1 Jun 2016

Charter school reports show some failing to meet the grade

8:17 am on 1 June 2016

Charter schools are showing wildly different results in their annual reports, with some easily meeting their academic targets and others falling well short.

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Photo: 123rf.com

The reports also reveal two of the publicly-funded private schools expelled and suspended a lot more students last year than permitted by the performance standards in their contracts.

The schools had to publish their 2015 reports by the end of May.

They showed two of the three secondary schools - Vanguard Military Academy in Albany and Terenga Paraoa in Whangarei - had NCEA pass rates as high as 100 percent last year. But at the third, Pacific Advance Senior School, only 36 out of about 60 students got NCEA level one last year.

Four of the five primary or middle schools had published their reports by the end of May and two had good results in reading, writing and maths while two others had done poorly, with National Standards pass rates as low as 25 percent.

David Seymour, the under-secretary for education, said some of the schools were turning kids' lives around and he was confident the under-performers would improve.

"Some of them are absolutely outstanding - 100 percent pass rates for schools where some of the kids weren't even going to school before. Others, and they tend to be schools that have been only open for one year, do have some work to do in terms of their pass rates. But I wouldn't rush to judge them so early when the schools that have been open longer tend to be doing better."

But Post Primary Teachers Association president Angela Roberts said the reports were of little use because they were not independent.

"These are annual reports that are self-generated. So it makes it really hard to see if there is anything that we can learn that could apply to the rest of the system, or if there are warning bells that are going off," she said.

Ms Roberts said some of the schools had failed to meet some of the performance standards in their contracts and she wanted to know what the government would do to hold them to account.

Among those that failed to meet targets was Vanguard Military Academy.

Its report said 86 percent of its school leavers last year had NCEA level 2, a figure higher than required by its contract and higher than the average for decile three schools.

But for the second year in a row, disciplinary action exceeded the contracted standard with six suspensions, and six students expelled or excluded.

Chief executive Nick Hyde said the school would not be punished in any way and it was important that it continued to enforce high standards.

"We're a military school and structure and discipline are very important things to us. We're not a school that wants to allow things like drugs, bullying and violence to creep in and affect the students' learning and so therefore we have a pretty harsh approach to it."

Mr Seymour said the government was in discussion with Vanguard about its suspension and expulsion figures.

"The reason that we're in discussion rather than punishing them at this stage is simply the fact that first of all they have an ethos that is working extremely well. They have a very high discipline mantra and that has led to higher levels of exclusion and expulsion then you'd otherwise get."

Mr Seymour said it was also important to take into account that many of the school's students had struggled at other schools.

Middle School West Auckland also exceeded the performance standards for discipline last year, with 11 stand-downs, four suspensions and two exclusions.

Its students were also below all but one of the school's national standards targets.

The school's academic manager, Alwyn Poole, said the school, which opened last year, had a difficult start and some children were arriving with poor results.

"While our results are below target, there are significant improvements for the priority learners that are coming to us and ultimately and that's what we're after."

Mr Poole said he was talking to the Education Ministry about measuring the school against students' progress, rather than against their raw levels of achievement.

Among the other schools that had published their annual reports, the Rise Up Academy in South Auckland said the vast majority of it students were at or above the national standards for their age.

However its writing results for Years 7 and 6 were poor and just 25 percent of the school's Year 8 students met the standard for writing.

Annual report summary by school

Middle School West Auckland

Academic: Met one of six national standards performance targets, with 59 percent of students at or above the Year 7 maths standard. Other results ranged from 31 to 51 percent.

Discipline: Eleven stand downs, four suspensions and two exclusions - higher than the performance standard.

Financial: Yet to be provided.

Pacific Advance Senior School

Academic: Only enrolled Year 11 students in 2015 (the report does not say how many, though Education Ministry figures say it had 58 in October) and 36 of them got NCEA level 1.

Discipline: No suspensions or exclusions, 2.1 stand-downs compared to performance standard of 2.

Financial: Operating surplus of 7.9 percent, $171,801.

Rise Up Academy

Academic: In most standards between 80 and 100 percent of students were at or above the national standards for their year level. Exceptions included 25 percent for Year 8 writing and 50 percent for Year 8 reading.

Discipline: No stand-downs or exclusions, but unjustified absences higher than the required standard.

Financial: Surplus of 3 percent.

South Auckland Middle School

Academic: Year 7 and 8 results slightly below performance targets in four national standards, and above target in two. Ranged from 77 percent of children at or above the Year 8 writing standard to 63 percent at or above the Year 7 writing standard.

Discipline: Three suspensions and one exclusion - higher than the performance standard.

Financial: Yet to be provided.

Te Kapehu Whetu Teina

Academic: 35 percent of children were at or above the National Standards for reading and maths with 43 percent at or above for writing.

Discipline: One stand-down day, no other disciplinary measures.

Financial: Surplus of 9 percent.

Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa

Academic: Did not report a school-leaver figure, but said it had 100 percent achievement of University Entrance and NCEA levels two and three for those students who attempted them, and 84 percent achievement of level one.

Discipline: No stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions or expulsions.

Financial: Surplus of 9 percent.

Te Kura Maori o Waatea

Annual report to be approved by school's board on Tuesday night.

Vanguard Military Academy

Academic: 86 percent of students that left the school last year did so with NCEA level 2. (The performance target for the school last year was 78 percent. The average for decile three schools in 2014 was 69 percent.)

Discipline: Missed performance standards for discipline measures with 16 stand-down days, six suspensions, and six exclusions/explusions.

Financial: Profit of 3 percent, $83,330.