Prepared by Penny Bishop, July 2008
with funding from the sponsors of the Ian Axford (New Zealand) Fellowships in Public Policy
Penny Bishop is a Professor of Middle Level Education and Director of the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education at the University of Vermont in Burlington. She holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership and directs three grants, bringing over $5 million dollars to Vermont schools to improve the learning of middle grades students. Penny serves on the National Middle School Association’s Research Board and is President of the American Educational Research Association’s Middle Level Education Research group. She is co-author of three books and numerous articles on middle grades practice.
During Penny’s Ian Axford Fellowship exchange to New Zealand she was based at the Ministry of Education in Wellington, where she researched teacher credentialing and the education of young adults.
New Zealand has earned an international reputation for educational excellence, regularly scoring in the top four OECD countries for academic achievement. At the same time, New Zealand faces relatively high early-school leaving rates and relatively low tertiary attendance. Keeping students in school is an essential step toward the governmental priority of fostering an intellectual economy. Schools Plus is a recent policy aimed at students in senior secondary years, providing flexible learning opportunities to increase student engagement. Yet New Zealand data demonstrate that students who leave school early often disengage in the middle years, earlier than senior secondary school. These data mirror US findings, which identified four powerful predictors of later school drop out as early as sixth grade.
This study examined teacher credentialing in New Zealand in relation to the educational needs of young adolescents. Based on six months of participant observation, over seventy hours of interviewing, and extensive document analysis, the report illustrates general agreement across stakeholder groups regarding a common skill set necessary for effective teachers of the middle years and the need for specialised middle years preparation. Policy recommendations include:
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