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Any excuse to scupper accountability of educators?

By johnboy - 28 May 2009 34

The Greens’ Meredith Hunter is leaping upon doubts raised by a single education expert Professor Brian Caldwell over publishing of school performance data.

    “We expect the Education Minister to address concerns about the potential negative effects of the introduction of new testing and reporting systems that will make compiling league tables possible – a policy that the Minister has already signed the ACT up to.” Ms Hunter said today.

    “It’s important for Minister Barr to explain why he backs these radical changes to our education system, and how he will make sure that we won’t get league tables and an unfair attack on individual schools and teachers as a result.”

Because crap teachers wasting precious education opportunities available to young minds should always be protected?

UPDATED: Andrew Barr appears to have given up on the Chief Minister’s media office and has put out his own media release trying to reframe the issue:

    The debate about so-called league tables – from both sides, for and against – is a distraction.

    Nothing in these reforms will help those who want simplistic league tables which rank schools according to raw test scores. Additionally anyone who wants to can already do so based on results currently published in ACT school annual reports and available under ACT Freedom of Information laws.

What’s Your opinion?


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34 Responses to
Any excuse to scupper accountability of educators?
Clown Killer 7:52 pm 28 May 09

This rubbish from the teacher unions about good teachers getting branded as bad because of a broken reporting system is simply scare tactics from a crowd devoid of ideas when it comes to arguing the case against informing parents. It’s drumming up fear and undeserved support for a status quo designed to keep parents in the dark.

Their most audacious claim is that parents aren’t smart enough to understand how the data is presented and that they will jump to the wrong conclusions. Where do these people get off by insulting parents who want to make informed decisions?

If the teachers union was genuinely interested in making a difference it would be supporting a policy that helps to weed out the dead wood instead of one based around convincing the community that mediocrity is really worlds-best-practice.

seekay 7:09 pm 28 May 09

Literacy and numeracy are such bourgeois concepts.

grunge_hippy 6:59 pm 28 May 09

I am bloody good at my job, but if you looked at my students test results, you would think i was the worst teacher in the world… but I teach special needs classes with kids with learning difficulties… many who are not exempt from testing.

there are crap teachers, i have met many of them. i believe the union are trying to weed them out, and have suggested ways in which teachers who do more professional development and further tertiary studies are rewarded with higher pay, its the dept that needs to recognise this. The people in recruitment also are trying to weed them out by not offering permanency. the problem is the lack of casual and contract teachers means that a lot are working on long term contracts in schools, where they have no right to be. there is a drastic shortage of teachers, like another poster said, because they can get paid more in the public service and have less hassle.

we can all whinge about wanting more pay, but it will never change until teaching is valued as the profession that it is.

Fiona 6:49 pm 28 May 09

it,s almost laughable some of the kids who were considered elligible to complete the NAPLAN testing this term… some of the special school kids or those in LSUs arw the ones I’m thinking of. Ones who can’t even consistently follow a single step direction… Standardised testing for league tables rather thab for feedback to the staff or parents in question is misuse.

Wellington Sludge 6:12 pm 28 May 09

johnboy said :

Some teachers will be better than others.

In my experience some are diabolically bad, but even if that wasn’t the case some would be better than others.

The current system shields those bad teachers, and the education union refuses to countenance any changes which would make poor teachers improve.

With any metric it’s a matter of choosing the right metric.

The ability to improve children’s results would be what the smart parents should be looking for rather than raw marks.

A teacher can improve children’s results by going into the spreadsheet and changing the numbers, or by writing an easy, non-challenging assessment task so all the students pass.

Sorry, Johnboy, but the really smart parents should be looking for a school that helps their children to learn and prepare them for a good life where they can optimise their skills and abilities. This is hard to measure in the short term, which is why these types of measures are inadequate.

johnboy 5:39 pm 28 May 09

Some teachers will be better than others.

In my experience some are diabolically bad, but even if that wasn’t the case some would be better than others.

The current system shields those bad teachers, and the education union refuses to countenance any changes which would make poor teachers improve.

With any metric it’s a matter of choosing the right metric.

The ability to improve children’s results would be what the smart parents should be looking for rather than raw marks.

peterh 5:12 pm 28 May 09

Considering the difficulty to get a child into schools at the moment outside of their feeder, the last thing that needs to be broadcast is a who’s who of the good, the bad and the ugly.

The numbers of kids who go through public or private schools and don’t sit the AST is not fully due to the teacher’s or the school’s recommendations, but also to the other kids themselves, who track down the underachievers in some cases, and “suggest” that they might like to skip doing the test.

I know, whilst at Copland college in yr12, it was suggested that if I did sit the test, I could expect serious consequences. I did sit the AST, and aced it. I still got the stuffing knocked out of me after school, by the people who had warned me.

This behaviour would only be exacerbated by publishing a league table, particularly if it was focusing on particular teachers. the kids in that teacher’s class would be identified by their peers quickly.

trevar 4:38 pm 28 May 09

I’m not entirely opposed to publishing school performance data, but it has to be done in a way that addressed the concerns raised by the luminaries above me (Jim Jones, Granny, and Inappropriate). I think you canhave the best of both worlds in this arena… I just don’t think it’s likely that the bureaucrats will find a way to do it.

Jim Jones 4:27 pm 28 May 09

+1 to both Granny and Inappropriate.

The only outcome I can see from a ‘league table’ of schools would be choas and confusion.

The information that parents need in deciding which school to send their children is best gathered by: checking the school out themselves and talking to people about their experiences with the school.

What *any* of this has to do with “crap teachers wasting precious education opportunities” is beyond me.

How is this system supposed to uncover this evil cabal of ‘crap teachers’, prey tell? Just another ignorant drive to blame teachers for the perceived ills of the education system.

If you want to look at the reasons behind the faltering of the education system, have a look at the sh1t pay and lack of respect they get. This has led to a situation where intelligent, committed, passionate people have turned away from teaching careers because they can earn better pay (and better conditions) as low-level office workers. At the same time, a lot of people doing educational degrees at uni at the moment are doing so because the TER ranking is so low, it’s the only thing they could get into. Hell, only a few years ago, they had to change the textbooks at UC for Bachelor of Education because the students couldn’t understand the damn things.

Granny 4:12 pm 28 May 09

Wellington Sludge said :

Any teacher who elects to take a lower ability class, for example, would rather their performance be assessed by the improvements they have made to their pupils’ learning abilities and knowledge, not what they get in their assessment tasks.

This is my main concern. What if a teacher comes in and works their guys out, raising literacy and numeracy substantially in those students? Meanwhile the website helpfully informs parents: this teacher sucks … big time!

It also becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the worse the school is perceived to be the harder it is to attract good teaching staff and the more the morale of the school suffers.

I’m all for giving parents accurate and useful information about the progress of their child and I’m huge on accountability, but I don’t feel this system achieves either of these goals.

Also, not all success can be measured academically. The parent satisfaction survey results do help to ameliorate this effect somewhat, but I still believe that a prospective parent looking at that information will not get a real picture of the school.

It’s kind of an eBay approach to shopping for schools that is pretty two-dimensional, in my opinion.

Inappropriate 4:08 pm 28 May 09

Clown Killer said :

Let me get this straight. This Brian Caldwell believes that parents shouldn’t be allowed to access the information that they need to make decisions about the performance of a school that they may be considering sending their children too.

No. He believes the information will be misleading and result in parents making ill informed decisions.

Clown Killer 3:58 pm 28 May 09

I’m only going to address my comments to the drivel sprouted by Brian Caldwell as commenting on Merideth Hunter’s parroting of Caldwells views would have the possibility of lending undue gravitas to the views of an MLA who’s primary contribution to the community remains greenhouse gas emmissions.

Let me get this straight. This Brian Caldwell believes that parents shouldn’t be allowed to access the information that they need to make decisions about the performance of a school that they may be considering sending their children too.

So, if what parents are going to receive is information about the school’s performance, it’s not really telling them very much about how their child is performing within a particular classroom, with a particular teacher.

If, in the absence of information on the schools performance their child has ended up in a dud school it’s probably too late when you get to the nitty gritty of how their child is performing within a particular classroom, with a particular teacher … and even if it wasn’t this whole premise is little more than a meaningless diversion on the part of Caldwell – surely a parent would have a pretty good idea of how their child is progressing from the time that they have spent with their child doing homework, reading and other activities, from the daily or weekly interactions with the childs teacher at school, sporting and school based social events.

This is almost certain that it will stigmatise many schools … and will quickly lead to a view that certain schools are not performing well, when in fact, under the circumstances, they’re doing exceedingly well …

So parents should continue to be in the dark about these schools and unwittingly continue to send their children to these schools so that the incompetent teachers, administrators and Education Department officials responsible can continue to disadvantage children and rip-off tax-payers.

And then this little gem from the teachers union:

… a teacher boycott of national tests is being considered unless the Federal Government backs down on its plan for the publication of school profiles.

I guess when you have no genuine arguments against a policy supported in the community holding your breath and stamping your feet becomes an appealing option.

54-11 3:39 pm 28 May 09

JB, this is much, much more than just one educator and the Greens. It is very controversial, and for every argument for, there is an equally compelling one against.

A good case where the precautionary principle should be applied. Perhaps a limited trial first, and decisions then being based on the evidence, not what seem to be pretty widely and wildly expressed opinions on either side.

Thumper 3:31 pm 28 May 09

It’s a two edged sword this one.

Wellington Sludge 3:27 pm 28 May 09

No, because the general public doesn’t understand how these methods don’t really measure school performance. Instead, the systems elaborate on how schools can manipulate their classes and achievements to get the required results (e.g. just try asking some of the more expensive private colleges in the ACT why they encourage their lower ability students to not sit the AST, just so their overall results are higher when they’re printed in the CT in December. Although you won’t get that answer from them!).

The measurements need to accurately reflect the accomplishments of a teacher. Any teacher who elects to take a lower ability class, for example, would rather their performance be assessed by the improvements they have made to their pupils’ learning abilities and knowledge, not what they get in their assessment tasks. And how do you actually measure that? That’s why teachers and others would like to know more about the new systems.

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