Rank schools, says the Herald-Sun

The Herald-Sun hasn’t waited long to get its teeth into the eduction debate about school achievement. The new MySchool website (which I blogged about late last year) was launched today, but it already doesn’t go far enough for the high standards of the Melbourne tabloid. I hope to talk more about this later, particularly Ms Gillard’s remarks that parents should ‘badger’ schools and teachers until they improve. Meanwhile,  I reprint today’s editorial in full below.

Rank schools to get results
THIS morning, subject to the vagaries of technology, parents will be given information to help them make one of the most important decisions in their lives: where to send their children to school.
Needless to say, it will also be one of the most important decisions in their children’s lives.
It comes as fees at private schools are increasing and more parents are considering whether to send their children to a public school.
But, cost aside, which school parents choose should be based on a range of priorities, which includes where a school ranks in academic performance.
The My School website will allow parents to make some comparisons between schools within their immediate area.
But it doesn’t go far enough. Many teachers and principals, as well as Education Minister Julia Gillard, think ranking schools will hurt underperforming schools.
The opposite is the case. Government and teachers must ensure these schools improve, not hide their inadequacies.
The argument that publishing so-called league tables will only stigmatise the poorer performing schools is a false one.
Comparing the nation’s schools would make the Government and education authorities accountable.
Parents themselves face an impossible task in forcing change at mediocre schools. They need to be able to point to the information provided by full disclosure of every school’s performance to demand improvement.
The information on the My School website today is a significant move in the right direction, but falls short of clearly ranking the nation’s 10,000 schools.

My School

mySkool

It’s not written as a web 2.0 marketeer might put it; perhaps it would be “mySkoole”, lower case  in a nice pastel colour but this innocuous looking site will soon develop teeth. It’s the Federal Government’s answer to questions about transparency and accountability, and it’s a limited one word answer called ‘Tests’.  Look out for how the Herald-Sun translates this into league tables when it goes live. Oh, and Victoria will have one too.

My School

Teach to the test

Why is that our current governments, both state and federal, seem to look to the rest of the world for the very worst of educational practice? From NY to New Jersey the current government fad is accountability and transparency, but only in such a dumbed down way that we can use in a 6 second TV sound-bite.

This time round the State Government in Victoria is looking to link teacher pay with student performance in national tests for literacy and numeracy (NAPLAN). Students results would form part of a ‘scorecard’ (we all understand what a scorecard is, right?) that might lead to up to $7000 in bonus payments.

What could happen; teaching to the tests? (which are narrow, shallow and statistically dubious)

Full article is in the AGE HERE

States squabbling over test benchmarks

It had to happen of course; that the new spirit of national cooperation and cooperative revolution would get stickier and trickier when it got down to the details. Like the NAPLAN (National Asessment of  Literacy and Numeracy) benchmarks and where they might be placed.

Last week the Herald-Sun gave some glimpse of that behind the scenes wrangling when it reported that high performing states (Victoria) were jostling with low performing states (WA, NT, TAS) over where to place the literacy and numeracy benchmarks: too high and the low performing states will look like basket cases, and too low and the results in Victoria will be absurdly high.

The paper said: 

But the poor results in Tasmania, WA and the Northern Territory have sparked a political row between the states over where benchmarks should be set.

And the row has put the broader concept of the national curriculum – hailed by educators and politicians as a necessary step forward – at risk.

A Victorian education source told the Sunday Herald Sun state departments were squabbling over where the benchmarks should be set and the Naplan literacy and numeracy standards were set “embarrassingly low so the results don’t look too bad in some areas of the country”.

“If they had set the minimum standards any lower, Victoria would have scored 100 per cent and if they had set them any higher, the NT would have been diabolical,” the source said.

And this is only the beginning. This will only get murkier as the national curriculum moves from zealous ideology to actual curriculum.