Part A: Truth and morality in academia and how it affects us

 

Part A

The rise, fall, and rise of a university commercial arm: truth and morality in academia Aotearoa and how it affects us

 

Newspapers have been well involved in this story but in such a punctuated manner they have not realised how their contributions could be linked to make a considerable story about school education today. The first punctuation in this story is in the Sunday Star Times (January 4, 2009) with Catherine Woulfe’s headlining front page billing of the launch of John Hattie’s book Visible Learning, his shameless commercial bidding to Anne Tolley and Tolley’s profligate response; then the Education Review carried Ivan Snook’s amusingly condescending critique of the book, and some teacher organisation magazines also carried critiques by Snook; then the astonishing outburst by Hattie against Tolley’s education policies, especially national standards, in a story by Andrew Laxon in the NZ Herald (August 1, 2009); then the item in the NZ Herald (August 19, 2009) by Jacqueline Smith about an Auckland professor, a  close associate of Hattie, providing puffery for the item and, prior to going to Wellington to seek contracts for national standards, making a strong statement in support of national standards.

Meanwhile, as regular readers will know, at my level, networkonnet has carried a number of postings about Hattie (The Hattie series, Parts 1-3; ‘Hattie and the Official Information Act’; ‘Calculated epiphany now: the partial turning of John Hattie’; and ‘The real reason why national standards have been delayed’). These postings have analysed Hattie’s research philosophy and his book (which I called a ‘Visible Shipwreck’), and followed and predicted the manoeuvring of the commercial arm of the Education Department, University of Auckland.

If you say something about how our children are being harmed, and believe in it, and act accordingly, I will honour you; if you say something about how our children are being harmed, and don’t believe in it, and act accordingly, I will mock you; if you say something about how our children are being harmed, and believe in it, and don’t act accordingly, I will pity you.

 Why have the voices of academics in the pursuit of truth and morality been stilled: where are their voices?

 

The NZ Herald (August 19, 2009), carried an item describing how a New Zealand professor spoke to a ‘packed conference in Perth, Australia, about the effect of professional development on children’s learning’.

Who is this professor who has wowed Australian audiences? The Herald item goes on to say the professor’s presentation indicated ‘intense interest’.

Starting with the information from the second paragraph of the Heralditem, let us begin what is sure to be the tantalising academic life story of a professor. If the professor is like most other professors, not all the characteristics of his or her career will be edifying but, to get a line on this professor, we have to keep it close to reality.

Together we’ll go through the available clues to speculate on the professor’s academic life; but the final task of identifying this obviously charismatic personality will be yours?

Herald item, second paragraph

Any preliminary suggestion as to the name of the professor? Wrong! It’s not him.

What does the expression ‘packed conference’ and ‘intense interest’ suggest?

Yes, well done, you’re on track: The item was likely to have been prompted by a press release and to be promotional in nature (as against informative). The picture we are supposed to form from the ‘packed conference’ and ‘intense interest’ references is a conference centre packed with excited attendees ready to hang on every word.

Given the promotional basis to the item, however, and the fact the professor does not tell us it was a keynote address which he or she would have done if it was, this suggests it was a minor-note address with the professor competing with two or three other speakers for a share of the audience. This makes the reference to the ‘packed conference’ somewhat ambiguous: the conference may well have been packed, but was our professor’s audience, and was it just a side lecture room? (Let us, though, be charitable and grant the professor a good number in the audience.)

No, I give you my absolute assurance, it is not him. He’s not the only professor who can be ambiguous.

If an academic is promoting himself or herself what might that suggest?

Well done again!

And the item being carried in an Auckland newspaper, what does that suggest?

You’re on a roll.

Yes – because the item is promotional, and is in an Auckland newspaper, it is likely the professor is from the University of Auckland, and if the professor is from the University of Auckland, the research is likely to be associated with the commercial arm of the Education Department of that university, and if it is associated with the commercial arm of that university it is likely to be research of the quantitative variety which means it will have been based on innovation which, in turn, means it will have been considerably boosted by the Hawthorne effect, and whole lot of other things that occur when a school has to produce results for the sake of reputation and employment; and the project people in schools  having to produce results for the sake of their reputation and employment. (This is a matter of situation not intention – as referred to below; a kind of heightened Hawthorne tends to occur.) It is also likely the research projects are to do with literacy and numeracy.

Now let’s suppose that this is so, what else can be said?

Now I’m not talking about any school in particular – well done if it worked for you; I’m talking about the way the research has been set up; set up in such a way that it was doomed to success. The intimations of principals to people they want to confide in, including me, indicate that the reported significant advances in literacy (and numeracy) learning as a result of the research are, in reality, only very modest – especially when sustainability is taken into account.  The ministry and researchers display an amazing ability, unconscious I know, to suspend disbelief, to become the naif, in accepting as accurate, the figures produced from schools as part of numeracy and literacy projects. The competitive nature of the context within which the research occurs is a kind of research entrapment, which results in many concerned becoming compromised, albeit by circumstance rather than intention. It is mostly a kind of heightened Hawthorne.  (Marie Clay understood how it happens – see below.) This is a difficult situation to encompass briefly because there are some schools and some project people in schools who carry it off and produce good and sustainable results. The reasons why they carry it off in reading, and others don’t, can probably be accounted for in my discussion of reading in ‘The battle for primary school reading’, Part 1, a posting on this web site.

An important question is what are these advances being compared to? If the same amount of time money was put into a teacher-generated project, I suggest the advances would be far more significant and sustainable.

I want to indicate to our professor now: that after 41 years of going into classrooms and seeing the raw deal teacher-generated projects get as against the platinum-card academic ones; and the way academic projects come over the top of the teacher-generated ones and take away their oxygen – that in my darker moments, I liken academic projects, and I’m talking quantitative-based ones here, to Japanese scientific whaling, with schools as the whales.

The very strong probability that our professor is a quantitative researcher prompts me to elaborate on quantitative professors in general which may throw some light on a professor in particular. If the professor is like most quantitative professors, he or she will have ‘developed’ an idea early on, an idea on which to base his or her career (they only ever have one); an idea he or she will have picked up from schools, and, as such, will have been a good idea to begin with, an accessible idea – but to make it rebound to the credit of the professor, to give plenty of scope for the professor to develop his or her career, to provide the idea with a mystique to pack conferences, and to gain government contracts – the idea will have been made thunderously complex with much talk of data and evidence.

Now more to the point of our professor and his or her life: if the research is from the commercial arm of the University of Auckland it will at least have traces of being from the ‘school effectiveness and improvement’ category of research – the category of research characterised by results being shaped to appeal to conservative politicians, especially by downplaying socio-economic effects on learning and playing up the significance of the teacher and school.

What was that?

Yes, quite right – being from Auckland, asTTle will be at the centre of the idea.

Look – we are talking about academics as entrepreneurs here; and we are talking about research projects that are about numeracy as well as writing and reading. In other words, I suggest that asTTle is more than at the centre of the idea, it is the idea. Indeed, I’m suggesting the press release and promotion of our professor is a commercial manoeuvre to promote asTTle as part of national standards and the professional development that goes with it.

By the way, I explored the Australian press for reports of our professor’s address; yes, there was one, but a very matter-of-fact one, with no references to ‘packed conferences’ and ‘intense interest’. How remiss of them.

And why do you think that our professor is promoting asTTle, not him?

That is the intrigue. Remember that huge spat he had about a fortnight ago with the minister in the NZ Herald, saying that the present direction of national standards was going to set back education by 50 years? A posting on this web site suggested that the cause of this remarkable outburst from the minister’s former golden boy was that asTTle was falling out of favour a bit because of its interpretive manipulability and he got the pip and threw his toys out of the cot. Well the press release about our professor, I suggest, is a way of getting asTTle back on commercial track, and a few toys back in the cot.

A bit farfetched you think. Well, let’s see how the story develops.

Let me tell you something about how quantitative research works (which may or may not apply to our professor, only our professor, and those who have worked with him or her, will know.)

An idea promoted by a quantitative researcher has the happy knack of always succeeding when researched by that researcher – that is rule one; rule two is that it always succeeds famously, so famously, indeed, that it can be always be heralded as a breakthrough – and with a straight face (another skill of professors); rule three is that it never fails to advance children’s learning by at least nine months, though in recent times with market conditions for contracts becoming more competitive, research ideas have been spurred to new heights, with advances in children’s learning usually being stated as more than a year (average effect size at 1.20 is currently very popular), and even greater advances for previously poorly-performing children thrown in as a bonus (usually twice the expected improvement, with 2.20 being the popular average effect size). (This inflation in advancing children’s learning is celebrated in some quarters as the market at work – a kind of academic hand of God.) Rule four is a case of recurring serendipity – when rule one comes into play (the announcement of a research breakthrough), lo and behold, shortly thereafter is an announcement in the Education Gazette of a research contract for just the kind of breakthrough announced. And the serendipity continues because other universities also find themselves able to announce breakthroughs in the same curriculum area and of a similar magnitude, if not more so.

This spontaneous eruption of breakthroughs coinciding with government contracts of the same concern has prompted the comment that to a advance children’s learning rapidly and on a wide front, the Education Gazette should advertise a roster of government contracts for all curriculum areas over, say, three months. The result would be, in very short time, to move all children ahead by at least two years, if not more, and poorly performing children, even more so.

The one dampener to this idea is that if there are so many breakthroughs occurring in children’s learning in Aotearoa, why it is not going ahead in leaps and bounds? Explanation is at hand. You will be pleased to know that that this question at this very moment is the subject of rigorous and intense research. Contracts have been let to all universities to research the whys and wherefores of the breakdown of their breakthroughs. The quantitative researchers concerned can be relied on to display the kind of objectivity they are renowned for, an objectivity so special it has evolved its own description – quantitative objectivity; a kind of objectivity with many counter-intuitive qualities, all too profound to indicate here.  But we can get a glimpse of it at work with the research into the breakdown of the breakthroughs. Early findings suggest that no fault, not a scintilla, can be attributed to the research involved; the fault, it seems, is ineffective school leadership and ingrained teacher conservatism. I can sense a Best Evidence Synthesis (BES) in the making: the researchers’ Task Force Green.

Rule five is that when duplicate research of the idea is undertaken by professors from the same university as the original researcher, the claims are always supported, if not more so; but when undertaken by other universities, advances in children’s learning are found to barely keep up with chronological age, if not less so. This dichotomy has on the odd occasion been attributed to spite, but there is general agreement in academia that this can be explained by professors from the same university possessing a deeper and more sympathetic understanding of the origins and purposes of the research idea.

In the Education Gazette, 23 February, 2009, I read an item about a ‘Reading Breakthrough’ in a project headed by Professor Stuart McNaughton of the University of Auckland (he is not the professor who spoke to the packed conference) which encompassed a fair number of low decile schools in Auckland and some schools on the West Coast. This item does not refer to our professor’s project, however, any research project from the Education Department of the University of Auckland ends up contributing to the commercial arm of that Department, so McNaughton and our professor are grist to this particular commercial mill. I decided to write something about the McNaughton breakthrough but, I’m afraid, I adopted a rather flippant tone (‘Networkonnet Education Gazette Korero’ 1, 13 March, 2009).

My report went as follows:

 Tiddlywinks– breakthrough

Research into teaching methods has led to significant increases into tiddlywinks’ performance at 36 decile 1 schools in South Auckland.

Professor Vince Vincent of the University of Seascape faculty of pedagogy led the project. The results were published in the latest edition of the scientific journal Tiddlywinks for Life.

The number of Year 4 to 8 students performing at national average or above average levels increased from 40 to 70 per cent, and the average student made about one year’s extra gain in tiddlywinks over the course of the three-year experimental study.

Professor Vincent says the evidence marks a breakthrough in how to improve tiddlywinks’ results systematically across a large number of schools.

The Ministry of Education and Sustainability Limited and Hawthorne Unlimited contributed to the research.

Next week: Stunning results from tiddlywinks’ research, MasseyUniversity (Palmerston North); and Stunning tiddlywinks’ breakthrough from Massey University (Albany).

School professional development contracts

Preliminary notice: Two contracts for tiddlywinks’ work in schools will be available for 2009-2010. For further information contact, Ministry of Education, Wellington.

Let’s learn more about our professor by switching from clues in the Herald item to clues from the substance of his or her now famous address to the ‘packed conference.’

[To do this go to Part B.]

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PaCT: the government linchpin for their domination and our misery

On Thursday Phil Harding is going to answer what he will describe as my inaccuracies.

Wrong. In the essentials, the posting nailed it: what was left was not inaccuracy but difference in interpretation.

I have good reason to believe, I said, that the NZPF executive is playing with PaCT.

What was inaccurate about that?

I said PaCT was an even more pernicious form of national standards.

What was inaccurate about that?

The purpose of the posting was stated as trying ‘to elicit a clear statement about NZPF’s discussions on PaCT with Hekia Parata’.  I asked ‘were the discussions only to reiterate NZPF policy of being firmly opposed to national standards.’

In effect, Phil has admitted, ‘No.’

His answer is that: NZPF has no agreed position, but has been working on one since December.

What part of PaCT as national standards does the executive not understand?

I have good reason to believe that NZPF was preparing the ground for a recommendation to support PaCT.

If a decision against PaCT was not made immediately, it is a decision for it; if a decision is not made immediately against mandatory use of PaCT, it is a decision for it.

Both the inner group of NZPF in relation to PaCT, and the ministry in relation to mandatory use of PaCT, were waiting for the most strategic moment to slip in their decision.

The Tomorrow’s School’s system is a continuing huge set back for children’s learning: PaCT will send it into a terrible spin. Learning for children is not improved by taking it apart, but by putting it together. No national curriculum initiative has succeeded in the 23 years of Tomorrow’s Schools, for instance, the numeracy programme is in disarray and the curriculum document in tatters. That is because the system is pulling learning apart in a vain attempt to control and understand it and, in the process destroying it. If more principals had not lost touch with the real curriculum, national standards in its latest guise would never have stood a chance.

A young teacher wrote to me asking, ‘How does PaCT work’, and adding, ‘one of my fellow teachers has been taking part in PaCT assessment and received some lovely gift vouchers for her effort, what a surprise!’

I wrote back:

‘PaCT is the next stage of national standards. So if you don’t like those you won’t like PaCT.’

‘Don’t worry what PaCT is about; worry what it is for: it is or performance pay based on a narrow version of the 3Rs; it is for your classroom being compared with your neighbours on that basis; it is for dismissal of teachers who don’t conform; it is to allow central government to stretch into the classroom; and it will result in bulk funding and reduced funding of public schools.

PaCT is the final link that will connect central government and the education bureaucracy, to the Teachers Council; to a standardised curriculum; to a strongly bureaucratic appraisal system; to value-added measurement of every teacher in relation to the 3Rs; to control and vocational insecurity – with the ultimate purpose of discrediting public schools and increasing privatisation.

Teams of PaCT people are going around the country to talk about PaCT: they should be asked not to talk about how PaCT works, goodness gracious me, it is just another set of rubrics; but about how it could be used, especially in light of the Treasury report, for sinister purposes.

Parata’s main task has not been charter schools but getting in place a system to allow central government to get a command control of classrooms. PaCT is that system.

She has no doubt been pulling out all the stops to achieve this. How many executive members have been approached and offered jobs or contracts, for instance? I’m not saying that any jobs or contracts offered weren’t offered or accepted on the basis of merit, but the question needs to be asked. Why couldn’t she have waited? Were the proper processes followed? How has she reacted when a job offer has been turned down?

I have in front of me the key Treasury report of November, 2011. There is no doubt from reading the report that PaCT is the big one. Time after time when descriptions occur of turning the screws on schools and teachers, there follows a large censored section.

‘Changes initiated in 2013 could focus on system-wide accountability and funding models.’ p. 2 PaCT and bulk funding.

‘Improvements to school level value added data ‘  p. 2  PaCT.

‘Total resourcing model’ p.2 Bulk funding.

‘The time frame for change is optimistic and the actions could be sequenced over a longer period.’ p. 3 A third term National government.

‘System-wide accountability for outcomes – using Education Review Office reports and data to intervene in schools for educational risks, and compliance around charters.’ p.3 You will be looking forward to this – PaCT will be central.

‘Developing value added data on school performance is a prerequisite for improving the teacher workforce. It provides a means of identifying good and poor performance ‘  p. 3

Vocational insecurity leading to reduced teacher initiative. Note how teachers as a group are reduced in name to a ‘workforce’.

‘Reducing the number of schools and/or school boards – both for fiscal and performance reasons ‘ p. 3 Got that Christchurch, other centres, and all intermediates? The real reason, though, is for ease of bureaucratic control.

‘Managing costs by changing teacher: student ratios, either immediately or over time.’ p. 3  The command education system based on the control PaCT will reduce the ability of schools to protest.

 

I could proceed like this through all the pages of the report, but you will get the point.

Phil Harding in his response on Thursday will no doubt list a whole lot of things NZPF is ‘working on’ and how the executive has heard voices opposing PaCT, and how I have got it wrong.

Phil:

NZPF was seriously considering PaCT and, NZPF, in discussions with Parata, did not rule out supporting PaCT. Are you denying this?

I have some evidence that NZPF was favouring PaCT and was, indeed, working its way to gain general acceptance.

In what way is PaCT not national standards? Yet NZPF has a policy of strongly opposing national standards.

To have been considering PaCT, was to be favouring it.

PaCT is the linchpin for the government to complete its domination of public schools and our misery, to not see that, in my view, is very strange.

Surely you know that schools have quite enough tools to evaluate children’s learning and to establish national comparisons. And spend quite enough time on these things. Even if you overlook the ultimate sinister uses of PaCT and the huge harm national standards are doing in the classroom, have you really been taken in by the bells and whistles of PaCT?

NZPF has a great contribution to make to New Zealand education, has made a great contribution, I ask principals not to lose faith in it, but after getting over this hump, they should work to organise the way the executive works to one that avoids fiascos like this one.

Outrage in Wellington: Threat to silence teachers and principals

(I need to say, to protect the teacher organisations that the information below did not come from the teacher organisations and was not leaked by them. My source was a single source, but a usually reliable one. For verification it would need to be confirmed directly.)

The minister concluded her recent scurrilous statement (Dominion Post, Monday November 30, 2009) with ‘Those who have spoken out against national standards will continue to do so. By all means, have your say. But please get your facts right and stop trying to mislead parents.’

A few days before this statement, and not unconnected with it, the minister seems to have directed an outrage on democracy.

The State Services Commission (it seems) called in the heads of the teacher organisations – Karen Sewell, secretary for education was in attendance with the commissioners – and stated they were preparing to apply the provisions of the public service code of conduct to silence teachers and principals from criticising the minister. 

Is this New Zealand?

Is this a contemporary ‘Smith’s Dream’.

Is this what lies behind the smiley face of John Key?

It makes little difference that a little while later, the heads of the teacher organisations received a communication from the minister revoking the proposed action. 

The intention was clear. The ploy was to cow the teacher organisations – and us.

Tolley’s scurrilous statement, it seems, became the alternative source of action.

If Tolley did not have so much power, and was not so intent on her destructive policy path, I could even feel some sympathy for her. The PPTA rat tale, the toilet allusion, are just two of many signals of someone struggling at many levels.

She should be put out of her ministerial misery, and we allowed to get back to concentrating on the kids.

I think the end of national standards is nigh, but keep pushing to bring the edifice down.

Outrage at Pembroke

Peter Hughes, my word he is adept, may think he has nipped the commissioner issue in the bud, but he ain’t seen nothin’ yet. This posting will open a whole new field, one that has been hinted at, one we all know about, but has been difficult to pin down – that of political motivation. Hughes is not being helped by his ministry colleagues, in particular the one on National Radio yesterday singing from the ministry book of bureaucratic rubbish, and Hekia Parata this morning. If you listened to those two, you might have wondered why an enquiry was needed, in fact, why commissioners were not nominated for the Nobel Prize.

I believe, the power wielders in our bureaucracies, advisory services, related agencies like NZCER, and commercial sections of academia have become morally desensitized.

The role of commissioners became a political issue from the beginning of the Key period. Anne Tolley announced they would be used more, and they have been. This served the government’s ideology perfectly: the focus would be on schools and principals as being the bad guys and gals, distracting attention away from actually doing something to help classroom teachers (which would have required money); and commissioners being used as an instrument of fear to help push through the neoliberal education programme – how Tolley and the Treasury must have gloated: children being punished financially for the games adults play.

This posting, once some preliminaries are over will describe an outrage about the way commissioners have been used for apparent political motivation and vengeance.

A word or two about Peter Hughes – OK he is a good guy (I always knew that) but that is what makes him dangerous. I had to laugh at my reaction to the announcement of the enquiry. Great! I was elated, but somehow I felt a bit empty, a bit cheated – here I was gearing up for another siege-like battle, and then it was gone. Well not quite as you will see. But very skilful Peter – nevertheless, you are a distinct potential danger to New Zealand children, because while you are stabilizing the present situation, establishing yourself as the Welsh Wizard, you also stabilizing the overall status quo. And the status quo is terrible out there – I am most unhappy, for instance, about the quality and range of work in classrooms. I will only give Hughes credit if he rolls back the horrors of the last five years. But you see, in respect to the commissioners, in a small way, he has – so a reluctant well done Peter from me. Mind you, I don’t want a quid pro quo situation where the teacher organisations go flabby on important current issues, for instance, the invidious Teachers Council restructuring.

Two or three months ago, two grizzled education veterans sat down for a coffee at the pleasant surroundings of the port of Whangarei and ranged over a number of issues, commissioners being one of them. This week there was a one-two – a left jab from me and a right cross from Pat Newman.

I don’t want to refer to the Salford situation, it is important that all concerned be given space to allow good and fair decision making. My posting on commissioners last Friday had two levels: there was the particular situation (Salford), and there were the principles relating to natural justice. I believe, in relation to the latter, that the conceptualising paragraphs describing the Kafkan signals in the structures were the most significant in contributing to the events that followed. Then on Monday, Pat, speaking as president of Tai Tokerau, hit hard with a well-constructed media release setting out the implications of those structures for schools.

The way Moerewa and Keri were left hanging in the wind has been a disgrace. Over-coaching children is rife in all international schools but the Qualifications Authority, picking up signals from the government has turned a benign eye to the practice, and in many secondary schools there are expressions of it. The uncertainty about such practices probably threw rescue attempts off track – I considered a number of times if I could do something but, in the education atmosphere, my introduction to the debate, the terrible Kelvin Smythe, would be counterproductive.

In regard to Salford, the response to my posting from NZEI and NZPF was immediate and persuasive. Bloody great job Paul Goulter and Phil Harding. In the end, NZEI worked close with Salford, and Phil was in his element in close quarters with Peter Hughes.

Pat’s thunderbolt made the issue go decisively national and Peter Hughes realised that a storm was brewing and acted decisively.

Now for the outrage at Pembroke, a disgraceful story of repressive and unrelenting education ministry actions against one of the best principals in New Zealand – a person of high principle and considerable moral courage – and against one of our best schools.

It is a Kafkan notebook.

Also an inspiring story.

Now take a deep breadth.

As I ponder what happened, I cast my mind back, somewhat emotionally, to similar stories of similar courage. What follows embraces you too.

That principal is Brent Godfrey, and the school Pembroke, Oamaru, 216 children and decile 3.

Brent was an outspoken critic of national standards, astute, sensitive, but irrepressible.

Brent and his board of trustees after careful consultation with parents, stood out from national standards. There was strong agreement that national standards were not in the education interests of the Pembroke children.

July 1, 2011, the charter was submitted.

August 1, there was a letter from the ministry regarding a non-compliant charter and giving ten days to be compliant.

August 4-9, there were telephone conversations between the board chair and the ministry; statutory intervention was threatened.

Now for a happening that should be a moment of transcendent shame to the ministry and Tolley.

The school was well advanced in planning a fono for the district, partially ministry funded, to benefit the education of Pasifika children.

August 18, there is a call from the ministry threatening to remove the fono from school.

August 19, a charter meeting is scheduled by the ministry for August 22.

The school requests that the ministry stick to the board meeting timeframes and that ministry concerns be detailed prior to the meeting.

Next day the fono is withdrawn from school.

The school protests through the media, pointing out, amongst other things, food and other preparations were well advanced.

Ministry response added up to ha-ha; bad luck your school is not a safe environment.

A charter meeting is set for September 20.

September 20 – at the meeting, the ministry threatens to put in a limited statutory manager.

The board agrees to accept ministry ‘suggestions’ to meet charter requirements and for the principal to attend courses.

 (In other words, the moral stand against national standards is over and, the school, having fought the good fight, is now willing to be compliant. But the ministry ‘suggestions’ are just part of the punishment, no-one knew the regulations better than the principal; he had to know them to stand out from them. The ‘suggestions’ are a figment to set up the cold and bitter vengeance to be inflicted. Making a stand against national standards being treated as if a criminal offence.)

 No response from ministry regarding their offer to help with the ‘suggestions’.

September 29, a letter arrives from the secretary of education (Karen Sewell – so don’t swan around being the moral educationist Karen, now what would EDG have said Karen? – you know who I mean) putting in a statutory adviser.

27 October, at the signing of the contact, the adviser told the board it would be a long and expensive process.

The principal sends information to support the scoping report.

The statutory adviser was to appear only once at the school, and that was to sign the contract, she had no further contact with the school except for two phone calls.

November 9, the adviser withdraws saying there were a couple of board members she couldn’t work with. This ‘couldn’t work with’ claim came as a considerable surprise to the board. This extraordinary claim needs to be investigated, if not upheld, I think we can say a set up occurred.

November 11, a letter arrives from Kathryn Palmer, surely under instruction, saying she has written to the secretary of education requesting a limited statutory manager be appointed. Wow! What speed! Well done Kathryn admirable efficiency in the interests of the children of Pembroke School. (I want to say again that her actions were surely done under instruction. How she responded within the ministry only she knows and her conscience.)

Board writes to Karen Sewell complaining of the process. Hard bickies.

December 13, a new adviser appointed, not a limited statutory manager as threatened.

During 2011 the charter was submitted six times but never found compliant. The charter, however, was quite straightforwardly compliant – the ministry was only playing games.

Cleave Hay was appointed as adviser: a person of admirable qualities, who only charged at the ministry stipulated rate and not for travel time. (A medal for Cleave.)

(Now you might think that the story is about to finally end with something of a cheery note amidst the squalid goings-on – but wait there’s more, a lot more.)

Cleave Hay had really nothing much to do but he turned up from time-to-time, as he was bound to do, almost as a welcome, though remunerated, visitor.

September 29, 2012 is the review date for the intervention, but somehow it is decided to wait until December – no doubt from ministry direction.

At the December meeting with ministry and Cleave, Cleave expresses yet again how happy he is with how things are going.

But the ministry insists the intervention remain until after the board of trustee’s election.

(The motive for this was no doubt to embarrass and undermine the principal and board of trustees in the election period.)

Cleave only attends two meetings in 2013 as he is very happy with board of trustee’s governance.

June 2013, Kathryn Palmer, obviously under instruction, my guess directly from Parata’s office, shifts the goalposts for the adviser’s reporting.

At the June meeting with board, the adviser reports once again how happy he is with the board.

But in the same month the ministry says intervention is to continue because national standards results for writing were not good enough (despite being where most decile 3 schools were).

 

In July, the board writes to new secretary of education regarding due process not being followed.

End of July, Peter Hughes orders the intervention to be lifted.

At no stage was the request for specific information detailing the risks to the school responded to.

 Two and a half years of strife for what?

 

Where was everybody?

A media that understood?

The school trustees association?

The teacher organisations?

Where was the concern for the children and teachers who so bravely and staunchly continued to care for them?

This is a disgraceful story, amongst many other disgraceful stories to do with ministry interventions.

But there are many more disgraceful stories – stories emanating, for instance, from the behaviours and values of the education review office.

I call on schools and boards, also teachers in universities and those in education agencies, to come forward and tell them. Perhaps there needs to be a Truth and Conciliation process.

This morning we heard once again the mellifluous puerility of the minister, a contribution archetypical of the puerility that has been issued from the review office and ministry for over two decades to a largely accepting public.

Our education system is corrupted and rotten. A commission of enquiry is needed to clear the unworthy from the temple and restore truth, honesty, and openness to our system.

Society needs individuals and groups to take moral stands; it is uplifted and morally enriched by the accumulation. But they paid a cost.

We honour the courage and declare our thanks to the witness.

Our terrible likely future set out

 

This morning on national radio, John Gerritsen set out, using official papers from Treasury obtained under the Official Information Act, our likely terrible education future.

Yesterday I announced a series of booklets dedicated to the bravery of so many schools in opposing national standards and said the booklets were an expression of love – but then added that love was not enough and that if we didn’t act decisively, unitedly, and with philosophic coherence, we faced a dismal future.

In an article in the first booklet I reported on a 1989 research conference in which Ivan Snook said that that it was ‘a major tragedy of the 1970s that while the Left convinced us that ideas are relatively powerless, the Right was getting ready to prove how powerful ideas could be.’

We are pathetic with ideas, that is ideas that cohere to become the basis for belief and action. Our unpreparedness is a disgrace. In 1989 I had Donn Ratana, my Developmental Network magazine artist, show Picot as a steamroller; that same steamroller has continued to rumble and will do so into future unless we come to value the power of ideas. As the booklets, show the steamroller of 2013 is powered be exactly the same ideas as of 1989.

A major difference between 1989 and now is the rise in political consciousness of a fair number of principals; a minor difference, the slightly higher rise in consciousness of the teacher organisations. The consciousness of classroom teachers, however, is as neglected as ever. And, unfortunately, from my point-of-view, NZEI is now structured to focus on the industrial needs of teachers, when it should be structured on the basis that the curriculum is industrial. The massive default is that there is no overall cohering plan organised by a dynamic main idea.

In recognition of the situation, I decided last year to concentrate on producing a series of booklets that in gently providing perspective would encourage the emergence of a coherent plan and raise the consciousness of classroom teachers in particular. I want the booklets to get to classroom teachers in a way my magazine did but the website hasn’t.

It is, by the way, not a plan to anticipate a Labour government as a solution.

We must look beyond the blip of three years of Labour.

What was the Treasury plan laid out from papers?

Well before I get to that, another but related matter.

Last year networkonnet uncovered a series of official standardised testing changes that, if allowed to proceed, will lead to a considerable inflation of test marks, allowing the government to trumpet national standards have led to a remarkable lift in results. This must be countered by the teacher organisations or will they wait for it to happen and then splutter?

First, e-asTTle has become almost completely unhinged from stanines, signalling teachers can adjudge just about whatever they like. I consider this as being done intentionally; a signal about e-asTTle, also a wider one to schools – a signal to go for national standards inflation generally. Secondly, STAR has also become unhinged from stanines. More I think by carelessness, which is a kind of signal too. Kelvin Woodley, principal of Tapawera School, has run the old STAR and the new STAR test with the same group of children to farcical outcome: children from the lower and middle stanines making remarkable progress in a few weeks.

I’m leaving the issue with the teacher organisations, not with any confidence, because Wellington- based people tend to coalesce, but because I want to concentrate on the booklets. My future as a writer on education will rest on whether I can make these useful and attractive to you.

Now to the Treasury papers:

  • Officially-organised appraisals of classroom teachers
  • Officially-organised appraisals of principals
  • Tighter accountability on school performance
  • Value-added procedures
  • Administrative changes to make this easier (I assumed the taking over of the Teachers Council by the bureaucracies, soon to be announced, is part of this)
  • Larger class sizes
  • Advanced national standards procedures (through PaCT, brought to you by Michael Johnston, a grouping of academic quantitatives, and a small number of co-operating schools)
  • Bulk funding
  • Clustering of schools run by one board of trustees (the Christchurchis referred to as a trial for this)
  • Property management taken from school control (in other words, schools to be tenants)
  • The loss of intermediate school identity a concomitant of all this

And so on.

As I say in my introduction to the booklets: ‘The endgame is education dominated by global corporations delivering computer-based programmes to classrooms along with an associated range of services to clustered schools.’

In his Foreword to the booklets, Ivan Snook allocated a number of qualities to me,  in one instance alliteratively balancing out ‘passionate’ by adding ‘peevish’ – which might well encompass the tone of this posting. Apologies for that, but hearing John Gerritsen roll out all that Treasury rubbish was so much back to the future that it got to me. We must demand of our leaders that they rise above all the detritus to develop and propound a powerful, inspiring, and life enhancing theoretical plan for education.

Meanwhile, for me, back to the booklets (also, of course, further postings.)

NZPF position is beyond untenable

When the NZPF flyer arrived last night, it was so contradictory and comical, that my initial response was to ignore it. That lasted until I pondered the significance of the paragraph which has as its main idea (rationalisation):

‘Our declared strategy in relation to the ministry is to be informed and seek to influence.’

This is a variation of a time-worn, self-serving argument, used by those who decide to live off proximity to power and the vision of the powerful, in the absence of the necessary courage and their own vision.

It’s a desperately barren argument: an organisation does not need to be part of the problem to be informed of the problem, nor does it need to be part of the problem to influence or challenge the problem. Being part of the problem to be informed of the problem or to influence or challenge the problem serves to exacerbate the problem and weakens the moral authority to influence or challenge it.

The group that is most influential in the NZPF is just too comfortable a part of the establishment to be able to challenge the establishment it is part of.

But this has all happened before, brought to you by much the same group who is bringing you this fiasco.

It is Sunday, 12 September, 2010, and the presidents of local NZPF branches are in the air or landing. They have been invited to Wellington to give final approval to the NZPF information campaign on national standards.

Meanwhile, back at NZPF headquarters, the president is preparing to deliver a surprise.

On Friday, 10 September, Anne Tolley has learnt of the time and purpose of the NZPF meeting. She is worried. The teacher organisations seem united and the resolve of teachers and principals firm.

But she, like Hekia Parata, has divined a weak spot and strikes.

On that Friday, Tolley writes a letter to the president. Will you help me get national standards right she asks? But she expressly rules out looking at national standards as a policy: just the detail will be given attention.

The president and inner group fall for it.

On Saturday, 11 September, the executive assembles to prepare for the arrival of the presidents on the Sunday. All executive members have personally addressed letters. They discuss the contents late into the night. The president urges a watering down of the information campaign and joining an advisory group the minister is to set up.

But it is now the turn of the president and the minister to be in for a surprise. I get wind of the letter very late on Saturday and write through the night. I know if the NZPF joins the advisory group the campaign against national standards is defeated.

I finished by writing (in ‘NZPF executive in confusion after dramatic events in Wellington’):

‘If we go into the absurd education babel of the advisory group, we will have more of the condescending twaddle, the talking down to us. We will be continually humiliated and at huge structural disadvantage. We must not go there. There is no use tackling the ball carrier over the line.’

‘This weakening by NZPF is a potentially fatal setback. When an organisation loses its way, bad things happen.’

‘But it is not irretrievable. That, though, is up to you.’

‘It is very, very, late. I’m going to bed.’

My posting was picked up by the presidents and executive members and NZPF never did join that advisory group. And while it may have looked as though we lost the national standards battle we won that of ideas and kept open the overall campaign.

I am quite satisfied with my arguments about the PaCT in the two previous postings, but just some brief comments about the current president’s bizarre flyer.

The president says: ‘NZPF is still working on its PaCT position’: here we have a tool which is central to the Treasury’s campaign of screwing primary education to the floor, and NZPF is ‘still working on its PaCT position’?

The president said he has ‘just read the [ministry] reply today’ (to a letter sent on April 4), yes, but when did the reply arrive? I was informed of its contents some days ago.

PaCT is national standards but the president says ‘The devil lies in the policy detail …’ Really? I thought it would lie in the harmful effect on children’s learning.

The president is bitterly disappointed that PaCT will be  mandatory and with the ministry able to access is data. National standards have to be mandatory to be national and, for goodness sake where else would the data go? Was he thinking Talent2 or the TAB?

Probably, our only hope is that the wider executive speaks.

It is very, very, late in the morning. I’m going to my walk.

NZPF playing with PaCT

I have good reason to believe that a powerful inner group of conservative males within the NZPF executive is playing with PaCT. The purpose of this posting is to try to elicit a clear statement from this inner group that their discussions on PaCT with Hekia Parata have been only to reiterate NZPF policy of being firmly opposed to national standards.

I know a lot more about what is going on than I want to reveal, but I can say Parata has made inroads into the executive. Initial moves to set the scene for a change of policy on national standards are evident. The group is mainly South Island male with one exception; the Auckland males being strung along a continuum from deeply entrenched to standing apart, but not necessarily, it seems, making a clear stand.

The argument being put forward by this group, would you believe? is that PaCT is necessary to sort out the standardised testing mess. The argument being that with PaCT now being mandatory, NZPF needs to support PaCT to have an input.

The NZPF then makes the astounding statement that PaCT (that is national standards) will remain irrespective of a change of government. This rubbish reveals that the NZPF is hell bent on pandering to Parata irrespective.

The argument concludes that a lot of boards won’t support opposition to a mandated directive. Of course, they won’t, not directly anyway, and neither should they be expected to. But opposition can take many forms. National standards, however, are immoral and unethical and should be challenged, no matter the situation, on a principled level in argument and debate. The inner group, however, is peculiarly unsuited to such a principled debate by attitude, disposition, and insight.

The NZPF argument above is the one to be spread amongst the membership. It will, of course, appeal to many principals – but if it won the day, would ultimately devastate public education and seriously divide NZPF.

The government is just wanting to get across the line at the next election, to be able to really give it to public schools, in its final term. We ain’t seen nothing yet.

Haven’t these naifs worked out that by the NZPF being in the government’s pocket (oh yes, they will deny it), gives the government a much freer hand to deal with intermediates and NZEI (which is doing much better of late).

This capitulation by the NZPF inner group occurs in a week when Martin Thrupp wrote this in his just released second part to the RAINS project:

–If the Progress and Consistency Tool to be made mandatory by the Government is mainly intended as a form of national moderation for OTJ-making, then it can be expected to be an expensive failure.’

And then there is the Treasury Report released in November, 2011 which makes it clear that PaCT is to be used for added-value performance pay and dismissal of teachers.

Under the heading ‘System lever changes could focus on workforce accountability and funding and governance’ is a blacked out section (obviously a reference to PaCT) which goes on to say that ‘The creation of value-added data remains a priority to support better accountability and increased funding flexibility in subsequent years.’

The report says that teachers in a school, and schools, by means of  PaCT should be paid on the value-added results.

PaCT, the report indicates will increasingly be used to control what happens in classrooms down to a daily basis.

This is the plan Parata is working to, this is our future if the government is returned. All this is tied in, of course, with changes to the Teachers Council and appraisal. Look to see the pathetic line the inner group will take in their policy towards the Teachers Council and appraisal.

If PaCT is implemented and becomes embedded, a horror future lies ahead.

I repeat what I said in the posting sent out earlier today:

This is an inept episode in our education history now coalescing into a scandal.

I want to put on record some ideas I will be coming back to in some postings to follow:

o   In the school setting, values, for instance, the golden rule, are not just for children

o   National standards are immoral and unethical – immoral because it is plain to anyone who wants to see that compulsory national standards and testing is bad for children; and unethical because if a principal wants to organise his school on the basis of testing, that is the principal’s right, but to participate in their development in the knowledge that national standards and testing will be compulsory for all schools is unethical

o    For many principals the courage and moral strength of other principals in opposing something immoral and unethical, is simply a market opportunity

o     To make more efficient something that is harmful is to make it more harmful. 

As far as the pages of networkonnet are concerned, the fight against national standards has been a relative success: first we made them standards, thus by definition unworkable (the only way to make national standards ‘work’ is by testing – admittedly, that is where PaCT is heading. And, brave principals in putting up a brave and courageous fight, established for us the cast iron promise from Labour and the Greens that national standards would go if they were elected. In that respect, we have to take our chances electorally. In advance, we have to be on guard, though, against education leaders putting forward naive and defeatist arguments. They do not have the right to make self-serving rationalisations for a more comfortable world within which to function. The third party in any education compromise, is the most important, children – we should proceed with transcendental caution in assuming the right to make any compromise at all on their behalf. In this respect, I issue a warning.

There is more to come.

Kia kaha e hoa, ahakoa te aha me wepua e koe