Tuesday’s Campbell Live show on charter schools provided a good overview of the situation, given the time constraints. As informed readers will understand, this was a ‘once over lightly’ coverage, which had to provide opportunities for both sides of the debate. Unfortunately the programme was not able to investigate the privatisation ideology that underpins this – think of mixed ownership model for schooling and you won’t be far wrong.
The proponent of charter schools on Campbell Live was Catherine Isaac, who made a range of claims about charter schools being one possible way of ‘raising achievement’ for Maori and Pasifika children. There’s an irony here, of a group like ACT, promoting policies that they believe, without evidence, will be best for lower socio-economic, predominantly polynesian children. In other words, someone else’s children, as ACT and National children generally go to private schools, or schools in higher socio-economic areas.
Adding insult to injury, this paternalistic and colonialistic policy will deny parents the right to be involved in the operation of charter schools – what is prescribed by the contracting agency will be what is delivered, and indeed USA parents made this exact point on Campbell Live.
This only serves to raise even more questions about Maori Party support for this legislation. Why will they agree to the disenfranchising of Maori and Pasifika communities? Have they not read the fine print? Did they not listen to the Select Committee submissions? Have they not read the extensive international evidence?
We’ve already learnt of the substantial increases in the funding for Kings College under this government and of the rescue funding for Whanganui Collegiate, ignoring Ministry of Education advice to the contrary. Increased funding for state schools? Not on your nelly.
To counter the (mis)information from Catherine Isaac, here is a blog article written by Dianne Khan a month or so ago:
NACT facts: random information or spin that National and ACT have drummed up and presented as fact (n)
by Dianne Khan
Charter schools. Are they going to revolutionise our education system and lead to brilliant gains for our children, particularly Maori and Pacifica children? Catherine Isaac says they will, and she wrote a wee article for her friends at the New Zealand Herald to show just that.
But is she being honest with her ‘facts’? Is she telling the whole story? Is there another side to this coin?
You bet your ass there is.
Let’s take a look at Isaac’s NACT Facts
NACT Fact 1: “The many undoubtedly positive features of regular state schools … such as parent representation on school boards, and the requirement of schools to produce detailed annual plans with targets and employ teachers registered with the Teachers Council, have not saved 52 per cent of Maori students and 41 per cent of Pasifika students from failing to achieve NCEA level 2.”
Truth or Dare: Where is the evidence that REMOVING those ‘undoubtedly positive features’ from schools will raise achievement? HOW? Give us some of that data you guys like so much.
And as she is implying they must be removed to raise the bar (somehow) for underachievers, why are they also to be removed from charters with pupils from other groups that are not deemed to be underachieving? Hmmm, so removing the democratic process from schools and taking the community OUT of it, will help children from disadvantaged groups and poorer communities improve…. yeah that sounds, well, just plain ridiculous.
Getting those communities MORE involved with schools, encouraging MORE of them to join BOTs, getting MORE links, that is what would strengthen the home/school bond and help to improve things, not breaking it all apart.
Catherine, that NACT fact was just plain silly.
NACT Fact1 (part2): You say Iwi argue that there is “no respite in sight from an unresponsive and unempathetic mainstream system”
Truth or Dare: What efforts have the Iwi made under the current system, how have they worked/failed, and what do they believe charters would provide that would be different? Other than the ability to make a profit?
NACT Fact 2: NZ communities want charter schools.
Truth or Dare: Well to start with most people have no clue what charters are, what they will be and how they might affect their communities. So to say communities want them is ridiculous. Some special interest groups want them, and Isaac mentions Maori and Pacifica groups that have shown their support. But if she was at the oral submissions she will have heard that most submissions by a large margin were against them.
Furthermore, when questioned about what a charter a school will do that is different to schools we currently have, and how exactly they aim to raise achievement for groups with historically lower exam passes, they are incredibly sketchy and have no real answers. Any muttered suggestions I have read or heard apply equally to the schools we have and do not depend on charters for their implementation.
In the USA the tide has turned against charter schools. In Sweden a poll carried out in 2011 found that Swedes who want to ban companies from operating schools for profit now outnumber those that don’t. So it doesn’t sound like parents over there are seeing the benefits. There are plenty of rumblings of discontent from parents in England, too.
And as for New Zealand, well Miss Isaac might want to get out and talk to the thousands of people I have seen and heard who are appalled about charter schools. See here, and here, and here … oh just Google it, there is plenty of opposition out there.
NACT Fact 3: ”There will be a binding, legally enforceable contract with each [charter] school, and that will ensure all is good.”
Truth or Dare: Would those contracts be set up by Ministry of Education?
The same Ministry that oversaw class sizes and had actually calculated it all wrongly?
By the same Ministry that brought in a chaotic system that can’t pay its teachers?
By the same Ministry that can’t hold onto senior staff due to a prickly Minister?
The same Ministry that listed sandpits as liquefaction?
The same one that listed a school as having 50 buildings when it had 5?
Well okay then, so long as it is all going to be monitored by credible, talented and accurate people like that then go for your lives.
NACT Fact 3 (part 2): “A school unable to demonstrate very clearly how it will attract and retain disadvantaged learners and help them succeed, and how it will engage with their families, will not get through the rigorous authorisation process.”
Truth or Dare: Show me where it mentions provision for special needs students in charter schools in the Education Amendment Bill (2012). In any other charter school document? They are not even mentioned.
NACT Fact 4: . “..No student will be forced to enrol in one. They will receive no more funding than the per-child amount received at a regular state school.”
Truth or Dare: And if a local school is shut down (say, off the top of my head,by the government saying there are too many schools in a Christchurch suburb) and there is no other local choice, what is the parent to do then? Where is the choice there?
As for funding… charter schools’ buildings funding is handed over to the company that wins the bid to run the school, right? HANDED. OVER. Theirs to keep. Even if they make a right royal hash of the school and it is closed. Even if they themselves close the school. The walk off with funding worth hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of dollars. Show me where that is the same funding a public school gets. Show me how handing over our assets helps students achievement. Total lies and spin.
And while we are talking funding, since you are so fond of Swedish schools, please note that a university paper looking into Swedish Free Schools found that ”Swedish schooling reforms are not straightforward to analyse because free schools were not set-up at random across the 290 municipalities: they are more prevalent where the municipality is politically supportive and offers high per pupil funding.”Source
NACT Fact 5: ”The ability to employ some teachers who are not registered with the Teachers Council simply provides for the opportunity to draw on the wider pool of trained and qualified teachers working in private training establishments.”
Truth or Dare: Public schools can and *do* do that to. It’s called the Limited Authority to Teach (LAT). People wanting to teach with an LAT must be checked, to make sure they have appropriate skills, then are issued with an LAT. So here’s where it all gets gnarly again – charter schools will not have to have trained teachers or even teachers with an LAT – BUT public schools will still have to have teachers that are trained or who have an LAT.
Why the difference?
If LATs are good then both should use them – if they are not good then they should be scrapped. What is good for the goose is not at all good for the gander.
NACT Fact 6: Sweden’s free schools are the bee’s knees so there, that proves ours will be mind blowingly great (I paraphrase, of course):
Truth or Dare: “SNS, a prominent business-funded thinktank, issued a report last Wednesday that sharply reversed its normal pro-market stance. The entry of private operators into state-funded education, it argued, had increased segregation and may not have improved educational standards at all.
“The empirical evidence showing that competition is good is not really credible, because they can’t distinguish between grade inflation and real gains,” Dr Jonas Vlachos, who wrote the report on education…”
“Sweden’s path-breaking educational reforms of the 1990s have come under question since last December when the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development published the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment. This showed that Swedish students had dropped to 19th place out of 57 countries for literacy, to 24th in maths, and to 28th in science. This compared with 9th, 17th and 16th in studies done in 2000, 2003 and 2006 respectively.” Source
NACT Fact 7: Swedish teachers did not oppose Free schools and surveys have proved them right…
Truth or Dare: See the answer to NACT Fact 6, above.
Michael Gove, the British Prime Minister who has brought in charters over there (named Free Schools) was as fond as Isaac of quoting Sweden as the charter school poster boy. However, “Gove has not spoken much of Sweden’s free schools since 2010, because, in fact, the evidence on their achievements and social impact has not been particularly positive.( Gove has since moved on to Poland, and the liberal quoting of African proverbs.)” Source
If poor Isaac is still confused about her ACT Facts/NACTS, she could always do some more research.