The May Education Summits- Talkers and Walkers

April 29, 2018


Talking the Talk
“…education belongs to, and is about, all of us. That’s why we want all of you – children, young people, parents, teachers, employers, iwi, families and whānau – to have a conversation about building not just a better education system, but the world’s best. Because second-best isn’t good enough for our kids. Or for New Zealand.”
The Education Conversation

The Education Conversation – Kōrero Mātauranga, which opened 23 Mar and closes 31 May 2018, has so far allowed more than 5,000 New Zealanders have their say about the future of education, some via some face to face discussions, the majority by filling in a “five minute” on line survey.

It is aimed at providing some content for the two education summits, Christchurch (5-6 May) and Auckland (12-13 May). Education Minister Chris Hipkins has described it as “the most popular education consultation in decades”.

Have you had your say? The online survey asks four questions about the future of New Zealand’s education system:

  1. What does a successful student of the future look like to you?
  2. What will they need to know and be able to do?
  3. What things need to be in place to make sure every learner is successful?
  4. If you were the boss of education in New Zealand, what would you do first?

Budgeting 1¼ minutes per question makes this a short answer test, though not a very objective one, for people wanting to have “ a say on the future of New Zealand education… for the next 30 years or more.”

Some would argue that productive change is best brought about best by continuous improvement, at a rate that can be handled by all concerned, not by occasional big bangs. Taking pressure off  fault lines not waiting for large seismic shocks.

Still it’s good to have a reason to engage people in discussions about education. After all, everyone has a view, albeit sometimes outdated or idiosyncratic.

But if it is to be more than a tick-the-box consultation the dialogue needs to be anchored to a sound evidential foundation. Educators and others now have access to a large body of new information about brain function, how humans learn and effective professional development, among other things.

Messages need to be sent and received both ways. We are not starting with a blank sheet of paper. There needs to be appropriate context for the content.

Walking the Talk
“The views shared through the education conversation will be discussed at the Education Summit in May and will then inform the strategies and reviews that are part of the education work programme announced in February.”

Beyond talking the talk it is important to think strategically about how to provide those at the learning interface-especially learners, teachers and parents—with the maps, the guidance, the opportunities and the resources to actually walk the talk.

‘Walking the talk’ matters in the use of evidence for transformative education’ is the title of an invited paper published late last year for the UNESCO Project: ‘Rethinking and repositioning curriculum in the 21st century: A global paradigm shift’.

By Dr Adrienne Alton-Lee, Ministry of Education, this is a cornucopia of accessible digital resources for underpinning professional development, as well as enhancing lay understanding, including that of politicians.

Vision and Strategy
“…vision and strategy are as much about creating meaning for people as they are about establishing direction.”  Andrew Smith

The challenge for Education Summiteers will be merging perspectives from the lay and professional streams of input. This is not easy. The Share an Idea community consultation process following the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, while highly engaging, did not manage to bridge this disconnect and led to artificially raised expectations.

The Christchurch City Council jumped too quickly from a feel good consultation process into “strategic planning” without developing key strands from the public input and articulating visions for the future of the city for further in-depth discussion. The result was a Government takeover via a flawed 100 Days “Blueprint” which stifled community participation and contestable professional input.

The sequence is the secret. A properly crafted vision describes the endpoint and outcomes of the collective journey or collaborative enterprise and contains the criteria for evaluating its satisfactory completion.

A vision should lift our sights, focus our attention and fortify our aspirations. A confusing mishmash of ideas in the guise of consultation can obscure rather than elucidate the shape of key issues.

There are ways to improve the quality of conversational outcomes downstream.

Mobilising Knowledge
“Out of 947 source reviews the New Zealand Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis Programme’s Teacher Professional Learning and Development BES was found to be the most consistent and rigorous. The New Zealand Best Evidence Synthesis has substantively informed this new evidence about what it takes to develop great teaching that makes a difference for student achievement. “…Comprehensive international review

Prof. Toby Greany, keynote speaker at Education Leaders Forum 2018 Valuing Educators-Revaluing Education, Rotorua 8&9 August, has a particular interest in policy, both as a process and the ways in which it impacts in education.

Prof. Greany, Professor of Leadership and Innovation at the IOE and Director of the London Centre for Leadership in Learning, is interested in school systems and how leaders operate within those systems, both as a result of deliberate and unintended policy-driven incentives and of personal agency.

He was one of four contributors to a Comprehensive international review  launched in the UK House of Commons in 2014 on professional learning and development.

He focuses on the intersections between policy, practice and evidence and the ways in which knowledge, expertise and capacity moves around within and between organisations.

His models for knowledge mobilisation, the development and impact of networks and collaboration and his approach to education leadership and professional development are highly relevant for building momentum for positive change in the months and years after the Summits.

The Future of Education
“Public education belongs to us all. Its future is too important to be left to politicians alone.” The Education Conversation

Perhaps education is too important to involve party politics at all apart from providing a high trust and well resourced environment, with cross-party agreement on key strategic priorities like attracting and retaining quality teachers by valuing them more highly.

This would enable learners, educators, parents, childcare workers and others to walk the talk without the sudden lurches caused by an over politicisation of education issues.

The online question asking people what they would do first if they were “the boss of education” is gratuitous. It invites people to focus on the simplistic and short-term. The challenge for those invited to the Education Summits is to grapple with the complex and long term.

Knowledge and data about education in New Zealand is both widely distributed and aggregated via the Ministry of Education’s Best Evidence Synthesis publications, led by Dr Alton-Lee.

For the education conversation to be truly meaningful it needs to be processed in a coherent way which distils key messages for generating better education policy. But above all, if we are to truly value educators and revalue education, the focus needs to be on resourcing and supporting the walkers more than the talkers by mobilising knowledge and turning it into action.

The role of the Minister of Education and his Ministry in planning and carrying out the Education Summits is co-ordinating, resourcing, supporting and facilitating- more Colonel Hunt than Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

High level performance requires good systems and a continuous flow of oxygen.

Lyall Lukey, Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2018 Valuing Educators-Revaluing Education, Rotorua 8&9 August.


Tomorrow’s Skills: Action Now

July 13, 2016

“…we’re about to be late for tomorrow.”  Alvin Toffler
 Toffler, the author of Future Shock who died at the end of June, issued the famous wake-up call above to an earlier generation. Will  too many learners currently in New Zealand’s education system be late for tomorrow’s  new world of work?

Education Leaders Forum 2016 Tomorrow’s Skills will help educators  understand the implications for all learners of technological , economic  and social Shift and the  fragmented future of work , which will bring both threats and opportunities.  Forum participants will also access timely strategies and resources  for preparing learners now to adapt to the future by developing an appropriate skills portfolio.

Yesterday’s Schools?

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn,” Alvin Toffler
 “Tomorrow’s Schools” was implemented a quarter of a century ago in a world which no longer exists. Drones, electric cars, 3d printing, hover boards and virtual reality will all be our collective reality as we move into in the Fourth Industrial Revolution which transcends the digital revolution of the last 50 years.

Wireless farming  is a reality in the Waikato and an example of much more than number 8 wire ingenuity. My stepfather, who immigrated as a 10 Pound Pom in 1951 and got his first job as a tie-wearing herd tester in the Waikato, would be flabbergasted.

In a digitised and globalised new world the nature of work is changing rapidly in terms of what is done, where and by whom, with huge implications for education and training. As technology becomes more pervasive, traditional trades disappear and a different mix of skills is demanded by employers .

The ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements is increasingly critical for education and training organisations in order to seize the opportunities presented by these trends and to mitigate undesirable outcomes.

21st Century Skills: A different mix

In today’s world, technical and digital literacy is of equal importance to English literacy and it is essential that progress be made in the way we educate and prepare our children.” Ian McCrae CE, Orion Health
The term “21st Century skills” contains the idea that the demands of the 21st century are sufficiently distinct from those of the previous century to make educational reform a necessity. Instantaneous access to information and the speed at which it dates have rendered an information-based education system redundant.

Education is not only about preparing people for the world of work, but employment readiness and adaptability are imperatives. Laying and strengthening the foundations for transferable cognitive, social and ICT skills is a lifelong journey from early childhood.

A 2015 Economist Intelligence Unit report sponsored by Google Driving the skills agenda: Preparing students for the future shows how evolving business needs, technological advances and new work structures are redefining what are considered to be valuable skills for the future.

The EIU’s extensive research programme examined to what extent the skills taught in education systems around the world are changing. It inquired into the extent to which 21st Century skills, such as digital literacy (including coding), creative problem solving and live and distance teamworking and collaboration are complementing traditional skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic.

The recent – and some would say belated -announcement that digital technology is to be formally integrated into the New Zealand Curriculum picks up on the importance of preparing children and young people for a future where digital fluency will be critical for success .

The integration of skills

“Teachers need to understand that these are not taught skills but modelled skills,” B. Schreuder
Are young people learning the skills they need to adapt to New Zealand’s rapidly changing workplace?
21st Century skills cannot be taught in isolation: they must be integrated into every learning area via group projects, not bolted on as additional subjects for individuals, so that social and cognitive skills development becomes inseparable from knowledge sharing.

To be work ready students need to understand deadlines, to be able to work under pressure and to prioritise. They also need ongoing opportunities to gain experience of public speaking, networking, multimedia production and non-digital creative pursuits in music and the arts.

Opportunities and Threats

“Recent discussions about the employment impact of disruptive change have often been polarized between those who foresee limitless opportunities in newly emerging job categories and prospects that improve workers’ productivity and liberate them from routine work, and those that foresee massive labour substitution and displacement of jobs. Both are possible. It is our actions today that will determine whether we head towards massive displacement of workers or the emergence of new opportunities.’  World Economic Forum report The Future of Jobs 2015

People are on the move, changing jobs more often and switching careers or taking a portfolio approach to how they earn their living.

Work changes bring both opportunities and threats. There is the obvious risk of increased employment insecurity. More than half of the new jobs in advanced economies since the 1990s have been temporary, part-time or self-employed. At the same time the “portfolio economy”, self-employment and new business startups present big opportunities not available a generation ago.

Up to two thirds of new job entrants are getting their first job in roles that will either look very different or be completely lost in the next 10 to 15 years due to automation.

The changing economy certainly creates risks for individuals as well as organisations. As business models change, often abruptly because of disruptive technology, people will have to master multiple skills if they are to survive in such a world—and keep those skills up to date.

Microcosm or Time Capsule?

L > C  For an organisation to survive its rate of learning must be equal to, or greater than, the rate of change in its external environment.” Reg Revans
How well is the education system preparing young people for the future of work? It would seem that many young people are not being prepared for the right jobs and roles. Many are enrolled in fields of study that will be radically affected by automation.  They will need to learn how to learn and how to unlearn.

For all the outlier progress in some pockets of educational innovation, the world of education is not changing at the same pace as the world of work and the rate of technological disruption. Education at all levels needs to be a microcosm of the changing world not an anachronistic time capsule.

All involved in education and training need to reinterpret the world through new lenses not extrapolate the future from past experiences and present perceptions. Only then will they be able to truly help learners navigate their personal pathways to the future.

*Upcoming Event The tenth annual Education Leaders Forum Tomorrow’s Skills-Pathways to the Future will be held on 23 & 24 August 2016 at the Waipuna Conference Centre in Auckland. ELF16 is about the seismic shifts happening in the world of work, the demand for different skills and the implications for education at all levels. More at 

Lyall Lukey, Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2016- Tomorrow’s Skills






Kiri and Susan–Kirioke v Karaoke

May 23, 2010

 “Let’s get off that subject, move on. I’m doing something classical, not whizz-bang. Whizz-bang disappears. It goes ‘whizz’ and then ‘bang’.” Kiri Te Kanawa

Boyle’s law states that for a fixed amount of an ideal gas kept at a fixed temperature, pressure and volume are inversely proportional.

Both the temperature and the volume started to rise during the recent Radio Times interview with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa*. The Kiwi-born Kiri was quizzed about Scottish-born Susan Boyle’s talent quest version of I Dreamed A Dream* from Les Misérables, which she also sings.

Perhaps she shouldn’t have been so misérable but it is easy to understand her chagrin as a consummate, trained professional being mentioned in the same breath as a self-taught amateur.

It was as if the Queen-at least HRH played by Helen Mirren-had been asked to comment on the royal qualities of Betty Driver as the nonagenarian barmaid Betty Williams in Coronation Street.

Dame Kiri, who is holding a competition on British station Radio 2 with qualified judges to discover new operatic talent, said that she loathed the frenzy which surrounds popular reality TV shows such as Britain’s Got Talent.

The show’s producers are certainly adept at creating a viewing feeding frenzy. The 2009 Susan Boyle item* was carefully stage managed down to the last bucket of mock astonishment from the stage crew and judges and cleverly manipulated and amplified in both the old and new media*. 

Different uploads of the same item have had a total of well over 150,000,000 views on YouTube so far and climbing, compared with 204,104 views for the Te Kanawa rendition*.

 Of course, the two have to be seen through quite different lenses-the professional and the amateur. Kiri developed her remarkable talents with the help of voice training by Sister Mary Leo.  She has built up a wide ranging and multilingual performance repertoire from the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Richard Strauss, Giuseppe Verdi, George Frideric Handel and Giacomo Puccini.

 Susan’s commendable DIY amateur efforts, with a hair brush standing in for a mike and her raw talent and passion for singing, have been on a different trajectory  outside the discipline of the opera or show stage, but many obviously enjoy the heart-warming  results, albeit in small doses.

 Kiri apparently doesn’t think much of Hayley Westenra either-nor of Andrea Bocelli* At an earlier interview she didn’t quite label the popular blind tenor Bantam of the Opera but she came pretty close.

Before she was well known and not long after she had been an occasional busker at the Arts Centre in Christchurch Hayley sang one of Andrea’s well-known recordings at our SmartNet 2000 event in Christchurch. This was more kiwioke than karoeke, with Hayley singing to a soundtrack, but it was a knock out, especially in the context within which it was sung.

 The theme song of the five annual two-day SmartNet workshops and Working SmartNet expos, held in the Christchurch  Convention Centre between 1997 and 2001, was the theme from “2001 A Space Odyssey” -Thus Spake Zarathustra. It played behind  the opening video sequence and theme for the year. In 2000, as the theme finished and before the official opening began, MC Jim Hopkins jumped off the stage, to be followed by the video cameras in the same kind of premeditated spontaneity as in the Susan Boyle item.

Jim then interviewed some young students who were helping to run SmartNet about their career plans after they finished university.  Virtually all of them talked about heading of overseas. Jim’s premeditated punchline, as Hayley Westenra came out from the wings singing the number made popular by Bocelli, was “if New Zealand companies don’t become more innovative, pick up on the skills of new graduates and use new technology, it will be Time to Say Goodbye to too many of our young people.”

 Since then, the export of young and growing poppies has continued apace with just a small dent in the last two years because of the global recession.

 A decade later Kiri and Susan are level pegging in Stuff’s Who would win in a fight? poll. It is absolutely great for amateurs to suddenly be given a ready made live, television and on-line audience  and maybe to even develop a new career of sorts. Good luck to them, but no one would seriously imagine that a democratic vote is an arbiter of musical standards.

Meanwhile, despite media reports to the contrary, Dame Kiri is not retiring. As the Radio Times interview demonstrated she’s neither the shy nor the retiring type and at age 66 she still has a lot to offer both via her own concert if not opera performances and via her work to nurture genuine new operatic talent.

It’s not time to say goodbye yet.

  #Lyall Lukey 23 May 2010


Te Kanawa blasts Susan Boyle |  

Video Clips:

Susan Boyle – Singer – Britains Got Talent 2009  93,102,839 views

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa – “I Dreamed a Dream” – “Les Misérable …  204,104 views Hayley Westenra and Andrea Bocelli 7,483,066 views  Time to say goodbye  Hayley Westenra,  SmartNet 2000  2009 blog post  Lift off spoke Zarathustra

National Standards II: Have we learnt from others-and ourselves?

February 20, 2010

“People will support what they help to create.”  Marvin R. Weisbord 1978 

10,000 young Kiwis lined up earlier this month for their first day at school. They joined many thousands of other primary pupils whose literacy and numeracy levels will be assessed on a four benchmark scale and reported on twice a year to parents in plain English. 

 To help it win the election race in 2008 the National Party made a well promoted promise to let parents know, in plain language,  how their children are performing in reading, writing and maths. It may have sounded a bum note for teachers, who protested that they were already reporting in this way,  but it certainly struck a chord with many parents who, in an age of more insistent consumerism in health and education, don’t want to be fobbed off.

The results of the ongoing assessments will show how pupils match the National Standards by the time they move on to secondary school.  Despite the angst of their primary colleagues many secondary teachers, used to national assessment regimes, may well be quietly on the side of any efforts to lift junior student achievement as they have to work with primary school graduates.

The headmaster in the Beehive is on the job and the clear word to primary teachers is  “Must try harder”. The Senior Mistress has also been waving the big stick, but  any prospects of  recalcitrants receiving a good caning is remote though there may be some masochistic self-flagellation before  National Standards are either brought to life or flogged to death. But the stalking  horse appears to have prematurely bolted and so, belatedly, have been the stable doors.

Getting such a major new education policy as National Standards to work needs the right mix of research, consultation, design, trialling, feedback and modification. The sequence is the secret, but, like good cheese, it all takes time.

  The unique autonomy primary school boards of trustees have in New Zealand, as a legacy of David Lange’s half-completed education administrative shake-up two decades ago,*  has created a metaphorical minefield.  The education system is already fragmented. Now it is newly booby-trapped with the staffroom equivalent of  Taleban  fragmentation bombs.  As she embarks on her belated National Standards  Surge the Minister of Education need to be well prepared for some bitter school by school resistance or she’ll be left clutching the booby prize.

 At the recent TV broadcast announcement heralding the information brochures about to be posted to thousands of parents “to correct misinformation” the Minister of Education stood  beside the Prime Minister while he outlined what is meant by National Standards. The Minister had already talked of the possible sacking of some boards of trustees who don’t fall into line: “I am convinced more and more parents will be supportive once they have all the facts.” 

In the meantime the NZEI and the NZ Principals Federation have been using their interactive digital arsenals* to shore up  support for their strong opposition and the School Trustees Association has circulated a warning note about not opposing the new law to all members of school boards of trustees- except for principals, who are caught squarely in the middle of the stepped up stoush.

With the combatants entrenched in their views for and against, the battle lines are indelibly stencilled.  Proponents of the new National Standards regime are seen by their critics as offensive in the way they want to trespass onto professional  ground; in their turn, supporters regard the naysayers as being  too defensive and too quick to close ranks around incompetent  colleagues alluded to in the critical ERO report  Reading and Writing in Years 1 and 2*.

 Despite these trenchant views, away from the trenches there is some intelligence of use to both sides- if they are open to finding some middle ground in the interests of all concerned, especially the children at the centre of the new system. 

So far, in a clear example of glottal warming,  the heat/light ratio in the public debate  is 100:1.  Now for some light on the matter- and on what really matters.

  In a videoed  interview*  on 14 October 2009 at the third annual Education Leaders Forum at Rotorua Professor John Hattie, Auckland University’s Faculty of Education and Director of asTTle, called for clear policy and professional debate to accompany the new National Standards. He describes three issues associated with national standards in other countries and urges teachers to be “change agents for the system”.

On 23 November Hattie joined other leading New Zealand experts on assessment-professors, Terry Crooks, Lester Flockton and Martin Thrupp in an Open Letter to the Minister of Education:  “…Assessment plays a key role in teachers’ work – it gives them vital information about the results of their work with the whole class and with individual children, helps them to give appropriate help and guidance to all children, and forms the basis for effective reporting to parents and school leaders.
The Government has developed National Standards with similar goals in mind, and we can see considerable merit in the idea of clearly identifying stages in the development of children’s knowledge and skills, assessing each child’s progress and level of achievement, and reporting that progress and achievement in accurate and understandable ways to parents. There is also merit in paying close attention to the development of children’s skills in reading, writing and mathematics, as is normally the case in schools already.
Much of the work in developing the intended National Standards reflects positively on those who have been involved in that process. However, the very brief time frame allowed for the development of the standards and associated guidelines and requirements has resulted in fundamental flaws.”*

In the view of the signatories, all senior academics with international reputations and extensive New Zealand and international experience in relation to education policy and assessment issues, these flaws include the wrong assumption that children are failing if they do not meet the standard for their age. This will lead, in their view, to the repeated labelling of many young children as failures and will be self-fulfilling because it will damage children’s self-esteem and turn them off learning and achieving in literacy and numeracy and other curricula areas.

 ”Every student can learn, just not on the same day, or the same way”. — George Evans

 Because children learn and develop at different rates a better form of assessment and reporting would focus on the progress that children are making in terms of their own earlier achievements.  Timely assessments, handled constructively, can provide useful feedback and help teachers diagnose learning difficulties and special needs earlier and initiate corrective action.

The signatories recognise the intended National Standards are not national tests, but their understanding of why national testing has such adverse effects convinces them that the intended National Standards system will suffer most of the same problems.  They are concerned about the damage that will occur if the performance of children against the Standards is reported publicly, as has happened internationally:  “This will distort and impoverish the culture of teaching and learning and assessment within schools. It will undermine the new curriculum and lead to a narrower, less interesting form of primary education for New Zealand children. It will also result in inappropriate judgements about the quality of schools and teachers.

 Apart from the vexed question of “League Tables”,  descriptions and examples of the Standards are not sufficiently developed, at this stage, to allow them to be applied consistently from teacher to teacher or school to school.  There is likely to be far too much unnecessary testing of children as teachers attempt to justify their judgements against uncertain standards. In this respect the outcomes of the intended National Standards could be even worse than national testing, leading to a surfeit of record keeping and paperwork all calculated to sap the energies of busy teachers and dilute the learning experience.

The signatories advise that further development work is necessary before all schools are asked to implement National Standards. Such work should involve: shifting the focus to measuring and reporting children’s progress against standards; developing ways to moderate the judgements of teachers to achieve high consistency in the interpretation and application of standards; developing agreed protocols with teacher organisations for the use of data so as to prevent the adverse effects of reporting such data on teaching and learning, and trying out standards in a sample of perhaps 150 to 200 schools to remove anomolies.

 In their view this additional work would allow the development of the most effective implementation strategy to ensure standards are successfully introduced, without the negative consequences.

 In terms of implementing  change there are serious concerns. Ensuring the active engagement of the people who are on the front line of a change process is the key to its success. Human dynamics need to be foremost in the change process.  Externally imposed change management initiatives often do not stick. The key is to create ownership of the change process and encourage people to willingly implement the solutions. This approach takes time and involves connecting, engaging and participating as well as adopting, adapting, and improving.

In the view of the Open Letter signatories the intended National Standards system has little chance of engaging the hearts and minds of New Zealand primary teachers –those who have to do the testing for the National Standards. They believe that many are opposing National Standards not because they are reluctant to be accountable but because of genuine concerns about the effects of the national standards system on children and their learning.

 However there is still the potential to work with teachers and other educators to develop a system of National Standards that could work. They noted that it is precisely because the new curriculum was developed through extensive consultation with all parties that it has become a development that schools are excited about.

 In the view of the signatories the flaws in the new system are so serious that full implementation of the intended National Standards system over the next three years is unlikely to be successful. It will not achieve intended goals and is likely to lead to dangerous side effects.

In terms of discussing how best to engage people constructively, one way that is sure to fail is having the answer cut and dried at the outset  instead of  first engaging them with the important questions and alternatives .  Collaborative enquiry and healthy dialogue is better than administering the admonitory big stick. As  Principals Federation President Ernie Buutveld pointed out to the Minister of Education on TV One’s Q&A programme on 7 February, a finger wagging approach, with a sullen teacher force resisting imposed change is not going to work .

One big question is to what extent are National Standards about lifting student achievement or about getting more teacher and school accountability?  The approach is certainly different from, say, Finland which in terms of education is a high trust environment with much less intrusion of education bureaucracy.

 Whatever the answer there are genuine concerns about the timing of implementation and the training required-and the extra resources needed to do something about the results when they are collated.

 Lester Flockton says the rushed 40-day consultation process is a great concern, but even more worrying is the absence of proper engagement with the education sector and its work. The Government has pushed the plain language message and it has been popular with parents. What the national standards actually mean has been harder to agree on.

 The new New Zealand Curriculum has taken many years of consultation, trialling and development. Most teachers seem to have bought into it.  In stark contrast the consultation process for National Standards has been accelerated to a speed which is causing potential supporters to fall off the Standards bandwagon.

 This is a time for leadership on all sides in order to lift standards and student achievement and to focus on what works  and what is credible not on ideological position taking by the major parties.  The 2009 Best Evidence Synthesis by Viviane Robinson et alSchool Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying what Works and Why”*  and John  Hattie’s own synthesis  Visible Learning both provide  timely opportunities to learn from others.

The danger is that, handled badly, National Standards may turn out to be an inoculation against the real thing.

 In an article posted on the Cognition Institute website Hattie calls for a clearer professional voice for teachers to enhance the national debates about the quality of teaching and learning – and for them to be at the table when the policies are discussed and formed.

 “While teacher unions appropriately are concerned with enhancing the working conditions of teachers (and also do speak on issues of quality teaching and learning), we also need teacher voices to enhance the national debates about the quality of teaching and learning – and be at the table when the policies are discussed and formed. Success can be measured in terms of the emergence, existence, and esteem of our teachers’ professional voices – as critics and developers of how the policies are to be implemented and evaluated. This does not mean consultation in the form of attendance at a speech; it means involvement in ensuring that the policies are optimally implemented and evaluated through a well established professional organization and structure.”  John Hattie*

 Hattie says that while National Standards offers  wonderful opportunities for refreshing and reinvigorating an already top of the world system, it could also be  the most disastrous policy formulated if it narrows the focus to testing and league tables and diverts attention to ”between-school” rather than “within-school” differences.

 He argues that our focus must be on using national standards to enhance the quality of our teaching and learning across the curriculum (the Far Horizon)* and that prevention is better than reaction – we need clear, definitive and well developed plans for implementation and independent evaluation, agreed warning signs for when the wrong path is taken, and agreement as to when to change or abolish the National Standards if they lead to perverse outcomes. We also need to celebrate if they are successful at enhancing teaching and learning for all students across the curriculum.

  Unfortunately, party politics works on much shorter horizons than those to which Hattie is pointing us. 2010 is delivery year in the 3 year election cycle.  If the design and implementation is sloppy the Minister of Education may well be left holding the undernourished baby. 

 Have the assesment lessons from overseas and closer to home in the secondary system been learnt and applied?  If so it is odd that there are to be no trials of National Standards.  There will certainly be plenty of tribulations.

 [Part I:   ]

 #Lyall Lukey  20 Feb  2010


ERO Report  Dec 2009 Reading and Writing in Years 1 and 2  MS Word  PDF 

Hattie Video  ELF 09      Feedback on feedback      The 2009 Best Evidence Synthesis School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying what Works and Why    Viviane Robinson et al

National Standards I: Up our standards? Up yours!

February 14, 2010

 “It is of concern that only about a quarter of school leaders set expectations that strongly promoted high levels of reading and writing achievement for children in their first two years.  Furthermore, in nearly two-thirds of schools, leaders used limited or poor processes to monitor the progress and achievement of these young children. ..”  ERO Report Dec 2009*

 If there was an ERO Parade next week how many teachers would turn up in support?

 The beleaguered and belaboured Minister of Education and Standards bearer Anne Tolley pulled a timely Education Review Office report out of a hat from under the noses of some startled education bureaucrats just before Christmas to support her stance on National Standards.

 The National-led Government’s National Standards policy was a large part of its 2008 election manifesto and the implementation imbroglio is perhaps the Government’s  first real political test after an extended honeymoon spanning the worst recession since the depression.

The Minister argues that national standards are needed because we have major problem in this country. While overall we do very well in the  OECD education stakes there is a long tail of under achievement: research  shows that almost one in five students leaves school without the basic skills they need to succeed in reading, writing and maths. With parents and teachers working together she expects the new standards to make a difference.

 She  believes that parents have the right to know exactly how their children are doing at school, in plain language. “This means that incomprehensible report cards which say a child is a delight to have in class, but tell you nothing about how he or she is achieving or progressing in the basic skills they need, should be a thing of the past.”

The ERO evaluation focused on how effectively reading and writing was taught in the first two years of schooling, and on how well teachers used assessment information to plan and evaluate their teaching and how school leaders and boards of trustees set and monitored achievement expectations to ensure children were progressing and how this information was shared with parents. 

 The early years of primary school are obviously a critical time for children to consolidate the foundations of their education.  This is when they learn basic reading and writing skills. How well their teachers can read them in terms of what they bring to the schooling experience is hugely important.   Choosing the right learning resources for each individual and the early diagnosis of special learning needs are crucial professional challenges.

 Many schools are already using the key assessment tools which, together with the professional judgement of teachers, underpin the standards policy.  However, there is a long tail of below par schools and teachers.

 “ERO found that about 70 percent of teachers made good use of a range of effective reading and writing teaching practices in Years 1 and 2 classes.  Effective teachers were more likely to inquire into ways of improving their teaching, and work collaboratively with other staff to share good practice…. In contrast, the remaining 30 percent of teachers had little or no sense of how critical it was for children to develop confidence and independence in early reading and writing.  These teachers had minimal understanding of effective reading and writing teaching, set inappropriately low expectations and did not seek opportunities to extend their own confidence in using a wider range of teaching practices….”

  “Although many classroom teachers used assessment information well, school leaders were less clear about how they should use data to set and monitor appropriate reading and writing achievement expectations for children in Years 1 and 2… It is of concern that only about a quarter of school leaders set expectations that strongly promoted high levels of reading and writing achievement for children in their first two years.  Furthermore, in nearly two-thirds of schools, leaders used limited or poor processes to monitor the progress and achievement of these young children. ..” *

 The standards will run from after year one to the end of year eight and provide a linear and continuous dynamic picture.  Just how accurate and useful this picture will be is debatable.

 One Kiwi Tall Poppy feature is that the new National Standards will employ only four performance assessments on a so-called Plunket-style graph: above standard, at standard, below standard, and well below standard. There is not a fifth band well above standard. If there are to be National Standards that’s a pity, because both ends of the Bell curve need extra special attention.

 On TV One’s  Q&A programme  on 7 February the Minister of Education voiced her concern over the ERO finding that three quarters of primary principals don’t set expectations of high achievement levels in reading and writing for Year 1 and 2 children.

 She might have referred to Lloyd Jones’ novel, Mister Pip which is a paean to the power of great books and the influence of great expectations in the classroom.

 Education is too important to leave solely to educationists. Other people have a stake too, not least students and their parents and those who employ school and tertiary education leavers. They have a first-hand insight of the knowledge and competencies of those entering the workplace for the first time. Whatever the comparisons with earlier generations,  today’s  more sophisticated economy, with a greater reliance on technology, requires  a higher level of  basic literacy and numeracy as well as computer literacy and interpersonal skills.

 Opponents of the standards regime in New Zealand have been slow in acknowledging the differences between what is proposed here and experience elsewhere. We’re not talking about a new single test “to be taught to” as is the case in the USA with every state has a different testing regime or the UK. The Tolley mantra is one standard-different assessment tools, plus the professional judgement of teachers –“Objective Teacher Judgment”. 

  Learning from the experience of other jurisdictions is built into the local approach. Time will tell as to whether the lessons have been learned well enough. There are also cautionary tales about the implementation of assessment systems closer to the home, given the years of protracted and confusing implementation of the qualifications regime in secondary schools in New Zealand over the last two decades.

 Anne Tolley has been relieved of the tertiary education portfolio to focus on the implementation.  This is not quite Margaret Thatcher versus the coalminers’ union but the teacher unions are very powerful and well funded. Like Thatcher, who before she became Prime Minister had a stint as Minister of Education, the lady’s apparently not for turning, in the face of some incendiary opposition.

 The heat might be on but relations with the education unions are icy: at an NZEI meeting last year the Minister was confronted by the backs of NZEI support staff protesting about ancillary staff rates. Not a full whakapohane but not the usual in-house protocol for invitees.  At a TEU conference last year her speech to members was greeted with stony silence.  

The Minister is, of course, working in a tricky environment.  The school autonomy ushered in more than twenty years ago by Tomorrow’s Schools has led to a disconnect and an atomisation which makes it difficult to develop national education policy.  The voices of  parents and students as well as, to use  that  Transylvanian term, of other stakeholders,  are more audible and insistent than a generation ago. As in health there is a  heightened sense of  consumer rights and a demand to be active partners in the education process. 

In recent years many schools have made good progress in adopting and using a range  of formative assessment tools, some home grown in New Zealand.  The comprehensibility of parent reporting has improved in terms of the language used, but there is still plenty of scope for improvement. A significant minority of teachers and schools are not up to speed.  National standards are obviously  meant to be just that. 

Monitoring a child’s progress against the standards will help teachers and parents identify which children need extra help.  The bi-annual reports will also give Board of Trustees the data they need at the governance level to track the school’s progress.

 The government has made an additional $36 million available to support the students, as well as to ensure Board of Trustees know where extra resources should be spent.    A lot more than this will be needed to do the job of doing something constructive with the information.

On the Q&A programme last Sunday the Minister announced that a further $26 million has been made available of this year to help principals embed the standards. The Minister wants the New Zealand Principals Federation to come on board. Also on the programme, Federation President Ernie Buutveld said that his members “were on the same page” in terms of student achievement but there were concerns about the speed of implementation of National Standards and lots of unanswered questions. He argued that to get real improvement in student achievement the key thing was to work on teacher quality.  

 Principals have to deal with Boards of Trustees, whose National Association are strongly in favour of national standards and staff members supporting NZEI’s Trial National Standards not our Kids  campaign. The political backdrop to all this, and there may be some trade-offs, is the negotiation this year of a new collective employment agreement for teachers.

Internecine strife on a school by schools basis between staff, primed by the NZEI’s campaign and Boards of Trustees, with principals caught in the middle will really be a test of their principles not to mention their negotiating skills. The Minister has said that as a last resort she will fire BOTs that support their staff in not implementing the National Standards.

Apart from the usual political rhetoric and position taking on all sides, there are a number of genuine concerns about the National  Standards policy and the speed in which it is being implemented, without any trialling.

John Key has thrown his poll popularity as preferred Prime Minister into the fray with the recent letter to parents. The Prime Minister presents himself  an anti-idealogue who likes a pragmatic approach, focusing on what works.  Getting such a major policy to work needs the right mix of research, consultation, design, trialling, feedback and modification. 

 A pragmatic approach which is too quick on the draw might miss the target altogether.

 [Next post:  National Standards II ]

 #Lyall Lukey  14 Feb  2010


ERO Report  Dec 2009 Reading and Writing in Years 1 and 2  MS Word  PDF

The ABs in Camera and in the Cake Tin. Will it be a photo finish?

September 20, 2009

“Smithy just wanted to try something and just get a bit of a gauge of trying to see  things I’m seeing as play unfolds.”  All Black Dan Carter   

“In a patterning system, like the human brain system, there is no stronger magic that can be used than the magic of repetition.” Michael Hewitt-Gleeson,  School of Thinking 

This is a blog of two halves. I’m starting it before the All Blacks Wooden Spoon test against Australia in Wellington tonight and finishing it after the game ends. Will the fans be baying for the blood of the All Blacks coaching troika or will the rejigged team do enough to prevent the Rugby Union’s stakeholders adopting trenchant Transylvanian tactics?

 Earlier in the week one of the coaches was in the media spotlight for trying out some new technology. According to a Press story by Richard Knowler, Dan Carter was sporting a  camera on his head gear at training in order to feed images back to a laptop for coach Wayne Smith to get a first five eight’s view as to how he reads the game of rugby. 

Apparently it is now commonpace for players to wear GPS chips on their backs to record how far they’ve travelled during training but this is a  new technological twist.

 [TV shots of the dressing rooms-the All Black huddle tight. Hope the forwards can stay this tight on the paddock, especially at scrum time. Cut to the Wallabies coming out onto the ground wearing track suits, something that ABs don’t seem to do, even in cold weather.]                                                                                                                            

 Of course there are much more sophisticated tools for investigating the central nervous system. What rugby cyborgs really need is to be hooked up to mobile neuroscanning equipment to display, in real time, their neurons firing as the brain literally lights  up to  make cranial topographic mapping possible.

 The key is not just the physical peripheral vision of key playmakers but an understanding of the central role the almond-shaped amygdala plays in determining how players respond unconsciously to emotional situations, which is what all sport is really about. Brain explosions are not something that  conventional video cameras can capture and map, though fans have seen a few of these unaided recently.

 The technology would also give interesting feedback from females as they encounter Dan’s AB abs in underwear ads. (-see Blink*)

 To paraphrase School of Thinking Founder Michael Hewitt-Gleeson: the atoms of the brain are  nerve cells or neurons. Each neuron is our fundamental intellectual unit. It is an information-processing system and the basic product of these units is messaging much more amazing than SMS-more expansive and less expensive.

Neurons are perfectly designed messaging systems. They have two ends: a receiving end and a transmitting end (or an input end and an output end). At the receiving end each of your neurons has a convenient tree-like system of dendrites – input wires – which can receive information from other neurons. is a vast network of about 100 billion neurons and each one of your neurons has up to 50,000 connecting wires (dendrites) with synapses. That’s a lot of brainpower.(-see Blink*)

[Now the Battle of Anthems—one sided as usual: All but one of the Australians sing manfully and actually look young and free as they sing in almost joyful strains. The St Patrick’s College Boys Choir sings  a stunning unadorned rendition of the NZ anthem. Several ABs have actually learnt the Maori first verse. Dan Carter does the best, actually opening his mouth and lifting his head up, but most of the others look like ventriloquists. They do come to life during the haka,  Ka mate!  ringing out so clearly you could just about hear it at Te Rauparaha’s old Kapiti Island base.]

Axons are like ‘telegraph wires’ that transmit electrical signals along their own length. At the end of its wire the axon’s electrical signal is transformed into a chemical output – a neurotransmitter.

A neurotransmitter is a package of chemical information which has an effect on the neuron that receives it in much the same way that a fax or an email is a package of information which has an effect on you when you receive it. The way this chemical package effects the neuron receiving it is by causing a change in its electro-chemical activity.

 To Send or Not To Send, That’s the decision says Hewitt-Gleeson. Indecisiveness lingers at the binary divide.

 [The All Blacks start  decisively, with menacing purpose, the ball in hand, not kicked away…but Dan uncharacteristically misses an early penalty quick from a handy possie.  The Aussies have hardly touched the ball in the first 5 minutes… then kick their first penalty opportunity after 8 minutes-and repeat the dose 3 minutes later, a little against the run of play.]

But despite all its intellectual firepower, the malleable, self-organising brain is still slow to change its perceptions of the world.  When new ideas are presented they are always appeared with pre- existing ideas, which are already embedded in the brain.

 This is why most marketing campaigns take much longer than is commonly thought, to change consumers brand perceptions. It follows that marketing campaigns-and maybe rugby strategies and tactics- should not be changed so often. It takes time to develop a new team mindset. Too much chopping and changing causes neurological confusion.

 [Cory Jane scores a brilliant try-catching his own kick and breaking free of outclutched hand, setting the game on fire but it’s  not enough to evince a reaction from the immobile visaged Steve Hansen, who, if he ever loses his day job, could coach aspiring poker players].

Cambridge-based researchers have provide new evidence that the human brain lives “on the edge of chaos”, at a critical transition point between randomness and order.(-see Blink*)

 [The scrums tonight veer more to chaos although the lineouts are more ordered, a distinct improvement on the non-linear shambles of recent games.]

 It is a natural behaviour of the brain to form patterns. Our perception is more than the receipt and processing of sensory images. Wrong thinking can start with mis-perception.  Changing the way we see our world can radically change our behaviour. 

 A  pattern is something that is repeated more often than randomness or chaos. The architecture of a pattern is repetition. That’s why in a patterning-system like the human brain system, repetition is the most powerful learning strategy you can use.

 That’s also why there is a great deal of repetition in any effective training-on the sports field or in the world of work. The critics of “rote learning” fail to understand that repetition helps to build patterns in our brains so it becomes easier for us to use the licence-free necktop software we each come equipped with.

 As Hewitt-Gleeson says: “In a patterning system, like the human brain system, there is no stronger magic that can be used than the magic of repetition….. You can choose your own repetitions…Ever since you were born advertisers and religions have used repetition to program your brain. So, you may as well use it yourself to embrace the patterns that YOU decide are most useful for your own brain. Take charge!” .(-see Blink*)

 [The All Blacks have definitely taken charge. The fulltime score is 33- 6, with 16 unanswererd points in the second half through some great back tries.   Perhaps they used the new technology to plot the GPS coordinates to find their way to the tryline. I’ll need to watch the highlights package to see the bits I missed by looking at the wrong screen.]

In the end, as you might expect,  the game was more of a triumph of teamwork than technology, with the All Blacks taking the cake at the Cake Tin and ending the  Tri Nations season on a high, with several new players earning their rations of hard tack.  Steve Hansen looks positively rapturous and relieved.

After two losses at home this season the late win doesn’t quite qualify as peaking between World Cups.  King Henry and courtiers needn’t worry about getting the chop. The block has been quietly wheeled way and the axe put into storage. Not that there were any unattached likely coaching pretenders in the wings-unless they go for a neurologist and a real psychologist.

Te Rauparaha composed Ka Mate as a celebration of life over death after his lucky escape from pursuing Ngati Maniapoto and Waikato enemies. He had hidden from them in a food-storage pit, and climbed back into the light to see a hairy friend.  

 The All Blacks, some of them also hairy men, will feel a deserved warm glow as they savour what ended up as a decisive victory when it could have been the pits.


 Neurons And Neuro-Transmitters (4:51)   Literally mind-boggling stuff from the Discovery Channel.   Michael Hewitt-Gleeson  School of Thinking  Software for the Brain.

 The human brain is on the edge of chaos  The Cambridge study.

 Dan Carter in his undies   AB’s abs.

  Lyall Lukey 19 September 2009