Gonna Be An Interesting Year

I thought I'd take the time to highlight a few things that Australian (and in particular South Australian) teachers, schools and students will be grappling with over the next twelve months or so.

The National Curriculum.
The word in the staffroom is that schools will get their first look at the new National Curriculum sometime mid-year. We assume that our schools will continue to be guided by SACSA until we are told otherwise, but part of the new Science initiative, Primary Connections, aligns itself with the coming curriculum and does not translate easily into SACSA outcomes. With Federal dollars behind the big Science and Maths push, all upper primary teachers have been promised three days of PD over the next two years with the Maths release to follow. It does not take much of an Einstein to realise why the 11- 13 year students have been targetted first, rather than training Early Years staff first, as the Governement wants more students entering high school in the next two to three years to be eyeing off and seeking out Maths and Science options in their future education pathways.

The Controversial My School Website
This site has been stirring the pot for a while though even though its main function is yet to be unleashed. The site describes itself as:

The My School website (www.myschool.edu.au) provides profiles of almost 10,000 Australian schools that can be searched by the school’s location, sector or name. The website provides statistical and contextual information, as well as NAPLAN (www.naplan.edu.au) results that can be compared with results from statistically similar schools across Australia.

The nation's Education Minister is adamant that this information is what parents want to make informed decisions about their child's education as outlined in the Australian today:

Gillard's determination to push ahead with the publication of comparative school performance data - available to parents on a website called My School - has been met with furious opposition from the national education union.

Teachers have threatened to boycott national literacy and numeracy tests unless the federal government bans the publication of league tables. While Gillard does not support league tables, newspapers will be able to create them using the My Schools data.

As Gillard stares down the threats from teachers and in the process entering into a public brawl with the Labor union heartland, she is adamant she has the support of the majority of parents, who welcome greater transparency in school reporting.

Gillard has drawn inspiration for her "revolution in transparency" from New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, whse reforms linked student progress and performance in literacy and numeracy to teacher evaluation. Under Klein's system, schools are graded from A to D, or F for fail. Schools that score D and F face the possibility of restructure or closure unless they lift student performance.

During a visit to Australia in late 2008 at the invitation of Gillard, Klein said information gave parents the ability and tools to demand higher standards from schools, placing the impetus for reform in the hands of parents "so that parents can raise hell".

Interestingly, school principals have only been given 24 hours prior to the official release to peruse their own school data and "like" schools that they will be compared to before potentially being queried by parents seeking clarification or drawing their own conclusions from the data on show. This will be a hot issue for quite a while yet, depending on differing parties' definition of accountability.

Local News Item Of Interest
This article caught my eye on Monday but really, anyone who finds the findings that children in low socioeconomic areas had the "lowest education outcomes and poorest achievement" to be surprising has not been listening to teachers who work in those disadvantaged areas. Maybe it is nice to see that there is some research out there that confirms what we've suspected all along. That might be small comfort to educators in other parts of the world where they are regularly told otherwise.

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