Publish and perish?

gradeThere 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.

3 thoughts on “Publish and perish?

  1. Greg
    The whole topic about accountability and underperformance by schools and teachers is very close to my work as I facilitate a school review. School reviews in the Victorian public school context occur every 4 years and an improvement project developed that will focus the efforts of teachers in the school.
    We have had wide consultation with teachers, parents and students as we collect and analysis the performance data.

    Two things to share:

    • Teacher use of data to target instruction and feedback to the learner and then measure improvements are new set of skills for most teachers – and change in culture

    • We have high entry point data on students and so will always look good on most raw score tables but do we get more than expected growth levels over a 2 year period or valued added data and is this perhaps a fairer target or score to measure.

    I feel the push for league tables is on – now let’s hear our professional voices on this one or we will get what our silence allows.

    Mark Walker

    1. Good to hear some enlightened approaches in making decisions about how schools are improving the learning and teaching. There’s no doubt that league tables will come but my experience says they will go in the ebb and flow of short-term and quick fix policies. I just think the profession needs to get on with the business of good teaching; identifying, naming and sharing what works best in student performance and achievement. The only way to counter the push for league tables is to demonstrate that schools are making a difference and it needs to be made as public as possible. The challenge for us is finding ways of making this information as simple and clear for all parents.

      We conflate assessment and performance by making assessment the pinnacle. Good teachers know that it is about student peformance of which assessment is the smaller but integral part of the learning process.

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