Monday, 13 May 2013

Charter Schools? Why not?

I have just listened to two TED talks - one by Geoffrey Canada and one by Bill Gates. Both these educators have set up charter schools in the States and both have had huge success. Geoffrey Canada talks about the school he went to himself that had a 48% failure rate and now so many years later still has a 48% failure rate. Bill Gates talks about feedback for teachers and that the only way to improve teaching is by making the feedback more sophisticated than just 'satisfactory' or 'not'. None of this is rocket science but the point I would like to make is that as a schooling system in New Zealand we are not catering for 1 in 5 of our students. The PISA results are very clear about that. If we carry on doing what we are doing, then for sure we will be having the same conversations in 5 years, 10 years and 20 years. Why not try charter schools ? They don't have to be "bad' schools - maybe we could see it as an opportunity to model some excellent and effective practice for our 1 in 5 students. Let's set up 'great' charter schools. There's enough high quality research in New Zealand to guide us. It could quite possibly be the best solution.


  1. Kia ora Barbara,
    I understand what you are saying about the current system obviously not working for 20% of students - and that we can't just do the same thing or we will continue to get the same result.

    However, there seem to me to be many potential risks/flaws in the logic that a charter school model is going to address this issue to any extent that would be useful nationally. There are too many issues to go into in a brief comment to your post but my main point is that addressing the needs of the 'tail' is a national problem and a few charter schools here or there is not going to make a difference in a system wide way. If the government believes aspects of the way they have set up charter schools are the answer then surely they should make these policies count for the state sector - where the vast majority of our students reside. As Russell Bishop did/said with Te Kotahitanga - if you want to make a system wide difference you need to go to where the students are - the mainstream state sector - and make the difference count within that system. Playing around with a few schools on the edges is unlikely to add much new useful information to what we already know about what works to make schools and students successful.

  2. I guess my point is that yes we all do know exactly what works to make schools and students successful - my wondering is why on earth we don't DO what we know works. We have had 150 years to get it right and still no change. Actually I believe that there is still a mindset among teachers that some kids can learn and some kids can't (we certainly had that challenged in a very positive way in Te Kotahitanga ) -AND that culture counts. I am certainly not of the opinion that charter schools will solve the problem but my goodness how long do we have to wait for mainstream school to get it right ? Let's set up some great charter schools based on the amazing research that New Zealand has produced and get it right for the kids who have traditionally failed and who continue to fail. Maybe that will do something to shake up the mindsets.