Friday, June 13, 2014

The Waikato Times on Hipkins' "epic fail"

We blogged yesterday about Chris Hipkins' attack on Hekia Parata's IES policy. The Labour Education spokesman has painted it an "epic fail", whilst ignoring the PPTA's support of the initiative.

The Waikato Times has called Hipkins out. In an editorial headed Hipkins misses mark, the Waikato Times opines:

Labour's education spokesman, Chris Hipkins, has given Education Minister Hekia Parata a low mark for trying to introduce the expert teachers policy, "Investing in Educational Success".
Because of the lack of input from school leaders, he said, she "has failed spectacularly" and "clearly needs to go back to school to learn what consultation actually means". But perhaps Hipkins has failed to assess all the relevant material. Earlier this month, Parata released a report on the shaping of the $359 million policy to create a new career structure for teachers after consulting with the education sector.
The New Zealand Educational Institute, the primary teachers' union, claims to have a better plan for spending the funds than the Government's plan to identify "expert" and "lead" teachers and pay them extra to act as role models across several schools. The NZ Principals Federation sees flaws, too. This does not mean it was not consulted and Post Primary Teachers Association president Angela Roberts described the dialogue as "comprehensive, robust and genuine". It was neither performance pay nor a lolly scramble. It was an investment "that will have a positive impact on our schools and our students". 

The Waikato Times leader writer is dead right in our ever-humble opinion (sorry about that Rex) to climb into Hipkins. He has made the classic mistake of cherry-picking reaction, and only making public that which suits his narrative.

The editorial continues, with a comment about the PPTA:

The PPTA has no track record for being a Government apologist. But it has taken issue with critics' claims the policy is unacceptable and unworkable and would remove highly rated teachers and principals from their schools for two days a week, adversely impacting on children's learning. A PPTA blog post says there is plenty of evidence on the professional benefits of mentoring and the positive results to come from focusing on collaboration rather than competition. More telling, the blog post said any disquiet and concern about the policy can be found "only in a small part of the beltway in Wellington".  

The PPTA blog-post is the one we published in part yesterday. The comment about the beltway was in the portion we didn't publish, not wanting to steal all the PPTA's thunder! But the union is dead right; we strongly suspect that the PPTA is referring to the area around the Labour and Green parties' respective offices in Parliament, and around the NZEI's National Office in Willis Street, Wellington.  

The editorial closes with a final rebuke to Hipkins, amidst suggestions that any policy Labour comes up with will be redundant:

Elsewhere schools are thinking about what clusters they are already in and what they need to do to be ready to pick up the extra staffing and funding next year. Hipkins' report card on Parata's handling of the policy said a Labour Government would "almost certainly" dump it. Labour's own model (to be announced within the next two weeks) would draw on teacher expertise to improve educational outcomes. But, according to the PPTA, that's what Parata has done - and it welcomes the results.  

There's only one "epic fail" here, and it isn't Hekia Parata's policy. Chris Hipkins' attempt to make political capital on a policy which is not universally opposed earns him a big red "not achieved".

Footnote: Make sure you follow the NZEI link, and see if you can spot the Green Party candidate


nellie said...

So is that Mr Sprout in the front row? Conflicted much methinks..

Keeping Stock said...

I understand he's resigned his NZEI role Nellie; perhaps NZEI should update its website to reflect that.

Quinton Hogg said...

I am surprised that Dave hasn't popped up to defend the indefensible.

bsprout said...

I have done under a previous post, Quinton. KS continues to use the PPTA partial support (negotiations of positions within their agreements have still to occur) as justification for the IES.

The beltway in Wellington comment is obvious nonsense when Principals in Auckland have provided some of the strongest opposition.

What you haven't managed to articulate is why the primary sector would reject the initiative when it will essentially be putting substantial sums of money into our own pockets. Most principals and teachers know that we already voluntarily collaborate and work in clusters so the extra value of the policy is limited. We are also concerned about what will happen to the schools or classes that will lose their Principal or teacher for two days a week.

If the Government was really serious about lifting the achievement levels of struggling kid it would fund more special needs support and teacher aids.

I recently taught in a class that contained two ORRs funded children and four more that had RTLB referrals. One of the children had serious anger management issues and I struggled to meet the needs of the whole class when six children needed individualized programmes and a high level of teacher input to keep on track.

The last thing that I needed would be a lead teacher to tell me how to suck eggs and an Executive Principal to tell me that my National Standards results were below par. What would have been really useful would be at least one extra teacher aid to devote the time to my high needs kids (that I couldn't physically provide) and specialized support for my two ORRs kids.

$359 million is a lot of money to pay some existing teachers more when it is not really addressing the real needs of our children and schools.

NZEI negotiated a deal with our last agreement where top teachers are recognized and kept in the classroom where they can make the most difference. It is a far cheaper approach than the government's one (the teachers only get $5,000 more) and they have to prove their worth by meeting stringent criteria. Lead teachers, on the other hand, will just be appointed by the Executive principals and the criteria may vary greatly.

Keeping Stock said...

KS continues to use the PPTA partial support (negotiations of positions within their agreements have still to occur) as justification for the IES.

You're right Dave, I do. So has the leader writer at the Waikato Times, which is not exactly known as a National-supporting newspaper.

A real schism seems to have developed between NZEI and PPTA. Given your close links to the former, I would hardly expect you to publicly support the latter. But your "The PPTA doesn't understand" comment yesterday was patronising, and frankly, not what I would expect from soneone putting themselves forward as a political candidate.

But heck; I am neither a teacher nor a union member, so what would I know?

bsprout said...

KS, I work well with local PPTA reps and there are many issues, like Charter Schools where we have a agreement. On this particular issue PPTA has a quite different view and it is obvious that they don't understand the primary and early child perspectives otherwise we would be singing from the same song sheet.

It is interesting that you appear to refuse to respond to the arguments that I have pout up and just refer those who have a counter view. It is also interesting that many who comment here refuse to engage with the supporting references that I provide to back up my statements. The future of our education system should be evidence based not empty ideology and bluster.

Keeping Stock said...

I guess it depends on where the "empty ideology and bluster" is coming from Dave. Many would see NZEI's rhetoric as "empty ideology and bluster".

bsprout said...

"Many would see NZEI's rhetoric as "empty ideology and bluster"."

Only if they refuse to read the supporting evidence ;-)

It is a bit like John Key refusing to read the evidence on John Banks, ignorance should never be used to provide justification for a point of view!

Anonymous said...

I have just been reading todays edition of the Economist magazine.

It seems in the US private individuals are suing the State of California to attempt to break the power of teacher unions and finally get some decent teachers in front of poorer and disadvantaged children

Despite all of Mr Kennedy's comments here on this blog, blaming the government for all the ills - he must know we have the same issue here in NZ, and the dirty little secret of the NZEI is they are protecting some very incompetent teachers. As a result children here in NZ suffer a poor education. Particularly in poorer areas.

Wouldn't it be nice just for once to see Mr Kennedy jus for once us his considerable talents to address some of the real issues in his profession, instead of trying to blame it on government and funding. No amount of funding solves problems of protected incompetence.

I have also wondered for some time just how much better the school where Mr Kennedy participates would be if his energies, passion and attention were directed at his job instead of blog rants and national political endeavours.

But that is just me.



bsprout said...

Anonymous, you obviously believe that the reason children in our low decile schools don't do as well is because they just don't have many good teachers. Using this rationale the teachers of high decile schools must be largely good teachers because the children in these schools generally do very well. The article you linked to supports this idea.

How do you propose we get 'good' teachers in front of these classes of failing children?

Who would want to go teaching in NZ? The stress can be huge and the children have got greater needs. Children with behavioural and major learning disabilities have been mainstreamed into ordinary classes with not enough support (special education funding is not adequate). We are expected to teach to individual needs but our class sizes are around 5 pupils larger than the OECD average.

In Finland they did this by stopping blaming teachers for all the problems in the world and gave the job considerable status. They made sure teachers got paid every fortnight (it's a lottery here) and provided them with the support and the resources they needed to get on with the job. They now have 6,000 applicants each year for 600 training vacancies and they choose the best.

I would be interested in your solutions ;-)

Anonymous said...

Mr Kennedy,

I reply to your questions, I note that you have very carefully dodged the issue of non-performing and/or incompetent teachers which are known to inhabit NZEI ranks, and which your part of the profession seems incapable of even acknowledging let alone doing anything about. How about a bit of honesty in your replies and addressing the issue raised.

The government seems to be trying to do something constructive about raising the status of highly competent and proven successful teachers, and principals (which you also seem to be asking for) and NZEI seems to be trying to block this, without giving it a chance.

Clearly the issue of high decile schools verses low decile schools performance is complex and nuanced, and I suspect has much to do with wider community resources and parental engagement etc.

However, the issue I raised by sharing the article was this - there is educational failure in the USA and equally there is significant educational failure in NZ, particularly in the poor sections of our communities. For decades now in NZ I have observed a highly obstructive union in the NZEI which seems incapable to addressing the issues that some of its members clearly have. There seems to be no ability for this union to move forward to meet the changes required.

In Finland (where I have been) the teaching profession is a profession. The teachers are well paid, well qualified, and well supported in society.

Finland dos have the huge advantage of a highly homogenous society, and essentially a national consensus on such issues, which NZ does not have - and this makes comparisons between Finland and NZ more problematic.

Teachers are less well paid and qualified in NZ. Some of the blame for that can be laid at the feet of an organisation that presents as an obstructive whiny petulant brat much of the time. The amount of negativity is staggering, as is the arrogance of constantly presuming the NZEI is the only organisation on the planet that can produce solutions. Wouldn't it be nice just once to see some constructive engagement and ideas coming out of the NZEI. Some positivity. I live in hope.

At a fundamental level the answer to the issues of poor outcomes is to allow a wide range of innovation, new ways of doing things, new styles, new modes, different school/community engagement models. See what works and then apply that more widely. These need to be tried in the NZ context.

It seems to me looking in from the outside that the government is trying to do that with a range of initiatives, and that the NZEI and its members cannot or will not engage to allow innovation and or any sort of attempt at alternative solutions.

The conclusion I have reached is that just as unions that were so obstructive in the 1970's and 80's that NZ's economy nearly went down the drain a few decades ago got hammered, ultimately the same is going to happen in the education sector.

Simply because what is happening with regard to the lower decile schools is completely unacceptable and at the moment my observation is that NZEI is part of the problem, not part of the solution. My advice - sort yourselves out before you get really clobbered.

As I said in my earlier post - chucking money and resources at tenured incompetence does not solve anything, all it does is waste that money and resource.

part 1

Anonymous said...

part 2

With regard to special education - I know of plenty of people who are engaged in the dysfunction that is our special education system, and I especially hear about the frustrations around resource allocation, and the continual hoops that have to be jumped through. So I agree there - but again, where is the leadership, the alternative models, and the constructive engagement from the NZEI to resolve these issues. I don't see it.

I would personally like to see our education system performing significantly better than it is, and in particular the children that are currently doing poorly do much much better (that is about the bottom 20%). I reckon it can be done, and that NZ will be a much better place if it is achieved.

It would be fantastic is the NZEI was part of the solution, but on current performance and track record I have very little hope of that. Hence my conclusion that ultimately if it is seen as part of the problem it will be hammered, which won't be pleasant for anyone, but will be necessary to actually make some progress.

Some food for thought for you.



Anonymous said...

Mr Kennedy,

An interesting article in the Manawatu Standard today

One has to wonder how much this practice of 'sand pit' boys still goes on in our schools. Some of the results evidenced from our long tail of educational underachievement would suggest there are a huge number of issues still to be addressed.

I live in hope of some positive leadership from the NZEI around addressing these and other issues.



bsprout said...

Ross your impression of NZEI is largely formed from National's spin. We don't protect bad teachers but we do ensure good process occurs when competency is questioned. No teachers like to work with teachers who don't do a good job just like no farmer likes to farm beside a bad one.

NZEI actually likes to work collaboratively and much of our work is professional. I myself have worked with the ministry on a number of projects. It is this Government that refuses to work collaboratively with us.

We were also keen to support a teachers council that could be the independent voice of the profession that could be separated from political or union influence. This government has rejected that concept and wants a Council that only has political appointees.

Your criticisms of NZEI appear to shaped around the fact that it is union and you obviously don't realize that the Employers Association and Federated farmers are unions too. NZEI has a 130 year history and started as a professional organisation before also taking on the role of negotiating agreements. We have only been on strike twice over that 130 years.

I challenge you to visit a low decile school near you and spend a day there (choose any) I think it will open your eyes regarding what is actually happening. I have taught in schools of all deciles and believe me the best teaching often occurs in low decile schools. The skills needed to capture and inspire children from struggling homes are much greater than teaching a class of compliant children who have eaten breakfast, have had a good night's sleep and have English as their first language (for almost 20% of our kids, English is their second language).

bsprout said...

Ross your link is nothing unusual. When i was a DP I had ex Deputy Prime Minister Brian Tallboys coming in to school to read to kids. I am also appalled at this government's cutting of advisors for Science and Technology. I helped write the technology curriculum and it is learning areas like these that can really capture the interest of disengaged boys.

I am concerned about the assumptions you have made about myself, a good part of my teaching career has been in teaching special needs and behavioural problems and I helped with the review and writing of the Ministry's IEP document. I am not sure of your own involvement with education, have you ever been on a board of trustees?

Anonymous said...

Mr Kennedy,

Fascinating article behind NBR's paywall today - generally supportive of National's changes to teaching but also cautioning that time will be needed before the results are seen, which is wise.



bsprout said...

Ross, having a range of input into what makes a good public education system is healthy, but we appear to have shifted to a situation where the NBR and Treasury are now considered to be more authoritative and influential than teachers or academics who have devoted their lives to educational research.

This is having a negative impact across the world:

Anonymous said...

Mr Kennedy - regarding the NZEI

The problem that the NZEI has is that to be considered professional you need to act professionally consistently and without fail.

Your comment 'much of our work is professional' is telling - all of your work should be professional.

The problem NZEI has is that it takes consistent political positions that are partisan not professional. I have warned the many teachers of my acquaintance of the dangers of this over many years and heard all the tired excuses as to why teachers believe this is acceptable behaviour.

It is extremely unwise, it leads to profound distrust between the political parties you actively oppose and NZEI, and the bottom line is it means you are not considered to be professional. Your actions speak much louder than your words in this regard.

With regard to political spin, these are my own observations formed over the past 20 years with regard to the NZEI. My lasting impression is definitely not that NZEI represents competent professionals.

Ultimately if we are to assume NZEI represents a competent profession with professional conduct, behaviour and outlook then you are going to have to consistently model that. Involvement in partisan politics is not the way to achieve that recognition as professionals.

I suspect that NZEI is actually fatally compromised in this regard, but time will tell.

With regard to visiting a low decile school - I may in fact arrange that, as gaining a better understanding would assist me in my professional understanding of issues, and in the work and advice I give.



Anonymous said...

Mr Kennedy - thank you for your comment:

"Ross, having a range of input into what makes a good public education system is healthy, but we appear to have shifted to a situation where the NBR and Treasury are now considered to be more authoritative and influential than teachers or academics who have devoted their lives to educational research.

This is having a negative impact across the world:"

I have read your blog post too.

It seems that unfortunately teachers and academics have lost their voice and influence in education decision making.

My observation would be this is a direct result of two decades of determinedly partisan behaviour and positions. Logically it should not be surprising to you. If you want to be treated as professionals offering valued and independent advice then you need to act like that, and not as branch offices of left wing political parties.

Further, the positions being advocated by teachers seem to broadly be - give us more resources and trust us.

Guess what - the approach you are advocating has been tried, and it seems there hasn't been much change in overall results. The suggested approach also seems to have next to no accountability.

Time to try something else - that doesn't rely of the failed intellectual foundation of the Marxist collective.

Which it seems the government is trying.



bsprout said...

Ross i would love you to give examples of where NZEI blocked truly professionally sound initiatives. Even with National Standards our main opposition was around a lack of a trial and proper collaboration with teachers. The Standards were implemented in the same way as Novopay, the system was still being created at the same time as forcing it into all schools.

If teachers are truly a profession then there should be an element of trust. It takes three to four years at a university to get the appropriate qualification and two more years under advice and guidance to become fully registered and another four or so years of successful appraisals to be regarded as an experienced teacher. My wife is a GP and she can't believe the level of distrust and compliance placed on teachers and the constant attacks from the Government.

Most surveys have as ranked as one of the most trusted professions and we have far fewer complaints than any other profession. When I taught in the UK New Zealand teachers were highly valued, I virtually only needed to say where I was from to get a job. When National took power over 5 years ago the New Zealand Institute (supported by the Round Table) produced a report card on different sectors and rated education as the highest performing. We could do better in supporting some of our children but it is food, housing and stable family environments that will do more to lift achievement than paying some teachers and principals more!

You claim that NZEI is a branch of left wing parties is a total nonsense. I was the only Green Party member on our exec and i have resigned to ensure that there can be no claims that it is not apolitical, as it certainly is. NZEI supports the policies that best support kids.

Even amongst teachers, they are just a reflection of our wider society in terms of their voting preferences, but I can say that many who were National supporters are no longer because of what has been inflicted on our sector.

Anonymous said...

This comment from bsprout is telling:
"The last thing that I needed would be a lead teacher to tell me how to suck eggs and an Executive Principal to tell me that my National Standards results were below par."
June 13, 2014 at 3:14 PM

Clearly bsprout knows all there is to know about education.

By "consultation", it is apparent that the word means "do it bsprout's way or we will make sure any other changes fail".

Keeping Stock said...

By "consultation", it is apparent that the word means "do it bsprout's way or we will make sure any other changes fail".

I think you're being unfair there Anon; it should, in my ever-humble opinion read:

By "consultation", it is apparent that the word means "do it NZEI's way or we will make sure any other changes fail".