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Thursday
Sep272012

GERM warfare

The Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) is thriving in New Zealand. Michelle Nixon reports

Charter schools
Legislation to allow publicly-funded private charter schools to be run by people with no teaching experience and to employ unqualified and unregistered teachers will be introduced to Parliament shortly.
Charter schools will not have to follow the New Zealand curriculum, and can set their own pay rates, hours and term dates. They are set to open in 2014.
Internationally, charter schools are commonly set up by “philanthocapitalists” that view charity as another business investment opportunity. The New Zealand-based US billionaire Julian Robertson has been influential in there introduction here – his son Spencer runs charter schools in New York.
Christchurch communities fear such schools may replace “struggling” Christchurch schools that have lost students due to red zoning. The charter school operator KIPP moved into New Orleans post-Katrina, opening a string of schools, and its co-founder was brought to New Zealand on a speaking tour recently by Julian Robertson’s Aotearoa Foundation.
Charter schools are being set up here as part of the Act Party’s coalition agreement with National. Former Act president Catherine Isaac, who chairs the Charter School Working Group, has raised the prospect of recruiting students from shopping malls.
NZEI President Ian Leckie says charter schools are an “extremely dangerous experiment”.
The Government anticipates applications to set up charter schools from iwi, church groups and private companies.
Education Minister Hekia Parata says charter schools must report against National Standards for years 1-8 students. In the US, KIPP charter schools achieve good results by way of restrictive entry requirements and high dropout rates.
Read more about KIPP schools at www.educationaotearoa.org.nz.

National standards and league tables

The government released the full results of National Standards in literacy and numeracy for every primary and intermediate school on 28 September. Media outlets were actively preparing school-comparison webpages before that date.
NZEI advised principals and schools to work together to mitigate the negative impact of publication. School principals around the country held joint regional press conferences to respond to the media.
In an internal memo in 2010, the Ministry of Education’s former chief research analyst, Ian Schagen, said it would be impossible to prevent the media publishing league tables in order to sell papers “but it is important that the government and Ministry has no truck with them.
“The Minister needs to have a severe word with anyone publishing league tables and tell them firmly that they are harming New Zealand education. As soon as the assessment judgements underpinning the use of National Standards become high-stakes for schools, we are going to compromise the real value of formative assessment for improving teaching and learning for individual students.”
Education Minister Hekia Parata said the government website would show schools’ overall performance against the standards in each region and nationally. NZEI believes National Standards have been inconsistently implemented and are neither reliable nor valid. Even Prime Minister John Key admits the data is “ropey”.
Australia has spent over $NZ750 million on its national testing system and the Auditor General there says the expenditure has failed to make any discernible difference.
Special education
Working no doubt on the well worn principle that those who expect to lose two legs are grateful to save one, the Ministry of Education has announced it will close only two of the country’s four residential special schools.
The schools house intellectually disabled students and those with serious behavioural difficulties. The schools to stay open are Auckland’s Westbridge School and Halswell College in Christchurch, both coeducational. They’ll have a single board of trustees. The two slated to close are McKenzie School in Christchurch and Salisbury School for girls in Nelson.

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