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Insights 25: 13 July 2018
Latest opinion: Sam Warburton explains how the Auckland fuel tax is regressive
Upcoming Wellington event: Philippe Legrain on how our open world is under threat
Latest interview: Dr Oliver Hartwich talks to the NBR about the unfolding Brexit debacle

A Brexit shootout
Dr Oliver Hartwich | Executive Director |
This year’s football World Cup held a big surprise: England can win a penalty shootout (oh, and please don't mention the German performance - I know).

If you are not into football, you might wonder what is so hard about kicking a ball into the goal from short distance. But ask previous English internationals, and they can tell you how to miss the goal altogether from the spot.

What we are watching in British politics is not that different.

Two years ago, British voters instructed their politicians to organise the UK’s exit from the European Union. But the resignations of Brexit Minister David Davis and Foreign Minister Boris Johnson are just the latest events in a tragicomedy of Brexit errors.

Yes, Brexit is more complicated than a penalty shootout. But Prime Minister Theresa May made it look much harder than it needed to be.

There would have been a straightforward way of executing Brexit. It was outlined by former British Trade Secretary Peter Lilley, whom the Initiative hosted for lectures last year.

Britain should have converted all existing European laws into British laws to provide domestic certainty.

It should have then offered the EU a comprehensive free trade deal, which would have been easy to accept and implement since that is the status quo. As Lilley said, “We’ve got zero tariffs and we want to go to zero tariffs - that can be done in an afternoon.”

Failing that, Britain should have maintained zero tariffs for imports from the EU unless the EU imposed tariffs on Britain.

Organising Brexit along those lines would have put Britain in a strong negotiating position vis-à-vis Brussels. Instead, Prime Minister May turned Brexit into a complete mess.

By oscillating between a hard and a soft Brexit, she only strengthened the EU’s negotiating position. May was no longer in charge of making an offer to Brussels. She had to beg for concessions from the EU and then sell them to the various wings of her own party.

The basic problem is May herself. Having tepidly campaigned for Remain, she has always been the wrong person to lead Britain towards Brexit. That task should have fallen to someone from the other camp, say Michael Gove or Boris Johnson.

As the Brexit negotiations move towards extra time, it takes a team captain with better oversight, strategy and nerves than May.

Who knows, perhaps the British government can still surprise us like the English football team?

A better way to measure school effectiveness
Joel Hernandez | Policy Analyst |
You should not compare apples with oranges. But what about schools? As it turns out, comparing schools with schools can be just as problematic.

School composition can vary significantly between different deciles and within the same decile. Some of these differences include prior student academic achievement, the student’s parents’ level of education, and the student’s parents’ average income.

We know from the vast amounts of education research that these student characteristics (which are outside the control of the school) are significant factors in a student’s academic success.

So how do we objectively compare schools?

The United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia have all built contextualised value-added (VA) models. These models estimate how much a school (and teacher) adds to a student’s education, accounting for the socioeconomic background of the students and the characteristics of the school (roll size, single-sex, rural, etc) (i.e. the context of the VA model).

The estimates from a contextualised VA model indicate a school’s contribution to its students’ learning, relative to the contribution of the average school (after adjusting for differences in student and school characteristics).

These VA estimates are not about student achievement levels like NCEA level 1, 2 and 3. They are about demonstrating the effectiveness of a school.  

The VA measures do not tell us why some schools add more value than others. However, they give us a starting point by identifying the effective schools from which we can learn from.

What are we doing in New Zealand?

Using Statistics New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI), The New Zealand Initiative is building New Zealand’s first contextualised VA model.

By combining administrative data in the IDI from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Social Development, New Zealand Police, the Department of Corrections, and Immigration New Zealand, our contextualised VA model will be able to adjust for each student’s socioeconomic background as well as the characteristics of each secondary school in New Zealand.

The goal of our contextualised VA model is to demonstrate that schools in New Zealand can be objectively compared. It will allow us to show the range of school effectiveness among secondary schools in New Zealand.

We suspect that once you control for each student’s socioeconomic background the variation in school outcomes (NCEA achievement, progression to tertiary education, and employment) is much smaller than what we see in school league tables.

The data will tell us, and you, the state of school effectiveness in New Zealand.

Game show policy
Ben Craven | Project Coordinator |
Game shows are nothing new. They’re a dime a dozen.

We have all seen shows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Wheel of Fortune, and The Price Is Right.

These types of shows are popular because we like seeing everyday people succeed, become winners, and realise their dreams. Well, it’s either that or we’re suckers for schadenfreude.

This week a new game show launched in the US, titled Paid Off.

Host Michael Torpey tests the skills of the three contestants with questions relating to general knowledge, pop culture and their personal areas of study.

And the show is causing quite a storm. Not for the nature of the competition, but for the prizes being offered. The show entices contestants with a promise that the winner will have their outstanding student loan paid off in full.

The concept has struck a chord with thousands of young Americans saddled with debt who were quick to apply. I imagine it can only be a matter of time before New Zealand launches its own version some years down the track.

In fact, there is already some movement in this area.

The other week Housing Minister Phil Twyford announced that prospective first home buyers could now register for the KiwiBuild ballot. In a gameshow-esque fashion, he lauded the 6,000 applications in the first day, while commentators announced that the registrations were a sign of public faith in the policy.

Yet, I can’t help but feel the Minister is selling himself short.

Why not take some inspiration from the Americans and turn the ballot into a show instead?

The Kiwiana Quiz could test applicants on everything from deep Dave Dobbyn lyrics, to one’s Pavlova-making potential.

Gumboot throwing and sheep shearing could be rehabilitated for prime time TV as contestants duel it out to prove they are the ultimate Kiwi Battler.

The winner would be eligible for a KiwiBuild house, while the losers would see their dreams dashed.

It would be gripping. There would be highs. There would be lows. There might even be some tears.

But all in all it would undoubtedly make for great television.

Now of course we could always simply reform planning laws and make it cheaper and easier to build the houses people are struggling to afford. But really, where’s the fun in that?

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