It’s a slippery slope and NZ’s arse has got wheels on…


Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 7.56.01 AM

Listen carefully to what this teacher of 15 years says in her video of resignation.

Listen as she describes teaching under the changes brought in by educational reforms; Teaching to the test, scripted lessons and planning (done by administrators and handed down), lack of time for creativity, teachers being evaluated by students and sacked if just one for says “needs improvement”.

This is not good staff management.  It is not good for teaching.  And it is not good for student learning.

This is the McCarthy Trials, or for those literary readers, The Crucible.

People thrown into the fire and under the bus, with no recourse and no protection even from the most spurious of claims.

Imagine that in your job – you are sacked unfairly and you cannot put your side of things.  You cannot speak to the management or the board in your defence.  You cannot go to an employment council or a lawyer.  You are sacked unfairly from your job and there is nothing at all you can do.


TDB Recommends

Imagine that happening to you at work tomorrow.  Imagine how that affects your life.

These are teachers.  Teachers!

When did they become the focus for such hateful treatment?

When did educators become the enemy of the state?

These are people who decided to dedicate their professional lives to educating children.

We should all be asking what any government’s motives really are when they behave this way towards educators.

This will be New Zealand teaching very soon, as the very same reforms are being brought in, bit by bit, here too.

Let’s look at the slippery slope’s main players.

First we see National Standards.  

These are just the start down the slope towards standardised tests and then standardised lessons.  No room for capturing a child’s interest or using a teacher’s expertise or passion – just teach to the script and administer that test.  And so much money diverted away from the classroom and authentic learning experience to pay for those tests.  So very much money wasted.

You want innovators?  You want people to think outside the box?  Tough.  They will be taught to think inside the box – or the test bubble, at least.

Because all that matters is the result on the test.  Isn’t it?

Then there is a push for Performance Pay.  

From my conversations with people outside of education, many think it sounds great for educators to be paid this way.  The best are rewarded, the worst are penalised.  But teachers know it is not nearly that straight forward.   Even a PISA study into performance pay  acknowledges that there is “no relationship between average student performance in a country and the use of performance-based pay schemes“.

And yet performance pay for teachers is widespread in American schools and it being imposed in England, now, too, despite much resistance from headteachers, teachers, and parents.

Worse still, performance pay is the beginning of the end of true collegial teaching, where teachers share knowledge and resources and support each other.  Even those teachers who feel sure they would get the reward, be given the higher pay, do not want this.

That speaks volumes.  Because we do not want to be pitted against each other, we want to work together for the kids.

The PISA report puts it best when it concludes that “countries that have succeeded in making teaching an attractive profession have often done so not just through pay, but by raising the status of teaching, offering real career prospects, and giving teachers responsibility as professionals and leaders of reform.

Which leads nicely into charter schools.  

Anyone who is well enough informed about these knows that the end result of charters is often that the public schools nearby are run into the ground while the charter thrives.  But how does that happen?

Well it is complex, so I will take you back to the testing and let’s look at that alone.  Charters are very well documented for their practice of getting rid of students who will get low test scores.  Simple as that.

Not clever enough?  Dumped.

Got dyslexia or Asperger’s or any other special need that might affect your scores?  Dumped.

Not good at tests?  Dumped.

Then the public system has to take those dumped kids, along with their difficulties and their distress, and help as best they can, often right before testing.

And guess which school has to register the lower scores from those dumped, distressed, defeated students?  Not the school that was meant to be teaching them right up until that test.  Lawdy no,

The school that has those test results against their record is the one they were at for test time, even if they were there just one day or a week.  So the public school system that didn’t even get chance to teach and help those students, didn’t receive the funds all year for them, but does have take responsibility for the low test results.

And the end result?  The charters’ scores  go up, the public schools’ scores go down.

It’s an excellent exercise in marketing.  The kind of thing we expect from someone trying to sell us the latest games console or who is trying to get us to vote for them.

It’s all spin, marketing, smoke and mirrors.

It sure as hell isn’t about educating those children.

True teachers teach all children.  

The clever, the tricky, the stubborn, the compliant, the enthusiastic, the tired, the supported, the defeated, the lost, the dreamy, and the ones that aren’t good at tests.  And they do that because they know that what matters most is helping all of the students as much as possible.

But they can only do that if they are safe from the kind of divisive and bizarre reforms that saw Ellie Rubenstein and many like her lost to the system.

So don’t for one minute think these small incremental changes happening in New Zealand education are benign or ‘not so bad’.

They are the start of a very, very slippery slope, and at the bottom of that slope are a heap of tired and battered bodies.

Will your child be one of them?




  1. When did educators become the enemy of the state?

    When they encouraged the children to question everything. When they started teaching facts rather than what the rulers wanted. When they, basically, started teaching people to be more than just machines to work in factories.

    The school reform that NACT are putting through are all about profit for few rich people. In some cases it may be about teaching children ideology and belief – religion in a word. In either case, what it won’t be about is teaching children the way the world actually works or encouraging questioning and creativity. Those sorts of things tend to bring down the old, failed, ways of doing things.

  2. Agree with the above but I think it began before national standards with the literacy and numeracy projects; these have bought in a lot of time consuming standardised tests. When I taught in the 90s much of our assessment was based on observation, looking carefully at a child’s work done in class to assess progress; it is a very accurate way to let teachers evaluate their own programmes and what they should focus on teaching without stressing children out with standardised testing. Well for the good teachers who constantly reflect on their own teaching and its effectiveness. What I’ve noticed since then is that the new teachers are very good at following set instructions, using standised testing but the ability to constructively reflect on your own teaching has not been taught! For example a six year old boy “failed” a reading test because he didn’t give the exact answer on the reading test answers despite the fact that his answer meant exactly the same thing?? This child was transferred to my school and I had to laugh at this lunacy; did he understand what he was reading, Yes, did he understand the question, Yes , did he give an answer which answers the said question correctly again Yes! The only thing he didn’t do was answer the exact way the answer sheet That’s crazy!! As Teachers we need to own our profession and state that we are the experts in learning and teaching therefore the government needs to stop dictating and listen! Else we should resign en masse! Lets face it it is a damn difficult job and there is no way that the entire membership of the NZEI can be replaced!! There is no way businessmen let government dictate exactly how they run their business why should we!

    • I agree, Melissa. The foundations were already there, having started with the 1200 plus achievement objectives in the 1990s and then developed with the matrices and exemplars of the 2000s.

    • I agree with you, but I’m also wondering if national standards have bought or brought in a lot of time consuming tests.

  3. I have teaching colleagues at other schools who tell me that they are handed theirpplanning. They have no say in the topic or the resources. One colleague told me how they were told to do a specific unit on road ssfety and walking to school. The powers that be told the staff how to deliver it. My colleague pointef out that she had written the programme with a team at a previous school and she would be glad to facilitate the programme in that school in the way it was intended to be run. She was denied.
    Too many teachers are being treated like anything but professional learned people. Their study and abilities and instincts are ignored. They are condidered to be troublesome if they challenge the hierarchy even when they are teachers with vast experience and knowledge. Education will lose these people at the peril of the future of our children – the children who will one day be the taxpayers and decision makers of this country.

  4. Teachers will be seen as the enemy as long as National is filled with people who failed at learning anything, but have egos which insist that they see themselves as intelligent. Despite their mantra of personal responsibility, people like WhaleSpew never took responsibility for their educational failure, preferring to blame the teachers. Sadly, this attitude percolates through society as a whole.

    • The REAL problem is that people are willingly(- BUT WHY???) relinquishing power to Govt.
      Surely it’s patently obvious that ALL the changes to education policies over these years have resulted in OVERALL decline in literacy/ maths ability.
      Therefore it should be patently obvious that Govt’s continuing new ideas” (-adopting of FAILED policies from overseas) ARE NOT working. They will continue to not work. It’s like a huge dysfunctional machine that needs to be STOPPED. What will it take to stop it? This is what needs to be addressed!

  5. Further to above, NZers need to SERIOUSLY WAKE UP and grasp that “GOVT” is not our RULERS !! Why have we abdicated responsibility and let a group of ORDINARY people whose status is now elevated by virtue of position, make far reaching decisions that we know in our core ..are NOT right? Especially when we know that they SHOULD be listening to us, but clearly AREN”T. (once in “power” they are getting all their instructions as to policies from somewhere outside NZ..- why?)

Comments are closed.