Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Research Fail

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  • Hilary Stace,

    Kelvin Davis has started dissecting the report and here are his comments on the top 5% and Gifted and Talented and from his experience they are not the same cohort.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3093 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Ooo! Handwavium! Right up there with rofflenui!

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    Checking out Step Change we find this:

    Quality learning facilitation

    With reference to quality learning facilitation, Hattie, in his final chapter of "Visible Learning: a Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement" writes:

    “The conclusion seems clear: experts possess pedagogical content knowledge that is more flexibly and innovatively employed in instruction; they are more able to improvise and to alter instruction in response to contextual features of the classroom situation; they understand at a deeper level the reasons for individual student success and failure on any given academic task; their understanding of students is such that they are more able to provide developmentally appropriate learning tasks that engage, challenge, and even intrigue students, without boring or overwhelming them; they are more able to anticipate and plan for difficulties students are likely to encounter with new concepts; they can more easily improvise when things do not run smoothly; they are more able to generate accurate hypotheses about the causes of student success and failure; and they bring a distinct passion to their work.”

    The relevance of Hattie’s summary is that policy initiatives aimed at improving outcomes for New Zealand’s failing one in five students, and its high-achieving 5 percent, must be placed in the context of quality learning facilitation. If quality learning facilitation does not occur, then it is difficult to see how other policy initiatives will be truly successful. Policy, therefore, should also aim at creating the conditions that attract high-quality teachers into the profession, the return of New Zealand teachers from overseas and continued work on professional development.

    (my italics)

    Who are these "experts"? Couldn't be Teachers (with a capital T)?

    I also wonder if the authors actually started at the front of the book before they found the quote above. The link is to Amazon where the first chapter of Visible Learning can be seen and it makes interesting reading. I think a credit card buy is in order as my appetite has been whetted.

    Maybe we do have an expert Expert here in Gidzone and is it the overseas 'experts' who are out of step. Is he the Arthur Lydiard of NZ Education who will have to shuffle off this mortal coil before we realise his worth?

    Hattie makes an interesting observation:

    “Most countries have been through many waves of reform, including new curricula, new methods of accountability, reviews of teacher education, professional development programs, charter schools, vouchers, and management models. We have blamed the parents, the teachers, the classrooms, the resources, the textbooks, the principals and even the students. Listing all the problems and all the suggested remedies could fill this book many times over.”

    We can now add one more. Step Change.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1581 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,



    Done when you find Unobtainium.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1581 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    Heh again. I went googling for "learning broker mentor"

    Check out John Spavin here: Love the reporter Video just below

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1581 posts Report Reply

  • webweaver,

    I hope so. Meanwhile I'm getting very scared about what I heard Jonathan Coleman say about RNZ.

    Mining in our conservation estate and, now, tinkering with the public broadcasting function of RNZ ...(One News) Oh dear.

    I saw that on the news this evening - with some smug and smarmy Nat pol sounding very pleased indeed with himself at telling RNZ their budget could be frozen for the next 5 years.

    Right now it feels like they're going after everything I hold dear in this country and stomping all over it - or selling it off at rock-bottom prices to their mates.

    Makes me feel ill.

    How long until the next election? I don't know how much more of this I can take.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 331 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    The Swedes are taking steps to address their education problems:

    Sweden’s education minister, Jan Björklund, says this easygoing attitude is changing in response to the country’s dismal test performances. The ministry is developing a new, rigorous national curriculum, and by 2011, teachers will give grades starting in sixth grade. Younger students will also share the sting of failure if they perform poorly: new national tests, from the third grade on, will determine which students are held back until they can improve their scores.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Dempsey,

    The overweening impression I get from Russell's concerns and commentary about Heather Roy's so called 'Step - downwards - change' is that it all seems one great big ideological wank off performed by ACT.

    Parnell / Tamaki-Auckland… • Since Sep 2008 • 658 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Ashby,

    Academies here in the UK, where they achieve better than average or improved results do it by exclusion. Where they are forced to accept wholescale the population of a school they replace they exclude at a much higher rate than state schools.

    So do the religious (usually Anglican) schools here (in England and Wales anyway), though they also select on entry.

    It seems that the only way to increase standards either across the board or amongst the 20% at the bottom without spending shedloads of money is to cheat and fudge it. Surprise, surprise.

    It takes money, lots of one to one help by specialist teachers paid well to attract and retain them. In addition after the ones you improve with that the cost of helping the next lot down are even higher per pupil.

    Even if govt manages to institute the necessary things programs like that are incredibly vulnerable to the predations of a different administration or just a budgetary squeeze. This happens even in the face of fierce local opposition and things like election of independent single issue parliamentary or council members.

    What is needed is a sea change in attitudes amongst so many of the population that even capture by the usual suspects is not sufficient. Like what happened with the nuclear free legislation. Most people don't care about the top 5% and the bottom 20% because it won't affect their kids. All that is needed to kill this is to point out more generally that extra help for the extremes will be at the expense of 'normal people'. That is the meme that needs to be got out.

    Dundee, Scotland • Since May 2007 • 425 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    telling RNZ their budget could be frozen for the next 5 years.

    RNZ: pretty much the best -- some would argue the only remaining -- mainstream source of more or less in-depth news coverage in the country. Coincidence?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The Swedes are taking steps to address their education problems:

    Phew. Good luck with that prescription!

    I can't help but wonder if the Swedish government is going to plough its own course whatever the consequences, as it has for some time with its drug policies.

    Honestly, I think it's reasonable to credit the quality of education policy here,complaints about special-needs ed notwithstanding. The persistent underperformers are a real problem, but our best students and schools are amongst the best in the world.

    Can you imagine if New Zealand Labour had presided over a marked decline in the educational performance of New Zealand children over a decade since 2000? Yikes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22182 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Dave Guerin of Education Directions has some criticisms of my post, which he nonetheless assures me he likes.

    He says the two paragraphs about Sweden I quoted are part of "a fairly light case study section that has little reference to the proposals that follow."

    Fair call. I wasn't looking in depth, and the case study rang a familiar and rather dissonant bell for me.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22182 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    telling RNZ their budget could be frozen for the next 5 years.

    The current activities and soundings-off of Coleman look very much like political interference in broadcasting. I agree that NatRad is essential to the NZ broadcasting mix but I sometimes wonder who their audience is. Increasingly, I don't think it is me. I turned off over summer, not wanting to hear more of an extended joke that has worn thin (Matinee Idle), and the 'guests' they bring for the weekday pm Panel are just too much The Usual Suspects ie people who already have ample access to the public discourse, or are just too predictable. RNZ needs to be braver, take more risks, call on opinion outside the usual circles. liven up Sunday mornings. The programming on Saturday (am and pm) is the sort of stuff they should be doing more of, IMHO.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2496 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    and the 'guests' they bring for the weekday pm Panel are just too much The Usual Suspects ie people who already have ample access to the public discourse, or are just too predictable.

    Don't forget weekday mornings with "Left vs. Right".

    I'd almost forgotten the magic of hearing Matthew Hooton deliver the Good News on Tax last Monday. Apparently the proles should be taxed harder via GST, because it's the only way they'll learn not to torpedo our balance of trade via JB Hi-Fi ("15 percent? Why not 20 percent and even lower income tax?"). But naturally a tax cut for the rich will allow these noble folk only to invest in productive businesses to make our country great, rather than in those new powerboats and beach houses they seem to like?

    I hasten to say the chap from the left was not much better; altogether a depressing few minutes of radio...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1607 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    And ironically the Clark Govt was accused of political interference in TVNZ. With respect to Coleman's threats to dumb down RadioNZ - and many of his teabagger colleagues for that matter - anyone notice the resemblance of the following?

    “Life in Australia is neither urban nor rural but suburban. If your ambition is to live on Ramsay Street, where nobody has ever been heard to discuss a book or a movie, let alone an international event, then Australia may be the place for you.” - Germaine Greer

    "New Zealand is in real danger of becoming a McDonalds nation - nothing more than a bland plastic replica of suburban USA - simply because we can't seem to believe that we are as good as we are, or that our own culture and expertise have the value they do. As long as we remain focused on the trap of being "Little America", we're ignoring our greatest strengths: our individuality, our number-8-wire approach to finding novel solutions to problems, and an inherent humanity that believes that there might be more or better reasons for doing something than just the bucks in the bank." - David Harris, creator of Pegasus Mail

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5283 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Apparently the proles should be taxed harder via GST, because it's the only way they'll learn not to torpedo our balance of trade via JB Hi-Fi

    Thatcher tried to do something not all that different, and look what happened.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5283 posts Report Reply

  • Tristan,

    Thanks to Journalista I read her speech here

    She quotes Tony Robbins!? I mean really Tony Robbins!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 220 posts Report Reply

  • philipmatthews,

    This is interesting, from the Roy speech:

    While the group reached agreement on many points, it is not unusual, given the range of issues addressed, that some strongly held views were not shared across all Parties. As a result, the work of the Inter-Party Working Group has been put into two reports. The first is titled 'Step Change: Success the Only Option' and is supported by all members of the group. The second is titled 'Free to Learn', and will be released by Sir Roger Douglas and me soon.

    In other words -- if you thought this week's one was rubbish, wait till you see the report only the ACT MPs could get behind.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2007 • 656 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    What shocked me about the paper was the flimsy nature of its "research". If I had time, I think I'd have a good chance of spotting the copy and paste direct from a coupe of lobby groups.

    I think you'll find that Jolisa is the contracted PAS plagiarism spotter and there are demarcation issues before you go looking without her getting her cut.

    In other words -- if you thought this week's one was rubbish, wait till you see the report only the ACT MPs could get behind.

    Hehe! Even more stupid to come?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6241 posts Report Reply

  • Alien Lizard (anag),


    and other wishalloys...
    unobtainium has left the research labs
    and been used in at least two movies now;
    The Core and Avatar - joining other well known MacGuffin substances like Dilithium ( Star Trek ) and Scrith ( Ring World )

    The Arrrgh Complex • Since Jan 2010 • 158 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    In re: the report only the ACT MPs could get behind:


    <blockquote>ACT Deputy Leader and Inter-Party Working Group (IPWG) chair Heather Roy today joined fellow IPWG ACT representative Sir Roger Douglas to release 'Free to Learn', the minority view on the 'Step Change' report launched at Parliament yesterday.</blockquote>

    I would be looking on the ACT site for the actual document, but I can't get a connection. Perhaps it's crushed under the weight of idiocy after Rodney's climate antics.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • Gordon Dryden,

    Russell: Thanks for including the link to the full report of the "Inter-Party Working Group for School Choice".

    While a regular reader of your blog, I last week joined for the first time in your discussion-segment on "national standards" on education.

    Could I, too — like a few others — make a plea for all contributors not to make blanket judgments based on others' party affiliations (for the record I have not been a party member for more than 25 years), but (as Russell has suggested) on looking for good ideas that might add to a better future—wherever those ideas may come from.

    In education, for example, I suggest that needed improvements have been held back for decades because of dogmatic, fixed points of view:

    1. Phonics versus "whole language" (Auckland university leaders divided for years) when any common-sense view sees clearly that each are part of totality fluency in English).

    2. "Bulk funding" (a terrible title) of individual schools versus centralised government funding (I've even forgotten the original term). New Zealand has brilliant public schools which have opted for either method.

    3. The "Tomorrow's Schools" model (abolish the Dept of Ed and all education boards, and replace with 2700 individual school boards of trustees) versus the old centralised model. I suggest the "Tomorrow's Schools" program unleashed (in both private and public schools) an incredible burst of new, effective ideas and programs from our most innovative principals, teaches and students (many of whose boards opted for "bulk-funding"; only they called it "democracy": ie, the boards—elected by parents, teachers and, in the case of high schools, students—decided on both their "charter for excellence" and the allocation of funds to achieve their jointly-conceived local program). As the "Tomorrow's Schools" decentralisation program coincided with advent of the Internet, Web, instant digital communication and interactive technology, we then missed out, initially, on a national ICT program (to link all schools together on an interactive sharing network). But within seven years common sense prevailed and, after a two-day think tank of our brightest leaders in ICT (information communications and technology) our brilliant ICT Cluster program emerged. In it, our most innovative schools (n this field) have taken responsibility for retraining up to ten others. Now more than 80 percent of schools have been through that retraining. And New Zealand (especially in primary school lICT) leads the world in this. In other words, by putting together the best from different initiatives we ended up with something great. (By the way: the catch cry against "bulk funding" was: it would encourage schools to employ only less experience teachers to cut down on salaries. I personally found the opposite: not that such public schools paid much higher salaries, but they spent a lot more of their funds on teacher retraining — what the "industry" prefers to call "professional development".

    4. And so on to the "school choice" issue — and the associated debate about "gifted and talented" students, "vouchers by another name" and the associated issues involving "national standards".

    Now I know that spending the last twenty years investigating and sharing "best practice" ideas (and seeing them working in practice) doesn't necessarily make my conclusions any more valuable than anyone else.

    But let me share a few of those conclusions:

    1. The United States has the best research universities in the world — and the "total eco-system" between each of those, associated research institutes, highly innovative students and professors an venture capital-funders has made a major contribution towards innovation. (Stanford, Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre, Silicon Valley's VC industry and great professor-student relationships, is only one example. Significantly, silicon Valley's gdp per person is by far the highest in America: US $80,000). So perhaps we should investigate carefully why eight of the top ten research universities in the world (by peer judgment) are in the US (the other two, Oxford and Cambridge) are of course in the UK and what makes them so great. (High government research spending is a major factor. So is funding from the not-for-profit foundations set up by US billionaires. Again this dichotomy that links together seemingly opposite state-control versus "the danger of big business" arguments.)

    2. On the other hand, I have found many (I personally think most) of the public elementary schools in the US are way below the best in the rest n the world, including here. There are many reasons for this. Those include both the way the US state and district education systems are structured, the narrow vested-interest approach of the school unions (and others in schooling: the US public school system has more non-teachers than teachers, each with their own tenured interests), and the entire country being mesmerised by their version of "standardised testing", "national standards" and thus "teaching to the narrow multiple choice tests" as the core of many of their school systems.

    3. Now let's cross to the country that, in many respects, can most be compared to New Zealand, except for climate and geography: Finland. Population: a little over 5 million, compared with our 4.2 million. Slightly bigger than New Zealand. For the best part of a century, from the mid-1870s, its main source of wealth was forestry (still two-thirds of Finland is in forest), as New Zealand developed grasslands farming - and later did very well off it (thanks to world-leading research, the development of our agricultural universities of Massey and Lincoln, our Research Institutes, like Ruakura and surrounding Massey; and industries that were either cooperatively owned, privately owned or owned by public companies. Now shoot back to Finland briefly: on world rankings (for 15-year-olds, designed to test the application of real-world knowledge), their public school students come out number 1 in reading, math and sciences. We're close in behind. But in Finland, one company (Nokia) has, in the past 20 years, changed from being known as a producer of toilet paper and gumboots (and stultified by its domination by neighbouring USSR) to the world's biggest mobile phone producer (40 percent of the fastest-growing world market in history). Its annual turnover in New Zealand dollars (nearly all in exports): $81 billion — compared New Zealand's $40 billion in exports.

    Now, in the continuing debates on "educational standards" "educational systems, wouldn't it be a great idea for New Zealand to study BOTH the reasons for Finland's (and Nokia's) dramatic success and Silicon Valley's (including, in both cases, the different educational contributions)?

    To take just one issue raised by the "Inner-Party Working Group for School Choice" (I'v e read it, of course, re-read it several times): the issue of "vouchers" and "gifted and talented" students.

    Firstly, my own research (and visits to many countries, schools and industries) convinced me that (unless born with a damaged brain) nearly everyone has a potential "talent" to be a high "talented" in something.

    For the record, I think New Zealand relatively large country (as big as japan and similarly elongated), with its small population in often geographically isolated small villages (East Coast and Northland among the examples) make the ideas of switching schools generally difficult.

    I also know (and not just believe), from what the best New Zealand primary schools are doing everyday, that the new interactive technologies form one major catalyst to reinvent schooling more than anything since the European development of the printed book 550 years ago. (And it took 200 years before that printing breakthrough eventually led to the invention of the "modern schoolroom", with textbooks, slate, blackboard, chalk and a teacher lecturing students sitting at desks in rows. Why the 200-year delay? Because the "tenured cartel" controlling education — ie the Roman Catholic Church—resisted.)

    New Zealand (because of its ICT cluster success) is ideally placed (in my view) to use its existing best results as the catalyst to reinvent education — and I would like that concept to be openly part of the "new debate" that is needed here: including the debate about what standards should we aim for, and how to achieve them.

    In case you think this a diversion (apologies to your TLNT — Too Long - No Time readers; but some issues, as in Russell's great blogs, do take time to tease out), let me explain briefly. Many of New Zealand's great drivers in the "Tomorrow's School" innovation, chose to opt for organising their primary schools around four "school-wide" inquiry topics to investigate each. In many ways that is similar to the International Baccalaureate Primary Years curriculum, except that students at each grade level tackle six global themes a year: so that their "basics"are in fact the basics of the world and the universe: "Great inventions", "Planets of the Universe", "The Human Body", "The Human brain" "Water and oceans" etc. And the IB PY Program is ideal (as in New Zealand) for students, working in ICT teams, to use BOTH the new ICT skills AND their own individual talents to use 21st-century tools to explore all those "basics", to record them, analyse them, synthesise them into new possibilities, check those (it's called science: the scientific methods, in case we have forgotten), and come up with new ways to change their world for the better.

    In this way (as I have learned from every year I have worked in television, as an example) each of us with different talents (whether gifts or not can be debated) thus learns to work in multi-talented teams. And, in those teams, it's amazing what we learn by working with people who have other talents. So we both grow.
    (The teams at Peter Jackson's Wingnut Films and Richard Taylor's Weta Workshop do that every day.*)

    Having said that, the best thing about the US educational system (apart from its research universities) is, I suggest, its "college sporting scholarship" programs. (I hesitate to call them "talent vouchers"). Under those programs, students who are highly talented in different sports (golf, tennis, basketball, football, track and field) win scholarships to some of the best universities. And there, as well as working with individual sports coaches, they learn the other needed skills of motivation, goal-setting, time-management, public relations and everything else needed to succeed.

    The only pity: those "scholarships" don't always extend to all other "talents", such as music, drama and art.

    So why not consider "the concept" rather than the particular label?

    And debate all those concepts in an open-minded test not but of alternative possibilities; but about how we might synthesise the best into even better answers to the great challenges the world now faces.

    Otherwise, I have the feeling that New Zealand's current talkback-"celebrity-obsessed" culture will continue to be a debate between narrow alternatives (GST versus income tax cuts when the economic debate is, or should be, on much bigger total economic alternatives: like how did one Nordic toilet paper company in an education-based, egalitarian country come from nowhere 20 years ago and show us how to lead the world in a dominant new industry.)


    * Now what would happen here if we studied how to apply the best of Silicon Valley, Nokia/Finland, Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor and New Zealand's ICT school clusters to the "synthesis" New Zealand needs? No? Well, I am entitled to dream, am I not?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    <work in progress> Is Spanish Muzac known as "El Avatar" music ? </work in progress>

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Alien Lizard (anag),

    oh, you are on Schindler's Lift now!

    Is Spanish Muzak known as "El Avatar" music ?

    ...at least it's uplifting,
    would it all be "blues"-based?

    The Arrrgh Complex • Since Jan 2010 • 158 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Good post Gordon (trust me to come in with a flippant post just as you unleash your well thought out one)
    I am of the view that Education is best designed by educators rather than idealistic political zealots.
    The term/title "'Step Change: Success the Only Option' " is fundamentally flawed in that "Success" is so subjective as to have any meaning. What is this success? is it happy families or rich controlling individuals?. Doing things for the "greater good", I would contend, is never attempted by such individuals, it's just too "Socialist" for their liking. The attitude is always "I want to keep what is "Mine" and fuck the rest of you".

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

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