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The Forum > Article Comments > Fair to compare? > Comments

Fair to compare? : Comments

By Jennifer Aberhart, published 29/3/2006

Dunceís hats and public disclosure of rank disappeared from classrooms because they were deemed unfair, so why is it now fair to pit schools against each other?

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By its own statistical definition, half of the schools and half of the teachers WILL be BELOW average.
Posted by Narcissist, Wednesday, 29 March 2006 10:33:22 AM
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Jennifer Aberhart is clearly a sincere person. However, on reading her article one can easily conclude that she believes that teachers do their job diligently with care and in the best interests of children and that should be the end of the matter. Under no circumstances should one "run the ruler" over them.

Unfortunately the real world does not work that way. Constantly judgements are being made about performance. Some who just cannot come up to speed, for whatever reason, need to move on and make room for others. It is just part of the territory of the real world.

The work of schools is often difficult and challenging. Forty years in state schools has taught me that. Yet I have always believed that it is fair enough that some mechanism exists to judge whether your work is having the desired impact on your students. There is always argument about the validity of the measuring tools. That is fair enough, but in principle I support any move to measure the effectiveness of schools and report it to the community.

Interestingly enough my experience was that the least effective and most difficult to work with teachers in schools were often the "leading lights" in the local branch of the teachers union.
Posted by Sniggid, Wednesday, 29 March 2006 10:56:30 AM
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How you can equate a 'child publicly ranked against his peers' with measuring performance of schools is beyond me. Parents and governments need information about schools to make informed decisions. Currently this information is just not available. The best way I know of to determine whether a school is any good is to find out how many teachers have their own children at any particular school. Not the easiest information to find out unless you have the right contacts. It seems that teachers know which are the best schools but would like to keep it a secret from the rest of us. The system at the moment relies on word of mouth which is hardly reliable and is completely useless if you are new to an area.

There are some problems with ranking as outlined in the article but at least parents will be able to identify schools in a locality that stand out as either exceptionally good or bad and make the appropriate choices. Schools are able to provide explanations if they so wish. Parents do not make decisions based on statistics alone but will take account of a childs individual needs. There will likely be a few surprises where I believe many public schools outperform private ones. It will also make it possible to track changes in any particular school over time, for example when a new Principal arrives.

We also need to identify poor teachers who exist in most schools and at present are almost impossible to remove in the state system. The teacher's federation seems determined that these teachers will not be either removed from teaching our children or even identified and retrained.
Posted by sajo, Wednesday, 29 March 2006 11:17:27 AM
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School is presented our children as a competition! Itís not even designed to teach our children to think or to help them develop. Because it is age and outcome based it is designed to just measure what some think our children should already know at certain ages and stages and to judge them on their mistakes. They have to keep the standards low as the system is under-funded and under-resourced and falling apart. Those that crave a higher level of achievement and want higher standards are always seeking out more appropriate learning environments. Thatís why so many parents look for schools that are achieving highly so that their children can fit as they want to enjoy their schooling and to compete.

Opportunities for higher level educational opportunities and career opportunities are provided on the basis of highest test marks get in first, and there isnít a lot to go around. Students need to know exactly where they are in the school and the state so that they can have a clear picture of their performance and so that they know what they need to do to be competitive. It is also a fact that in some instances students marks are scaled and moderated to the marks that the students from the school gained in the test. So if you are in a school that doesnít have a lot of high achieving students, it is not going to be in your kids best interest.

The Department of Education believes that coaching or tutoring doesnít really make much of a difference to a childís ability. They also say that the teachers and schools donít really make a difference to a child achievements. They tell us that it is the childís home environment and social standing that is the defining factor. Therefore it seems that schools are functioning only as child minding centres, and too many are failing even at that.

What our children need are high quality, well funded and resourced schools that are open and transparant so that everybody knows where they stand.
Posted by Jolanda, Wednesday, 29 March 2006 12:14:00 PM
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There are two points that I think are relevant to this question:

1. Many older people are convinced that their literacy and numeracy skills are far superior that those of many of today's HSC graduates. I found this in my profession, where toward the end of my career I spent a lot of time correcting the spelling and grammar of submissions from my younger superiors.

2. I think it is not only the government that has a secret agenda to encourage students to move to private schools. The Teachers Federation must have the same agenda. I know that there is no profession that I can think of that will not protect its incompetent and lazy members, but the Federation must realise that the public require these performance comparisons, and that failure to provide them can have only one result in the long run. As parents can afford it, they will either move to an affluent area with a good public school or move their child to a private one.

Anyone with any foresight can see that the obsession with equality of outcome held by the Federation can only result eventually in the collapse of the public system. Equality of opportunity, not equality, is the only possible basis for public education.
Posted by plerdsus, Wednesday, 29 March 2006 4:03:38 PM
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plerdsus. The other problem with the level of secrecy that the Department of Education and schools function at is, what is to stop them from manipulating and/or tampering with scores to give advantage to their own and/or to disadvantage those that they dont want to see prosper.

My family have had reason to make and alarming amount of formal allegations of systemic bias, victimisation, tampering and manipulation of test scores. Allegations that are being ignored and covered up. When everything is a big secret and nobody can compare, question or challenge - who or what keeps them honest?

There is alot of bias and rasism out there and those in the Education Department are humans and humans are capable of all sorts of things.
Posted by Jolanda, Wednesday, 29 March 2006 4:23:10 PM
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