education.govt.nz

Investing in Education Success: a bold step for all learners

Issue: Volume 93, Number 7

Posted: 5 May 2014
Reference #: 1H9ctV

Underpinning evidence

Teacher with students

Andreas Schleicher, special adviser on education policy to the Secretary-General of the OECD, said recently, prior to the ISTP summit hosted in New Zealand, that “the quality of any education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers”; a succinct encapsulation of a central issue in world education.

Thankfully, our understanding as to what constitutes quality teaching has advanced a huge distance since the days when the finger pointed exclusively at students who came up academically short – but that means the discussion has grown correspondingly more complex. It seems logical that those best placed to continue building on our understanding of teaching excellence should be those who have demonstrated that excellence in their day-to-day practice: it should be stand-out teachers helping all to be more outstanding.

Background

This is one of the key reasons for the Government’s injection of an extra $359 million into the education system, for the purpose of lifting student achievement: supporting teachers in pursuit of excellent practice. Evidence backs up the truism that great teachers make for successful students.

Investing in Educational Success has coalesced into three main proposals, that the sector can now begin discussing: Communities of Schools, a collective of schools that can set common goals and share expertise, as well as access inquiry-time funding; new roles in schools designed to incentivise teachers and principals to keep teaching, while at the same time giving exemplary practitioners the opportunity to concentrate on sharing and encouraging excellent practice; and the establishment of a $10 million teacher-led innovation fund.

While the titles of the new school roles are likely to change, their proposed functions are:

  • Executive Principal: These will be exemplary principals from around the country, with a proven track record of lifting achievement. They will be released for two days per week to work with the other schools; time that they will spend providing leadership across their community of schools, while remaining in their own school. They will establish and work towards objectives that a community of schools have identified as priorities.
  • Expert Teacher: These will be highly capable teachers who have demonstrated excellence in their practice. They will work with Executive Principals, and they will be experts in areas relevant to achievement objectives. They will work with teachers, inside classrooms, including within other schools in their community, to help lift teaching practice and improve student achievement. Time will be allocated to Expert Teachers to work with the other schools in their community.
  • Lead Teacher: These will be highly effective teachers, with a proven track record, who will act as a role model for teachers within their own and other schools in their community. Their classroom will be open for other teachers, including beginning teachers, to observe and learn from their practice.
  • The inquiry-time funding that participating Community schools can access is intended to support the achievement challenges that these communities set for themselves. The funding is on a per school basis, at 50 hours per 10 FTE.

Progress

Since February, a working group, supported by the Ministry’s IES team, has been engaged in considering the cabinet paper and its recommendations and will ultimately present to the Minister feedback on high-level design that will bring the recommendations of the cabinet paper to life. The working group comprises 11 representatives from parent and sector groups. Supporting Ministry personnel have also been responding to requests for clarification from peak bodies, sector organisations, boards of trustees and community groups.

Myth busting

A number of myths have taken root around the IES proposals, which need to be debunked. Most of these can be dispelled by a simple reading of the cabinet paper. They include:

“Executive Principals will report to the Ministry of Education, not to their schools.”

As per the cabinet paper, all principals, Executive Principals included, will continue to report exclusively to their employing Board of Trustees.

Schools and schools alone will continue to be responsible for the employment of all personnel.

“These new roles are an attempt to install managers into our schools.”

Again, the cabinet paper explicitly says that the new roles have no executive oversight component. The new functions are all about sharing great practice. The Executive Principal will not have managerial or employment responsibilities for their Community of Schools, they will be solely focused on meeting the learning achievement aims of their community.

The Executive Principals will be existing practitioners who, rather than becoming isolated from day-to-day classroom practice by their changing role, will, in fact, be able to more closely investigate and develop their expertise.

“IES is a Trojan horse, meant to begin a slow undermining of Tomorrow’s Schools and self-management.”

There will be absolutely no change to the way in which schools administer themselves.

“Schools will be forced to join a community.”

There appears to be the misapprehension that the government will be creating the communities, and directing schools to join. This is not the case. Communities will be self-selecting; there may well be some existing collaboration groups that will become Communities of Schools. Inclusion in these communities will be voluntary.

“This initiative has been developed without consultation with the sector.”

While the initial policy parameters were developed by government, the nuts and bolts design has been the focus of the working group, and will continue to be an entirely collaborative effort that seeks feedback from the sector at every juncture.

“Schools’ performance will be judged by National Standards data alone.”

Communities of Schools will set their own achievement challenges and figure out how to best track their own results. Those responsible will consider a ‘basket’ of evidence, and National Standards will be an ingredient for those communities who’ve decided to use National Standards as a measurement of success. Schools will not use National Standards data to the exclusion of a multitude of other metrics and evidence – including qualitative evidence.

“The Executive Principal role will create a power hierarchy: that’s inimical to the stated goals of IES.”

Some seem concerned that the Executive Principal role is in effect some sort of ‘super principal’. That’s not what is envisaged. Exemplary Principals will hopefully see the role as a positive and incentivising career move, but the increase in responsibility that will be met by extra compensation does not extend to the ability to ‘lord it’ over other principals. Instead, they will be utilising their identified capacity for leadership, and will be mentoring other principals while focussing on the Community of School’s achievement challenges, as well as increasing system capability and capacity.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 11:56 am, 5 May 2014

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