Showing posts with label schools. Show all posts
Showing posts with label schools. Show all posts

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ms Gillard you are a dill!

Here's a link to the latest nonsense by Ms Gillard.

"It's not about raw scores," Ms Gillard said.
"We want to compare like schools - schools serving similar populations, so we can tell what difference the teaching is making."
"If you see one school going streaks ahead, that means there is great practice there we should be sharing.
"And if you see one school that is falling way behind, that means we should be doing something about that school because it is under performing and it can do better."

Ms Gillard - teaching is not the only factor in performance. Shall we also grade community support, funding, parent capability, parent education, family income, proportion of single parents, strong administrative leadership and support, an interactive P&C, effective behaviour management policy. It is not just teaching that makes a school good and these factors cannot be graded in simplistic socio-economic indicators.

So.. do we just teach to the test to gain good results and forget about whole student needs? If a student is not academic, do we give them the weakest teachers and reserve our finest teachers for those that bring academic results? Do we pander to teachers that only will stay if they get certain classes? Will the tables measure actual progress or focus on academic performance (if they do measure progress will they use NAPLAN/WALNA and ignore the basic timing issues that occur in low socio-economic schools?).

So I ask again.. what purpose does this have in being released to the public? To remind parents that the school they are sending their child to is not as good as the elite schools in the Western suburbs or the G&T schools in the state school system?

If we are only looking for improvement - release league tables to staffing and strategic planning. After all it is these two parts of DET that need the information. By releasing this information to parents you are seriously hindering reform in troubled schools. The students that the school needs most to benefit from reform just won't come.

If you want to release this information - do so when schools are well funded and outperforming private schools. To do it now after years of underfunding in the system and poor curriculum support is inappropriate. Unless of course the agenda is to close schools and sell assets. After all education is the single biggest burden on government (and the single biggest eliminator of class difference as we are all entitled to a good education).

It is just another teacher bashing that is on the way, with primitive statistical analysis used to try and correct schools in political time frames inappropriate to education.

I heard a suggestion that we should create league tables for politicians.. Promises vs actual over the past 10 years. Set up league tables for local pollies on how often they are seen and how many members of the public they have spoken to outside of polling times. Identify how many times they have spoken in parliament and made a contribution to government (as opposed to oppositional backbiting). How many times they have been seen doing stupid things in public. Then we could re-release this information at polling time.

Education has no place in politics and league tables are just nonsense, aimed to appeal to naive voters. I'd like to meet a person in education that thinks league tables are a good idea.

Only the best possible education for all our children is what matters. The rich should not be the only ones with access to the finest education. Education is the most valuable privilege in Australia and it is our way to ensure that all in Australia feel Australian and have an opportunity to succeed, regardless of race, religion, sex or any other demographic you care to mention.

.. and that's the way it should stay.

Schools becoming learning institutions

With the experiment of making schools "a one size fits all" solution for society's juvenile justice problems finally noted as a failure, schools are again focusing on their primary role - that is of teaching and learning.

Keeping students in school to reduce unemployment figures and reduce pressure on the justice system just lumps pressure on the education system. Teachers that enjoy teaching are rare enough, teachers that can enjoy teaching and teach the "unteachables" are worth their weight in gold. To expect all teachers to have this ability is to invite the burnout and low morale that teaching (as a profession) faces.

Here is an article on the education system pushing back on other sectors of the community.

We have to be careful not to push back too far.. or if we do, ensure that troubled kids have a path to some form of success. To fail in this regard is to invite youth to lives of drugs, crime, homelessness and other forms of antisocial behaviour. School has its place - that of a learning environment and once the system (justice, community services/youth work, adult education, health, local government) has positioned a dysfunctional youth into the mindset of being a student - then and only then does a school have a part to play in supporting the newly found learner - this is social justice - not keeping them in school to disrupt the ability of others to learn.

School needs to be a privilege not a right. A privilege available to all, that can be lost, and only regained through a level of trust and forgiveness between all parties. We need to reconsider the purpose of schools in the community. It's the only way.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fight Club & media beat up


Here we go again. Another beat up by the media of a topic that will waste immense amounts of time within schools. Here's a forum post on the topic.

Amount of research done by media? Positive outcome for the community? None.

I feel for John Forrest SHS as they were just the poor school that was focused on this time. Morley kids in fight after school - hardly headline news..

I wonder if the genius that suggested keeping all students in school until the end of year 12 (especially those students too lazy to get a job) thought through the consequences properly. Couple this to increased scrutiny on suspension rates and we end up with the situation of dangerous students being kept within schools and encouraging/bullying students into situations like the 'Fight club' scenario. How long before we have metal detectors looking for knives, police required on school grounds, security guards patrolling a regular occurrence and schools feeling bullied with little support, with blame pointed squarely at schools? Oh that's right - it's already happening.

We (parents, media, community, government) need to support schools not finger point. We need solutions (exclusion of troubled students is a starting point) not blame. That means parents taking responsibility for their children, programmes that empower social workers with real consequences (such as removal of welfare payments), society taking responsibility for ill prepared parents (like removal of the baby bonus), support for academic students (whether aimed at low or high ability students with grading on progress rather than state based comparison - abolish the smartie chart and myschool!), and no in-school baby sitting programmes (students, not clients/customers).

Senior school is now effectively many things: pathway to university, pathway to vocational studies, home of unsure students and a dumping ground for kids that don't wish for a job nor to study further. There is no pressure on these latter students to perform away from home and little leverage to ensure that they enhance the school environment by contributing to the school. They are disenfranchised, lack enthusiasm, see little in their future beyond today. They need babysitting to prevent them from causing social ill. This is a social problem, not an academic one; worse still it only defers the problem by two years and has significant negative impact on schools. Children that cannot be directed into contributing students (despite all attempts) of the school community need to be directed out of school so that they either come back wanting to be a student or find a new pathway.

Teachers are not social workers, entertainers or babysitters, they are academics there to guide the learning of students and should be valued as such. Schooling is a privilege and a responsibility offered to all but should never be seen as a right. If a student brings a school into disrepute - they should be looking for a new school with fairly tight restrictions placed before re-entry into the school system. If we want better schools we need desperately to make schools academic centres of learning with spotless reputations, place clear boundaries around students, provide power to principals to act; and empower teachers effectively as tools of learning.

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.