Charter school advocates are fuming at the Government’s treatment of the final Martin Jenkins report on charter schools. The report was released late last week in what ACT leader David Seymour described as a “classic Friday news dump”.
“The Government didn’t want anyone to see this report from independent consultants Martin Jenkins because it paints a glowing picture of the Partnership School model,” says Seymour. “If the report has found that Partnership Schools were failing, [Education Minister] Chris Hipkins would be shouting it from the rooftops. Instead, he dumped the report in an obscure section of the Ministry of Education website on a Friday night.”
Seymour is calling for the Education Minister to reverse his decision to close Partnership Schools
The report, commissioned by the previous government, indicates improved student engagement; that parents are happy with how charter schools are performing; and stand-downs are less frequent for charter school students than at their previous schools.
However, Education Minister Chris Hipkins is dismissive of the report, telling Radio New Zealand that it “does not tell us much” beyond an insight into what students and parents thought about the schools.
“It doesn’t tell us for example about academic achievement and progress and obviously that’s where a lot of the attention really should be focused.”
The report states that it was too early in the Partnership Schools process to measure student outcomes, and that any achievement data couldn’t be compared with figures from other schools.
The report also notes that although its findings “paint a positive picture”, low response rates to surveys and selection bias meant student and whānau perspectives couldn’t be examined from all angles or across all schools. The vast majority of responses came from the two Villa Education Trust charter schools.
However for these schools, the results were indeed positive. Students reported improved engagement and learning, in comparison with their previous schools. Some students noted that they were more hopeful about their future. Whānau also reported feeling more involved in their child’s learning, and more confident communicating with the school.
Villa Education Trust’s Alwyn Poole shares Seymour’s frustration at the Minister’s lack of acknowledgement of the report’s findings, particularly in light of the looming deadline for charter schools to transition to become schools of designated character.
Charter schools have until 1 May to put in their applications to become schools of designated character in 2019. Vanguard Military School was the first school to submit its application.
However, Poole says the Villa Education Trust has not been subjected to the “open and good faith negotiation process” as promised.
“We are also hoping for a much better approach to a “transition” from the Minister to enable us to both continue and expand our, clearly, outstanding work.”
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