Articulation, Feb 2018: We’re all cool with innovation here, right?

I read a lot, and without some kind of reflection, usually forget what I read. “Articulation” is an attempt to connect some of the dots.

How leaders can master persuasion as a skill and habit (First Round Review)
In which a Google engineer reads Daniel Kahnman’s Thinking Fast and Slow and goes on the lecture circuit; or, how to get everyone to agree without thinking too hard about it. Which leads us to…

How Betsy DeVos softened her message on school choice (Politico)
In which the beleaguered U.S. Secretary of Education learns that people are less testy about ideas that come packaged as “innovation.” Like school choice. And on that note…

New Zealand is a school choice utopia. But do students perform better? (PBS)
In which, much like a parent doing some school shopping, the “BBI Sports Cloud” distracts me from wondering what academic performance looks like, and systemic white flight from “low decile” schools is discussed.

Note: Several key features of the New Zealand education system mentioned in the PBS article, published for a U.S. audience, are now out of date, including (1) Though still widely known, decile levels are no longer publicly reported, replaced by an internal “Risk Index” that will drive school funding (2) Performance on National Standards is no longer reported annually in lower grade levels  (3) The entire 1989 Tomorrow’s Schools governance model and operating framework is under review as the new Labour government tries to put together a 30-year vision for education

 

 

 

5 resources for learning the Māori language

From Te Waipounamu to Te Ika a Maui, one of the more striking aspects of being in New Zealand/Aotearoa is its bilingualism.   Māori words and phrases pepper perfectly routine English sentences in the newspapers, TV, and radio. Much of the geography and wildlife of Aotearoa is known in singularly Māori terms. And government agencies list their titles and much of their signage in words I understand and those I absolutely have to learn more about.

The recognition of te reo Māori has not come without a struggle – there was a time when speaking it in schools was prohibited, for example (brief history here).  But since 1987 Māori has been recognized as an official language of New Zealand.

With a relatively short amount of time here, I’ve been doing what I can to learn as much te reo as possible. Here’s a few resources I’ve found particularly helpful.

1. Online dictionary and grammar tools
For looking up a single word, I’m partial to maoridictionary.co.nz for its thorough explanations of words with multiple significant meanings.  For grammar  I’ve found kupu.maori.nz quite helpful when wondering about a general approach to language, such as how to ask questions.

2. Books and workbooks
On the road, having a copy of “Māori Place Names” on the dashboard was indispensable – so many locations in New Zealand are named for natural features, with names that fly by or blend together until they are unpacked.  I picked up a copy of  “Teach Yourself Māori” a while ago which I’m going to go ahead and *not* recommend  it – a lot of my time has been spent trying to make sense of the formatting of the book. I’m intrigued by these Māori Made Easy books and workbooks and their 30-minutes/day approach, but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. [ED: Picked one up on Feb. 22, loving it]

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Context: New Zealand and American education

Ty Cobb hit .366 over a storied baseball career. Sir Don Bradman posted a 99.4 mark in cricket. Both .366 and 99.4 fall under the category of “batting averages.”

While I can immediately place Cobb’s batting average in context, it takes some furious googling to know what goes into “The Don’s” mark.

I’m facing this kind of challenge daily as I try to acclimate to a new education system. A “standard” here isn’t necessarily a standard there, a college in one place is a high school in another, and all sorts of other terms need clarification (an early thanks to those who’ve paused to explain the basics, repeatedly).

The implications for the speed at which I’m able to work or dig into details are large. To summarize some cognitive science for a second, when you have limited background knowledge on a topic, your working memory (which processes information in the moment) is easily taxed. The more background knowledge you have stored in long-term memory, the quicker you’ll be able to process new or unfamiliar bits of information.  

In the U.S., I’m fairly fluent on the mechanics of most education systems – how many students are served, how success is measured, how organizations are typically staffed and structured, etc. I take a lot of this knowledge for granted as it’s been built up for years as a student, teacher, and professional. It enables me to immediately register basic facts and keep conversations moving beyond widely understood information.

In New Zealand, I’m still developing that fluency. And while being a newcomer allows me to ask some simple questions that might prompt reflection on assumptions that haven’t been tested in awhile, those questions can also slow things down quite a bit.

So in an effort to lock in some essential facts about the scale and operations of education in the U.S. and New Zealand I’d like to spend a bit of time today focused comparing some of the basic features that have frequently come up in conversations so far. (comparison being an effective method for learning).

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First things first

I suppose I should start with a bit of an explanation of why I’ve come to to New Zealand, or as a colleague at the Ministry of Education put it, “What did you come halfway around the world for?”

The whole opportunity was made possible through by the Ian Axford Fellowship in Public Policy, a program managed by Fulbright New Zealand and sponsored by various government agencies here. The goal is to bring fresh perspective to both sides of the Pacific, enabling American professionals to embed themselves at government organizations in New Zealand in order to build personal connections, develop understanding of critical policy areas, and exchange ideas. I am profoundly grateful to the board of the Ian Axford Fellowship and staff of Fulbright New Zealand for affording me the chance to live and work here, and to the Ministry of Education and Network for Learning for serving as my home offices and project sponsors. That said, as in the disclaimer, all views expressed in this space are my own. And while my work is education-focused I’ll also be offering up insights and updates on travel, culture, and living in Wellington.

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