Regional School Boards Dysfunctional

Are Current Models of Education Delivery Dysfunctional?

(by Tunya Audain 100315, comment to blog Food For Thought (SQE) on topic: The Dance of the Lemons 100314 re: Newsweek cover story – Why We Must Fire Bad Teachers (Mar 15/10)

Many of the comments in this Newsweek story say the very model has become unwieldy. Yes, a lemon!

In BC, in our blogs, we talk about the need for a Royal Commission to start exploring more practical, efficient and effective models. The government is not responding to such calls. The last one we had was over 20 years ago.

On the discussion of better models I just brought forward the New Zealand model. See below:

New Zealand’s Self-Governance Education System

Considering different models in education, New Zealand immediately comes to mind.

What really sticks out is that in the early days it had a system like ours with large school districts handling many schools.

But this changed rather quickly when the government did an audit and saw that two-thirds of funding gathered for children’s education never reached the classroom.

School districts were abolished in 1989 and each school now has its own board of directors. A standard board of trustees’ membership includes:

between three and seven parent elected trustees

the principal of the school

one staff elected trustee

one student elected trustee (in schools with students above Year 9)

There are 2460 such boards in NZ.

“Well before American charter schools, New Zealand went much further in granting power to individual schools by abolishing all regional school boards and making each public school independent, with local parent and teacher involvement in decision making. Although not called charter schools, each school does have a charter under which it operates with a board of trustees and has a high degree of autonomy.” (Wikipedia)

The belief is that those closest to where education takes place are best placed to create the optimum environments for their students and teachers. The dictionary term is subsidiarity — the principle of devolving decisions to the lowest practical level; central high-level government should only be involved in handling things that cannot be dealt with effectively on a more local level.

Each of New Zealand’s public schools has a board of trustees. It is a Crown entity responsible for the governance and the control of the management of the school. The board is the employer of all staff in the school, is responsible for setting the school’s strategic direction in consultation with parents, staff and students, and ensuring that its school provides a safe environment and quality education for all its students. Boards are also responsible for overseeing the management of personnel, curriculum, property, finance and administration.

The orientation and training of trustees is a massive endeavor with frequent workshops, conferences and certified trainers. “Our training is practical, relevant and empowering”, says the school trustees’ association, NZSTA. Their credo: Effective governance: no excuses, no exceptions, high expectations.

The benefits to schools, community, and country cannot be overstated. Parent knowledge is a huge positive result of these responsibilities, a transferable skill to others, especially the young. School-based management works.

On the 2006 OECD ranking of countries on Science both Canada and New Zealand scored in the top seven of 57 countries assessed.

Issues the school boards deal with are similar to ours, but handled at a local level: bullying, funding, special needs, student discipline, assessment.

Opposition to standards-based assessments are similar to our anti-FSA issues and from the same sources. A newsrelease says: “School trustees say that scaremongering over league tables should not be allowed to overshadow parents’ right to know how their children are doing at school.”

New Zealand’s model is but one that can be considered in seeking fundamental and radical solutions to our current dysfunctional, frustrating and extremely wasteful education apparatus. It cannot be called a “system”!

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