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Teachers Council urges caution on American Charter Schools

6 December 2011

Teachers Council urges caution on American Charter School model

The public deserves to see more evidence supporting better student achievement from the American Charter School model before they are piloted in New Zealand.

“Charter schools are a response in a small number of American states to raising achievement levels in poor urban centres,” said Dr Peter Lind, Director of the Teachers Council.

“Unlike New Zealand, which has had a highly devolved school system since 1990, governance of schools in the USA is still very centralised and bureaucratic. Tomorrows Schools
changed that system in New Zealand over 20 years ago.

“This local governance in New Zealand has brought welcome community involvement into our schools but it hasn’t solved the issues of underachievement of some groups of children.

“New Zealand and international research tell us that high quality teaching and leadership of learning are the most powerful factors to make a difference in student learning outcomes.

“There are some powerful, research based initiatives now underway that are poised to make a significant difference to teaching and learning.

“Bringing an American governance model into New Zealand right now may distract attention and resources away from initiatives to strengthen teaching here,” said Dr Lind.

The Teachers Council is concerned rigorous research evidence showing either positive or negative outcomes from the American Charter School model shows no strong
conclusions either way.

In contrast, New Zealand has invested a huge amount in evaluating the research basis of ‘what works’ to make a positive difference in learning. The Ministry of Education’s
Best Evidence Synthesis and Professor John Hattie’s synthesis in ‘Visible Learning’ are frequently cited examples of such research.

The Teachers Council is committed to pursuing policy and research that leads to initiatives that support high quality teaching and improved learning outcomes for all
young New Zealanders.

“High quality graduates from initial teacher education, educative induction and mentoring of newly qualified teachers, sound teaching standards that support on-going professional learning, strengthened appraisal systems - these are initiatives the Council believes will help make a positive difference.

“We’re committed to an on-going programme of evaluation to test whether this does make a difference and what else needs to be done to strengthen our teaching workforce,”
said Dr Lind.

“It is improving teachers, not governance structures, which really matters.”


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