Showing posts with label media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label media. Show all posts

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Headlines rather than journalism

The poor journalism at Channel 7 continues with a sensationalist report aimed at placing doubt on teacher quality by drawing conclusions from statements that were not causal.

The headline stated that teacher quality was the main reason for state school improvement, whereas Neil Hunt (the principal of Churchlands SHS) stated that teacher improvement programmes were a major factor. A poor quality teacher cannot improve, teacher quality has little to do with the quality of improvement programmes.

Sharon ONeil called for schools to closely examine student statistics. This also is not a statement about teacher quality. Underlying this statement is the fact that lower student input in year 7/8 means that lower student output in year 12 is also likely. Where state schools competed outside of the big five with competitive entry (Perth Mod, Churchlands, Rossmoyne, Shenton, Willeton) then there is something very good going on in those schools and they should get a pat on the back (Belridge, Duncraig etc.).

Should we fire a new teacher because they are gaining experience? Should only teachers with experience teach at higher levels? Is a C result for a class of disaffected kids worse than an A result in a talented and motivated class in a green leafy? How do we measure quality and their results? Teacher quality is not a quantifiable measure of a school.

Furthermore, I suppose the media thinks that saying it's the best achievement in years is help but it is disingenuous if you then immediately show that state schools are performing worse than private and independent schools - they have re-inforced the gap especially if connections to catholic and SES status are not also drawn. Sensationalist, with little purpose and damaging to the sector. A report completely lacking journalistic integrity.

If the media continues to bash state schools then we can't expect to close the gap to the private sector. We ask a lot of low SES kids, when they compete with kids with strong educational backgrounds. To compete effectively we need to attract more middle class kids that have clear examples of the benefits of an education.

I understand that some level of criticism and improvement must be publicised for parents to again get confidence in the public system, but we have to be careful in its implementation and remember that the core of the issues faced are as a result of poor government management, planning and implementation over a long period of time (especially during the OBE implementation). To scapegoat teachers as requiring "quality" improvement (inferring that teachers in general lack quality without stating whom, what or how it will be fixed), damages the integrity of the system and does not attempt to address the underlying issues causing the fall in standards.

For state schools to improve they need to attract the full range of students, not just those that can't afford private education. If the current trend continues, most state schools will become part of a safety net, ending in continued inequity for low SES families.

For the profession to increase in status and output, we need to acknowledge the good work done, manage improvement where necessary and ensure applicants have the capability and training to do a good job. I'll leave it to the experts to manage how these changes can be brought into effect.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Creating an 'unAustralian' education system

An article in the Australian discusses the challenge of improving schooling in Australia. Another article with opinion and without supporting facts to back them up. What has happened to our media? Why can they not develop a position and then report with supporting or refuting evidence!

The main points were:
  1. Development of a national curriculum (supported).
  2. Minimising or even abandoning plans for national testing programs (supported).
  3. Funding private and public schools on the same basis (?).
  4. Auditing the intellectual capital -- that is, teacher quality -- in all schools (?).
  5. Greater autonomy for schools and principals (?).
  6. Creating a federation of schools, in line with the British model (?).
  7. Refurbishing or replacing most school buildings constructed in the 20th century (supported).
  8. Increasing the business sector's involvement in education, including private funding of schools through foundations and trusts (supported with reservations).
Part three: By doing this we are accepting that we will have a two+ tier society. Those that can afford private schooling and those that can't. Public schools cannot compete with schools that have equal funding with private schools and are supplemented through school fees. Those students that cannot pay fees in private schools will be disadvantaged (students in private schools schools already have the advantage of rapid exit of undesirable students, this is their USP). Public schooling should be given more of the public purse than private schools. Our disadvantaged kids need our support. How is further disadvantaging them going to prepare them to compete equally in the workforce - it just creates an underclass. The funding ethos put forward is grossly capitalist and American. It is decidedly unAustralian.

Part four: Sure, let's audit teachers, how and who shall do it? What makes a good teacher? What happens if a teacher fails the audit? How do we re-educate them? Who plans and pays for the implementation? Who is to blame for poorly performing students - the teacher, past teachers? It's nonsense.

Part five: Where is the research that greater autonomy for schools leads to better student outcomes? The idea is counter intuitive. Surely re-inventing administration currently centralised cannot be cheaper, as flexible to change or as easily monitored than decentralised at a school level. All decentralisation does is decentralise blame for a system that isn't working very efficiently. Today is a time of centralisation as information technology closes the efficiency gains once found through decentralisation. Analysis and change coordinated at one location is far more efficient than directing responsibility to islands of learning.

Part six: I have no idea yet what this idea is of federated schools in the UK but I haven't heard the UK system as a model system for eons. I must investigate this further.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Newspaper reporting

I had the unfortunate experience today of reading the Australian and again finding an article that showed little research and was basically just a beat up bit of sensationalist nonsense. I am happy to beat up the union under normal circumstances but this article in my opinion is poor journalism as it uses emotive language and unsupportable assertions.

"How will it wangle agreement on education reform from state Labor governments beholden to teachers unions? When the West Australian teachers union won pay increases of 21.7 per cent earlier this year, union boss Anne Gisborne boasted that "one of the strongest elements behind this has been the political campaigning that our members have had on track for eight to 10 weeks".

If Janet Albrechtsen had done her research she would know that the 21.7% was not seen as a win, nor was the main push by the union (the push was from state government onto the union to resolve the agreement to the satisfaction of the state government to prevent the wage claim being an election issue). The offer was seen as so poor by union members (don't get me started again on how misleading it is to call it a 21.7% increase without clarification that it is over 3 years and that only a small percentage of teachers would receive that amount.. blah.. blah.. blah..) that it was rejected despite direction from the "union boss" to the contrary. This is hardly the stuff of a powerful union and more of a union boss beholden to state government.

More so it is bizarre that she has chosen WA today as the example of a Labor government/union impediment to federalism as WA now has a Liberal government.

"Consider the union reaction to the Rudd Government's education revolution outlined last month by the Prime Minister and his deputy, Education Minister Julia Gillard. Reforms to make education more transparent by mandatory reporting of student results, allowing parents to compare school performance? Opposed by unions."
And rightly so. Anyone working within a school would know that socioeconomic factors influence the ability of students to perform. Yes, students are as bright in low socioeconomic areas as in other areas but the effect of poor environment and lack of parental support cannot and should not be discounted. This affects school results greatly. Comparing school results puts undesirable pressure on schools to focus on measurables and not on the best possible education of a student. One only needs to look at the effects of league tables in WA and the outcome of students being discouraged to take TEE subjects as a key negative outcome of mandatory reporting.

"Transparency and accountability reforms that will enable the most disadvantaged schools to be identified and receive extra funding of $500,000 for your average school so that they may improve? Opposed by unions."
How will comparable schools be identified and how will improvement be defined? Provide a reasonable workable model and there would be support for such measures. Make overarching statements with deadlines for implementation that can only produce wafty goals and of course there will be opposition. The major reason for the reduction in educational results in WA schools is OBE and the rise of the heterogeneous classroom. In disadvantaged schools this has been a disaster as teaching 4-5 different levels in a classroom has resulted in dumbing down of curriculum. Government fault yes, school fault no.

"Moves to give greater autonomy and flexibility for principals to hire staff? Opposed by unions."
Ok. I agree with Janet here. Permanency is an archaic concept as is the indenture model inflicted on teaching graduates. A move to a currency based economy where scarcity drives salary is desirable (but can the state afford it?).

"Moves to introduce performance-based pay for teachers to encourage better teachers? Opposed by unions."
Performance management in schools is non-existent/ineffective. Fix this first and then introduce performance based pay. With the limited management skills and time available in schools today, the introduction of another layer of administrative requirement would take time, money and skills the sector clearly does not have.

"Moves to introduce a national curriculum so that students moving between states and territories can access a seamless education system? Opposed by unions."
Yes, and it is no wonder given that we have just overcome the last educational fad. The ability of government to deal in 3 to 4 year terms does not equate to the requirements of educational facilities that run to 12 year periods. Bipartisan support is required from both sides of the political fence to adequately trial and research the effects of a curriculum in a range of schools across Australia before implementing in all schools. This is of course politically unacceptable as the completion time is greater than one political term.

Thankfully blogging is an outlet for opinion and the need for accuracy is lessened as by definition and intent it is a discussion between the reader and writer on a topic. It is scary when journalists are allowed to present poor research in the form of fact within traditional media. The public can be given the completely wrong impression through faith in journalistic integrity. I must admit, like many readers, my faith is dwindling faster in media news outlets with each year that passes.

The full article can be found here:,,24427663-32522,00.html