There has been fierce debate between both sides of the political fence over the decision by the federal government to publish the results of national league tables. With no white flags on the horizon, the unions have now threatened industrial action.
The point is parents, students and good teachers already know which schools are under-performing. And they know the factors causing this under-performance. League tables quantify what local school communities already know.
Sometimes as Member for Chifley, Roger Price pointed out, the name and shame approach applied in particular to the Mt Druitt Class of 1996 forced those responsible for students’ learning to be more accountable for their learning outcomes. It’s not the children who failed here and as the Member for Chifley rightly asks would a cultural change have happened at the school if not for the Daily Telegraph’s front page story?
As an educator, I would ask why our profession has to rely on governments and others to tell us that we are falling short of the mark. The profession has to build a culture where improving student outcomes is the defining factor no matter how challenging it may be to many entrenched practices, approaches and beliefs. New cultures are not easy to build and sustain. However, cultural renewal is at the heart of continuous improvement in any profession or sector.
Accountability exists within the parameters of good professional practice; good teachers have always been responsible and accountable for their own and their students’ learning. Good teachers use data intelligently to inform their own practice and in turn inform parents of their child’s learning progress.
Educators have an enormous social responsibility for making a real and positive difference to students’ lives. For too long, our professional gaze has been on what we can get out of the schooling experience instead of what our students are getting out of it. Schools exist first and foremost to meet students’ needs and give parents choice.
Reframing schooling is about teachers working smarter (on the right things) not harder (on the wrong things). We cannot have a national conversation on publishing league tables without first asking ourselves how we address the critical issue of under-performing teachers and under-performing schools if we want the credibility we seem to expect as a right.