Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Charter Schools, Partnership Schools, Kura Hourua - Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

As I began writing this blog, rumour had it that Destiny Church's application to run a Partnership School aka Charter School aka Kura Hourua had been denied.

And guess what - it has, yippee!!  But who has been accepted?  That will soon be announced by our Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, sometime in August on a day something else big happens so she can drop it in on the quiet.

It worries me who will run a Charter School.  And for all Hekia's tantrums that they are actually Partnership Schools or Kura Hourua, you can't mistake a wolf in sheep's clothing.

I'll be pretty pleased not to see Destiny running a Charter School.  And here is why:
  • They'd get to set their own curriculum - now considering the clap trap that comes out of the Destiny Church is regards to doctrine and how they expect their congregations to cough up large tithes, I don't consider Destiny to be true to the word of Christ.
  • Charter Schools are meant to be open to all who come, not just a specific group of people, therefore this gives Destiny an opportunity to evangelise to a captive audience.  I'm not opposed to the preaching of faith... just not to a captive audience, it should be for those who seek comfort and are exploring their spirituality.
  • Without the comfort of the OIA we will not be able to see how Destiny would spend those education dollars they have been gifted or how their students are succeeding, or not, as the case may be.  That is very concerning.
Politically it would not be a good choice for Hekia Parata to include Destiny in the first intake of Charter Schools.  The vast majority of the country would be greatly opposed to seeing a religious organisation with some cult-like characteristics receive tax payers dollars to possibly indoctrinate young and impressionable children.

John Banks, Associate Minister of Education and ACT leader who supposedly required the establishment of Charter Schools as part of his coalition deal with John Key's National government, favours the KIPP model from the US. 

KIPP moved into the void created by Hurricane Katrina when the schools of New Orleans were damaged and destroyed.  In fact choice has been mostly eliminated in New Orleans because where once public schools stood and served each community, it was replaced by a KIPP school.

So what is KIPP?  The following comes from their website:

KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program, is a national network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools with a track record of preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and in life.

There are currently 125 KIPP schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia serving more than 41,000 students. More than 86 percent of our students are from low-income families and eligible for the federal free or reduced-price meals program, and 95 percent are African American or Latino. Nationally, more than 93 percent of KIPP middle school students have graduated high school, and more than 83 percent of KIPP alumni have gone on to college.

Since our founding, it has been our core belief that all students, regardless of their zip code or demographics, will learn and achieve. We are committed to serving the students who need us most and refuse to accept anything less than an excellent college-preparatory education for students from low-income communities. 

Essential to creating a great system of schools is having our eyes on the same goal: college graduation. At KIPP, teachers, leaders, students, and parents are all united around this goal.  By providing outstanding educators, more time in school learning, and a strong culture of achievement, KIPP is helping all students build the skills needed to make it not only to, but through, college.

And those who oppose the KIPP invasion say:

  • This blog Schools Matter: A former KIPP teacher shares her story tells of a foreign languages teacher being recruited from teaching a college class to teach in a Year 9-12 KIPP school.  She was at 5.00am, at work by 6.40am and did not leave before 6.30pm, had an hour to eat her dinner before she started grading papers until 9.30pm.  During her evening she was also on call for parents and students.  She worked a 90 hour week and had no social life.  By the end of the school year the majority of the start of year staff, 70%, had resigned or been fired, and her job was gone as they cut her subject.

I asked about learning the rules like standing up against the wall and the imposed silence in many KIPP lunchrooms.  She said the rules were communicated during in-services, as part of the Big List. 

Big list? I asked.
         . . . . The big list is basically anything and everything because in low income schools . . . [it’s] sort of  the methodology behind teaching in low income schools. . . .The big list is every system or procedure that we have in place so that basically it’s controlling every variable in an environment, which is generally uncontrollable.  For example, where teachers are in the morning.  Where teachers are when they greet students in their classroom.  What time you need to have all your copies and everything done and ready.  What students should dress like when they come into the building.  And some of it we just went all off those and we created this big list.  And that was something we did during in service and then we did also while we were at KIPP summit.  You set an expectation and the kids have to meet that expectation every day all day without prompters. 
          INT:  Without fail.

R:  Without fail.  And that’s the KIPP culture that’s supposed to be the KIPP culture.  Now it varies from school to school because you have different school leaders and KIPP sort of  does this let the stallions run things, where it’s like let the principal run the school how they see fit.
[Other former KIPP teachers talked about children learning to ride the bus the KIPP way, getting off the bus, going to the bathroom the KIPP way, sitting in a desk the KIPP way, and walking in the hall all according to KIPP, how to act when visitors were in the building, and how to accept punishment.]

  • This news article by a Nashville television station identifies a long known secret: getting rid of the problem students out of Charter Schools right before testing time and sending them back to the public schools.  In fact, KIPP is known to have the highest exclusion rate across the US, and the public schools end up soaking these kids back up.
However, Kipp Academy is also one of the leaders in another stat that is not something to crow about.
When it comes to the net loss of students this year, charter schools are the top eight losers of students.
In fact, the only schools that have net losses of 10 to 33 percent are charter schools.
MNPS feels it's unacceptable as well, because not only are they getting kids from charter schools, but they are also getting troubled kids and then getting them right before testing time.
Nineteen of the last 20 children to leave Kipp Academy had multiple out-of-school suspensions. Eleven of the 19 are classified as special needs, and all of them took their TCAPs at Metro zoned schools, so their scores won't count against Kipp.

  • KIPP schools require parents and students to sign a pledge to abide by KIPP’s strict behavioral code and their rigorous curriculum. Drug-addicted, sexual and physically abusive parents, and dysfunctional families need not apply.  Public schools have almost a 50 percent higher percentage of handicapped children than KIPP does.  Approximately 60% of public school children have transferred (changed schools during the year), but KIPP solves this problem by not allowing children to transfer into their schools after the start of their school year.  It is hard to compare results of KIPP schools to local public schools as many of KIPP’s less able students have dropped out.  (source)

Recently Catherine Isaac, former ACT party president and candidate who was gifted the plum job of heading the Partnership School Advisory Group by her good mate John Banks, wrote an opinion piece for The Australian entitled Education's Fresh Charter

Released from many of the major constraints of regular state schools, the schools have one central requirement: they must attract and enable educational success for students underserved by the country's school system, notably Maori and Pasifika....  While there is some flexibility and devolution of management, and provision for special character and Maori language immersion schools, it is largely a tightly regulated, one-size-fits-all approach.

Ms Isaac then goes on to extoll the virtues of the Swedish Free Schools, after condemning the opposition in New Zealand by many including NZEI and PPTA:

Interestingly, when Sweden moved 20 years ago to introduce a form of charter school, now a highly successful mainstream feature of its school network, its teacher unions did not oppose it. Instead they saw it as an opportunity for teachers to gain professionally from more alternatives and innovation in education.
Subsequent surveys have shown this to be true, with significantly higher teacher satisfaction rates for teachers in "free" schools, compared with their regular state school counterparts.

Isaac then says there "has been a clear demonstration of support for the initiative from the communities across the country for whom it was designed" citing one body, the Iwi Education Authority.

Well here is a bit of rebuttal to this:
  •  New Zealand schools have a lot of flexibility to introduce learning opportunities for students.  Some schools have farms, some have business schools, some have adventure/outdoor ed schools, some have sports academies, some focus on enviro issues, some teach bilingually or full immersion in Maori or another language, some have an awesome focus on the arts....  really the only constraint is National introducing National Standards and narrowing the curriculum and not allowing the New Zealand Curriculum to shine to its full potential.
  • New Zealand schools have lots of great programmes to improve the outcomes of students.  Sadly the Ministry of Education has axed or restricted the funding to a number of these great programmes.  Reading Recovery is a successful programme... however the funding for this has decreased over the last few years, just ask your local primary principal.  There is a follow on programme for kids who need further support after Reading Recovery, but I've rarely seen a school funded for it.  The MOE began funding ALIM and ALL last year to give a boost to those 'just below the standard' in numeracy and literacy.... they funded the beginning, and just when schools get going they cut the funding and expect schools to fund it from... yeah, where?  The biggest kicker is that the MOE cut the funding to Te Kotahitangata programme that has been successful in improving the relationships between students and teachers, improving the teachers' ability to teach and communicate with students, and the students' self belief as learners.  It's been replaced with a programme from the USA.  That's culturally sensitive to our Pacific Island and Maori students isn't it.
  • Are Sweden's Free Schools all they are cracked up to be?  In May it was announced that one provider was closing a number of schools, meaning hundreds of kids would no longer have a school.  It was closing them because they couldn't cover the economic loss any longer.  That is why education should not be a business.  Many in Sweden are now looking at their sliding rankings internationally and are questioning whether or not Free Schools are working.
  • And as for Isaac's assertion that there has been a clear demonstration of support for Charter Schools, she was obviously deaf and blind when the submissions to the Education Amendment Act happened at the Science and Education Select Committee meetings.  I know a number of people who personally attended and listened, and the majority of submissions were overwhelmingly opposing Charter Schools and they had well thought out and researched submissions.  Isaac quoting the Iwi Education Authority, one loan voice from Maori and Pacifica groups, needs to remember that this group was only established in June last year, and even though there are some well regarded educationalists on this group (including Iria Whiu, former NZEI national president), how many people does this group really represent?
  • Finally, only five applications to initiate Charter Schools were received by the Minister.  This number hardly screams and outstanding need for Charter Schools in New Zealand.

Just now I have seen that the ombudsman has released a report saying that the public does what transparency over the Charter Schools issue and that there clearly is not enough clarity.  In a press statement released by NZEI it says:  "In a ruling just released, the Ombudsman, Prof Ron Paterson, has found that the Ministry of Education had “no good reason” for refusing to release the names of organisations expressing an interest in setting up a charter school."  Remember that Catherine Isaac was in charge of this process.  She even made commitments to two organisations responding to the call for applications that the process would be confidential.  This is public money we are talking about and the public wants to know how it is being spent and by whom.
This policy is a huge fail.  It fails public accountability.  It fails our already quality public education system.  It fails the group of students, Maori and Pacifica in particular, that it aims to improve outcomes for.  It fails because it has not captured the imagination of the New Zealand public.
In short, it fails the standard.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more, Mel. Charters are a wolf in sheep's clothing, if ever there was one, and using Maori and Pasifika achievement as an excuse to bring them in is shameful.