Wednesday, September 28, 2005

It's thumbs down for 'English Lite' (VCAA caves to populist pressure)

It's a shame the VCAA didn't have the guts and gumption to defend the proposed study design - in particular the innane and anti-intellectual arguments about 'English Lite'. They've done a backflip and caved to the pressure. Let's see what happens from here - I'm sure it's not the last we'll hear of it.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The 'blindingly obvious' way to revive our schools?

It seems that this guy has it all worked out.

This is so blindingly obvious - improving children's performance in schools is a question of how well teachers teach in their classroom. The task of everyone else in a school system - school principals, local administrators, teacher trainers, government and other stakeholders - is to align everything they do to ensure that each teacher walks into each lesson with the skills, knowledge, equipment and motivation to teach a great lesson - and find in their classroom pupils who are ready to learn.
It's that easy.

The combination of fresh supply with sharp accountability could end the historic weakness of the English education system, namely the long-term tolerance of poor performance, especially in areas of high poverty.
Damn those poor bastards! They never pull there weight!

Mmm, 'sharp' accountability?


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Busy? Mind your own busyness!

Ah, the busy bug! I have found myself becoming increasingly busy over the last few months, and not always with the work I'd really like to be doing. I made a decision to try and moderate this better and build in more time for thinking, reading and writing.

Just a few more things to do ...


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Joyce's gray hair

This Joyce bloke is a crack up! Since he folded on Telstra, Voluntary Student Unionism is his next project.

... maverick Queensland Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce threatened yesterday to block plans to introduce voluntary student unionism.

"If they don't change it, I will vote against it," Senator Joyce said. "I'm going to ring up Brendan Nelson and tell him to stick VSU up his jumper.

"I'm going to try to find something to make the rest of my hair go grey."

Looks like this is the way to deal with Dr Nelson.


Why don't you ask them?

I guess it takes a perceptive young man to set the debate, currently raging over the PROPOSED VCE English Study Design, straight.

HERE is an idea that might shock both proponents and opponents of the new VCE English proposal. Instead of sitting around debating about what is best for students, why don't you ask them? They aren't stupid, after all, they are your sons and daughters. And ultimately, it is their future that you are playing with, not yours.
Daniel Golding (one year out of VCE), Kensington

Big cash is being tucked into wallet phones

Wallet phones and the cashless society ... sure beats all those pesky coins!


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Trading insults?

Once again I really cannot pause to comment on these (at the moment) ... but have a look yourself.

Roslyn Guy

Peter Guest


Monday, September 12, 2005

Massive revamp plan for schools (and for winning the next election?)

and on this, later ...


English Lite (teachers?) are s a tragedy for students?

more on this later ...


Saturday, September 10, 2005

Professional development for professionals?

This is an interesting example of the problems of trying to run and control a 'professional development' or continuing accreditation system for professionals.

Doctors who accrue a certain number of 'points', earned by attending various conferences, lectures, drug company sponsored events etc and who can 'show evidence' of how they are keeping up with the lastest knowledge, are able to receive more money in bulk-billing rebates and other status privileges.

The problem it seems, it that there is some disagreement about the kinds of activities that should be included in the program, or for which doctors can 'earn' points. A 'wealth creation seminar' where doctors learn about investment and maximising business profit?

The Royal Australian College of GPs has defended the seminar (as has Tony Abbott) saying, that the seminar "does not focus on wealth-creation strategies, rather it focuses on building competence in practice management".

Ah! Well that is so much clearer now.

I'm just wondering what teachers (and ACER and Dr Nelson) can learn from this?


Thursday, September 08, 2005

State ban on schools for profit? (well for the moment)

Oh my, this is an interesting development. For-profit schools. The Centre for Independent Studies (conservative 'think tank'), has released a paper written by 'educator' Ross Farrelly arguing the case in favour of 'for-profit-schools'.

In some weird twisted way this wouldn't be far from what we have now. Social dis/advantage exists on a massive scale anyway. But it's presently easier to hide or explain away by governments.

Absolutely classic arguments though. Get a load of this:
He [Ross Farrelly] argues that schools that operate for profit, and the resulting competition in the education marketplace, will deliver benefits that cannot be achieved by centralised government control.

"Schools of excellence will flourish and expand, enabling access to successful education for more families," he writes.

"Research and development into practical, effective teacher training will be encouraged. Efficiency will be promoted, bureaucracy minimised and parents will see a greater return for their education dollar."

Mr Farrelly says much of the antagonism against for-profit schools comes from "vested interests under threat and fear of the unknown", rather than serious consideration of the welfare of students.

He argues for leadership from policymakers to start welcoming what he calls "edupreneurs".

'Not a day goes by, when darling I, don't think of you ... ' Wasn't that Rick Astley or someone?


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Call for performance-based pay?

This stuff just keeps coming. The other day a colleague mentioned that he felt weighed down by the continual flow of criticism and simplistic blame assigning reported (and generated) by the press.

Here is another example, this time the problem of teachers leaving the profession during the first 5 years of teaching. As is typical of this kind og debate, there is little talk of real school and working conditions for teachers, and no mention of social equity-academic success issues for young people. The argument almost always focuses on pay/remuneration.

Any decent management/HR person worth their salt will tell you that 'employee satisfaction' is almost never measured with reference to pay/remuneration. Why? Because you can bet that people will always (almost) consider themselves underpaid, or their work undervalued. Can you imagine anyone (regardless of the fact that you or I might consider them over paid) actually saying, 'Yeah, I get way too much money for my job!', or 'Yeah, the boss should really cut my wage, she pays me an obscene amount and I'm just really uncomfortable with it, in fact I can't sleep at night knowing teachers get paid a pittance. Is there somewhere I can donate?'

The tragety is that Unions often tend to mount the same narrow arguments. Probably, believing that this is something that teachers want - more money. I have a hunch that it is not that simple - certainly for young or early career teachers whose wages are pretty darn good compared to most graduate jobs - even though graduate teachers 'perform' similar roles to experienced teachers. There are MANY other factors that influence a decision to teach - the prospect of pulling in a big wage are not one of them. So in many ways, this fact (low pay) is settled for many teachers before they begin teaching.

The other point to make about this article is the way Lawrence Ingvarson draws an explicit connection from this issue of pay and teacher attrition to teaching standards, teacher assessment and teacher performance.
Dr Ingvarson said the pay system in Australian schools was based on job categories rather than teacher skills and failed to act as a lever to improve student results .... A society that does not make teaching attractive to the best people is a stupid society. Good teachers are worth their weight in gold and we need a hell of a lot of them to make a difference to student outcomes .... However, Dr Ingvarson warned that performance-based pay required a rigorous, valid system of assessing performance
Of course, this might not seem like such a bad suggestion. Pay teachers on their merits. Great idea, easy solution.


In connecting teacher assessment and performance to student outcomes/achievement and then both of these to teacher pay and classification is simply wrongheaded (and I'm trying to be restrained here). It ignores all that the profession knows about the complexities of teaching and learning, about school difference and context, about how to promote teacher professionalism and 'teacher quality' and professional learning cultures, about the difficulties that many schools, teachers and students face in the course of their lives and work.

My hunch is that teachers would take a pay cut, if only they were treated with respect and valued in more than hollow rhetoric; if only they could do their jobs in classrooms that were warm, confortable and well resourced; if only they had genuine opportunities for professional learning that wasn't explicitly tied to student outcomes and school imperatives; if only they weren't saddled with performance appraisals that take time away from working with students.

When will we have a serious debate on these issues?


What would Simmo have thought of Howard?

What a silly bunch of political expediancies Dr Nelson and Mr Costello have engaged with over the recent scuffle about 'values' and 'our' young people and 'our' schools. It never ceases me amaze me (and I hold this as a mark of pride) how a little clear thinking, reading and writing can unravel, dispell, demystify and reveal the unashamed ignorance and stupidity of those who speak before thinking (and before considering others).

Martin Flanagan asks some simple but cutting questions here about the misappropriation of Simpson's (and his donkey) mythic legacy.


Blogs help students think for themselves?

Here's an article about blogging and critical thinking/writing based on Anne Bartlett-Brag at UTS. Not much detail, but that's to be expected.

The interesting thing about the article is that it's been picked up by a number of people and has highlighted the odd way some people are thinking about blogs, student achievement and writing. For example, Will at Weblogg-ed in writing his blogging book has stuggled with what he calls 'the dearth of statistical research surrounding the use of blogs in educational settings'. He also quotes from a study by Kimberly Rynearson where she says,
The primary research question guiding the study is: Are weblogs a viable technology for improving students’ reading/writing achievement? The study addresses this question directly by measuring students’ performance on end-of-year measures of reading/writing achievement.
Perhaps it's just me, but I always shiver when I read about 'measuring students performance on end of year measures of reading/writing achievement' as if this might give a picture of how students are really 'engaging' or 'performing' with blogs (or anything).

Is blogging a performance? Is schooling a performance? Sadly, I guess that it is (at least Lyotard would suggest that most modern day activities, and especially regulated or institutionalised ones, are increasingly performances). Of course statistical research 'talks' more persuasively to policy makers and economists and those sorts, but it can't give you nuanced and sensitive accounts of social and cultural practices.

Instead of calling for more 'statistical research' into how blogs help students perform, we need more fine grained, qualitative and interpretive accounts of the ways blogging and the practices that surround online writing and community mediate learning and relationships.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

Every picture tells a story

I've never come across Matt Coyle before but he sounds interesting (or at least his work does). I will have to pick up a copy of his first graphic novel Registry of Death.

Perhaps he'd like to come and speak at the VATE conference in December?


Saturday, September 03, 2005

PlayStation: Grey nation?

PSP and convergence hype