Beautiful friendships in education

Martine Udahemuka
Insights Newsletter
7 July, 2017

On Wednesday evening, Oliver summed up our event à la Casablanca. Thanking our guest speakers, he rightly said ‘I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship’.

Discussing our latest education report, we were joined by Education Minister Nikki Kaye; Post-Primary Teachers’ Association President, Jack Boyle; and Forsyth Barr Managing Director, Neil Paviour-Smith.

Speakers commented on the findings and conclusions of the report Amplifying Excellence, the final in a trilogy analysing the performance of New Zealand’s education system.

The report responds to four concerns: poor provision of information to parents and schools, weak teacher appraisal systems, limited leadership autonomy, and weak incentives for schools to improve.

Our proposed first step is to redefine what school success looks like.

The current government barometer neglects the starting points of students and is unfair for students and their educators. It is also unhelpful for the parents who care about their child’s achievement and want to choose the school that would work best for their child.

A school with a majority of students from affluent backgrounds whose parents read to them every night necessarily faces different challenges than a school with students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Our proposed measure takes into account factors that contribute to student achievement in order to compare like with like.

There seemed little disagreement that empowering parents, school leaders, and teachers with better information on school performance is key.

It was great to hear from the Minister that Cabinet and her Ministry share many of our concerns and are already working on a measure of learner progress.

Where we would have expected the union president to disagree with teachers needing better information about their impact, instead he said better data is the starting point.

Paviour-Smith, who also serves on a school board, explained how much value they would get from comparative performance information. It would help them determine if their school is performing to its potential when compared to schools serving similar communities.

The most effective principals will have a decent hunch that what they are doing works. But we propose to go a bit further and in fact faster.

The data needed to build a fairer measure of success already exists. It just needs to be put to better use.

We hope this is the start of many dialogues with the Minister and teacher unions about how to harness this opportunity. 

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