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Insights 8: 13 March 2020
John Campbell talks to Eric Crampton on TVNZ Breakfast about how we can measure school performance fairly and objectively
Podcast: Joel Hernandez unveils the real success of three Kiwi secondary schools
New report: Insights and Excellence: School success in New Zealand

We will all be Italian
Dr Oliver Hartwich | Executive Director |
What happened in Italy this week could tempt us to feel smug.

Surely, the decision to put the whole country into lockdown must be an exaggeration. Perhaps those Italians did not manage their affairs well enough. Italians have always been a bit melodramatic, right?

If that is your response you do not understand either Italy or this new coronavirus.

Despite all that is usually wrong with Italy’s government, bureaucracy and economy, this time Italy got most things right. Still, its initial steps were not enough to prevent the spread of the virus. And this led the government under Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to make an unenviable choice.

Conte could have tried to just slow the spread of the virus while keeping public life as open as possible. Or he could have dramatically acted to stop it even at the risk of crippling the Italian economy.

Conte chose the latter. But really, he did not have a choice.

After more than 300 deaths, no government could have sat by to watch the virus decimate the elderly. While the virus’ lethality is low in younger and healthier cohorts, it is not so for older people. Italy’s median age is among the world’s highest.

No government could have idly witnessed a surge of Covid-19 cases overwhelm its health system. While the virus may only require hospitalisation for 15 percent of cases, if these cases all happen at once, it will exceed hospitals’ capacity.

So, Conte had to take dramatic action. By bringing Italy to a standstill, he will do the utmost to keep contagion to a minimum. Unfortunately, that also means wreaking havoc on the Italian economy.

In my Newsroom column this week, I described the dramatic coronavirus consequences for the Italian economy. The Italian economy is likely to collapse. Government debt will explode. There could be a banking crisis. Even the Euro might fail.

And still, you cannot blame Prime Minister Conte for his choices. He had to take the lesser of two evils.

Sadly, by the same logic of contagion, the Italian fate now awaits most other nations. Soon Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel, Donald Trump, Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern will have to make the same decision as Giuseppe Conte. Just a few weeks later.

We will all be Italian.

Great education needs a push
Joel Hernandez | Policy Analyst |
What if the principal and chair of trustees of each of New Zealand’s 500 secondary schools received a report every year that cut through the noise to show exactly how their school was performing?

Crucially, this report would be objective, data-driven and fair, because it adjusts for the unique community of students each school serves. In practice, this would mean a decile 1 school in South Auckland could fairly compare itself with the decile 5 and 10 schools down the road, not to mention the decile 1 school in Porirua.

The report would also show how the school performs over time and compared to every other secondary school in the country.

Sounds like a pipe dream, right? Well, it isn’t.

This week, the New Zealand Initiative launched the latest in a line of education research demonstrating exactly how its ground-breaking new tool could generate exactly these reports.

Insights and Excellence: School Success in New Zealand ran three individual schools through our model as a proof-of-concept demonstration of the tool unveiled in our previous report, In Fairness to Our Schools: Better measures for better outcomes.

Using integrated data already collected by the Ministry of Education and other government agencies, the tool is the first in the world to separate the contribution of family background from the contribution of each school.

The three initial school reports highlight the success of both low and high decile schools performing in the top 25% for NCEA levels 1 and 2 and University Entrance. They also track how each school’s performance changed over time, with surprising results at both ends of the decile spectrum.

This tool gives principals and boards of trustees an objective, fair and more accurate picture of how their school is performing.

The aim is not to give gold stars to New Zealand’s high performing schools or create new league tables. Rather, it is to help all schools improve, first by understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and then by helping them identify which schools they can learn from.  

The Initiative has done the hard work to build this model. It took us two years. It is now time the ministry adopted it and sent the reports to principals and trustees.

However, the ministry is currently “gauging schools' reactions to the NZI release to see if they would find value in the measure," according to an article about the report in the NZ Herald.

Parents, principals and boards of trustees must start requesting this information from the ministry.

School improvement needs pressure from individuals like you and me.

Joel Hernandez' new report Insights and Excellence: School Success in New Zealand is available here.

Luke Redward | Research Intern |
Some of us have been training for a scenario like this our entire lives!
Coronavirus has hit and in the early public reaction to the outbreak, there are already talks of a possible nation-wide quarantine or “self-isolation” policy.
I may be an introverted troglodyte, but I’m not selfish. I don’t wish to be a part of the unnecessary spread of this disease. So, I am here to spill trade secrets from my introversion on how to safely keep yourself occupied while indoors for two weeks.
The first task is to create a hoard of food to make even Smaug jealous. I recommend avoiding supermarkets as there are far too many people there – and everyone knows being among large crowds is the perfect environment for an anxiety attack, too.
Instead, jump online to and order as many bags of Doritos and bottles of Mountain Dew you can. After all, this virus panic could last for months. You don’t want to be forced to live off Code Red flavoured Dew because all the good flavours ran out.
When that’s sorted, I highly recommend taking an audit of all your social events planned over these next few months. Perhaps your weekly Dungeons and Dragons session is now a bit risky. No worries. My group is going digital for a few weeks, which seems to be the wider trend anyway. Even the Supreme Pontiff is jumping on this bandwagon after he announced he’ll perform the mass virtually rather than at the Vatican.
Next, audit every activity you can possibly do at home to stay occupied. I know you’re expecting a Gen-Z like me to immediately suggest electronics. However, as anybody can tell you, relying on the New Zealand Netflix sounds about as appetising as bat soup. So, if Netflix is all you have, a VPN could help (if you know what I mean).
If that fails, there are plenty of other things to choose from. Settlers of Catan as a must have board game for you and your flatmates to enjoy. Or you could dust off the old card deck of Magic the Gathering and reintroduce yourself to the game.
Whatever you choose to occupy your time, just ensure some of it is spent (while using plenty of hand sanitiser) with friends and whanau, even if the only option is a Skype group call.
Kia kaha!

On The Record
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