In which Pooh looks for a 21st Century Education Part 2

In Part 1, Piglet and Pooh wondered about something called a 21st Century Education;
Pooh said he’d found it but, in being asked what it was like, ignored the question, evincing more interest in the honey pot his head was in.

Except as a chronological expression, 21st century education is nothing special, remaining part of a continuity that, despite considerable twisting and turning, remains just that, a continuity; the technological disruption predicted for that chronological expression being just a further example of ideological disruption that is always there or near in the sensitive and value-laden area of school education.

In Part 1, I described how those who talked most about the 21st century education were ideological groupings (political, technology, business, and academic) who wanted to control the present of school education to control the future; even more, I suspect, to control the future to control the present.

This posting is also about an ideological disruption, in this case, though, an holistic one, the intention being to control the past to control the present. I’m not too fussed about the future, believing that getting the present ‘right’ is sufficient preparation for that. This last based on the idea that because we are dealing with human nature, the behavioural characteristics schools have to contend with remain much the same,  with differences in schooling coming from differences in ends. The argument in this posting is that holistic and democratic ends are the way to get the present right as against technologically-focused, hierarchical, and control ones.

I disagree with the hierarchical and anti-democratic purposes inherent in the ideology of Tomorrow’s Schools and want to disrupt that by returning to the power-sharing values portrayed in ‘The First Two Years at School’, a 1950 National Film Unit production for the Department of Education, and available now on YouTube (in Part 3 the link will be provided and the film discussed in detail).

The film will look at classroom practices with particular attention to the values expressed not just for the classes involved but for the education system. It was funded by the government to explain its education policies to teachers, parents, the community, and the media. The values expressed became organising ones for schools at the time; they are child-centred, equitable, communal, and democratic. Over subsequent years, culminating in Tomorrow’s Schools, those values were ignored, weakened, misunderstood, misrepresented by values that were individualistic, hierarchical, and control-seeking to the detriment of primary school education.

This posting will demonstrate that the values expressed in the film, though consistently under duress, still survived and still survive in classrooms – and are as relevant today as ever.

The main message from the film is that a school education system in a democratic society does better when the production of knowledge is shared throughout the system, in other words, the cult of the academic expert is absent and the dominance of education bureaucracies diminished. In those circumstances, I see the government, after consultation, setting out the guiding principles in the form of an expression of values, then inviting teachers to translate those into curriculum and classroom practice. This is what the First Labour Government provided under Michael Joseph Savage with Peter Fraser as minister of education (also later prime minister) and Clarence Beeby as director of education (from 1940) – and the Fourth under David Lange took away.

The First Labour government set out the value ends, provided a framework of support with resources and advisory support (especially in the arts), but did not presume to direct teachers how to go about those value ends. That is the present I would like re-established. I believe it is the best for children, the best way to get the best from teachers, and the best way to support a democratic society.

It is the cult of the academic expert co-opted by governments for control purposes that is now the most undermining characteristic of modern education. Colleges and schools of education have ‘experts’ for part of the story but few for the whole. The idea of teaching being required to be evidence-based is the most damaging myth of modern schooling and the one, as parents seek a more satisfactory education for their children, most likely to lead to the breakup of public education. To cut to the chase: the main expert used for evidence-based ideas in New Zealand is John Hattie, and his research is phoney.

https://networkonnet.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/john-hattie-your-research-is-now-a-con/

Appointments to colleges and schools of education should be made according the needs of teachers and children and encompass all kinds of knowledges from classroom to academia, not the rating needs of universities.

My particular argument is to consolidate and develop the position of teacher-produced knowledge which has its own process of establishing validity, for instance, recognised longevity of success. In Part 4 of this series, just such examples of success will be provided. Teacher-produced knowledge has been trampled on, derided, ignored, and made largely forgotten by those wielding academic evidence-based knowledge of the sort allowed into the system by a neoliberal-based government, but it has persisted

Fraser was frustrated that more teachers did not take the opportunity to explore the freedom available but the values did strike; the difficulty was that in the times that followed there was antagonism by the media and conservative politicians and what had struck had to grow and develop in an increasingly unfavourable environment.

There was also some parental resistance. Indeed, the beginning of the film had a parent doubting the kinds of ideas children were bringing from school to home. The media and conservative politicians called it ‘playway’ so it is understandable some parents took up the theme. But as a message of freedom it held sway in primary school education as an ideal to form the basis for a golden period in New Zealand that still glisters today.

The film, I believe for tactical and defensive reasons, takes clear aim at the junior rooms, though Fraser was forthright in wanting the principles to characterise the system.  The values expressed and the freedom made available was picked up by some remarkable women who, on the whole, concentrated on their children and did not court publicity. In return, the junior part of the school was often seen as something apart, as something special that could be left to the stjc (senior teacher of junior classes).

Before we consider the film, a number of matters need to be referred to. The narrator refers to education from a variety of classrooms being used. But the main classrooms used in the film have children almost entirely pakeha. This was not discrimination or oversight; the film was made before the Maori migration to cities. I went to New Lynn School in West Auckland and can’t recall any Maori child there at all. When, however, the film went to a country school almost entirely Maori, the decision was made to have children doing outside things, which had that gardening stereotype to it (and indeed, had the children actually gardening as one part of it); the children also went on a nature ramble to a river; but what the teacher did with that is not shown. The point I would like to make is that the kind of holistic, informal education depicted in the pakeha-orientated city schools used in the film would have been just as wonderful with and for Maori children (yes – I know along with particular Maori cultural elements added).

When I went recently to a conference on Elwyn Richardson and his teaching at Oruaiti School in the 1950s, a number of his pupils were there and they exalted his teaching – nearly all were Maori.

The other matter that might jar was the gender aspect. The universal ‘he’ and ‘him’ was used (just once I think); more significantly was the gender stereotyping the children brought from home to their free time play in the classroom.

The books the children read and had read to them were European-centred; Sylvia Ashton-Warner responded to that and so did other teachers but New Zealand-centred books did not become widespread for another decade.

The percentage of children who had attended pre-school education would have been smaller and those who did would very likely have had a less rich experience than available today. (We should keep in mind, though, that Beatrice Beeby, wife of the director of education, Clarence Beeby, was one of the founders of the playcentre movement which established its first playcentre in 1941.) You will note that classroom practices depicted in the film would seem to have picked up nicely from where children were likely to have been.

And to reiterate the four main aims of these postings were to demonstrate:

  • The holistic classroom continuity from the 1950s to the present day
  • How century-bound conceptions of education  are harmful and invalid
  • The way values were used to organise the system, leaving teachers to devise classroom practices in response
  • The origins, power, and authenticity of teacher-developed knowledge.

Now one autumn morning when the wind had blown all the leaves off the trees in the night, and was trying to blow the branches off, Pooh and Piglet were sitting in the Thoughtful Spot and wondering.

‘I think I’ll try to catch a Good Education today,’ announced Pooh.

‘What does a Good Education look like?’ asked Piglet.

‘Don’t know.’

‘But I’ll let you know when I catch one,’ replied Pooh blithely.

Continued in Part 3

 

 

Posted in Education Policy, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Oh come on! Bring in the NCEA cavalry (Warwick Elley)

Staffroom photos help boost NCEA pass rates at North Shore’s Glenfield College

‘Schools can achieve any pass rates they want; it is simply a matter of being sensitive to believability limits and cheek. Principals keep their hands clean but they know it is happening and put pressure of expectations on make sure it does. It all comes to a crashing end with UE or with external exams, though.’ Quote from: https://networkonnet.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/ncea-the-great-learning-robbery-the-culprits-the-government-editors-and-in-this-instance-simon-collins/

In the posting above I did not talk about the diverting of students to so-called ‘vocational’ units. Those units, of course, have a place but the pressure to lift NCEA passes means schools are relying on them to up pass rates: students who are on the borderline are not taken a risk with.

The aim of the school should be to increase the number of students who have a real choice amongst the ‘academic’ units as well as the ‘vocational’ ones.

I have long agitated for increased staffing for secondary schools to enable them to set up, from students’ first years, small group tutor systems to provide learning guidance. In my campaign against clusters that was my suggestion for the better use of the money.

I’m not saying that all those hot-housed students were in the vocational ones, but a good few would have been.

The overall difficulty is that throughout the education system, wrong messages are being sent. NCEA is a mess no matter what way you look at it and needs to be sorted out. The results from schools can mean something or very little. Who knows? A previous posting makes clear teachers are being ‘pressured’ into irregular behaviours, and that these behaviours are having harmful effects throughout the education system extending to primary junior classes. https://networkonnet.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/attack-106-things-are-not-ok/

Students from families with substantial social capital (of a particular sort) are the ones who will be able to pick themselves up and go on to pass UE; students from families without will be far less likely to have that choice.

Even in the face of falling international results, with the distorted NCEA ones, governments are able to keep the public reasonably content and thus resist pressure for more funding. Once again it is the students without that substantial social capital who will be most affected because they are the ones most in need of an education system more able to be attentive to their needs.

National standards need to go, to be replaced by a re-establishment of the National Education Monitoring Unit and the continuation of the Dunedin-based research unit. For the moment I’ll leave my ideas for secondary schools aside but I remind readers that our most eminent testing researcher, Warwick Elley, was always firmly, perhaps even bitterly, against the NCEA structure, perhaps it’s time to go cap in hand and ask him for help.

New entrants in the junior room, and from then on, are being disadvantaged because of a government-allowed scam at the top. NCEA graduates must be able to read, write, do sums, and think at a basic level or it will remain a giant con – an open, but conspiratorially not reported, injustice in our education system. The politicians, principals, and teachers are not doing a kindness to the candidates – they are self-servingly functioning at the expense of children starting right from the beginning of children’s school learning lives.

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NCEA: The Great Learning Robbery – the culprits: the government, editors and, in this instance, Simon Collins

NCEA rates slump at tiny Ngata Memorial College, but school averages improve

NCEA and national standards results are being manipulated in schools, and especially NCEA: the government knows, the media knows, everyone in schools knows (ask any student, they all know too) but why worry about it; the children from families with substantial social capital will shrug off the effects; too bad for the children without.

Making things seem to go well in education allows the government a relatively free hand to maintain its fierce centralised control of education and from there to exclude teachers from genuine participation in policy- and decision-making; also to avoid policies that while they might well improve education – particularly for children from lower socio-economic environments – are removed from consideration on grounds of cost. Why fund for improved learning when the government can get it for free by relying on teachers scamming NCEA? School education at both primary and secondary is weak and heading to the dismal but where schools have control of the testing it is sunlit vistas.

(Note to Hekia: of course you know.)

(Note to Simon: doubling from social issues to education seems to have made you amnesiac about your regular past references to the importance of education to the solution of social issues.)

The main actions taken within secondary classrooms to manipulate results are:

  1. Far more assessment opportunities than regulation allows (this is almost universal) and is the big one: students and teachers have told me it is close to standard practice for students to take their work to the teacher time after time, adding a bit incrementally till finished. This allows schools to push their pass rate to the extremes of the believable and sometimes beyond. Of all the manipulation tactics this is the one that delivers the success in media ratings and in Hekia Parata’s farewell media releases.
  2. Overly scaffolding learning (in other words, setting out more information for student inclusion in their answering than should properly be made available): Mainly done by the teacher directly helping students to scaffold NCEA answers, leaving the student to express it in the form required but often completely uncomprehending about what is being expressed.
  3. Putting information on whiteboard and leaving it there (not so common but it does happen).
  4. Overly detailed and suggestive feedback: a more informal version of 1.
  5. Working in the computer lab to allow cutting and pasting: A digitalised version of 1 and 3.

Literacy can now be passed in nearly any subject – with most passing that requirement before they sit English, as a result, few take English seriously. The students can be passed for literacy, for instance, by drawing a graph, moving the curves correctly and adding a couple of sentences. They are able to pass passing in literacy using credits where the attention is not on the literacy but the ideas contained, scattered around so to speak. Very little English has to be deployed to pass.

The way things are set up allows many students to sidestep challenges, play a game of deep manipulation, just doing enough to meet what is required – leaving an overwhelming feeling of neither caring about learning nor understanding what was supposed to have been learnt. Students are more-or-less saying, if you want me to pass, get me through, but if you won’t someone else will. (This strongly relates to the list above.)

Schools can achieve any pass rates they want; it is simply a matter of being sensitive to believability limits and cheek. Principals keep their hands clean but they know it is happening and put pressure of expectations on make sure it does. It all comes to a crashing end with UE or with external exams, though.

This scam occurs across all secondary schools and particularly intensively in schools that take the Cambridge Examinations. Taking the Cambridge Examinations as well, has the obvious effect of restricting time for NCEA meaning shortcuts are a near necessity. Also, schools taking the Cambridge Examinations are almost certainly ones that have very high examination expectations.

The farce of post-Christmas passes that became a particularly big thing two years ago will serve as a metaphor for the whole sorry matter.

The universities understandably fed up with large numbers of half-literate, unmotivated, and anti-intellectual students turning up at their ivy-framed gated-entrance, lobbied for some consolidation of English and mathematics standards into external exams. The result, a plummeting of marks that not even the ritual head office tweaking could hide. So there was a rush of students back to their local schools early in the New Year for what I call holiday passes. Typically, those students have not so much failed as fooled around in the course of the year making a nuisance of themselves with their distracting behaviour and lack of motivation.

Then, after the results are out, having heard, say, that a friend was going to university at Dunedin to do a physical education course become all interested and beseech their secondary school. The school in return has a vested interest in building up pass numbers. Success by a student in any post-Christmas NCEA sale would necessarily involve breaking NCEA protocols. The teaching or learning would not have been authentic. Students should properly have only been offered a touch here and there by the teacher with the initiative lying very much with the student. There is an additional point; if post-Christmas sale was open to one student it should by regulation have been opened to all.

A newly-appointed teacher, straight from the school of education, was given some post-Christmas students to pass. She couldn’t believe what was happening. Nothing at the school of education had prepared her for this. After tearfully approaching the principal he allocated the students to another teacher and it was all wrapped up in a week. In fact, the local newspaper proceeded to make local heroes of the students and teachers concerned.

But wait for it – unintended consequences? well hardly but apparently. Student numbers at universities dropped (wow! who could have guessed?), putting funding at risk so the universities set aside the legal minimum for university entrance and conjured up something called vice-chancellor’s discretion.

For the government, why put money into the school system to improve results when schools can and do manipulate results for that end on their own initiative? Look at Hekia laughing all the way to retirement on the backs of Maori and Pacific students.

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If Chris Hipkins can’t do it give it to Kelvin Davis Part 2

In many respects Kelvin Davis is more conservative than Chris Hipkins but Kelvin Davis listens and that is all we are asking.

[I want to make it clear these postings are entirely my initiative. If Kelvin asked me to stop I wouldn’t.

He first came to my attention many years ago when I was at Waitangi on Waitangi Day taking photographs for a social studies resource. The word spread like wildfire that Helen Clark had continued north to speak to a promising potential candidate by the name of Kelvin Davis.

In the last three years we have probably communicated three or four times. In a posting, I pushed him and Stuart Nash for leadership material, and that Christmas (after the election), in walking down to the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, I met him and his new secretary who had been taken north to meet his family and visit the electorate.

Since then we have communicated about four times, usually when he sought information about a school and principal he thought might be able to help. Please note: not to work together but to do what he could do from his position.

Kelvin Davis was decisive in protecting Opua School from the very bad behaviour of the education review office.

Two times, after reading my postings, and then ringing me, I could sense his deep concern about the bullying of two women principals.

The questions he asked were always direct and quite tough: summed up he didn’t want to be caught defending an incompetent. Kelvin is not someone to be trifled with.

I did ring him on one occasion, to do with his visit to a charter school in Whangarei. First of all he said he did not support charter schools, and I believed him, and so should you – Kelvin Davis does not tell lies.

The circumstances were that he was asked to visit the school for a special occasion by the principal, a close member of his whanau – that member had worked to start a school for Maori children, one she intended to have within the public system. That was the originating plan, but the ministry would have none of it, and insisted it be a charter school or nothing.

In the end Kelvin Davis decided to go serving one loyalty while transgressing another.

Kelvin Davis would disagree on a lot of things with me about education, I don’t care; he is a listener. I see him as a future prime minister.]

What follows is a sincere attempt to suggest some ideas for a system’s education change to put the spark, cohesion, and drive into Labour’s education plans for primary education.

At the moment Labour’s suggested policies are dragging the chain and just won’t do.

Below are some ideas for a changed education system – ideas which are consistent with Labour’s 1935 education policy of developing children’s ‘talents to the utmost’.

The Currie Commission (1962) was to underline the seriousness of this intent when it said that: ‘So far is this from being a mere pious platitude that the full acceptance of the principle will involve the reorientation of the education system.’

The term reorientation is one that suits my purposes exactly: Please note – my attention is to primary school education.

I know my suggestions for a manifesto have been posted – this is another expression in another mood, so some differences in emphasis (but only that).

https://networkonnet.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/shortened-version-of-the-networkonnet-education-manifesto-for-the-2017-election/

I was mindful in the ideas that follow to set out a democratic and trust-based system which did not replace one set of certainties with another. Wittgenstein described the modern-day obsession with certainty as a superstition. In education, in a social democracy, there isn’t anyone who knows – at best we are talking about approximation. There certainly isn’t anyone who knows; who can be certain about what is right for all children, for all teachers, for all schools, for all societies, for all times. It should not be management by objectives (which is neoliberalism) but participation by variety, values, and aims (which is social democracy).

While the emphasis in the framework that follows is on aims, that doesn’t mean that schools can’t, if that is their decision, organise what they do to closely-set objectives of their own making – the important thing is that this judgement is left to schools. That is why variety in the suggested framework is more than something to be encouraged, it is its essence. Variety is especially mentioned in three key education areas: the external review process; a reconstituted advisory service; and initial teacher education.

The ideas that follow will only truly come alive if they are read as ‘far from being mere pious platitude’. An education system, for instance, built on truly valuing variety would have widespread and significant consequences from initial teacher education, to classroom functioning, to external reviewing, and on and on.

Chris Hipkins is not listening; I believe Kelvin Davis would listen.

It almost goes without saying that the clusters should be abolished: they are not worth their money relative to other needs and, even more importantly, under a National government (even a Labour one if Tomorrow’s Schools are anything to go by) they will be turned to deepening education’s neoliberal future – schools being conveniently organised for bureaucratic control and exploitation by private companies

General

Develop a partnership model for policy development

Develop an education system given direction by an agreed set of values

Develop an education system based on valuing variety

Develop a national curriculum organised by principles and aims

Develop an education system based on evaluation being inseparable from teaching (in other words, reducing the significance of outcomes-based assessment)

In the light of above: Develop an education system based on carefully considered metaphors

The Education Council is acting as an instrument of the ministry of education and adding another layer of bureaucracy: it should be abolished and replaced by an organisation controlled and paid for by teachers

Because John Hattie’s research contributes substantially to the theoretical basis for the current system and the academic justification for its policies, there should be an inquiry into the soundness of that research.

Comment: The term evidence-based research should examined and put into proportion to allow space for other ways knowledge is produced. ‘Assessment’ as a term, was absent from education literature before the 1970s and is inseparable from the industrial model introduced into education by neoliberalism. Teachers and their organisations should be structurally involved in policy initiation and making.

External reviews

Develop a process of external review undertaken in partnership (government, boards of trustees, teacher organisations, principals, teachers, and schools of education)

Develop a process of external review based on evaluation being inseparable from teaching (in other words what is happening in classrooms not on paper)

Develop a process of external review in accord with the principles and aims set for the system and the national curriculum.

Develop policies of transparency and acceptance of responsibility for the education review process.

Consider bringing the review office into the ministry structure for efficiency, to align policy and evaluation, and honesty of function and relationship.

Comment: Such an external review process would require reviewers to establish different relationships with schools and be of high status and experience. I suggest a partnership advisory board be set up in association with the administration of the review process.

National evaluation

Develop a national evaluation system based on sampling using rich evaluation activities.

Comment: This is a recommendation for system similar to NEMP, but even better resourced. I also suggest building relationships with other countries to establish an international approach, separate from right-wing and economics-focused organisations like the OECD, to evaluate across the curriculum using rich evaluation activities. The idea is replace narrowly focused and structured international evaluation processes like PISA with broadly based and structured evaluation processes like NEMP. The Educational Assessment Research Unit based at Otago should also be continued (though, refocused and comprising qualitative researchers as well).

Advisory service

Develop a relatively independent, government-funded advisory service based on valuing variety.

Comment: A relatively independent advisory service would provide an alternative to other sources of professional advice, other developers of knowledge, and other sources of curriculum memory. I think this is of particular importance.

Principal appointments (Primary)

Develop a system around the idea of principal appointments being made by a committee of two board of trustees, an NZEI representative, and a ministry representative as chair.

Comment: There are no perfect appointment processes, only less imperfect ones.

Specialist teaching

Develop a school staffing schedule that, without undermining the benefits of generalist class teaching, provides schools with the opportunity for some specialised teaching.

Comment: I suggest Maori, music, drama, the arts, and science as being particular beneficiaries of this policy.

Children and underachievement

Develop special policies for helping children who are underachieving

Advocate for, and contribute to, a national economic and social policy on underachievement that gives priority to the mitigation and elimination of child poverty

Develop policies for creating environments in schools to provide some compensation for social disadvantage

Develop a policy for including in school staffing schedules time allowances for community relationships, individual counselling, working with multi-agencies, running homework centres, and organising and funding healthy eating

Develop policies for providing extra classroom support for teachers, with special attention to increasing the number of support teachers to help in one-to-one or small group teaching

Develop policies that discourage schools from manipulating enrolment policies to the disadvantage of Maori and Polynesian children.

Comment: These must be a high priority.

Maori 

Develop more programmes like Te Kotahitanga (and reintroduce Te Kotahitanga)

Develop holistic programmes developed by holistic teachers (Maori and others)

Develop a programme of appointing (using culturally appropriate procedures) Maori-speaking teachers to schools to teach and set up programmes throughout those schools (introduced initially by schools volunteering and then being selected).

Special needs

Develop a comprehensive funding policy for children with special needs as a way for schools to meet those children’s needs without detriment to the resources available to other children in the school.

Comment: Funding for special needs should be generous to the extent that the temptation to discourage the enrolment of special needs’ children is reduced.

National curriculum

Develop a national curriculum which, while giving an assured place to literacy and numeracy, provides children with rich learning opportunities in a broadly-based curriculum

Develop a national curriculum organised by aims (as against objectives)

Develop a national curriculum based, in the first place, on meeting the needs of children as they are (being the best way for preparing children for the future)

Develop a national curriculum that has knowing and the affective as its basis

Develop a national curriculum that ensures all children, no matter their ability, are involved in programmes that encourage creativity, imagination, and rigorous thinking

Develop a national curriculum that is based on evaluation and teaching being inseparable.

Comment: To reduce in importance particular parts of the curriculum on the erroneous justification of first attending to literacy and numeracy is to condemn certain children to a second-rate education. A curriculum based on aims provides more space for creativity and teacher initiative. It should be left to schools to decide on the nature and extent of objective setting. Many schools and teachers may well decide to transform what might have been objectives into criteria.

Knowledge

Develop a system that respects and is informed by both teacher and academic knowledge

Develop SKS (Successful Knowledge Syntheses) rather than BES (Best Evidence Syntheses).

Comment: Having an education system that respects and is informed by both teacher and academic knowledge would have significant implications for appointments to schools of education, the functioning of the PBRF (Performance-Based Research Fund), external reviewing, and curriculum development.

Schools of education

Develop courses for schools of education that respect and use teacher-developed knowledge

Develop courses for schools of education that give priority to the needs of children and not the status of universities

Develop criteria for appointments to schools of education and advancement that give priority to applicants’ suitability for preparing students for teaching in schools

Develop criteria for appointments to schools of education, and advancement that take account of academic ability but in a way more appropriate to the aims of teacher education than the current PBRF system

Develop programmes of work for schools of education that emphasise teaching and learning in schools but also give attention to theoretical and philosophical matters

Develop programmes of work for schools of education that value variety

Develop a policy that allows schools of education, within broad guidelines, to provide programmes that differ.

Comment: Such ideas may well go against the internationalisation of universities, if so, let that be a point of difference for our education system and, in schools, a win for teachers and children.

Computers in schools

Develop a policy that has computers in schools supporting curriculum development not driving it

Develop a new policy for computers in schools following consultation with curriculum experts and high ability classroom teachers

Develop a policy to have computer-use a curriculum subject and in that way take pressure of teachers to use computers inappropriately throughout the curriculum.

Comment: I know schools already have a considerable amount of independence in deciding computer purchasing and policy in their schools – what I’m guarding against here are large government gestures along the lines often suggested by Labour. There are far more important priorities for government funding (as instanced above). The use of computers in schools should not be dominated by computer experts but by curriculum ones – in that way, computers are more likely to end up serving the curriculum not driving it.

School architecture

Develop a policy that gives choice to schools in the matter of school architecture

Develop a policy that would allow schools to have a variety of architectural styles in a school.

The above are some ideas for a reorientation of the education system. In recent years, the Labour Party’s education policy has been one of incrementalism – in other words, by implication, an acceptance of the present system as satisfactory, requiring only occasional adjustment. But the present system with its increasing bureaucratisation and authoritarianism is not satisfactory. Incrementalism is all right if the system is on the right track, but it isn’t: it needs significant change, but judicious change. Some of the processes, techniques, and efficiencies developed from Tomorrow’s Schools should be retained but made to serve an education system more fitting for a social democracy.

Neoliberal academics have no hesitation in going back to the pre-war Austrian philosophers to reconfirm his philosophical rationale (in his case, Peter Drucker and management by objectives), so Labour politicians should have no hesitation in going back to the Fraser-Beeby era to reconfirm theirs.

A Beeby statement made following a meeting in 1942 with the South Canterbury NZEI management committee expresses clearly an idea fundamental to the reorientation suggested:

‘There seems to be a common desire on the part of teachers to ask the Department for detailed instructions regarding such things as the changes that are taking place in infant education rather than to embrace the freedom the Department has given and to participate co-operatively in the working out of up-date practice in the infant room.’

Please note that Beeby emphasised true freedom for curriculum expression. Such true freedom is in stark contrast to the nominal freedom for classroom activities that is currently allowed with centralised control being maintained through bureaucratically set and monitored objectives.

Beeby wrote:

‘It may well be that the Department, without slackening its programme on the more material side, can devote an increasing amount of effort to the task of professional leadership in the classroom … The introduction into primary of what has become to be known as the ‘new freedom’ makes it more than ever desirable that the Department, through the Inspectors, should develop to the utmost its function of professional leadership.’.

Labour should break the hold of neoliberalism. Take steps to develop an education system based on truly valuing variety, on truly valuing partnership; take steps to develop a system which boldly expresses our identity; take steps to develop an education system that is organised by aims not bureaucratically set and monitored objectives; take steps to develop an education system that respects and is informed by both teacher and academic knowledge; take steps to develop a system which is set up for children and curriculum not ease of bureaucratic control; and, in respect to the theme that introduced this posting, take steps to develop an education system truly addresses the issues surrounding children’s learning and poverty.

I leave it to two comments from Part 1 to sum it up.

  1. Auckland George says:

I just can’t feel any particular election momentum building for the opposition parties. They certainly need to mobilise some fire eaters in portfolios such as education and health – and in doing so try to bring Andrew Little up to speed as well.

Reply 

  1. John H says: 

April 15, 2017 at 10:01 pm 

Your comments re Hipkins boxing himself in by endorsing Parata’s ‘successes’ are timely and astute Kelvin. NZEI too has painted itself an even brighter shade of beige by snuggling too close to Hipkins/Labour. It’s a case of desperate hand-holding in the dark that is likely to weaken the resolve of both organisations.

I believe the country is ready to listen to such a message and delivered by Kelvin Davis.

Posted in Education Policy, Political | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

If Chris Hipkins can’t do it give it to Kelvin Davis Part 1

If you scanned through what follows, you might ask, what has this to do with Chris Hipkins and Kelvin Davis?

Well, recently in the Herald (April 13, 2017) there was a gushing article about how wonderful Hekia Parata had been as minister of education based on boys, Maori, and Pacific children gaining faster than average in the latest results for NCEA and, in response, Chris Hipkins saying ‘the NCEA results should be celebrated’.

Now these are the facts: Parata’s reign as minister of education has been a disaster in general and, in particular for boys, Maori, and Pacific children, and the children of the poor (see below).

And here we have the prospective Labour minister of education praising the ‘success’ Parata has concocted for her success – and Labour’s failure if it won the election.

There are two key points here:

  1. The media, by its stance, is exploiting vulnerable, needy children, for its own political ends and ease of vocation. It is just cruel. These very groups of children need heaps of attention and funding, but what chance now? The media continues, as through the decades, to live largely by ministry media release alone. They just won’t listen to us, far easier to play the gullible than the sceptical: keeps the editors happy and it is a breeze just warming up the handouts
  2. Chris Hipkins would know about the NCEA manipulation described below but decides to celebrate it – that means he is planning to continue the policies that brought about that celebration, in other words the scam. But you naïve fool Chris Hipkins, when Labour gets in that same scam process and others throughout the system (national standards) will be media and editorially hunted. Labour’s education policies will be pilloried and not only the ones that brought about the ‘celebration’ but the good ones. With Hekia now a success, you have nowhere to go but down. And if National’s education policies are a success, why vote for Labour. Chris you are not a politician’s elbow. You have failed miserably to expose National’s failed policies and in failing that you have set Labour’s policies to fail to. You must go and be replaced by a genuine politician, one with fire in his belly – Kelvin Davis

In this morning’s Dominion (April 15, 2017) Jo Moir does a public relations job for Hekia Parata: and, amidst the long ludicrous blurb the only Parata ‘success’ is held aloft like a flag at Iwo Jima – Moir’s success for Parata is the so-called NCEA improvement for boys, Maori, and Pacific children. Everyone in teaching, and a good few outside, know the results are a scam; a scam set up early by National ministers of education to distract and justify a wrecked education system. In international testing New Zealand is at the bottom of the Western world in results and everywhere else.

Also, in New Zealand research: Let us go to the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) whose task is to assess student performance across the y. 4 and y. 8 alignments as set in the New Zealand Curriculum.

NMSSA results are produced by government contract out of Otago University by a team of quantitative academics.

Take y. 8 reading as adjudged by schools: in 2014 77.64% of students achieved ‘at’ or ‘above’ the national standard; as adjudged by the NMSSA: 59% of students achieved ‘at’ or ‘above’ the national standard.

Or y. 8 mathematics as adjudged by schools: in 2013 68.90% of students achieved ‘at’ or ‘above’ the national standard; as adjudged by the NMSSA: 41% of students achieved ‘at’ or ‘above’ the national standard. You can imagine where boys, Maori, and Pacific children sit here.

So how could suddenly, out of the ruins, appear boys, Maori, and Pacific children. Well only by a scam. Tellingly, UE results that are mainly externally passed are as poor as ever for these groups. Scams, in the end, as against real improvement, do these groups no end of harm.

The government has declared the Level 2 NCEA to be the key indicator of the success or otherwise of the New Zealand education system. It has also approved a system in which the testing and marking for that level, in particular, is largely left to the schools. At NCEA Level 2, the high stakes effect is revealed in a marking rort and the diversion of children to peripheral units. This very high stakes assessment distortion at Level 2 NCEA has implications for the school system right down to the first year at primary. The ‘success’ by high stakes assessment (of the sort pertaining) at Level 2 NCEA means no signal is being sent throughout the school system that when children arrive at secondary they are arriving considerably unprepared for that level of schooling. In return, there is also very high stakes assessment in the primary system which means no signal about unsatisfactory performance, even if of only the unsatisfactory national standards variety, is being emitted.

The story of high stakes assessment needs to be traced back to primary school, where the government has imposed an education system to serve its ideological and fiscal purposes. When these children arrive at secondary, many, especially children from lower socio-economic environments, have little chance of meeting the demands of an authentic NCEA Level 2, so an unauthentic one is provided instead. The lack of preparation for secondary education is most seriously demonstrated in children’s lack of genuine interest in learning and a lack of development in intellectual challenge and flexible thinking. (As well, there is a growing number of children who can read but aren’t readers. And we won’t even mention mathematics.)

I acknowledge that one of the main reasons secondary teachers don’t want to change the NCEA Level 2 situation is their understandable feeling for social justice – wanting a broad range of children to leave secondary with accreditation. They point to how much it means to some children, and how substantial failure for a large number of children would be a return to the old exam days which made school certificate such a harsh exercise in social and vocational sorting. The idealism is admirable but misplaced. One of the functions of schools, whether schools like it or not, whether idealists like me like it or not, is social and vocational sorting. However, the whole system should be geared, right from primary, to give all children a better chance and a wider variety of choice, authentic choice, when that sorting occurs. As well, the basis for the sorting must be fair, transparent, and inclusive. And as part of that, there being some kind of official accreditation for every child who demonstrates a satisfactory range of qualities, but it must be authentic.

NCEA and national standards results are being manipulated by the government to a high degree to make it look as though things are going well in education. Making things seem to go well in education allows the government a relatively free hand to maintain its fierce centralised control of education and from there to exclude teachers from genuine participation in policy- and decision-making; to implement a narrow education aimed at vocational ends; and to avoid policies that while they might well improve education – particularly for children from lower socio-economic environments – are removed from consideration on grounds of cost. School education at both primary and secondary is weak and heading to the dismal. The government has been willing to provide money for certain projects like national standards and clusters because they are organisational features that increase centralised control and steer well clear of anything approaching the curriculum except as represented by national standards.

A few of the actions taken within secondary classrooms to manipulate results are:

  • Far more assessment opportunities than regulation allows (this is almost universal)
  • Overly scaffolding learning (in other words, setting out more information for student inclusion in their answering than should properly be made available)
  • Putting information on whiteboard and leaving it there
  • Overly detailed and suggestive feedback
  • Working in the computer lab to allow cutting and pasting.

Literacy can now be passed in nearly any subject – with most passing that requirement before they sit English, as a result, few take English seriously. The students can be passed for literacy, for instance, by drawing a graph, moving the curves correctly and adding a couple of sentences. They are able to pass passing in literacy using credits where the attention is not on the literacy but the ideas contained, scattered around so to speak. Very little English has to be deployed to pass.

The way things are set up allows many students to sidestep challenges, play a game of deep manipulation, just doing enough to meet what is required – leaving an overwhelming feeling of neither caring about learning nor understanding what was supposed to have been learnt. Students are more-or-less saying, if you want me to pass, get me through, but if you won’t someone else will.

This scam occurs across all secondary schools and particularly intensively in schools that take the Cambridge Examinations. Taking the Cambridge Examinations as well, has the obvious effect of restricting time for NCEA meaning shortcuts are a near necessity. Also, schools taking the Cambridge Examinations are almost certainly ones that have very high examination expectations.

The minister of education is on record as being vehemently against results based on test participation as against total roll, but the publication of results by the ministry always headlines participation-based. It’s crazy.

The farce of post-Christmas passes that became a particularly big thing two years ago will serve as a metaphor for the whole sorry matter.

The universities understandably fed up with large numbers of half-literate, unmotivated, and anti-intellectual students turning up at their ivy-framed gated-entrance, lobbied for some consolidation of English and mathematics standards into external exams. The result, a plummeting of marks that not even the ritual head office tweaking could hide. So there was a rush of students back to their local schools early in the New Year for what I call holiday passes. Typically, those students have not so much failed as fooled around in the course of the year making a nuisance of themselves with their distracting behaviour and lack of motivation.

Then, after the results are out, having heard, say, that a friend was going to university at Dunedin to do a physical education course become all interested and beseech their secondary school. The school in return has a vested interest in building up pass numbers. Success by a student in any post-Christmas NCEA sale would necessarily involve breaking NCEA protocols. The teaching or learning would not have been authentic. Students should properly have only been offered a touch here and there by the teacher with the initiative lying very much with the student. There is an additional point; if post-Christmas sale was open to one student it should by regulation have been opened to all.

A newly-appointed teacher, straight from the school of education, was given some post-Christmas students to pass. She couldn’t believe what was happening. Nothing at the school of education had prepared her for this. After tearfully approaching the principal he allocated the students to another teacher and it was all wrapped up in a week. In fact, the local newspaper proceeded to make local heroes of the students and teachers concerned.

But wait for it – unintended consequences? well hardly but apparently. Student numbers at universities dropped (wow! who could have guessed?), putting funding at risk so the universities set aside the legal minimum for university entrance and conjured up something called vice-chancellor’s discretion.

All this Chris Hipkins knows (or he’s incompetent as well as naïve) but calls it success. He must go. In Part 2 I detail why Kelvin Davis must be minister of education and policies I put up for his consideration.

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Attack! 106 Things are not OK

Welcome to ATTACK! 

ATTACK! is a two-page occasional publication giving attention to the curriculum – the holistic curriculum.

ATTACK! is for you, also to introduce to your colleagues. Each issue will be restricted to two pages. A cover graphic for a file or folder to store ATTACK! issues is available.

Most of ATTACK! will be concerned with the holistic curriculum which, if acted on, is a fundamental way to undermine the present undemocratic education system. Don’t be discouraged if opportunities to teach holistically are limited, do your best, be a guardian, and act as a witness to this culturally significant and inspiring way of teaching and learning.

To get in touch for comment, questions, and the ATTACK! issues to be sent to you personally:  ksmythe@wave.co.nz

Attack! 106 Things are not OK

Click here to download

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Attack! 105 Sir Patricio Grinch, Wekiu Tomata, Weary Gardener, and Tugger, the then PM

Welcome to ATTACK! 

ATTACK! is a two-page occasional publication giving attention to the curriculum – the holistic curriculum.

ATTACK! is for you, also to introduce to your colleagues. Each issue will be restricted to two pages. A cover graphic for a file or folder to store ATTACK! issues is available.

Most of ATTACK! will be concerned with the holistic curriculum which, if acted on, is a fundamental way to undermine the present undemocratic education system. Don’t be discouraged if opportunities to teach holistically are limited, do your best, be a guardian, and act as a witness to this culturally significant and inspiring way of teaching and learning.

To get in touch for comment, questions, and the ATTACK! issues to be sent to you personally:  ksmythe@wave.co.nz

Attack! 105 Sir Patricio Grinch, Wekiu Tomata, Weary Gardener, and Tugger, the then PM

Click here to download

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