Weird Science

Today the Victorian Government announced that it had shelved a $28 million dollar project to invent a “pleasant tasting, attention-sustaining, low-priced drink that enables secondary students to work safely and with sustained alertness all day” because it failed the common-sense test. And yes, I’m pretty sure that Coca-Cola might have already invented it. There’s more about that here

That educational initiative came just a day or so after the Federal Minister for Education announced, and repeated, that to raise the standards of students entering teaching degrees, future applicants would have to be in the top 30% of the country in terms of literacy and numeracy based on, wait for it, their Year 9 NAPLAN results!

That was hurriedly withdrawn, but I did have to agree with the AGE letter writer this morning, who said:

IT IS my fear that our government, in continuing to leap on the standards-based reform bandwagon , will be moving to a superficial and restrictive system to assess what cannot be assessed (‘‘ Students facing tougher entry to teaching degrees’’ , The Saturday Age, 16/4).

That this homogenised, reductive approach is being touted by our School Education Minister, whose past as an artist and activist would be as difficult to assess via standardised means as the life of a teacher, is shocking.

Throughout my teacher-training course and my six years as a teacher, I have been rigorously assessed. I, like all other teachers, have needed to prove myself during classroom observation, performance reviews and interviews. I have produced portfolios of work and documented contributions to curriculum and syllabus development.

Most importantly, I have received feedback from students and their families. Do I know the content? Yes. I have the academic transcripts and the classroom responses of my students. Does that make me a good teacher? No.

What is of greater importance is the ability to work with students, parents, colleagues and the community to offer diverse educational experiences . While these experiences may not fit neatly into a table of quantitatively derived data, there is no better measure of the ability to teach.

Madeleine Coulombe, Balwyn North

Meanwhile, somebody actually has been doing some real thinking about the quality of teaching, a Grattan Institute report just released tries to address issues of teacher quality and improvement. That report is HERE