Choice is good

Mike Hosking gets to the nub of charter schools:

. . . Being a charter school isn’t the trick. The trick is what it potentially allows. It potentially allows you to do things differently and some people want and like that. It potentially allows you to focus on specialist areas of learning instead of a broad brush approach, and some people like that as well. There might be some with a religious element or a sporting element or an artistic element, and some people think that’s exactly what they need. But what it indisputably does is provide more choice, and why you’d be afraid of that bewilders me.

Here’s the other bit that makes all the opponents’ arguments null and void – none of it is compulsory. You don’t like it? Don’t go. You don’t believe in it? Don’t enrol your kids. You think it will be a disaster? Stay away.

All that a charter school is is choice, and choice is good.

Charter schools won’t work for all pupils, just as the many variations of schools we already have don’t.

But they will provide choice and opportunity for children who need something they’re not getting from what’s on offer now.

Only a handful of charter schools are being established. No-one will be forced to teach at or attend one and they shouldn’t be regarded as a threat to existing schools.

They will complement other schools not compete with them.

9 Responses to Choice is good

  1. Neil says:

    The whole thing with this issue is the fact that the education unions,NZEI and PPTA,are tryomg to protect their turf.
    Not impressed with the unions over the Novopoay issue who wrote graffiti all over National Party office windows.Vandalism ! How would they like to have their school windows sprayed !! The teacher unions are dinosaurs with an absence of reality.

  2. JC says:

    One third of Maori leave school without a formal qualification.

    Nuff said!

    JC

  3. TraceyS says:

    “It potentially allows you to do things differently and some people want and like that.. ”

    Yeah, actually some people NEED that. My son just started year 7. I’m frankly surprised by the amount of copying off the board that still happens at school. Things haven’t changed that much in 30 years. My son struggles with writing. After a few days he came home one afternoon and said “Mum, I’m a boy who likes to do things with my hands” and he means a screwdriver not a pen. If only there was another choice! He’d be at the school for budding little electronics engineers…

    But the choice is absent, and so we have a Maori underclass in education but also a growing number of children who have “learning disabilities” aka “learn differently” due to structural difference in brain wiring that can’t be unlearned or disciplined out of them. Both are timebombs. Both groups need more help. Not teacher-aided remedial work, but a learning/teaching style and content that matches their needs.

  4. Viv says:

    Is it not the National government’s insistence on National standards that restricts your son’s teachers from teaching him in a way that might better suit his learning style? Instead of developing a programme that had more ‘hands on’ activities, they have to concentrate on a narrow range of achievement standards. Why do you assume he’d be better off in a charter school? Wouldn’t you be concerned that he might be taught by unregistered teachers?

  5. TraceyS says:

    Goodness gracious Viv, are you looking for a scapegoat or what?!

    How long have National Standards been in place? I’ve been battling with the school system for six years. No National Standards back then.

    Nowadays I’m gentler. As a school board member I understand the challenges teachers face and the attractiveness of a one-size-fits-all approach. Schools need more government funding. Having worked in several other areas of the public sector I was shocked to see what schools have to operate on. So I have some sympathy for the teachers and schools who have been unable to meet my son’s needs. And I’m ever hopeful.

    Our daughter doesn’t face the same challenges as our son and the standards are being applied to her as well. No problems there though. No Viv. Your supposition that National Standards are a problem is just plainly wrong.

    Am I concerned about unregistered teachers? Absolutely not! The best educator I have ever met is not registered to teach at primary or secondary school:
    http://www.odt.co.nz/lifestyle/magazine/243639/precious-and-precocious, and
    http://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/opinion/244284/all-about-meeting-needs

    I know Sarah well. She is an exceptional communicator, talented up to the eyeballs, and understands learning differences through personal experience – better than anyone else I know.

    Making way for such people to teach our children – I’m all for it. Watch this space!

  6. TraceyS says:

    To add to that, you may be surprised how many ‘precious and precocious’ children there are out there in lower socio-economic neighbourhoods who will NEVER get the opportunity for their talents to shine (at least not in a positive way). It surprises me how bright some children can be in the dimmest of personal circumstances. As a society we need them to reach their potential and they need our help. The stock-standard educational approach only works to a certain point. Then they drop out because they don’t have the same enrichment opportunities as the middle-class. I know because I was one of them.

  7. Richard says:

    Tracey, Interesting articles from the ODT “Giftedness” needs to be identified early. All children have giftedness in some form or other Charter Schools will help many who do not thrive elsewhere.
    I remember training British army recruits in Aberdeen in the 70’s from working class homes. The educational system had let many of them down. But the Army was good at identifying giftedness – in a very rudimentary way- because there are all sorts of skills an army requires, not just being on the front line. Proud to be friends with some of these former recruits – who are pleased to point out that they now out-rank me; delighted for them and point out that I retired early to give them a chance—–

  8. Viv says:

    Good on you for taking on the work of being a school board member. Point taken about national standards being new, but I see them as a narrowing of educational focus when a broad approach would benefit a wider range of kids. I am also concerned that science has been downgraded and is not treated as a core subject. I don’t know why you think I should be suprised at there being bright kids from lower socio economic groups, of course there are. They deserve equal opportunity to suceed and that may mean extra help to make up for a disadvantageous home situation. I think that should be provided by the state, not money making, private interest, non accountable charter schools with non registered teachers (even awesome ones as in your example, why shouldn’t she get registration?)

  9. TraceyS says:

    There’s a lot to respond to in your comment Viv. Yep, National Standards are a distraction until teachers get used to them. That will settle down soon enough. It is very necessary to attempt common standards and I’m sure that you, as a scientist, will appreciate that point. Of course any of us with a background in the social sciences will know that it can NEVER be perfect!

    My daughter recently changed schools with one school report at the former school and the next at the new school. I thought “here goes a test for National Standards” and I’m not the easiest ‘customer’ to please!! You know what? Even though they are very different schools the assessments against National Standards were absolutely spot-on. So good on those schools and teachers for doing a fantastic job.

    And yes there is not enough science going on. But my daughter came home recently excited that they had been doing science at school. This progress was highlighted at the board meeting, along with a report that a teacher and teacher-aide have enrolled to complete a university paper to qualify them to test children for specific learning disabilities. That, in itself, is appreciating the importance of the application of scientific methods in assessment and other areas of knowledge. So I am very proud of our school and teachers. I think this will be an amazing asset to the school and an initiative that I am only too happy to support. Some teachers freely admit to there being no coverage of learning disabilities in their degree programme. So in that area, non-trained and trained teachers are on par.

    Science is not an easy area of the curriculum for a lot of teachers. They need an environment where they feel trusted and comfortable to explore, experiment, and make mistakes. That is what science is all about. Board members can either help or hinder that level of comfort by the organisational climate they choose to foster through their relationship with the Principal.

    Having been involved with a low-decile school I have learned that you can’t make up for a disadvantageous home situation. You just can’t, I am so sorry to say. You can’t make up for a home that has no social areas. No kitchen table, no sofa, nothing like that. Only a pile of rubbish where those things should be :(. You can’t make it up to a child who is too ashamed to invite you into their home even though they know they should and desperately want to be welcoming.

    All you can do is on an individual level – invite that child into your home and give them love, good food, a window to a different world, and recognise the goodness they have within. The state can never do those things! But the private sector is full of people who understand, full of people who have come from less-than-ideal circumstances. It is a mistake to think that success in the private sector is built upon advantage and profiteering. That is a dangerous stereotype promoted by the Left. If anything, those who are truly successful are so out of a background of DIS-advantage.

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