Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Briefing, blaming, backing down

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  • John Morrison,

    What really gets me is the Treasury secretary cheer-leading govt thinking on education. I thought these guys were supposed to be apolitical, and what does he know about education?

    Cromwell • Since Nov 2006 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3470 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    I don't know if it was me but some things stood out over "teh cuts".

    i) The persistent pushing of "evidence that smaller class sizes make no difference" the qualification to this got lost in transmission. Smaller class sizes make less than expected difference, most probably due to teaching methods not being suitably adapted to the change in numbers. There is to my knowledge little evidence the bigger is better BTW.

    ii) I think I read that some of the savings were to be put into teaching quality and monitoring. So the extra dead rat to be swallowed would have been that teachers may well have had to pay for their own scrutiny.

    FWIW.

    I’ve actually taken the time to read Hattie’s book. It is a bold attempt to assemble large body of results around some key questions; which is on the whole a good thing. Unfortunately not all the evidence assembled was a good fit for the questions asked. In particular cases Hattie quite plainly was comparing Apples and Bananas in the same system. Classroom learning and feedback driven skill acquisition are not the same thing at all for example.

    D’you think John Roughan wants to be a right wing blogger?

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 730 posts Report Reply

  • Allan Moyle,

    Thanks Russell for putting into words my feelings re Roughans column. My reaction to reading the column on Saturday morning was rather more visceral and had he appeared before me during the day I would have been afraid of what I might have done to him.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 92 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I thought these guys were supposed to be apolitical

    ROFL! (&LMAO)

    Basically, Treasury are ACT in permanent government. Why Labour didn't disestablish the lot of them during their nine years of government escapes me.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4484 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Curran,

    Roughans column was just ... odd. Almost nothing in the history it related was connected with the history I know of.

    Since May 2011 • 44 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    Was it Roughan the week before with the "oh look I'M totally reasonable and down with teh gays but we shouldn't let them adopt because my kids will bully theirs" column?
    Another reason not to buy...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1722 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis,

    "If John Roughan wants to gradually morph into Jim Hopkins, that’s his business. But he does his paper no credit and his readers no service with shrieking displays of studied ignorance like the column he presented on Saturday."

    Or the Saturday before that: http://pundit.co.nz/content/doing-the-herald-editors-job-for-him

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 151 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to 81stcolumn,

    The persistent pushing of "evidence that smaller class sizes make no difference" the qualification to this got lost in transmission. Smaller class sizes make less than expected difference, most probably due to teaching methods not being suitably adapted to the change in numbers. There is to my knowledge little evidence the bigger is better BTW.

    I'm at a disadvantage, having not read Hattie's book, but my understanding from the Australian research on this (and, as an aside, Hattie is widely recognised to be an international expert), the single most influential in school factor on a child's performance in standardised tests is the quality of the teacher. As you say, it's not that class size is irrelevant, it's just not as important as it's typically thought to be. That said, a less experienced teacher is going to find it harder to run his/her classroom effectively with lots of kids.

    Your comment about the data is one I worry about also. I understand these studies necessarily require the underlying data to be heavily manipulated to be internationally comparable.

    PA is lucky to have many regulars who'll correct me on all this, if I'm mistaken.

    I'd love to see the official advice provided to Parata, it must surely have included strong cautions against this approach. Either she over-ruled them, risky for a new Minister, or she acquiesced to Treasury and will be characterised as a weak Minister. I also think, at the risk of inviting your collective ire, Treasury should be focused on testing the relative merits of different spending options. I think that's part of their job.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2239 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Basically, Treasury are ACT in permanent government. Why Labour didn’t disestablish the lot of them during their nine years of government escapes me.

    Even Maurice Williamson, who looked the other way while the broadband market remained monopolised, once called for Treasury to have a ‘cleanout’

    Mr Williamson says Treasury is also “deeply rooted” in the industrial age time warp, and responsible for both National’s and Labour’s slow progress in developing the information economy.

    “Treasury needs to shut up and rethink its industrial economics. I’d like to see a cleanout of top Treasury echelons and get some really intelligent, forward-thinking people in there who understand about the information age and can advise the Government what effect it can have on an economy.”

    He says Treasury vigorously opposed the setting up of the New Economy Research Fund which National introduced towards the end of its term.

    “They just don’t believe the Government should assist with this sort of research and development. They just don’t think it’s necessary."

    David Skilling appears to be one of the ’forward thinkers’, but he’s long since gone on to bigger and better things.

    And, no shit Sherlock, this report is stating the obvious. But acting on it is quite another thing. And it’s the same Treasury that ignored the RoNS and the Supplementary Minimum Prices re-packaged as an irrigation plan. Do the terms 'entryism' and ‘regulatory capture’ come to mind?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4403 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Roughan trade...
    Was it also Roughan who reckoned that the only reason the Teachers' Union was pushing against this plan was because they wanted smaller classes so there'd be more teachers, therefore more money for them from extra union fees - unassailable logic apparently.

    The devil you know...
    I still worry that the whole charade was a scam: 'create an untenable situation out of something that was already bad, then magnanimously offer to keep things the same', while diverting our attention from something else perhaps...

    The BIG experiment...
    The larger class size doesn't really seem to be working in Parliament, some of the rowdier elements, bullies and class clowns seem to be holding the whole room back, perhaps a better quality teacher (speaker) and some aides are needed,...
    Oh for the old days when we could cane a few of them, the detentions don't seem to be working, perhaps a letter to the parents (electorate) reporting on how they are disrupting the other kiddies might help.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5092 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    Or the Saturday before that: http://pundit.co.nz/content/doing-the-herald-editors-job-for-him

    Bravo.

    FWIW, Roughan is one of the stable of editorial writers. Working out out which ones are by him is a game I like to play at home.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Paul Williams,

    I also think, at the risk of inviting your collective ire, Treasury should be focused on testing the relative merits of different spending options. I think that’s part of their job.

    Oh, quite. Whether it should be actively shopping policy like this is another matter.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Oh, quite. Whether it should be actively shopping policy like this is another matter.

    Fair enough. In my experience, they mightn't be “shopping” policy, they could, but they could equally just be reviving advice from the past, advice that's not politically expedient, in the hope that circumstances change (which means perhaps Parata’s inexperience is as much to blame, let’s hope the advice is released now that a decision has been made)..

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2239 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    Paul –

    I would not dispute Hattie’s expertise in matters of education, indeed I much admire what he has tried to do with his book.

    Like any form of statistics, meta-analysis involves data manipulation and for the most part there are agreed rules to which most researchers adhere. This is not the core of my criticism; it is the issue of which experimental effects should be included for analysis. This is a common debate amongst researchers and often a difficult one to resolve given the sheer volume of research that needs to be understood.

    My overriding criticism rests with a government who is in my direct experience becoming increasingly adept at “managing research reports”.

    Anecdotally I might add it is not only the teachers that need to adjust to smaller class sizes, but also the learners.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 730 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Will someone please rid us of these Treasury priests?
    According to Matt M in Herald, big bad Billy sabotaged a PM in waiting, and now awaits certain replacement by a Winston.
    Stuff is getting crazy mad, but that's what you get with the huge salary no?

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Paul Williams,

    Fair enough. In my experience, they mightn’t be “shopping” policy, they could, but they could equally just be reviving advice from the past, advice that’s not politically expedient, in the hope that circumstances change

    Apparently they've held this view since 2009, but if they had any firmer ideas on how the "quality" might be pursued, Parata wasn't able to articulate them.

    And at any rate, the results of the way the formula was applied seem to have come as a surprise to everyone concerned. When you have an intermediate school working out that it would lose seven teachers, someone hasn't done their homework.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    FWIW, Roughan is one of the stable of editorial writers. Working out out which ones are by him is a game I like to play at home.

    I reckon he almost certainly wrote this crackpot editorial
    recently calling for the Northern Busway to be turned into another lane for cars, given that his previous form makes it is obvious that his sole source of knowledge of public transport is the view through the window of his Landrover Discovery of those damned buses zooming along his roads.

    But I suppose he has at least SEEN a bus. OTOH, it looks like his views on education are be based on nothing more than the sour grapes of a right wing baby boomer Pakeha whose team has just got a spanking.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1822 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to 81stcolumn,

    Like any form of statistics, meta-analysis involves data manipulation and for the most part there are agreed rules to which most researchers adhere. This is not the core of my criticism; it is the issue of which experimental effects should be included for analysis

    I think I understand this to mean, leaving to one side the data, your concern is what specific factors are measured? I agree. I'm also concerned that, so far as I can tell, the research focuses only on assessments against standard curriculum (I think). This doesn't capture nearly enough about the experience of education for me.

    Apparently they’ve held this view since 2009, but if they had any firmer ideas on how the “quality” might be pursued, Parata wasn’t able to articulate them.

    I do think this is a key part of the problem. Absent better measures, quantifiable ones, however simplistic, seem to be preferred.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2239 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Maybe Roughan was worth reading once, but this killed him for me.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3597 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to Russell Brown,

    When you have an intermediate school working out that it would lose seven teachers, someone hasn't done their homework.

    The strength of the reaction from our intermediate school in Christchurch was quite sufficient to convince me of the stupidity of the original proposal.
    On a related train of thought, it really annoyed me that Key and Parata justified the backdown on the grounds that it was causing parents anxiety. Even speaking as a parent I'm much more interested in the views of the profession.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 662 posts Report Reply

  • slarty,

    Roughan unfortunately summarises the view of the uneducated... perhaps he should simply watch The Wire?

    Since Nov 2006 • 290 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    The nation was offered a dud deal and didn't swallow.
    Cut $170m from teachers' salaries. Give you back $60m in professional development initiatives and call it an increase in teacher quality...
    Not only is it not fiscally neutral- it was exchanging something concrete we had (teacher:pupil ratios) in exchange for something that *might* mean an increase in teacher quality (and that of principals- a fair bit was aimed at 'leadership training') - but it might also have little or no effect.
    Teacher quality can certainly be improved. But you need to get a good grasp of what works- and the Nats big 'carrot and stick' (get rid of *bad* teachers, and bring in performance pay so *good* teachers get more) is so wide of the mark it's hard to know what they are aiming it.
    It's the sort of simplistic scheme that can work in a sales office... If you don't understand that most teachers are motivated differently (and often work best cooperatively) you're very unlikely to ever push the right buttons.
    (The new primary curriculum pushed a lot of them- it had teachers excited, and was the envy of most of the world. Then National Standards- a drab testing regime that had failed in the US and Britain- pushed it into the background. Cue woe and gnashing.)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    Most will not be able to access John Hatties paper on " The paradox of reducing class size and improving learning outcomes"

    But here is the table that scores the best to worst for the influences on student acheivement.


    Table 2. A sample of 46 influences on student achievement

    [ The 3 parts are Influence, No of studies and Effect size. Sorry tried formatting but failed .] Edit: "Retention" is holding kids back a year.

    1 Feedback 13,209 0.81
    2 Direct instruction 1925 0.81
    3 Prior achievement 619 0.80
    4 Lack of disruptive students 1511 0.79
    5 Quality of teaching 808 0.67
    6 Phonological awareness 429 0.66
    7 Early intervention 30,275 0.64
    8 Peer assessment 308 0.63
    9 Challenging goals 959 0.59
    10 Self-assessment 521 0.56
    11 Mastery learning 1933 0.55
    12 Interactive video 1008 0.54
    13 Peer influences 366 0.50
    14 Bilingual programs 1457 0.49
    15 Study skills 3224 0.49
    16 Socio-economic status 1899 0.48
    17 Professional development 18,644 0.48
    18 Tutoring 2101 0.47
    19 Advance organizers 2106 0.46
    20 Hypermedia instruction 317 0.46
    21 Parent involvement 2597 0.43
    22 Home environment 25,685 0.42
    23 Self-concept 4925 0.40
    24 Individual instruction 4747 0.39
    25 Time on task 1680 0.37
    26 Homework 558 0.35
    27 Computer-assisted teaching 16,415 0.32
    28 Acceleration 345 0.32
    29 Testing frequency 2346 0.32
    30 Calculators 238 0.20
    31 Learning hierarchies 168 0.19
    32 Desegregation 1590 0.19
    33 Mainstreaming 1635 0.19
    34 Finances 1634 0.18
    35 Behavior objectives 157 0.18
    36 Teacher questioning 476 0.17
    37 Programmed instruction 801 0.14
    38 Ability grouping 5078 0.14
    39 Teacher expectations 912 0.14
    40 Classsize 2559 0.13
    41 Diet 255 0.12
    42 Problem-based learning 41 0.06
    43 Whole language programs 13 0.06
    44 Open vs. traditional classes 3426 0.04
    45 Summer vacation 269 −0.07
    46 Retention 3626 −0.20


    He hints at reasons for the small effect here:

    4. Why is this difference so small?

    It seems ironic that the list of reasons as to why smaller classes are more effective is very long, but so little research is undertaken asking why the differences are so small? Further, the expected differences seem more related to quantity than quality (e.g., more on-task behavior, less student–student interactions), and there is little, if any, evidence that the fundamental nature of teaching differs when there are smaller classes (even when the same teacher is teaching small and large classes within the same day). Some of the arguments tend towards the reductive—that is, the effects must be obvious simply because there are fewer students. In the same manner, there must be less time on non-teaching administrative functions simply because there are fewer students. There is more time spent on instruction and less on discipline simply because in smaller classes there are 15 less students to be “naughty” than in a class of 30. But even if these “quantity” claims are correct, they do not explain why the effects are so small. There are three major interrelated reasons why this effect may be small:

    it is difficult to find studies whereby the nature of classroom experiences are differentially related to classsize;

    teachers tend to use the same teaching methods regardless of classsize; and

    there may be greater attention to peer effects in smaller classrooms.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1502 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    Does John Roughan live in a gated community by any chance?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4403 posts Report Reply

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