Showing posts with label league tables. Show all posts
Showing posts with label league tables. Show all posts

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Misleading league tables

Today is a sad day. A whole year's effort that can be summed up by a parent saying our results based on league tabled published in the West are in the bottom four in the state. This will discourage parents from entering kids in our school, in a year where getting kids is tough due to the half cohort.

Yet, if I go on last years experience, each of the kids listed as sitting four or more TEE subjects, that wanted university entry, will be in university next year or will have deferred for the following year.

For some they will go through the front door and it is a fantastic achievement whether it is with a 60 TER or 99.5 TER. Students reaching their goals is where our focus should be. They have made it with little parental support, limited schooling, some with ESL backgrounds and with a host of social issues.

For some, they are the first students to graduate year 12 in their families. For others, just the opportunity to try for university is an achievement for this generation - a goal which may still eventuate through a uni entrance programme or other 'back door' programme.

At least the independent schools stood up and said the publishing of these tables was wrong.. It's a pity the department and our politicians still don't accept that these tables give a false representation of what is happening post school.

Misleading and a poor use of statistics.

Here is our state Minister's recent comment on the topic. It credits teachers with using a range of assessment to assist in teaching a child and recognises that change is required but does not recognise the damage caused by releasing data that ignores this information!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lack of respect for schools by government

Statements like "The Rudd Government believes it’s time we stopped averting our eyes from poor performance and ensure every Australian child is receiving a world class education" underlines a government directing blame for poor policy onto schools. Julia Gillard, you should be ashamed (see media announcement here). You are oversimplifying a complex problem and right about now you should be realising that this policy decision should quietly disappear.

Government is responsible for the performance of schools and "name and shame" is far from the most effective way to govern schools. In fact it is the clearest sign that government is unable to govern schools if it has to resort to such crass tactics. The Rudd government in particular has shown itself to be a big "criticise all, promise nothing, deliver nothing" blowhard.

To imply that schools are averting their eyes is to ridicule the very basis of public education - that schools and teachers are seeking to bring about the finest education possible for our children. Schools have been handed some very shonky curriculum and behaviour management practices by government - via ill-conceived, poorly researched, implemented and ill-managed government policy. If I was to point the finger it would be there!

To run something into the ground and then put the boot in lacks integrity. It seems to be another attempt at grabbing headlines and a couple of votes.

The best thing is that for Julia another ill conceived notion is backfiring and parents continue to see through the smoke and mirrors (see news poll here where 70% of parents believe league tables should be kept private).

If our community has a lack of respect for their own schools, we should expect the same from our students. Our leaders need to stand up and show leadership through public support for our schools and for the future development of our schools.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Restricting the damage from League Tables

Here's acknowledgement that ACARA will make mistakes when implementing league tables and that league tables have caused issues in other countries for those implementing them. I hope the Federal government realises the potential effect on public schooling straight after the damage done through the tragic implementation of OBE in WA.

This being the case Dr Hill (head of ACARA), it would be a good idea to limit the damage and make sure league tables actually work in one state/territory (I'd suggest NT as that's where NAPLAN shows the biggest issue is) before inflicting it on the rest of the nation. It is utterly irresponsible to do otherwise. We need to learn in education circles from the OBE fiasco... (Learning in education?? Don't be stupid!!) Oh and by the way, progress is not the best indicator of effective change in a school, if your progress is defined by invalid statistics.

On that topic, well done WA, we've taught to the test and improved our NAPLAN scores (see Saturday's West, 12 September p.7). There is still an absence of statistically valid evidence of curriculum improvement and retention of skills and knowledge beyond the test - at least none that I have seen. I wait to see the improvement in year 10's next year that should follow great NAPLAN results (highly unlikely due to changing demographics within the suburbs I teach due to increasing concentrations of refugees & 457 working visas) - I hope I get a performance pay rise too for being "super effective" as our results improve dramatically once normal demographics return and urban gentrification continues.

I hate to say it, as I'm as impatient for change as anyone but let's get the league table concept right (I don't see how but I'm open to rational argument) before implementing anything systemically across the nation. This takes time, which means political time lines of four years with political implementation periods of 2 years against educational timeframes of 14-16 years before success can be measured effectively. I hope someone other than government is given ownership of this issue (institutions, Curriculum Council, WACOT listen carefully)
, someone financially or legally independent from government interference needs to control the education debate. I can't believe I'm promoting three ineffective bodies but the government nonsense has to stop, the damage is potentially worse as Party politics swing with the latest trend.

Bring on the next batch of teacher bashing - we're whingers standing the way of progress. What would we know, we only teach, have degrees and live the education debate. We can't run when policy is wrong. Blaming teachers for poor results in the whole of WA is a cop out - after all teachers are not responsible for the systemic mismanagement of education over a long period of time, government is. We could probably also blame the union movement for something - that's a trendy way to shift blame too.

Politics is again in the way of common sense and we will again have to jump through hurdles for political necessity rather than good practice. Whatever damage is caused should be placed squarely in the lap of Julia Gillard and the Labor party (in the same way they will celebrate any successes). It's a big risk given the failures in other countries that could easily be mitigated through running a simple prototype and having statistically sound evidence of the positive effects first. The teaching fraternity cost the Labor party the state election in WA. Perhaps federal Labor too are forgetting (or have been ineffectively OBE taught) lessons learned in History classes.

Update 8-10-09: Here's another link about validity of league table findings.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Subject selections

I had a call from my dad today who asked, "I've been told all along that your stepbrother is university bound by the school but I have his subject selections for year 11 and they are all level 1 subjects."

When I dug a bit further he had been counselled into 1C English, 2C Maths and some non NCOS subjects. He had been given not recommended for 3A MAT and 3A MAS and told that he would "struggle" in 2A English, 2A Physics and 2A Chemistry.

I think many parents may be getting suggestions like this soon where schools make cautious subject selections to ensure that only the best students seek university entrance and along the way maximise league table results.

This move from encouraging students to seek excellence and challenge themselves towards seeking subjects that they will definitely do well in is contrary to the human spirit (especially when many of the non NCOS subjects lead nowhere). When we seek the improbable, all too often we succeed as we have underestimated our own capabilities. So many students that develop late are currently thrown on the TEE scrap heap without being given an opportunity.

Worse still, many parents still do not understand that level 1 subjects (in general) condemn their child to TAFE and not university - with ECU now saying that level 2 subjects are minimum for entry to university. Schools are effectively moving the university entry point to year 10 rather than pushing students through the year 11/12 learning curve/ litmus test where they have a go. Many TEE students succeed/many fail but all learn about themselves from the experience.

Somewhere we gave up on our youth.. before they turn 16 we drown their dreams in politically correct statements about students finding success and designing courses suitable to their needs. Shoot, we can't even devise an assessment programme systemically that can measure their ability (yes, I am talking about the failed levelling experiment). How can we judge with 100% accuracy who will improve enough to reach university? We are failing the 5-10% of students (or maybe even more if we count those that benefit from the effort) by not making them try to extend to university levels - especially those without environmental or behavioural issues. We have an obligation to encourage them to try, extend themselves and seek excellence.

It always amazes me what kids can do when given opportunities and are taught to value them.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Idiot of the year award for 2009

And the first nomination for the Idiot of the year award for 2009 goes to Julia Gilliard for her school performance reports that are not league tables.

... and would anyone like to guess how long it will take newspapers to collate and release the data in league table form? My guess is not much longer than it takes me to write this blog.

Well done Ms Gillard, what a fair and equitable system you are creating for working class Australia that cannot afford private education.

I won't even start on what I think about 6 week teaching courses.. if Ms Gillard had suggested teaching apprenticeships on the other hand (we all recognise that practicum is the most useful part of teacher training).. but could teaching practitioners handle being referred to as a tradies (other than the shed boys) instead of as professionals??

Here's a link to an article with mock ups of school performance reports. See for yourself.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Education revolution - Bah humbug!

When someone uses revolution in a sentence, I usually put the following talk in the same category as others that include inclusive, flexible, robust and my all time favourite.. well... I try not to be cynical but election campaigns are always full of sensational headlines and little else when you dig a little deeper.

Here comes the usual garbage through my letterbox from state government politicians talking about greening the planet whilst cutting trees putting junk mail into my letterbox that goes direct to the bin. The latest junk being performance tables for schools.

I am not an advocate for school league tables. A better indicator for prospective parents is to speak to local parents about how students were treated by the school over the five year period. A school's reputation is its life blood. Conversely collating data and independent analysis privately reviewed is a great idea. Acting on these issues and seeking remedies over time in the public's best interest would be fantastic.

The only reason to release league tables is to accept that the government cannot act in the best interest of the public and the public needs access to the information to decide for itself. To accept this is to accept that the public has lost the faith in government. This is a direct indictment on the quality of our political leaders and public servants. One only has to look at how elections are won and lost - often on the actions of individuals rather than on their ability to govern. If parents had faith in government, the decision of parents would be geographical or financial as it has always been. Devolution of responsibility to schools is open acceptance that government cannot accept the responsibility/risk associated with governing schools. They are not capable or willing to remedy issues and are relying on market forces to do it for them. This is the heart of the safety net path I discussed in an earlier post (we'll take them if no one else will).

There are many reasons for poor results and to release the data with no analysis of why it has happened is not fair on a school. A school has poor results for many reasons - poor teaching, demographic change, a change in leadership, weak leadership, a lack of experienced staff, a large number of inexperienced staff, behavioural issues with specific students/classes, resourcing, a weak cohort, changing curriculum, socioeconomic reasons, issues with feeder schools. The list is unending.

Will a poor school be able to attract better students to raise its status after negative reports? Will poor reports relegate a school to a slippery slide of not attracting better students or teachers for fear of the school closing?

And what makes a good school? Is it the results of the top ten percent? The number of students without criminal records after five years? University entries? Students that gain incomes over $100,000? Students that don't end up divorced? Students that do well/better on standardised tests? Schools where parents are happy? Low teacher turnover?

How will statistics provide a fair and equitable benchmark for measurement of performance when high and low performance of students, teachers and administration is nigh on impossible to define and measure? People get very clever at analysing how scores can be manipulated.

I must say that I think these questions raise more questions than answers and that politically it seems it is just a smokescreen aimed to reduce inflationary pressures caused by police/teacher/nurse/public service wage claims and take away the focus from economic forces.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

School ranking in WA and the need for small classes

Low socio-economic areas have the same numbers of bright kids than high socio-economic areas but with many environmental factors affecting their grades. These students are now reliant on alternate entry paths as cross state assessment (moderation) has created geographical location bias - student IQ is no longer a consideration when assessed, kids in low socioeconomic areas are no longer scaled for their environmental inequity.

One only has to look at a disadvantaged area of Perth such as North East - Girrawheen, Balga, Warwick, Mirrabooka, Koondoola, Ballajura. These areas have gone through urban renewal which means there are now pockets of high ability students and schools with little or no TEE capability left.

In 2007/2008 Balcatta SHS (31/31 students), Balga SHS (0/0 students), Girrawheen SHS (15/18 students), Mirrabooka SHS (18/19 students) and Warwick SHS (43/38 students) all had less than 50 students sitting 4 or more TEE subjects - the general minimum for front door university entry. Each school had no more than 30% of these reaching above a TER of 66%. This means that students in these schools have at maximum 15 students that are capable of traditional university entry and of supporting each other towards this goal. If we take away the ability for these schools to offer small class sizes (as is current DET policy) we are effectively closing the front door to university for students in these areas.

I suggest that alternatives such as GATE programmes are not viable for these students as they generally lack the mobility, maturity and financial capability to travel distances to specialist schools. Nor is correspondence such as SIDE an option for students that require high levels of support to succeed due to environmental constraints (I know I couldn't do TEE calculus by email).

Data used can be found here: pages 23-27.

League Tables for all schools 2000-2009 can be found here:
The myschool website can be found here

(Updated 9 January 2009)
(Updated 14 January 2010)
(Updated 28 January 2010)
(Updated 5 January 2011)