Any excuse to scupper accountability of educators?

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.


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34 Responses to Any excuse to scupper accountability of educators?
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Wellington Sludge 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.

Thumper Thumper 3:31 pm 28 May 09

It’s a two edged sword this one.

54-11 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.

Clown Killer 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.

Inappropriate 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.

Granny 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.

Jim Jones 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.

trevar 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.

peterh 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.

johnboy 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.

Wellington Sludge 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.

Fiona 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.

grunge_hippy 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.

seekay seekay 7:09 pm 28 May 09

Literacy and numeracy are such bourgeois concepts.

Clown Killer 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.

deezagood deezagood 8:15 pm 28 May 09

As a parent, I’m a bit torn over this. On one hand, it would be nice to see where/how the school compares to other schools, because as I only have my kids at one school, how would I otherwise know this? I guess we currently just have faith that the school is educating our kids to the required levels for each year, but without comparison data, it really is just based on good faith. I also think the results can give the shool some clear goals in terms of areas requiring improvement.

That said, qualitative data can certainly be misused and I would hate to see parents pulling their kids out of a school due to a poor showing on tests, without giving the school a chance to improve or aknowledging the many other benefits that schools can provide to children, but that can’t be easily translated into data (such as a safe environment, a sense of community, a great sport/language program, confidence building opportunities, a terrific special needs program etc…).

nyssa76 nyssa76 8:32 pm 28 May 09

grunge hippie, you’d be the only teacher in the department who thinks the AEU has the ability to weed out the crap teachers.

Good teachers are the ones who would do anything for students to achieve success with their learning.

The bad ones don’t give a rats and can’t wait to leave as soon as the bell rings and are usually the first to be promoted as they alter their results.

deezagood deezagood 8:37 pm 28 May 09

On my soapbox now … from my observations, schools really, really hate providing hard data on even individual child performance, let alone data on groups of students within a school. The current A – E system was bought in to try and give parents as least some idea of how their child is going from a comparitive perspective – but boy schools really, really hate the A – E system, and many schools refuse to actually use the scheme as it was intended (to help parents work out where their child sits from a performance perspective). There are a large number of primary schools in the ACT who refuse, point blank, to use the ‘A’ and ‘E’ rankings; at our school for example, not a single child recieved an A or an E for any subject across the whole school. In these schools most of the kids (regardless of ability) come come with Cs against every subject. I know it is only primary school and grades don’t mean much, but I would really like to know if my child was struggling at an early stage. Not using the proper grading scale as it was intended isn’t helpful for parents (especially if you have a struggling child and if you knew they were struggling, you might be able to access intervention measures to help them to come up to speed). I raise this point only to demonstrate how much schools generally hate quantifiable data regarding performance … this national testing must be sending them over the edge! I am expecting strike action any day now ….

nyssa76 nyssa76 8:46 pm 28 May 09

deezagood, well I won’t be striking. Non-AEU member here. Oh and I don’t believe in strike action.

MWF MWF 8:56 pm 28 May 09

nyssa76 said :

deezagood, well I won’t be striking. Non-AEU member here. Oh and I don’t believe in strike action.

Nyssa

I am interested to know, if you can say, why you are a non AEU member? I know of someone who is considering resigning from the AEU for some very good reasons.

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