As former education professionals, you would expect Te Ururoa Flavell and Pem Bird to know a thing or two about education. However, on charter schools, performance pay and league tables Flavell and Bird have got it wrong.
Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell is backing Education Minister Hekia Parata's reforms.
"I think we've got to look at new ideas so for example I haven't got a problem with looking at charter schools. If it doesn't work, so it doesn't work. We've got to look at things like pay performance because that might encourage our teachers to lift performance even better, particularly around dealing with Maori students. Let's look at it. We shouldn't be precious about staying with what we've got because clearly it isn't delivering what we want," Mr Flavell says.
While Pem Bird informs RNZ that:
The Iwi Education Authority says league tables would make schools more accountable for performance and more responsible for achieving results.
Authority chairman Pem Bird says any ranking system would make schools work harder, because results would be explicit and transparent.
He says if his annual results weren't good, he wouldn't despair - it would be a challenge for him improve the following year's performance.
These are incredibly simplistic views. “If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work” is a terrible approach to policy making. Charter schools, performance pay and league tables are not abstract concepts that will have no tangible effect on learning. They are concrete policy initiatives that will affect the lives of all Maori children. With that in mind, it is reckless to endorse policy just because it quote “might” work.
Flavell, having based his views of performance pay on the idea that it provides an incentive, is misguided. Performance pay provides an incentive, but an incentive to narrow outcomes. All of a sudden schooling becomes about test scores rather than broader goals, for example equipping students with reasoning skills, ideas of social responsibility and so on.
In other words, performance pay encourages teachers to teach to the test. Such an approach fell out of fashion long ago. What we need from out students isn’t the ability to rote learn, which is what performance pay and its bastard teaching to the test encourages, but the ability to reason, innovate and so on.
As for charter schools, well, I can see the attraction. The idea conforms with ideas of tino rangatiratanga. Charter schools put Maori in charge of Maori. Iwi, for example, could deliver the curriculum and revive our culture. Rongoa Maori could be offered as a subject.
The pitfall, however, is that iwi have no experience in delivering education. Add to this the shortage of Maori teachers, especially te reo Maori teachers, and the fact that there are precious few models to draw on.
On league tables, Bird’s conception is shallow. League tables “might” encourage schools to work harder, or alternatively encourage schools to skew results, purge and refuse to accept weaker students, teach to the test and so on. I tend to think the latter is more likely.
Furthermore, National Standards aren’t standardised thus rendering the comparisons (i.e. league tables) almost meaningless. A different set of standards also apply to Kura, therefore any comparison between Kura and mainstream schools is utterly pointless. So for Maori parents wanting to compare whether Kura or mainstream schools are better for Maori children, league tables will offer no guidance. With that in mind, what the fuck’s the point?
I’m constantly amazed at how disappointing the Maori Party can be. Is anybody doing their homework in the party? Or are they just going off intuition? I don’t know what’s going on, but they’re doing Maori a disservice when they endorse the government’s plans for education.