Saturday, 24 November 2018

Fiddling the numbers in boarding schools

Finally the media ( ABC) start to look at some of these dodgy private school scholarships that make elite private schools LOOK LIKE they are inclusive of minorities. 

Cheyenne Maymuru is one of hundreds of young Aboriginal people who have left their communities to attend elite private schools in Australia's biggest cities, and while there are many success stories, others are left with broken dreams.

Key points:

After 10 years of awarding scholarships, there are calls to review the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation

A former student says she did not receive enough support and found the experience of boarding school "deeply distressing"

Academics are also questioning dropout rates, claiming they are much higher than those reported

As a teenager, Ms Maymuru was granted a scholarship with the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF), but what started out as an exciting opportunity soon became an experience she described as "deeply distressing".

Her case is not an isolated one and after 10 years in operation and more than $160 million in funding, academics are calling for the AIEF to be reviewed and say the organisation is under-reporting the number of Indigenous students who drop out.

In 2012, Ms Maymuru started boarding at an elite school in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

She had hoped to join the Air Force and believed a private education at St Catherine's School would create better opportunities for her.

The school was a long way from where she grew up in Arnhem Land and the small town of Boreen Point in Queensland.

She was one of a few Indigenous students at the school and in the new environment, Ms Maymuru felt the weight of expectations.

"I wanted to make my parents proud of me, I wanted the school to be proud of me, I wanted to be proud of me. There was a lot riding on it," she said.

Not long after she started year 7, her father became seriously ill.

Speaking to the ABC, Ms Maymuru claimed she was worried about her dad at the time, got into trouble at school and was suspended. And she claimed the school asked her not to return.

"The reason I was suspended at first [was] I was smoking in the toilets in the boarding house," she said.

"That was kind of a 'screw you, I'm not doing this'. I was in a bad head space."

Now 19, she believes the school and the scholarship foundation could have done more to support her at a vulnerable time.

Ms Maymuru claimed she was not offered counselling and she never heard from St Catherine's or AIEF again.

"I was very upset, I was crying, I needed help with mental health [support]," she said.

"Why get rid of somebody if you haven't tried to help them?

That's kind of a last resort."

Ms Maymuru said she was now happy working in health care in Arnhem Land, but she never successfully returned to school or completed her year 12 studies.

She is one of hundreds of Indigenous students who have attended prestigious schools across Australia with the help of the AIEF.

The AIEF pay a portion of the total cost, with the partner school, parents and other government payments also contributing to the cost of boarding and tuition.

As one of the major players in the Indigenous boarding sector, the AIEF has received a total of $164 million in funding since it began in 2008, $83 million of that coming from the Federal Government.

The not-for-profit organisation claims to be the most successful Indigenous education program in the country and part of that claim relates to how few AIEF students drop out.

What's going on with dropout rates?

In February, the AIEF said for the decade it had been in operation, less than 10 per cent of its students had dropped out.

But the AIEF's own figures do not support that claim.

The AIEF's published data shows:

1,045 students have been awarded a scholarship

490 have graduated

342 are continuing

213 have dropped out

That puts the dropout rate at 20 per cent, with a 46 per cent graduation rate.

Native American Fulbright scholar Victor Lopez-Carmen has analysed Indigenous scholarship programs around Australia. He called for the AIEF to be clearer in the way the organisation reported its numbers.

"I think it's an obligation of any organisation that deals with Indigenous youth to carefully and accurately represent [those] statistics," he said.

Mr Lopez-Carmen is now calling for an independent external review of AIEF.

"To my knowledge there has not been an independent review of AIEF and they're dealing with over $100 million in funding."

The AIEF disputed the need for an independent review and said hundreds of its graduates had gone on to succeed in a range of fields.

The organisation's deputy chief executive Renee Coffey said: "We have a number of students who have chosen to leave but overwhelmingly the vast majority are completing.

"Boarding school isn't for every child and that's Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

"It takes a lot of determination and resilience for a student to stay at the school, and that's not going to work for every child.

"No program has a 100 per cent success rate."

Do some dropouts 'disappear' from the data?

Mr Lopez-Carmen's key criticism of AIEF's reporting was that it did not include students who dropped out in their first year at boarding school.

"A lot of the youth who drop out in the first year apparently aren't considered," he said.

"So there [are] all these youth who dropped out, who have essentially disappeared and are not considered AIEF scholars."

Ms Coffey said students who left the school in their first year were not counted in dropout figures because they were not technically eligible for AIEF funding at that point.

The AIEF called this retrospective funding model "risk-sharing".

"It's kind of a multi-way partnership, so our scholarships start once that student finishes that first year then they are funded as one of our scholars," Ms Coffey said.

"In order to be eligible for AIEF funding they need to have completed one year of school and then we will pay for that first year onwards."

The AIEF helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families pay a portion of private boarding school fees and the schools and Abstudy also pick up some of the cost.

'Disappeared' dropouts may never return to school

Marnie O'Bryan, an honorary research fellow at the University of Melbourne, said students told her AIEF's funding model put additional pressure on them as they dealt with the culture shock of boarding school.

"It was traumatic for them," Dr O'Bryan said.

"[They said] they felt it was punitive, that somehow they felt that they were being coerced to remain at school when there were very good reasons why they should drop out of school."

What concerned Dr O'Bryan the most was her research that suggested many students who dropped out of scholarships never returned to the classroom.

She described these students as "some of the most educationally vulnerable in Australia".

"Young people who drop out of boarding school are at a very high risk of not re-engaging with their education when they return home," Dr O'Bryan said.

Despite thousands of Indigenous students in boarding programs, and the public funding that goes into scholarships, Dr O'Bryan said the Government was not tracking the outcomes of students who dropped out.

"It was consistent across all my research that young people who drop out of boarding school received no support from their scholarship organisations," she said.

"It was as if they had become a disappointment to the provider."

She said much more could be done to ensure boarding schools were culturally safe places.

"Some people talk about schools learning by 'trial and error', but of course that's a problem because the trial and error is happening on a young person's life," Dr O'Bryan said.

"I've never seen a young person drop out for no reason. It's not because they're lazy, it's not because they feel education offers them nothing."

Ms Maymuru's former school, St Catherine's, declined to comment on individual cases, but said it had made changes to the way it supported Indigenous girls in recent years, which included more support services.

"We are aware of the difficulties some Indigenous students could face and consequently are constantly striving to improve our practices and processes to make their journey a happy and successful one," the school said.

"In 2019 the role of Indigenous coordinator will be expanded to include all aspects of the Indigenous girls' wellbeing."

'I had someone that I could talk to'

The AIEF pointed to the hundreds of its successful graduates. Among them is Tanika Davis, who is undertaking postgraduate studies and works for an Aboriginal health service.

In 2010, when she moved from regional New South Wales to take up a scholarship at the prestigious Kincoppal Rose Bay school in Sydney, she was paired with a mentor.

Ms Davis said the whole experience changed her life.

"I hold AIEF quite close to my heart," she said.

"Why can't Aboriginal kids have that equal opportunity to go to one of the best schools in Sydney? When you talk about equality, I think education is paramount."

Ms Davis said she still kept in touch with her friends from the boarding house and her mentor.

"I clicked with my mentor, so I'm really fortunate that I had that someone that I could talk to — not just about school, but about life," she said.

Ms Maymuru said her time as an Indigenous boarder would have been easier if there was a greater focus on supporting Aboriginal people with culturally competent mentors.

"It would've been easier if I had someone to go to who actually understands what it's like to be Aboriginal," she said.

"I was wanting people to ask me if I needed help. I didn't know how to ask for help. I was 12 years old."

Friday, 23 November 2018

Mrs Garcia needs pencils and glue!

Our School Needs Paper and Pencils

Help me give my students h the materials they need to continue their learning: pencils, paper, and glue.

My Students

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.” Martin Luther King, Jr. 

I aim to help my students own the skills and confidence to realize their dreams.

I want them to dream big. The elementary school I work in has about 400 students, most of whom come from low income families of various backgrounds. I teach in a Spanish Bilingual Classroom where more than 90% of students are English Learners. Some of my students are also not proficient in Spanish. They often come into second grade with low reading and writing scores in Spanish and English. Many of the students are not yet independent thinkers and have difficulty articulating their thoughts both orally and in writing. Often they lack confidence to problem solve and defend their thinking in both languages. However, they are often intimidated by English. My goal is to show them all they can do in both languages. 

My Project

Our school just found out that due to our low enrollment we need to cut 168, 000 off our budget. We are losing our literacy specialist and spending all our extra money so that we do not lose a classroom teacher. That means that we do not have money for paper, pencils, glue, etc. 

I need to make sure my students continue to receive their homework packets and are able to do our word study sorts.

That means that I need paper to make homework packets for the whole year. We go through 21 glue sticks each month because I use words their way word sorts to differentiate my instruction for my students. I also use construction paper to make posters for our Reading and Writing Workshops, math, English Language Development and anything else that I need. I am asking for a few extra supplies so that I can share with our school. Thank you for helping us to keep educating the next generation.

This is in America and Teachers are expected to buy or beg for basic school supplies.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Funding Shame.

The ABC has today released a shocking report into school funding.  In many ways it is not a surprise to us, but it will be a wake-up call for many.  The report confirms what we have been saying: the school funding system is broken and grossly unequal.

85% of private schools get more public funding than public schools. We have one of the most unequal education systems in the world.

The report is available online by clicking here and a 3 minute summary video is available on our Facebook here. This report is a powerful resource

Thursday, 15 November 2018

De Vos - Deplorable!

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is set to release a sweeping overhaul of how colleges and universities must handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment, giving new rights to the accused, including the ability to cross-examine their accusers, people familiar with the matter said.

The proposal is set for release before Thanksgiving, possibly this week, and replaces less formal guidance issued by the Obama administration in 2011. The new rules would reduce liability for universities, tighten the definition of sexual harassment, and allow schools to use a higher standard in evaluating claims of sexual harassment and assault.

The rules stem from a 1972 law known as Title IX that bars sex discrimination at schools that receive federal funding. Most of the attention is on higher education, but the rules also apply to elementary and secondary schools. Once published in the Federal Register, the proposal will be open for public comment before being finalized.

The regulation lands amid a national debateover sexual assault, including whether Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh should have been elevated to the Supreme Court after allegations surfaced that, as a teenager, he sexually assaulted a girl. He denied the accusation and was confirmed. Defending Kavanaugh, President Trump declared it “a very scary time for young men in America” who faced the possibility of false claims.

Last year, DeVos rescinded the 2011 Obama guidance, denouncing it as overly prescriptive and lacking due process for the accused. She promised to write a regulation to replace it.

We know this...

From the Educator

A new report published by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has revealed that Australia has the second most unequal education system in the world.

The report, titled 'An unfair start: Inequality in children's education in rich countries' examined educational equity in 39 developed countries and found that Finland, Latvia, and Poland have the most equal education systems.

Conversely, Australia, Slovakia and New Zealand rank as the most unequal in the world on a combined ranking of education inequality across pre-school, primary and secondary schooling.

An education research brief by public school advocates Save Our Schools (SOS) summarised the data, which also found that Australia is ranked 36th out of 41 countries in inequality in pre-school attendance, 25th out of 29 countries in inequality in primary school reading achievement and 30th out of 38 countries in inequality in secondary school reading achievement.

“The report complements a recent OECD report, titled: ‘Equity in Education’, which shows that Australia has one of the most segregated school systems in the OECD and the world,” SOS national convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said.

“There is a clear link between social segregation and education performance in Australia.”

'Disgraceful and scandalous'

Cobbold called the extent of education inequality in Australia “a national calamity", adding that to be the second most unequal education system in the developed world is "disgraceful and scandalous". 

“It is completely unacceptable for a nation that prides itself on its egalitarian ethos. Commonwealth and state government education and funding policies must give much greater priority to reducing inequality," Cobbold said.

Australian Secondary Principals Association (ASPA) president, Andrew Pierpoint, said the Association is “very aware of the equity issues in schools across Australia”.

“This is a real social justice issue that ASPA continually works on with Government and school communities,” Pierpoint told The Educator.

David Zyngier, a senior lecturer in Curriculum & Pedagogy at Monash University's faculty of education, said it must become a “national priority” to ensure that the disadvantage gap is reduced as soon as possible.

“If not for the children then this should be done for the economy and future political stability,” Zyngier told The Educator.

“The first step should be to stop the special deals with non-government school systems and redirect public funds from already well-resourced and overfunded private schools to the most disadvantaged children of whom more than 80% attend public schools.

“That is the only way forward if Australia wants to really be an egalitarian country.”

The latest report follows a study published in April by the Public Education Foundation (PEF) which found that educational inequality is costing the Australian economy more than $20bn.

‘A bizarre funding model’

NSW Secondary Principals Council (NSWSPC) president, Chris Presland, said the latest research states “the bleeding obvious”.

“We have known for too long that this not only a problem but an increasing problem, and it’s being exacerbated by a bizarre funding model,” Presland told The Educator.

“As an educator, you shake your head in disbelief that we haven’t come to terms with the fact that funds are going to where they aren’t needed. Until we address the resourcing issue, we will never solve the equity problem.”

Presland said the core principle of the original Gillard-era Gonski agreement was sector-blind needs-based funding, but despite the years passed, this still has not been realised.

“It doesn’t matter if a kid is in a public school or a private school. Logic says that funding needs to be directed to where resources are needed the most, and this is not happening,” he said.

“What our current government is doing is simply bizarre – $4.6 billion for the wealthiest schools in the country? It’s just insane.”

Presland called Australia is “a high-performing education system with very low equity”. 

“In other words, the advantaged kids are performing brilliantly, and the disadvantaged kids are performing disastrously,” he said.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

TAFE cuts

Did you know that Gladys Berejiklian and the NSW Liberal and Nationals have sacked over 5000 TAFE teachers? TAFE should be protected and treasured, not destroyed. NSW election coming up soon and it’s time to kick the Liberals & their cuts out st the next NSW election.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Eleven days to go in the state election.....

11 days to go - no plan, no detail on public schools. I won’t forget what you did when last in govt - $625 m school cuts; bitter dispute about schools agt, pushing performance pay & breaking promise to make teachers highest paid, cut literacy & numeracy coaches etc. etc.

Still nothing about preschools, TAFE, no commitment to state school funding.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

2 weeks to go until the state election

Education update courtesy of the AEU

This week, we had a significant eight-year commitment from Victorian Labor to build new schools and co-located preschools if they are re-elected. Over the next four years, 24 schools would be built with an additional 55 schools to planned and completed in the following term of government. This is the sort of long-term planning and investment members expect and which our students and their families deserve.

Matthew Guy’s Liberals have made no such commitment to the future of public education.  

When they were last in government, the Liberals did not plan effectively or allocate nearly enough funding. This meant that in 2016 there was not one new public school opened in Victoria, despite a booming school age population. We know from experience that, without a comprehensive plan for new schools, the Liberal party will cram extra students into existing classrooms, driving up class sizes, and overcrowding our existing schools.

We also know there will be 90,000 additional students in our schools over the next four years and we need the next state government to plan for and fund the necessary additional classrooms.

In recent weeks, Labor have announced almost 700 additional teaching positions as well as an extra 190 mental health positions in schools. The Liberals have not committed to any additional teachers or support staff.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

New Zealand leading again

The NZ Government will fund 600 dedicated staff in primary and secondary schools to support children with special learning needs such as dyslexia, autism, physical disabilities and behavioural problems.

The announcement is being described as a big and much-needed win by the education sector.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement in her speech to the Labour conference in Dunedin today.

She said they would work alongside teachers, parents and other professionals to give students individualised support.

Currently schools have special education needs co-ordinators but in many cases the role is just a few hours a week for an existing teacher and funding is allocated by the board of trustees.

The new group of learning support co-ordinators will be a dedicated full-time job by a registered teacher and the first tranche of 600 will be employed from as early as 2020.

The aim is to at least double that number in order to have one in every urban school and access to one for every rural school

Ardern called the announcement "a game-changer".

"If a child needs support and is not getting it, that's not fair, and I'm not prepared to tolerate it.

"So today I want to say to parents, to kids, to teachers, to aunties, to anyone who has asked for more support for those with additional needs – we've heard you."

The co-ordinators would not only help unlock the potential of thousands of children with learning needs, they would free up teachers so all children get more quality classroom time to learn.

"A big concern I hear regularly from teachers is the amount of time they spend trying to get support for children with additional needs.

"The new learning support co-ordinators are a win-win; kids with both high and moderate needs will get on-the-ground support, parents will have a specialised point of contact and teachers will have more time to teach."

The commitment to more staff will cost $217 million over four years will be from next year's Budget and comes on top of an extra $272.8 million in the 2018 Budget operational spending for learning support.

"That is a huge investment in our first year into supporting both our kids and our teachers," Ardern said.

"One in five New Zealand children has a disability or other learning and behavioural needs and it's been too hard, for too long, for them to get support at the right time."

Learning support had been neglected for more than a decade, Ardern said.

The Government has yet to work out which schools will be the first to get the 600 co-ordinators. That will be the subject of discussion with the sector.

New Zealand First MP and Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin has been leading the work to develop a new model for delivering learning support in schools.

She was at the Labour conference for the Prime Minister's announcement.

"These co-ordinators will be a specialised point of contact for parents with someone who understands their child's unique learning needs," Martin said.

"They'll also provide expert assistance for teachers. They will work alongside classroom teachers to ensure all students with needs – including disabilities, neurodiversity, behavioural issues and giftedness – get the support they should expect."
Ardern's speech was delivered in the Dunedin Town Hall, and is the first she has given as party leader, having taken over the leadership only seven weeks before the 2017 election.

She shared many of letters she has received as Prime Minister, including one from an aunt of a boy with special needs.

It said: "We as a whānau have tried with dead ends where ever we turn so I then turn to you Prime Minister and plead for your help, he is missing out on so much and it just isn't fair. Please help us find a solution for this young boy who deserves the best chance living with autism."

Ardern said the phrase that stood out to her was "best chance."

"You may have heard me talk about my goal to make New Zealand the best country in the world to be a child.

"We simply will not achieve that unless we ensure that every single child, no matter where they live, no matter their background or ethnicity, their ability or disability, has the best education possible."

NZEI president Lynda Stuart said the announcement signalled a positive start to the week of facilitation that the union and ministry were about to embark on and was a big win for children, teachers and principals.

"It's a constructive response from the Government to the fact that the number of children with complex needs is growing while the Learning Support Co-ordinator/Senco job is currently being done on top of or squeezed in around the day job of principals, deputy principals and classroom teachers.

"This announcement potentially enables schools to release highly capable people into these roles and improve inclusion for all students. Although the current teacher shortage will make finding an additional 600 teachers challenging, the creation of this role will help support teachers and school leaders and reduce their workload — so making the job of a teacher better supported and more appealing."

Neogtiations over the primary and principal collective agreements start tomorrow and the rolling strike is still proceeding the week starting 12 November.

Altogether Autism national manager Catherine Trezona was pleased the Government had listened and was cautiously optimistic a specialised role would help address concerns at the primary and secondary level because the current education system was currently failing the majority of families with autistic children.

"We've got so many instances of children that have been stood down because there's not the capacity or the capability to work with them effectively in the school. So that's not inclusive education. Really or autistic students are not being at all well looked after in the current education system."

Some students were being expelled and then being enrolled at other schools where they could only attend for a reduced number of hours due to a lack of teacher aide support, she said.

Trezona said the organisation was delighted it was going to be a specialised role and was keen to be involved in the training of the teachers to make sure they had the skills to address the really complex learning needs of autistic children.

The boost to learning support in the 2018 Budget had funded around 1000 extra places for students with complex needs so they could get specialist support such as speech therapy.

Teacher-aide funding received an extra $59.3 million.

About 2900 deaf and hard-of-hearing students and approximately 1500 low-vision students got more help, and around 1900 more children with high needs in early childhood education would now receive support each year.

From the NZ Herald