I support transparency, governments sharing information with citizens and believe schools must improve by using data, along with a range of other innovations.
I applaud the Federal Government’s Digital and Building Education Revolution policies, while recognising far greater vision is needed, as they go nowhere near far enough in regards to innovation or funding.
I believe that Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard have a passionate understanding that education must improve in Australian schools and are energetically leading, asking schools to re-invigorate and enhance learning opportunities for our communities.
However, the deeply flawed, controversial policy of releasing school data, that was never designed for this purpose, at the MySchool website has the potential to create exactly the opposite conditions needed in schools to develop an educated citizenry, healthy communities, love of life-long learning, quality teaching, a strong economy and development of 21st century curriculum.
This vexed issue must be discussed intelligently, not with 5 second news bites by politicians, unions and parents filmed at the front gate, picking up their kids. One hopes that the ensuing conflict, brewing between the Federal Government and a range of parents, professional associations and educational unions, will see some intelligent ways forward. Most likely, the NAPLAN tests will be banned across the country and despite Ms Gillard’s suggestion she can organise for them to be invigilated, teachers and parents will lose data that has been used successfully to diagnose student needs. This will be a lose-lose scenario.
What’s wrong with league tables?
The headlines and stories in Australian newspapers this week confirm what our former director-general in NSW, principals, teachers’ associations, parents, The Greens, citizens of New York experiencing that city’s misguided reforms and education unions warned would happen – league tables. Slowly at first and then with frightening momentum, schools reduce curriculum experiences for children as teachers scramble to ‘teach to the test’. Kevin Donnelly, originally an advocate of league tables, recants that position for what one assumes are intellectually honest reasons, rather than partisan politics, considering he was once a Liberal Party staffer.
This article is worth thinking about too, as it muses on the possibility of leagues tables in other areas of our community life? A good idea or not?
I recommend you read Lawrence Lessig’s lengthy, The Perils of Transparency. The article does not discuss transparency in education at all, as this one does but explores, from the perspective of a proponent of the transparency movement, his concerns at what is being unleashed. If you do not have the time or inclination to read the entire article, here’s a few important quotes:
Reformers rarely feel responsible for the bad that their fantastic new reform effects. Their focus is always on the good. The bad is someone else’s problem. It may well be asking too much to imagine more than this. But as we see the consequences of changes that many of us view as good, we might wonder whether more good might have been done…
The problem, however, is that not all data satisfies the simple requirement that they be information that consumers can use, presented in a way they can use it…people may ignore information, or misunderstand it, or misuse it. Whether and how new information is used to further public objectives depends upon its incorporation into complex chains of comprehension, action, and response.
This is the problem of attention-span. To understand something–an essay, an argument, a proof of innocence– requires a certain amount of attention. But on many issues, the average, or even rational, amount of attention given to understand…is almost always less than the amount of time required.
We see the attention-span problem everywhere, in public and private life. Think of politics, increasingly the art of exploiting attention-span problems–tagging your opponent with barbs that no one has time to understand, let alone analyze.
Considering the above comment, one hopes you have time to read the entire article by Lessig.
Some more reading on the issues of league table, standardised testing and accountabilty regimes can be found here.
Read MySchool: Part II