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Government determined to lift boys' achievement

20 April 2006 Media Statement

Government determined to lift boys' achievement

Education Minister Steve Maharey today told the PPTA Annual Conference that the government had rejected a call for it to teach boys and girls differently.

"The government is determined to lift boys' achievement, and the way to do this is to continue our focus on effective teaching for all students," Steve Maharey said.

"A one-size fits all approach isn't the answer to dealing with differences in achievement between boys and girls, anymore than it's the answer to dealing with achievement gaps between ethnic groups.

"This doesn't mean we shouldn't debate issues around boys achievement. It means we need to understand that most boys are doing well, while some boys are not and ensure extra help is reaching those who need it.

"We know that issues such as reading and writing, engagement at school and emotional literacy can sometimes get in the way of achievement - and we have policies to address this.

"But we believe that overall, boys' achievement is largely related to effective teaching. We know that when teachers have high expectations of all students, strong subject knowledge, and a strong relationship of care with their students, the quality of teaching is high."

Steve Maharey said the government was making major investments to support effective teaching in all schools, including around $32 million a year in programmes to lift literacy standards and more than $90 million a year on professional development for teachers.

Steve Maharey's comments were in response to a speech by Dr Paul Baker, outlining an achievement gap between boys and girls, and advocating a change in the way boys are taught.

Mr Maharey said that overall achievement levels had increased for both boys and girls over the last five years, however, some subject-based differences occurred as boys and girls go through secondary school. The area where there tended to be a gap in achievement for some boys is in subjects which focus heavily on reading and writing.


20 April 2006 Speech notes

PPTA Professional Development Conference
T¨¥n¨¡ koutou, t¨¥n¨¡ koutou, t¨¥n¨¡ koutou katoa. Talofa lava, Ni hao.

Good afternoon everyone.

Post Primary Teachers Association President Debbie Te Whaiti ¡ª thank you for your warm welcome; conference delegates, invited guests and particularly our overseas visitors from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

I am sure you are all finding this conference a valuable opportunity to exchange ideas and do some in-depth thinking on the challenges currently facing us in the area of quality teaching in our secondary schools.

I would also like to congratulate the PPTA for hosting this conference and inviting healthy debate on issues of great importance to New Zealand education.

Today I want to talk about the importance of quality teaching in our education system.

In doing so I want to cover some of the key work we¡¯re doing:

- to change our approach so learners are at the centre of everything we do
- to recognise the importance of a teacher¡¯s role in influencing learning, and
- to build an education system which has at its heart a strong profession of highly regarded teachers who are supported to give every child a strong foundation for their future.

Slide 1: Our education system is world class
I want to begin by emphasising that we have an education system to be proud of.

On any measure our education system is world class.

Let me start with a couple of specific examples.

Wainuiomata literacy development programme

In 2004 primary, intermediate and secondary school teachers in Wainuiomata got together because their students were not achieving as well as they should in literacy ¡ª and they decided to do something about it.

At Wainuiomata High teachers took a hard look at how well their students were doing in literacy compared to standard benchmarks and considered what changes they needed to make to their teaching.

Now, teachers meet for an hour every week for a dedicated professional learning session. They begin by sharing strategies, ideas and resources.

Deputy Principal Brenda Service describes the learning sessions as instrumental in turning around ways of working and learning in the school to focus on the needs of their students.

Today the Wainuiomata community, family and wh¨¡nau are commenting on their children¡¯s changed attitudes to school and their improving achievement levels. The schools¡¯ NCEA results have gone up significantly this year.

Wellington Girls' College

Margaret McLeod, principal at Wellington Girls' College, is keeping her teachers focussed on strategies that work for their students.

Margaret places an emphasis on high levels of academic achievement, as well as the wide ranging opportunities for extended learning, sporting and cultural activities.

The College is nationally recognised for its "Tech Angels" programme where the students act as mentors and "teachers of teachers" in ICT, in return for training and opportunities to further their people skills.

This programme has also done wonders for breaking down the barriers that traditionally exist between student and teacher. Margaret even has a Tech Angel of her own!!

Slide 2: Now here¡¯s the big picture.
In surveys of school achievement our students consistently score in the top half of the OECD with many students in the top 25 per cent.

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA 2003) puts New Zealand 15 year olds in the second highest performing group of countries for maths, science, reading and problem-solving.

We are also increasingly able to demonstrate that, with the right approach, we can lift standards for all students.

But we can¡¯t rest on our laurels. We need to constantly reassess our effectiveness in the context of the changing world in which we live, work and learn.

One way to do this is to keep alive rigorous discussion around the role each of us in education has, in contributing to the kind of New Zealand we want and need in this 21st century.

Slide 3: We draw our inspiration from Beeby
Your conference programme quotes one of New Zealand¡¯s most distinguished educational thinkers and architect of the current educational system ¡ª Clarence Beeby. In 1939 he told us:
Every person, whatever their level of academic ability, whether they be rich or poor, whether they live in town or country, has a right as a citizen to a free education of the kind for which they are best fitted and to the fullest extent of their powers.

Beeby strongly believed education helps tear down the barriers holding people back and gives them the skills and confidence to aim high, to believe they can achieve to their full potential, to have an active role in their community and to make a difference.

The theme of your conference: Quality Teaching ¡ª Leading the Way reinforces the important role great teaching has in making Beeby¡¯s vision a reality.

To maintain this vision today we need to re-orient the system
In 2006 we're still committed to the Beeby vision but to make this a reality in the 21st century New Zealand context we need to re-orient the system. What we need to achieve hasn¡¯t changed, but how we do it needs to.

Slide 4: The old system was a one-size fits all. It was focussed on knowledge recall with ¡®Chalk and Talk¡¯ teaching strategies. Most of the learning was confined to the classroom with few attempts to make learning relevant to life outside of the classroom.

Slide 5: Our new approach is focussed on putting the learner at the centre ¡ª and recognises the needs of individual students in increasingly diverse teaching and learning situations.

Our focus is on enabling the classroom teacher to have appropriately high expectations of all their learners and to develop inclusive approaches to the design of learning environments and tasks.

This new learner-centred approach underpins the work we're doing to transform New Zealand. Our education system must have a strong sense of its role in creating a knowledge society.

As partners in education I believe we all share this vision ¡ª a vision where all children are well prepared by education for the challenges they meet in their daily lives and the challenges they will meet in their post-school world.

I¡¯d like to put this vision into the context of where we are heading as a country.

Slide 6: Our goal is to transform New Zealand to a high-value economy. And education is at the heart of this transformation.

Our goals for education are:

- high education standards so every New Zealand child has a firm foundation for future learning
- high levels of achievement for all school leavers, and
- making sure every New Zealander can be involved in learning throughout their lives so they can make the most of their social and economic potential.

Every teacher in every classroom in every school in New Zealand is connected to these goals.

Slide 7: Here's what we're doing to re-orient the system
To make these goals a reality I have asked the Ministry of Education to focus on the following eight broad areas. These are:

- effective teaching
- resourcing
- foundation knowledge
- strong professional leadership
- parents and family/wh¨¡nau
- teaching and learning in secondary schools
- discipline, and
- staying at school.

I¡¯d now like to share with you some recent progress in these priority areas.

Slide 8: Effective teaching
Effective teaching is a major area of focus that I want to emphasise today.

Whilst also recognising the important influence of families, recent evidence tells us teaching can have a significant impact, as much as 59 percent, on variances in learner outcomes in classrooms.

We all know that with the right mix of challenge and support teachers can make a difference where they had previously been unable to do so; quality teachers ¨D who are supported to have high expectations of their students, teachers who have up-to-date, in-depth knowledge of their subject and who have the skills to teach and assess for the best possible learning outcomes for every New Zealand student.

Students across New Zealand are already benefiting from their teachers¡¯ increased access to resources, tools and professional development programmes focussed on making a difference for learners.

We have some wonderful examples from secondary teachers who have changed their practices as a result of recent learning opportunities and in the process increased their enjoyment of teaching.

Before I give you these examples, let me just talk in the context of a live debate about boys' achievement, that's had quite a bit of coverage in the past 24 hours.

In a speech yesterday to the Boys' Conference in Auckland, Dr Paul Baker concluded that there was an achievement gap between boys and girls and that this meant we had to change the way we teach boys.

Without entering into a debate on a substantial piece of research Dr Baker has produced, what is our take on this issue?

Rather than frame the debate as boys' achievement versus girls' achievement, it is my view that it is best we focus on supporting the best possible teaching for the diverse needs of our students.

In the same way that a homogenous approach to dealing with achievement gaps between ethnic groups has been shown to be of limited value, a homogenous approach to dealing with differences in achievement between gender is also limited.

This means teachers, schools and parents need to be able to respond to the individual needs of students.

If we can do this, then differences in achievement will be addressed.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't debate issues around boys achievement. It just means we need to understand that most boys are doing well, while some boys are not.

We know that issues such as reading and writing, engagement at school and emotional literacy can sometimes get in the way of their achievement - and we have policies to address this.

But we believe that overall, boys achievement is largely related to effective teaching.

We know that when teachers have high expectations of students, strong subject knowledge, and a strong relationship of care with their students, the quality of teaching is high.

We also know that the gain from quality teaching is most substantial for all underachieving students, including groups of underachieving boys.

That is why we're placing such an emphasis ¨C as you are ¨C on quality teaching.

I want to congratulate you on your continued commitment to this approach, and I'll now run through some examples of the kind of highly effective teaching we're talking about.

Trident High School

At Trident High School, art teacher and 2004 e-learning fellow Liz Stevenson arranged an online e-mentor for a student who needed additional support.

This student ended up with a 94 percent mark in Bursary Art and the mentor also got a great deal from the experience. A retired teacher, the student¡¯s mentor has now gone onto further tertiary study and wants to continue her e-mentoring role with other students.

Kerikeri High School and Te Kotahitanga

Two years ago Kerikeri High School decided to change their way of teaching.

Junior School Principal Joan Middlemiss says: ¡°We knew our M¨¡ori students weren¡¯t achieving at a satisfactory level and the strategies we¡¯d put in place, by themselves, weren¡¯t working.¡±

Responding to this challenge the school decided to take part in Te Kotahitanga ¡ª a unique research and professional development project to raise M¨¡ori student achievement.

Teachers say Te Kotahitanga is already making a difference at their school. M¨¡ori student attendance and academic achievement is rising and the number of M¨¡ori students being stood down or suspended is going down.

And these students are more focussed because Te Kotahitanga values their experiences and knowledge. When teachers actively listen to students, the students themselves become knowledgeable participants in the teaching and learning process.

For many teachers involved in Te Kotahitanga, this has meant challenging their own beliefs and attitudes to teaching and learning, and most importantly to the way they view their students. I hope some of you were able to attend the workshop Joan and her team presented this morning and hear this first-hand.

Focus on supports for quality teaching

But, teachers cannot be expected to work alone. Quality teaching can only flourish in a supportive environment.

To achieve quality teaching in every New Zealand classroom we need a top notch system where everyone is focussed on how best to support teachers as they put learners at the centre of everything they do.

The Ministry of Education is currently working with the sector on several key initiatives to strengthen the system.

Professional development

Results from the Literacy Development Project, which I announced recently, are a great example of demonstrating that when teachers are supported to use the right approach focussing on the needs of learners, we can lift standards for all students.

In fact there were substantial improvements in all of the 85 schools involved over a two year period. These results are hugely encouraging especially as the highest improvement was among students who were previously the lowest achievers.

Specialist Classroom Teachers

The new position this year of Specialist Classroom Teacher is a result of the 2004 Secondary Teachers collective agreement settlement.

Congratulations to those of you here today who are taking up this important job supporting new and beginning teachers in your school and contributing to building effective professional learning communities in our secondary schools.

School Support Service advisers and Colleges of Education will be supporting those taking up this new role.

The New Zealand Curriculum Marautanga Project

So far more than 15,000 students, teachers, principals, advisers and academics have contributed to refocusing the national curriculum, building on the recommendations of the New Zealand Curriculum Stocktake Report of 2003.

This extensive consultation and feedback cycle has contributed to the draft revision of the curriculum which is due for release and further feedback later this year.

A single core document will be easier for teachers to use and will enable them to focus on teaching.

The revised curriculum will set clear outcomes for learning with key competencies, which combine values with knowledge and skills to develop the whole student. As Beeby says, we want our learners to be whole citizens who can contribute fully to society. We need to be clear about the important learning outcomes that are needed for students to be able to reach their potential.

Strengthening the capability of inservice teacher educators

Recognising the key role of the providers of professional development in influencing teaching practice, the INSTEP project is working nationally to understand more about effective inservice teacher education.

Exploratory projects around the country are underway to make sure that the people who are working with teachers are also supported and challenged to be the best they can be.

Other initiatives

Other initiatives focus on strengthening initial teacher education, encouraging collaborative knowledge building through the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative, further developing assessment tools, continuing the Best Evidence Synthesis work in specific curriculum areas and continuing the valuable Quality Teaching hui jointly held with teacher unions and other key sector organisations.

Developing standards for teaching and registration continues through the work being led by the New Zealand Teachers Council.

Reinforcing the quality teaching message

We¡¯re going to be reinforcing the message of quality teaching across all areas of education.

Work in the other priority areas will contribute to a more responsive system which can support teachers to create effective learning environments for their students. All of this work will be linked and embedded into the system through the schooling strategy.

Slide 9: Foundation Knowledge
Good foundation knowledge underpins lifelong learning.

Right from the early childhood years, the child must be the focus of our energy and activity.

New evidence shows the substantial difference this makes.

Findings from the Competent Learners at 14 project reinforce the importance of solid early foundations ¡ª children who have experienced quality teaching practices in early childhood education programmes are more likely to achieve later on.

The features of early childhood centres with the most long-lasting contributions to student performance at age 14 include staff who respond to children, guide them in activities and ask open-ended questions.

This affirms the work going on in the early childhood education sector around access and quality.

Encouraging outcomes from both numeracy and literacy professional development programmes need to be replicated across schools.

Teachers are increasingly seeing the importance of numeracy and literacy as foundation knowledge areas ensuring that students are able to leave school as successful learners, and future contributors to society in both economic and social contexts.

Strong Professional Leadership
However looking inside centres, schools and classrooms won¡¯t be enough. Our entire education system must exist for the learner and be flexible enough to respond at all levels to the rapidly changing environment in cultural, environmental and economic contexts.

The leadership framework for principals currently under development by the Ministry aims to ensure our leadership programmes build on the emerging evidence linking leadership practice to improved student outcomes.

The Best Evidence Synthesis on Professional Leadership due for release in 2007 will help us understand more about how leadership practice can support and challenge teachers to provide optimal learning conditions for their students.

Parents and Family/Wh¨¡nau
A major influence on how well kids do at school is the influence of their family and community.

A literature review commissioned by the Ministry of Education showed that a 40 to 65 percent difference in learning outcomes is attributable to family and community influence.

You will be aware of Team-Up, a programme that recognises the uniqueness of our learners as children and young people with their families and wh¨¡nau behind them.

It is all about helping parents and wh¨¡nau to understand the important contribution they can make to their children¡¯s learning and giving them access to useful information and resources through a web site and other media including television.

This knowledge will help families and wh¨¡nau to work in partnership with their children¡¯s teachers.

Teaching and Learning in Secondary Schools
Following on from successful pilots, literacy and numeracy professional development initiatives are being extended into secondary schools.

The work we are doing here supports teachers to see secondary school students as successful learners and acknowledges that we need to better understand students¡¯ lives outside school, their aspirations and what they bring to the classroom as individuals.

As I have visited schools across the country and spoken to many teachers and principals, discussions often centre on managing challenging student behaviour.

There are many examples of schools that have turned behaviour problems around. We need to ensure there are good practices and programmes across every school and that teachers¡¯ work with students is reinforced both in the classroom and in the school community.

The Ministry is developing a comprehensive work programme in this area. The first step is to recognise and understand the issues, the second to clarify roles and responsibilities and the third to provide useful information and support.

Once again, we must continue to put the learner at the centre and work together to achieve safe and positive teaching and learning environments.

Staying at School
This priority area is an example of how working on school systems, processes and relationships will enable teachers to be more responsive to their students and result in better learning outcomes for all.

We will know we are successful when students want to be at school because school works for them. The Student Engagement Initiative is already showing results.

Slide 10: Where do we want to be in the future?
To achieve an education system that puts the learner at the centre, the role of teachers is critical.

We want an education system led by highly professional teachers:

- teachers who are excited about and welcome the intellectual challenge and rigour of their jobs and communicate this to their students
- teachers who are supported by and contribute actively to a strong profession
- teachers who understand the knowledge, skills and attributes their role requires
- teachers driving and connected to high standards and expectations across the system
- teachers who measure their success by the success of each and every one of their students.

We need an education system enjoying strong public confidence:

- to do this we should be clearer about the expectations and requirements of teaching, and
- we should celebrate the work done by our outstanding teachers ¡ª teachers who make a difference for their learners.

We need an education system providing every child with strong foundations
- where our children succeed because of their education, not in spite of it, and
- students leave school with high level qualifications.

Slide 11: Conclusion
There is a lot to think about, debate and to do to make sure our education system supports our transformation to a knowledge-based economy.

If we are to truly move from good to great we need teachers and leaders who are well supported and ready to respond to the challenge of building a 21st century education system.

Teaching does matter.

Our shared challenge is to help teachers to be the best they can be so they can fulfil their important role in contributing to the kind of schooling every New Zealand child is entitled to.

Quality teaching means quality learning for all students. We have a responsibility to work together to achieve this goal.

We have a responsibility to make Beeby¡¯s vision a reality for today and for tomorrow.


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