The State of Schooling

Joel Hernandez
Insights Newsletter
14 August, 2020

Every parent wants to give their child the best start in life – but when it comes to schooling, does money buy success?

In the latest New Zealand Initiative report, we show state-integrated schools may be the best value for money, at least when it comes to University Entrance (UE) attainment.

State-integrated schools are defined by their special character (for instance, religious or special teaching method such as Montessori). Compared to private schools they have significantly lower fees, around $1500 per year rather than $20,000.

Using our school performance tool built in Statistics NZ’s Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI), we reveal that on average state-integrated schools marginally outperform private schools after adjusting for family socioeconomic background. We also show that both state-integrated and private schools tend to outperform state schools.

In practice, this means the average student attending a state school is estimated to have a 30.5% chance of attaining UE. But at a state-integrated school, this improves to 38.8% or 37.4% in a private school.

Our data cannot show why state-integrated schools are so successful. It may be the more traditional teaching methods, better classroom discipline, more knowledge-rich curriculums – or something else entirely.

But knowing which schools perform well would let the Education Review Office (ERO) find the answer.

In addition to showing average school performance, our tool identified (anonymously) which schools perform in the top quarter of all secondary schools. These schools outperformed expectations given the unique characteristics of their students.

A total of 51 out of 330 (15.5%) state, 42 out of 93 (45.2%) state-integrated and 24 out 36 (66.7%) private schools made it into our top-performing category.

Using a combination of ERO, our tool and permission from a range of top, middle and low-performing schools the Ministry of Education could identify which practices lead to the best outcomes for students.

Since 2000, educational standards in New Zealand have dropped dramatically. The OECD once found Kiwi 15-year-olds leading the world but they have now slipped to the middle of the pack. New Zealand also has the strongest relationship between socioeconomic background and education performance of its English-speaking peers.

The Ministry should be beating down the Initiative’s door to identify these outlier schools so every kid in New Zealand can benefit from best practice teaching.

To read more about The State of Schooling, click here.

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