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Govt to create $150m a year 'elite teacher strike force'

The government is proposing to form and pay extra for an elite corps of up to 270 principals and 6,000 teachers to raise flagging performance in New Zealand schools.

Prime Minister John Key announced the initiative in his first major speech for election year, to a west Auckland business audience, with details to be ironed out this year for introduction next year and spending of $359 million committed over the next four years for its implementation.

Once in place, its annual cost will be $150 million a year, to create a corps of some 250 Executive Principals, 20 Change Principals, 1,000 Expert Teachers, and 5,000 Lead Teachers, in a plan intended not only to raise educational achievement but also to entice teachers to stay in the profession.

The biggest sweeteners will be for a small squad of Change Principals, identified for their strong track record of achievement, who will be offered $50,000 a year on top of their normal salaries to "turn around" struggling schools. Appointments will be for up to five years.

"At the moment, the incentive is for principals to go to larger schools, where the salary is higher, rather than to schools that are the most challenging," said Key. "We are going to change that."

Executive Principals will be offered $40,000 a year more for appointments of up to four years by an external panel to have liaison and leadership responsibilities for up to 10 schools, covering both primary and secondary levels.

They will remain responsible for their own school, but be freed up two days a week to in a role of "supporting other principals to raise student achievement."

"Executive Principals will have a track record of raising achievement and they will pass on their knowledge and expertise to other principals," said Key. "They will be judged on their results."

Some 1,000 Expert Teachers, earning some $20,000 on top of their normal salaries annually, with two days a week to work outside their own schools, under the guidance of Executive Principals.

"Expert Teachers will have a proven track record of raising performance of their students, particularly in maths, science, technology and literacy," said Key.

Some 5,000 Lead Teachers from the current corps of 50,000 teachers nationwide would be identified for $10,000 salary top-ups in exchange for making their classrooms "open to other teachers almost all the time, so teachers can observe and discuss classroom practice with a model professional."

"We are going to give extra funding to schools so teachers can take time out of their normal classroom to work with Expert and Lead Teachers," said Key. In addition, there will be a $10 million fund "for schools and teachers to develop and research effective teaching practice in areas such as writing, maths, science and digital literacy."

While details could change as the initiative was worked through with teachers and unions in coming months, Key said the government's intent was clear.

"We want to recognise excellent teachers and principals, keep good teachers, and share expertise across schools and amongst teachers."

Key's speech comes just four days ahead of Labour leader David Cunliffe's inaugural State of the Nation address in Auckland. With a general election looming by the end of November, the speech appears intended both to build on the government's national standards policy - popular among many parents, but widely disliked by teachers - and to take political high ground ahead of new Labour initiatives that Cunliffe can announce.

New Zealand's education system was "good ... but not as good as it could be," said Key, citing international comparisons showing 15 year olds today are performing in maths at lower levels than their counterparts in 2000.

The gap between the achievement of the highest and lowest performing students had also been widening, "despite a lot more money being spent on education."


Comments and questions

Declining education achievement is a result of increasing inequality in our society. Educational achievement correlaties strongly with socio-economic status. That is, kids in schools in wealthier areas perform better than kids in poorer areas. If the Government wants to improve educational standards, they should work to improve the standard of living of those areas with underachievement. This "change manager" approach to schools with low levels of achievement ignores the root cause of the problem and will not solve the problem.

"should work to improve the standard of living of those area"

And your suggestion here are?

Better management of the economy?

The whole world is praising NzZ economic management by the government. Compared to other countries, the recession had minor impact. Wake up!

Why is it the Government's job to improve the standard of living in those areas? Surely its job is to make sure that everybody has the same opportunities; which in education means giving every child a voucher and then letting the schools compete for pupils.

Act Party theory. About as connected with reality as Marie Antoinette. (And she, like the Act Party, didn't have a happy ending.)

Your response seems typical of the left: when someone proposes that increased choice might be a solution to a problem, such as education vouchers, the idea is shot down. I figure this is for two reasons: first, the left think they know better how people should live their lives than people themselves, and secondly, it would be too great a shock to their deeply held beliefs when, once presented with clear avenues to better their situation, many of the left's supporters don't do a jolly thing with said opportunity, thereby giving up the lie that they are being held back by causes other than themselves.

Inequality be damned.

Its your individual life choices that make the differerence. If you drink, smoke, live at the pokies, disrespect employers, spend and not save, have hire purchase on depreciating items,you will stay at the bottom.

If you save, advance your personal capital , responsibility and independence, respect others, stay away from the vices you can do very nicely

Correlation is not causation. Where is the direct causal link between rising income inequality and falling educational achievement (as a trend, and not just at the levels)? Is it not plausible that the causation is equally if not more likely the other way around - that is,widening gaps in educational achievement lead to widening gaps in income levels? That doesn't diminish the fact that the relevant cycles do become self-reinforcing, as the available teacher resource becomes unequally distributed across areas of different socio-economic status. Giving everyone the same income does not suddenly make all kids equally smart, but giving low-income kids access to the same quality of teachers and schools as kids in high income areas certainly equalises the opportunities available to each group. It appears that this policy might just do something about the teacher misallocation, if it really is the good teachers and principals who will get the salary premia to go to under-performing schools (as an alternative to going to a bigger one). But if it is just treated as a 'reward' for any teacher taking on a job in problem schools, then its doomed to fail.

So if I read you right, the teachers in the poorer area are less smart than the ones in richer areas? Or the other alternative is that the kids in the poorer areas are less smart. It has nothing to do with individual achievement or pursuit of success, or even government dependency or lack of priorities in succeeding.

Kids on wealthier areas do better because their parents care more about education. They are professional themselves and know the value of education. They set high standards for their kids and help them achieve those. You you find out that they smoke less, they rely less on government support

Poor old Principals should be able to trade-in their old bone shakers for more upmarket and cheap Japanese cars, and park next to the sport cars driven by most rich young foreign students....

Better education initiatives are a welcome election battleground. Come on David/Russel take this National aspiration and beat it.

Not sure that this is an initiative that could improve educational outcomes.

Can't wait to see what the teachers unions response will be. They have never had much time for National nor its policies in the past.

Pots of gold offered to incentivise teachers and principals to jolt them out of inertia and indifference. Yep, wads of cash is the panacea for our educational shortcomings (of which there are plenty). The Wall Street Banker mentality rears its ugly head, once again.
Don't you just love it: the new feel-good buzzword to drive this campaign is "Change Principals", the business-equivalent of Team Leader.

NZ PM, Mr KEY is barking at the wrong tree, and all unfortunate NZ school teachers are at his mercy.
Perhaps he and his Education Ministry should be tackling the NZ Teacher Training Colleges and other relevant NZ Institutions, to keep up to the World's ifs or buts.

Would be good to see the NZ Govt also address NZ's non accountable, private healthcare system.

NZ public currently pay Top Dollar ( More than Europe & USA) for a reckless operating environment of no accountability, that fosters, promotes and encourages, incompetence, dishonesty, fraud etc. vs. professional and technical excellence.

Staggering NZ have a health system that places no value to human life.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the teacher unions were actually concerned about educational performance rather than espousing a political ideology. At least National is trying something.

Sir Lord King John Key is the finest PM NZ has ever had. This new policy is great for the schools and the people. I see very little negative implications of this policy.

The big catch to this Utopian proposal is that it is highly unlikely that we have anything like this number of really good teachers.

Too many many are simply incompetent in what is supposed to be their area of expertise. By far the majority of English teachers are useless, which is why the diversionary tactics of media studies, computer usage, setting projects,making films, videos, etc are all used and are quite wrongly described as the new literacy.

in fact, literacy, including both written and spoken English, is at an all-time low, even quite obviously among teachers - and their own ignorance is at an all-time high. Maths and science teachers are also failing.

We don't have a quality education system - except for a handful of top schools that take basically no notice of the Ministry - to ensure that the pupils hold their own on the international level,

What would help is a) to insist on teachers passing a performance assessment - that is, to see if they are fit to teach in the own subject, and b) to toss the constantly disruptive children out of classroom. They continually destroy other children's chances of learning and this destructive policy of keeping them in the classroom with special teacher helps is distracting and damaging. Many of them are also bullies.

So much for an atmosphere conducive to learning.

As for John Key - he could never be described as a well-educated individual. This is election year policy. Successive governments have had 50 years to toss out the Ministry and to aim for genuine reform.

'" As for John Key - he could never be described as a well-educated individual. "

Removing political bias from the equation - on what evidence could you frank this statement ?

I work in a secondary school teaching agriculture and biology. I can say with confidence that salaries in the sector are fair as they are, at least in comparison to other jobs going in my community. Having a compensation scheme that could be linked to performance could be a good incentive if they could iron out the statistical difficulties (as "value added" could vary tremendously depending on subject taught etc...). Having immigrated from Canada, where teacher salaries are VERY high and vacancies are few, having a salary scheme which wasn't entirely based on years of service could have potential. The challenge will be to ensure that the scheme is transparent and fair in the application.