A recent evaluation report of New Zealand’s eight charter schools showed “mixed results” for student achievement and engagement, with some schools failing to reach their contracted targets in these areas.
It is the second report prepared by company MartinJenkins for the Ministry of Education. MartinJenkins has been contracted to carry out a multi-year evaluation of the Government’s Partnership Schools policy to assess the extent to which the schools have delivered what the policy intended to deliver with regard to flexibility, innovation and student outcomes.
This year’s report carried a focus on delivery approaches and assessment.
“For the most part, their approaches reflect good practice and sometimes innovative practice,” notes the report. “We have not found any evidence of poor practice, but we have found some signs of practices that indicate schools/kura are still refining their approaches.”
The report shows “mixed results” for the charter schools’ achievement against their contracted targets. Five out of eight schools “almost met or exceeded” their targets for student achievement, seven out of eight met or exceeded targets for student attendance and six out of eight met most or all of their targets for student engagement.
The schools also reported positive outcomes for students across a range of areas outside of the contracted targets, including achievement in subjects other than reading, writing and mathematics for primary age students, and improved self-esteem and self-worth.
The report noted that most schools “perceive reporting requirements to be burdensome” with some reporting unresolved contract issues with the Ministry.
The report found that assessment practice across the schools is ‘good’, with some demonstrating “very good” practice with assessment practices interwoven throughout school, classroom and student management. Others demonstrated “adequate” assessment practice, but are “introducing measures to support improvement”.
The report was based on evidence from the evaluator’s analysis of the schools’ data, and time spent at each school with leadership, teachers, students and parents.
However, the PPTA has described the report as a “farce” as it lacks comparative analysis with other schools. The union has long pushed for a “high-quality, matched cohort evaluation” that compares the outcomes of the students in charter schools with the outcomes of students from a group who are, as far as possible, similar. It also wants the evaluation to look at the impact on the other schools near the charter schools.
President Jack Boyle takes issue with the fact that the report glosses over the fact that some charter schools are failing to meet student achievement and engagement targets, claiming that the students are particularly disengaged and at risk.
“When public schools explain that their students have tough home lives and are disengaged from education they are told to stop having low expectations,” said Boyle. “Charters are given a free pass, once again.”