn around in their rooms without butting into two or three of them'. No wonder obedience was prized by those in control of schools.

Many New Zealand teachers must have similar thoughts today!

In early days in New Zealand students were arranged in classes called standards and promoted only if the achieved required level of achievement. In more recent times the ideas of holding back students for an extra year in the infant classes was common - this was later shown to be of no benefit. In  early days inspectors checked schools to see that the standards were being taught . Naturally enough most teachers conformed and taught to the narrow tests that were being used; a process now in place today in countries with national testing regimes and with comparative league tables.

The article I found stated that 'during that decade, precisely a hundred years ago, nationally distributed tests of arithmetic, handwriting and English were put into use.Their results were used to compare students, teachers and schools; to report to the public; and even merit pay- a sort lived innovation due to the many problems it caused.'

Does any of this sound familiar?

The article continues, 'In the view of those brilliant managerial engineers, professionally trained teachers were considered troublesome , because they had their own ideas about education and frequently didn't go along meekly with the plan'.

The same applies now in New Zealand as creative schools resist complying to Ministry requirements. Unfortunately , as in the past, most go along meekly.

As one teacher wrote in 1912 : 'We have yielded to the arrogance of "big business men" and have accepted their criteria of efficiency at their own valuation without question.We have consented to measure the results of educational efforts in terms of price and product - the terms that prevail in the factory and department store. But education, since it deals with in the first place with human organisms , and the second place with individuals, is not analogous to a standardizable manufacturing process.Education must measure its efficiency not in terms of so many promotions per dollar of expenditure....it must measure its efficiency in terms of increased humanism, increased power to do, increased capacity to appreciate,'

Isn't that what New Zealand schools and creative teachers should stand up for now?

History needn't repeat itself. Standardisation is the wrong answer.

Not if we want to be a lead country in exciting unpredictable creative future.

Now read what Kelvin Smythe Phil Cullen think about the current direction of education in New Zealand

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The forgotten genesis of progressive early education

Since 'Tomorrows Schools' ( 1986) teachers would be excused if they thought all ideas about teaching and learning came from those distant from the classroom - and more recently imposed by technocrats and politicians.

This was not aways the case.

Progressive ideas that helped New Zealand lead the world in education, particularly in reading, were developed by creative early education teachers who were well aware of the modern educational ideas of the time.

The history of progressive education in New Zealand ( now at risk) is the subject of a new book, ' I am five and I go to school', written by Helen May.

The book follows the growth of educational ideas for both European and Maori  early education.

 In particular the book celebrates the work of Infant Mistresses or Senior  Teachers Junior classes  My own experience has taught me that all the best idea have come from those who teach the very young children rather than with those working at the 'higher' levels  but this seems to have been forgotten. As children move up through the school system their experiences, their sense of agency and voice are replaced by subject requirements and teacher intentions. At the secondary little has changed in hundred years.

And to make the teachers efforts more impressive they were  working in a very standardised educational environment. It seems we are now forgetting their efforts as we move back to a new demeaning standardised teaching era.Once again we need courageous educationalists to  decide what is worth fighting for!

Practices we now take for granted were once seen as radical and the salutes such people as Sylvia Ashton Warner, Gwen Somerset, Myrle Simpson, Marie Clay, Elwyn Richardson and all those now forgotten infant mistresses. Central to more recent developments was the inspired leadership of Clarence Beeby the Director of education in the first Labour Government.

All their hard work  developing student centred learning is being replaced by a  'new right' agenda  based on measuring of student achievement in a narrow range of learning, the traditional 'Three Rs', an old idea  returning as National Standards.

The 2007 National Curriculum, which briefly provided a future orientated vision, and a reaffirmation of earlier ideas, has been replaced by the current governments  'new right' agenda with its potentially undermining simplistic requirements to return to grading students against imposed standards.  Worse still is the 'press' to push such uncreative ideas down to early education.

This is a book that provides a window into the history of schooling in New Zealand from the perspectives of  younger children and the enlightened educational ideas of their teachers who placed the importance of play and the placing of the needs and interests of their children central. Of particular interest was the power of Infant Mistress groups where junior teachers gathered to share ideas. It also introduces readers to educationalists such as Montessori, Susan Isaacs,and John Dewey. Those interested in the growth of Maori education will find much of interest.

Most of all it celebrates, now forgotten, the efforts of  creative junior and early education teachers whose work is now at risk.

The essence of progressive learning still holds true in early education centres.

Margaret Carr writes powerfully that is the dispositions children develop as they grow that are the really important things... 'They are dispositions for learning in school and adult life as well, and we need to look very carefully at any early childhood or school practice that might undermine them'.

Developing dispositions, positive learning identities and valuing student diversity, rather than measuring children against flawed standards, are the future challenges for teachers to focus on.

The book concludes with the what will be missing when an instrumental agenda, with it's vocabulary peppered with the language of business and management, is imposed.

What is wanted, Margaret Carr writes,  is  to: ... 'produce children who have a disposition to be learners,to take an interest, to become engaged, to take responsibility, to become good communicators, to become explorers - then we are setting a great foundation.It's going to take a brave teacher to really challenge National Standards, but if there is sufficient freedom and innovation, skillful teachers will make it happen, They always have'.

Creative teachers, as always,  will lead the charge. It won't be easy!

Friday, February 03, 2012

What do your students ( or you) know about the Treaty of Waitangi?

Who was Hone Heke?

This Monday students have a holiday to celebrate the Treaty of Waitangi. I wonder what students thoughts are about the Treaty and why it was signed and how it is still relevant today?

By the time anyone reads this Waitangi Day will be over and who knows what might have happened. Whatever is is a excellent time for students to brush up on some New Zealand history  and to clarify their thoughts and to challenge any misconceptions.

Most schools have plenty of resourcesfor students to research.

It might be useful for students to individually 'mind map' or write out their thoughts  ( prior ideas) about the the Treaty and then to share them in groups - sharing ideas is an excellent way to build up knowledge.Then groups could share with the class. Individuals and groups could also be asked for their questions that they can later define to research.

At the conclusion the class, led by the teacher, could list main points and the class could consider what 'better' ideas they have gained through the process.

Innovative teachers might like to dig deeper into the topic and explore and present their findings using range of media - artistic and electronic.

The study could also result in the class drawing up a treaty of their own outlining behavioural expectations for the teacher and the class.

For further information on a lesson based around Waitangi Day.

An excellent research outline to use