Australian Labour: Also No Clue on Education

Posted: April 22, 2009 in Australia, Education, Politics
Tags: , , ,

educationI have commented before how the previous Australian Federal Government had little to no clue about how to run an effective education sector (here, here, here, here and here).  Sadly it would seem that the current Federal Government is just as bad, trying to introduce measures which are, to say the least, expressly counter productive to the desired goals.  Julia Gillard has come out and said that schools will be compared to each other and the results published for the public to see.  Why is this a bad idea? Why will it only cause problems?  Read on!

From Parents to compare schools online;

From later this year, parents will be able to get online access to nationally consistent information about any school in the country.

Julia Gillard says they will then be able to compare schools in relation to how students perform.

“In 2009 people will be able, through a website, to look at and get information about their own school and importantly be able to compare it with like schools,” she said.

From School results, rankings to go online;

She won’t say when in 2009 the information will go online, but it won’t be until after the next round of national student testing.

Labor has promised to publish students’ test results and data comparing like schools with like schools to boost transparency and performance.

Ms Gillard reiterated on Friday that didn’t mean schools would simply be ranked according to test results.

“There’s no point in reporting on raw scores, or having simplistic league tables,” she said.

Every school is unique, no matter how similar their student population may or may not be.  The types of parents involved in the school is always unique.  The leadership team of each school is unique.  The geographical location is unique.  The list of variables which makes each and every school unique is near limitless.

And this is a factor that no test can ever take into proper consideration and it renders the results as unreliable to say the least.

She won’t say when in 2009 the information will go online, but it won’t be until after the next round of national student testing.

National testing (called NAPLAN) is done in various years, the one I will concentrate on here in the one done in Year 7 – a students first year in Secondary School.  Fine, a student does the test and gets his results back.  The NAPLAN test in May so what will the results show?  A reflection of the mathematical curriculum of that students current secondary school or what he/she managed to learn at his/her previous primary school?  Maybe the primary school had a bad maths curriculum and thus that student has bad maths skills in his secondary environment but that secondary school suddenly gets lumped with rather bad NAPLAN maths results through no fault of its own.

“There’s no point in reporting on raw scores, or having simplistic league tables,” she said.

So what does Gillard think will happen when test results are published?  What will happen is exactly what has happened in other countries which have the same scheme in place (such as England); the media pounce on the data and form their own league tables from it.  They take that unreliable data which fails to take all sorts of factors into consideration and makes an ultimately meaningless league table from it – which parents are (for lack of a better term) ignorant enough to place great authority on to.

There is a great problem with this, when league tables based on test results become important to parents.  Mainly school start teaching more and more to the tests so students gain those better results and so the school looks better.  This is a major problem since the depth of the curriculum is savaged and known test criteria are addressed.  Knowing how to fill in the correct dot on a test paper in no way is an authentic gauge of a students educational growth or ability but that is precisely what this entire system will rely on.

So what do parents do at the moment when looking at the schools? Maybe trying to decide which school to send their child to?  They actually visit the school and get a copy of the annual school report that schools already publish on an individual basis – and since the report is produced on that individual bases, it can take all those unique factors into consideration.


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