Wednesday, December 17, 2008

National Standards: The Real Oil

my good friend Perry Rush who is without doubt one of NZ's best principals who runs a bloody great school has the real oil. here is his article published in todays Dominion Post:

So the Education (National Standards) Amendment Act has been rushed into law under urgency without so much as a flicker of debate.

Should we be worried?

In the midst of implementing a visionary future focused curriculum educators are confronted with a law change requiring schools to report on children’s achievement against national standards.

The drive to be open about children’s achievement is in itself laudable. Parents should have high quality information about their children’s achievement and in many schools do.

But it is the inference that student underachievement will be influenced by legislating schools into high stakes testing in reading, writing and mathematics that is troublesome.

The only reasonable assumption of such a policy is that schools are under performing and that testing will make visible poor performance that can therefore act as a public incentive to ‘do better’.

The reality is that New Zealand Schooling has been doing well for a long time.

The 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) found that of the 572 countries participating, the mean reading literacy performance of only three countries was significantly higher than New Zealand, two countries were similar, and the other 50 countries were significantly lower.

Of the 57 countries participating in PISA 2006, the mean mathematical literacy performance of only five countries was significantly higher than New Zealand, seven countries were similar, and the other 44 countries were significantly lower.

By any objective standard New Zealand schools are doing an outstanding job at growing literate and numerate students.

Despite this we should not pretend that everything is rosy.

Our government and all New Zealanders should rightly be concerned about the long tail of underachievement that does mark New Zealand as different from other OECD countries. Maori and Pacific Island students are disproportionately represented in this tail.

The recent results of ‘Trends In International Mathematics And Science Study’ (TIMSS) are a cause for concern and should rightly signal the beginning of focused discussion across the educational sector to identify an appropriate response.

But welding a sledgehammer at schools to resolve concern about achievement does not reflect the sort of reasoned and intelligent approach required of a thinking government.

Rather it smacks of a play on our fears.

Substantive debate on the source of underachievement is overdue. It is not surprising though that simplistic analysis abounds and that teachers as easy targets find themselves in the crosshairs.

Consider Dr Pita Sharples comments. “Put the standards up there, teach to the standards, and if they don't reach the standards then fix up the teachers,” he said.

At the Australian Council For Education Research Conference in 2007, Dr Andy Hargreaves identified three significant barriers to effective educational reform: a conservative media, the nostalgia that parents have for their own schooling experiences and politicians that frame policy to capture these markets.

National’s Education (National Standards) Amendment Act represents smart political management but poor educational leadership.

The introduction of National Standards may well have dire consequences for children’s learning.

The corollary of the introduction of National Standards in Britain in the late 90’s was an overt emphasis on Reading, Writing and Mathematics to the detriment of everything else particularly creative endeavor.

The Bush Adminstration’s controversial “No Child Left Behind (NCLB)” initiative has at its core, high stakes testing in the guise of standards based educational reform. Recent studies into the outcome of the NCLB initiative by the Centre on Education Policy have shown that while the achievement gap is closing this cannot be attributed to the initiative.

Primary school leaders already understand and support the importance of core learning.

Changes to the National Administration Guidelines in 2000 placed an emphasis on achievement in literacy and numeracy in the first four years of schooling and there is no lack of awareness or skill in the sector in dealing with this challenge.

With the reality of National Standards on our doorstep, the government needs to step into the challenge of positively leading New Zealand through the difficult landscape of curriculum change.

Talking with school leaders to better understand what is being done to address underachievement before major policy shifts are rushed into law would be a great place to start.

The sector deserves a government who wishes to partner with schools intelligently rather than clobbering schools with blunt instruments.

The challenge exists for the education sector too.

Substantive debate by school leaders about National Standards has been glaringly absent. Strong professional advocacy is necessary.

Change will grow when educators confront misinformation about student achievement and seek to hold policymakers to account for their propensity to pander to the ‘Back to Basics’ cry.

Professor Alfie Kohn puts it nicely, “Accountability, (in the guise of tougher standards) usually turns out to be a code for tighter control over what happens in classrooms by people who are not in classrooms - and it has approximately the same effect on learning that a noose has on breathing”.

It is deeply troubling that in a strong democracy like ours there has been no debate about National Standards despite it being near the top of any international list of controversial educational reforms.

Perry Rush
Island Bay School

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

National Party

The crime against kids has started with simplified, dumb, uninformed decision making by the national party. this law reform is an absolute disgrace, the brain power behind the National Standards is contrary to every direction our world leading education system is headed. National will be confronted head on by principals like me who will refuse to do A national test and will scream it from the highest mountain. when law commands me to do it i will advise children to be sick, will refuse to supervise, or mark the tests, go slow on other legislative requirements and any other obstructional thing I can think of, to halt national testing...

NOW it is highly possible that National wont be doing national testing BUT if you dont consult with the leaders of education- principals , before bringing in poorly thought out, vote winning policy then EDucation will be the loser.
Im in this game for kids and At this point kids are looking like they will be the loser.

national are making decisions that go against what educators are saying see this article

I will give nats time to talk it through and make quality decisions, but i also wait with a megaphone, the power of the internet and a really big stick, as this is "a hill i want to die on". I wont stand by and watch kids crucified and schools go to war with each other over tests and their results.

have a great christmas

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Employing Staff 101

What gets a bit sickening at this time of year is the grab for staff for the next year. Interesting that the MOE needs 1500 more teachers to fill the need in the 1 to 15 ratio business (this is another can of worms i want to open on another day-doesn't hattie say class sizes don't matter?).  The teachers are needed in Akld but most of them are in Chch, Dunedin or Wellington. So we get on the big grab, taking anyone with successful teaching experience, anyone who speaks clear english, anyone who was trained in NZ, anyone who has lived in NZ for a bit, anyone who is white....? there I said it, its true ask my Sth African friend, no, no and no all day long in her applications..... It sounds really sad but seems to be a reality, schools grab after one interview, one phone call and offer positions on the spot. My experience in interviews has been that all of those interviewed have either just had or are going to another interview. Usually they have been offered a job and want an answer right away. 
I'm actually looking for someone who wants to be at my school, the problem is that we rate ourselves so high, that we think the best will come to us.
Not True.  If you don't get on the grab, those who don't know your school is amazing will just pass you by. So here are my tips in trying to nab those great teachers who have been offered jobs elsewhere, and persuading them that you are the best option.

In the initial phone call, say that you feel it is really important that teachers look at all options and rule out schools which don't fit for them, tell them that you want a teacher who wants to be happy and feels that the leadership team is one they want to work for.

Say that you hate how schools offer jobs immediately, when they cant be certain that the teacher has had the opportunity to think things through.

Tell them you want applicants to be able to judge you, against other schools and their management teams.

Tell them you know that everyone offers jobs, and that you are looking for someone who wants to look past their first offer to be sure they are happy with their decision.

Its important to get this in and said, before they say to you that they have another interview or that they have been offered a job already.

Ok so they get to interview: after the usual questions ask a few "other" questions.
What are your expectations of leaders in a school.
What type of leadership do you look for in a school.
These questions are there to tease out those other people who interviewed them , perhaps they were those greasy "job offer" type Principals. (you know)
After this ask about other jobs, other interviews, other offers. Have a piece of paper on the table that others in the interview can touch, if touched by your fellow interviewers then this person is a yes.
Now to close you can say that you can offer them a job, but you haven't spoken to the others in the room but you are so impressed that you want to make an offer, however I would like to give you time. If you want them and don't want to offer because its too greasy, say you are keen to have them but you want them to have time to accept. People shouldn't be bullied into a decision, and id like you to think about things, and I will let my DP to get back to you. Hinting that you are keen and want the person but will get someone else to do the small stuff.

They might leave having not accepted but you have the hook in the mouth just wind slowly.
One other thing, give a quick brain model test, that gives you a snapshot of the thinking type you are employing, this impresses the shit out of the applicant and can provide useful information for you.
If you are rejected then you were too greasy, your management team are stuffy and controlling, and you should all join an accountants firm.