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The Forum > Article Comments > Pursuing national school system improvements > Comments

Pursuing national school system improvements : Comments

By John Benn, published 26/9/2013

Strong leadership orientation occurred in certain Boston regional school districts which moved from 'Fair' to 'Good' in three years according to McKinsey.

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I'm certain the Abbot government will strenuously argue that they are about" improving schools". It's their operational definition of what constitutes "a good school" and what is entailed in "improving education" that will be crucial.
The messages Mr Pyne is disseminating suggest that the coalition sees education as a commodity, and schools and universities as "businesses" which in order to make a "profit" should be subjected to a the same market forces that any other business selling commodities are exposed to.
The long term consequences of this ideology is the destruction of the public school system as we know it and the promotion of private schools for those who can afford them.
Posted by Cambo, Thursday, 26 September 2013 9:52:30 AM
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The Gonski Review found that one of six elements critical to highly effective schooling reform is the engagement of parents.

Emeritus Professor Charles Desforges from the University of Exeter last year told an audience at the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) that in Britain billions of pounds were spent trying to improve schooling outcomes by transforming school structures and initial teacher training, etc. Although things did get better authorities were unhappy with the results.

Desforges was tasked in 2002 with reviewing research on the evidential link between parenting and student achievement. He said when you look for reasons for the differences between students who succeed and those who donít, right out front at the top of the list is parental attitudes and behaviours.

Desforges told his AITSL audience that research by Sacker et al (2002) found the following comparative effects of parents and schools on student achievement: Age 7 parent effect 29%, school effect 5%; Age 11 parent effect 27%, school effect 21%; Age 16 parent effect 14%, school effect 51%.

We must improve schools as much as we can. But a blinkered focus on school based reforms will not deliver the magnitude of change needed if Australia is to improve schooling outcomes and our standing in the global education environment. We also need to support more parents to re-engage with their role as the primary educators of their children.

Most parents want to see their children do well at school and in life. When parents understand they have a role to play, that what they do will make a difference and are provided with encouragement and support most will engage happily and effectively. Unlike what some policy makers here seem to think, though, engaging parents with education is about much more than engaging them with what schools do.

There is a real danger that parent engagement might continue to drift about at the margins of the Australian schooling reform agenda, misunderstood and under resourced. It needs to be brought to the front and centre, along with improving schools.

See Charles Desforges talk to AITSL here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0I-jK3Nurp4
Posted by Ian D, Thursday, 26 September 2013 10:20:05 AM
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in order to make a "profit" should be subjected to a the same market forces that any other business selling commodities are exposed to.
Cambo,
Don't you think education in Australia might have a chance to actually educate the kids if teachers were made to actually teach ? One of the critical factors in the substandard of education in Australia over the past few decades is entirely due to so-called teachers viewing education as a poor third in their priorities to build up their Super & to have as much time off as possible.
Posted by individual, Thursday, 26 September 2013 9:00:47 PM
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I've always been uncomfortable with calling schools "systems". Schools are by their very nature are very unique sites of human engagement from day to day and year to year. Yes testing may appear to unify our thinking about their relative success or failure but at the end of the day schools are simply very unique and places of human endeavour where social capital is created, displaced, exchanged and sometimes abused. Every year a new cohort of students arrives and with them a new set of challenges and priorities. The Cape York school are a case in point. Noel Pearson's Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy was funded $7.2m over 3.5 years and the results from this "experiment' was an astounding failure that Mr Pearson has yet to be called on to account for. NAPLAN data has shown that there is was no clear evidence of the superiority of the approach taken (Direct instruction) at the Academy in the 3 school within the CYAAA to those being undertaken at other north Queensland Indigenous school that were not in the trial. NAPLAN does not allow for other variables to be measured in terms of individual school performance. Why not? For me there is an urgent need to return to basics in schooling cultures and practise because this is so fundamental to creating any long term success. Great schools can and do become bad schools often for no fault of their own. We need to understand and accept this in policy development and implementation, otherwise we will be forever testing our children (not for their sake) but rather to fulfil some perverse sense of systems quality control that we simply do not have.
Posted by Rainier, Thursday, 26 September 2013 9:44:47 PM
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I'd like to submit a little story that might be of interest.
After 25 years at the chalkface in various parts of Queensland, I was privileged to have to inspect the school at Bourketown on 'the Gulf'. There were about 60 aboriginal children with two teachers - no one else.I was amazed at the steady stream of kids heading for the school between 7 am and 8 am.
They were allowed to have access to the various games and activities that the teachers had arranged around and inside the school. There was an endless array. They were all curriculum focussed activities directly related to syllabus requirements at that time of the year.
Immature adults would call it 'play'. The children didn't have a name. They just liked the challenges that each one provided, and seemed to take them seriously. I was told that many had to be chased home at 5 pm.
I spoke with one lad at about 8.30, who was sitting on his own near the front gate. He seemed sad. He explained that he had been naughty on the day before; and was not allowed to enter the classroom before school started at 9 a.m.!!
I later became very familiar with the schools around the far north...Mornington Island, Doomadgee, Camooweal, Yarrabah, Aurukun, Pomporaw, Kowanyama, Weipa South, Bamaga.etc...where more didactic teaching methods prevailed. Some had to be 'rounded up' to attend. There was a serious message there. How does one tap the enthusiasm for learning? I suspect that there is a group of fifty-year plus adults around Bourketown today who are still keen on learning.
Posted by xdope, Friday, 27 September 2013 7:56:36 PM
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