So what’s the truth, Hekia?


I’ve discussed the ramifications of the PaCT student assessment database in previous articles (here and here, and also in this article from October 2011), highlighting the threats that are incorporated with making this compulsory in all primary schools.

Earlier this year we heard that the Ministry of Education was undecided as to whether PaCT would be compulsory in the future, even though compulsion was well signalled in the original specifications in late 2011 and because other aspects of the government’s Treasury influenced education agenda depend on PaCT. Then, in April, the Ministry confirmed that PaCT would be compulsory in 2015. This was confirmed in a recent select committee meeting, leading, as Chris Hipkins observed, to a national testing regime centred around PaCT. That would seem to be pretty definitive.

However recently Hekia Parata announced:

 ‘I have made it clear several times that we have no intention of introducing a national test – at any level of the school system.

 Our education system relies on teachers and principals right at the centre of our schools providing professional instruction, assessment and leadership, and on parents being informed and engaged.

The high trust we place in teachers is a key feature of our education system. Overall teacher judgements are made on the basis of a range of information drawn from day to day classroom activity. Not a national test, not a Ministry decision, not a government determination but the overall judgement of the teacher in the classroom.’


 ‘PACT is being introduced over the next two years. My confidence in the tool, based on the feedback of teachers who have actually used it, is such that I think it will mandate itself. It will not be compulsory but I would be very surprised if all schools did not want to use the tool.

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There is no conspiracy to do anything other than provide a professionally designed tool to help professionals deal with an evidence-based professional challenge.’

 Right….  nice to read about the high trust she places in teachers. On that basis, however, how can she then go on consider introducing performance pay for teachers?

 “The point of PACT is to help teachers make consistent judgements and capture the progress of learning by their students. That is the point of PACT, the appraisal system is one that has been developed by the New Zealand teachers council and ERO and they will make the recommendations.”

 Sounds plausible, right?

The process is in place to completely reshape the New Zealand Teachers Council, to lessen its independence and make it subservient to government dictates. For example, the government will have the right to all appoint members, thus will sidelining the profession. Apply this model to other profession, such as medical and law. Would this be acceptable?

You can, I’m sure, guess how things will track from here. Appointment of cronies to the Teachers Council, followed by the mandating some kind of performance assessment when confirming teachers’ renewal of practising certificates, with PaCT being the key tool for this. Indeed, the proposed changes to teacher appraisals points straight to PaCT.

We know that the provision to include teacher identification information in all PaCT results already exists – this isn’t here for decorative purposes.

Why bring the Education Review Office into this? Ah ha, got it. ERO will establish school review criteria centred around PaCT information, thus forcing schools to adopt PaCT in order to get the tick of approval from ERO.

New Zealand First Spokesperson on Education, Tracey Martin:

 Minister Holding Out On Data Purpose

New Zealand First is calling on the Minister of Education to come clean on the true purpose of the National Standards Progress and Consistency Tool (PaCT) data.

PaCT, a multi-million-dollar assessment software tool for teachers to moderate students’ progress, was the focus of Hekia Parata’s ‘show and tell’ at a media briefing yesterday.

Education spokesperson Tracey Martin says Minister Parata either doesn’t know or won’t say what the data teachers will gather while using this tool will be used for.

“Trotting out PaCT was nothing more than a publicity stunt to calm the waters after an about face on making the software mandatory after teachers and principals called for it to be boycotted.

“If this ‘tool’ is merely to add to the ‘tool kit’ for informing teacher judgement why does the Ministry of Education need access to the individual classroom data?

“Schools who have trialled the system say the Government will be able to get inside every classroom through a back door in the system.

“It is recognised that the Government could then measure the performance of teachers and schools in isolation from other relevant information with the secret agenda of bringing in performance pay and setting school funding.

“Teachers are suspicious that after National’s failed attempt to bring in performance pay for teachers in the 1990’s that this is the same wolf just dressed in digital sheep’s clothing.

“The level of distrust between the sector and the Minister is at an all-time high after the debacles of class room size, Novopay, charter schools, Christchurch school closures and the continued fascination with the flawed National Standards,” says Ms Martin.” 

The way ahead, I suggest, looks like this.

The government will not mandate PaCT; however through pressures from ERO, and manipulation of the New Zealand Teachers Council, schools will have little alternative. The government will then use the resulting high adoption rate as proof that schools want to use PaCT and therefore make it mandatory.  Hey presto, a national ranking regime that isn’t a national test; indeed it will be much worse.

 Never underestimate the cunning and deceit of this minister and government.

The return of a National led government after the 2014 election will see the completion of the destruction of our world renown primary school education system, replaced by a semi-privatised, heavily standards based conglomeration that is failing so badly overseas.

All this, of course, depends on National being re-elected. Opposition parties have made it very clear that the existing standards based education agenda will not be continued post election.

And then what about this?

 Parata delivers education plan in secret

 Education Minister Hekia Parata has big plans for Māori education but she doesn’t want the media to know about them.

 Ms Parata spoke this morning to a hui in Auckland hosted by iwi education advocacy group Ngā Kaikokiri Mātauranga.

But spotting Māori media representatives present, she said she thought she was there for a private chat, and asked that they be excluded.

 Session facilitator Wayne Ngata, who is the Education Ministry’s group manager for te reo Māori schooling, enforced the edict, despite hui organisers telling media they were welcome to attend the hui to report.

 So what Ms Parata had to say on the relevance of national standards to Māori achievement, or what questions some of the country’s leading Māori educators had to ask her, was kept in secret. (

 What’s the truth, Hekia? What were you hiding?

Parata’s claim that four great teachers in succession could overcome the effects of poverty (debunked in my previous article) came to the attention of USA educator Antony Cody, who used it as the basis for this article:

Poverty is what’s crippling public education in the US—not bad teachers

 ‘Earlier this month in New Zealand, the minister of education Hekia Parata shared a piece of knowledge that has become common the world over. In the Southland Times, “Experts have found that four consecutive years of quality teaching eliminated any trace of socio-economic disadvantage.”’

 The ‘expert’ referenced by Parata was the US economist Eric Hanushek, a measurer of inputs and outputs to promote educational change. Once again we find the meddling fingers of a economist who believes that the answer to any question lies in the neoliberal economics of Milton Friedman.

Cody’s critique of Hanushek continues:

 “He looks at the distribution of student test scores, and imagines that if we could fire the teachers who are associated with the lowest 10% or so, then we would make huge gains. This is the theory behind a great deal of the push for 21st century K-12 education reform in the US.  In order to identify and efficiently dispatch these slackers, we need national standards, and rigorous tests aligned to them.”


But the real world is proving to be a difficult place for Hanushek’s theories to be verified. No school has ever replicated the results predicted by his “four great teachers in a row” theory. In fact, there is no real research to support the idea that we can improve student achievement this way—it is all based on extrapolations.”


 “While conservative economists such as Hanushek wish to focus our attention on “bad teachers,” in actuality by far the largest factor affecting school performance is family income.”

 This, of course, turns the focus on to the government’s failing economic programme that has exacerbated the inequality gap in New Zealand. Demonising teachers (and their unions) is a tried and true neoliberal tactic overseas, especially in the USA, and so we can expect the final reconfiguration of the New Zealand Teachers Council to facilitate this.

But wait, there’s more:

 “Hanushek’s ideas have been driving a vast school reform project, which has been underwritten by the largest philanthropies on earth—starting with the Gates and Walton foundations.”

 The links to Gates and Walton should be enough to frighten the bejesus out of anyone, as behind them stands the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). If you have not heard of ALEC, I suggest you read this: Cashing in on Kids Report Exposes ALEC and also this:  ALEC Exposed (you might like to look at their policies, for example in health, education, social welfare, and the environment, to see if anything seems familiar.)

Cody concludes his article with a warning:

 “So I offer this warning to the people down under and beyond. This misguided emphasis is no more likely to work there than it has in the US—unless of course, New Zealand truly is “opposite land,” where hot snow falls up.”

 So, what’s the truth, Hekia?


  1. not so sure Alan – I think you think they are smarter than they are.
    I actually see a lot of good in what Parata is doing. The freedom and choice is still there if you are confident in what you are doing. She gathers knowledge every time she visits a school, and she is in them all the time. There is no doubt she is on the ground. Kiwis are generous with their observations, I’m starting to give a little here.

    • I understand exactly what Allan is saying as I feel very similar. I think she is learning as she gets more involved in dealing with actual schools and communities and as she talks and listens to diverse groups. But there remains a deep suspicion about her intentions, (probably due to wider political agendas and debate about the accuracy and relevance of research she has referred to). The way she has previously handled matters has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and her tactics mean that people from a wide range of groups feel threatened. As I am involved in one of the affected groups mentioned in the article I feel that freedom and choice is being taken away for political agenda and real every day issues are not directly addressed and true democracy is ignored.

    • On the ground?
      You have to be joking mate!! This woman is only ever present in body – and I have heard her present many times!! She is never present in a personal sense which would lead to her actually hearing or seeing anything except her of sad rhetoric.
      She listens to nobody and (at my last session hearing her) is deeply deceptive in her presentations, carefully presenting ideas with the contentious bits missing. I saw this with my own eyes around a PACT tool presentation just 3 weeks ago.
      Anyone who trusts her and thinks she is doing anything good and right is seriously deceived!!

  2. Time will tell…..

    There’s bit stuff all evidence to date. I don’t mind being wrong however!

  3. What’s ‘four consecutive years of quality teaching’? Who said so?

    When does it happen to make this magical difference? Primary? Intermediate? Secondary?

    If a person, for reasons manifold, goes awry in the middle of this magical experience – does the teacher lose that little gold star that says ‘quality teaching’? Or is there some give in the system? (Or even a safety net?)

    How do you decide beforehand whether the brand of quality teaching you have available actually matches with the person who has been assessed, etc as ‘in need’ of this magic?

    How come the teachers get the bonus when it’s the learner who has made the effort and improvement? And who checks that the miracle is lasting for the following four lean years? And, if it doesn’t last – do the four great teachers pay it back?

    And – has Hekia Parata tried this fabulous method with her office people who have such a tendency to play truant, or just leave? Or would it be too painful to find out that no sum would be enticement enough?

    Full of holes. All wish and no reality.

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