Junk mail flows through our mailbox daily and unless it's OfficeWorks or Dick Smith Electronics, I leave the other members of the household to it. But when a pamphlet slips in bearing the title, "Investing In Our Schools", well, it was worth a second glance. It was from our local Federal Senator who I doubt was the actual author as it was a rehash of federal policy that's been heavily promoted in the media. And what it says raises my hackles both as an educator and a parent. Get this:
The Howard Government is getting on with the job by delivering practical assistance to boost education and provide the best opportunities for Australian students. These include:
· Ensuring that, as a condition of funding, schools will provide parents with Plain English student report cards. This will mean a return to the "A", "B", "C", "D","E" style of reporting and an end to meaningless, jargon-filled report cards.
· Higher standards and greater consistency in schooling. There will be a common starting age for schooling across Australia by 2010 and greater consistency in curriculum, common national testing and standards in literacy, numeracy and other key subject areas.
There were three other dot points with other promises and commitments and implications, but these two were enough to raise my temperature on an already scorching day. The first dot point was an oxymoronic statement as I cannot think how an A, B.....E report is in any way meaningful. How do we, as teachers, calculate these magical grades? Do we divide the class into fifths and allocate accordingly? Is it based on more of these fantastic standards based tests that are alluded to in dot point two? So many US edubloggers that I read talk about how these tests are forcing them into a "teach to the test" mentality and the millstone is slowly squashing the joy and dare I say it, the professional judgement out of teaching. Is that where Australian education is headed? And what does a B in Science actually mean? That 20 per cent of the class are better at Science than your child but that he or she is better than the other 60 per cent? I suppose the format is geared towards familiarity for parents - I certainly remember my reports from high school, but it is hardly relevant or appropriate for our state education system where we have a constructivist curriculum framework. When we need to work towards a rapidly approaching future and we need to inform students about the skills they'll need to constantly reinvent themselves, then these "blast from the past" ideas don't cut it.
This sort of stuff is so off the mark, it is scary. Maybe, Will's pointer to the Houston schools system is a sign of things to come in Aussie schools. Time for more pyramid flattening.