Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Transparency in Education

Ray Johnston of Tannum Sands writes in today's Australian -

Taking poor performing schools to task and removing poor performing teachers and principals sounds like common sense. But let's unpack this. In schools where student performance is poor, surely the reason why this is happening deserves careful scrutiny. If the reason is that teachers are lazy, uncaring or plain incompetent, by all means take action.

However, I believe that most Australians understand well that there are myriad reasons why some young people struggle at school. Some come from homes that don't value education, have dysfunctional parents, were never read to when young, and so on.

In other words, an assumption that poor results come from poor teaching is silly. That such over-simplifications are still being made by politicians (who want to make complex problems seem simple) is unbelievable.

That such grab-bag, quick-fix proposals come from both sides of politics now leaves me, as an experienced high school principal, speechless.

If the same principle were applied to our political leaders, any member of parliament representing an electorate with poor out­comes (for example, high crime rates, high youth unemployment, long hospital waiting lists) would be removed from office.

Want to make a real difference to educa­tional outcomes? Try these two solutions: stop funding education on a 19th-century model of x students per teacher and fund schools on need; fix the staffing shortage in our schools, which is about to turn into a nationwide crisis. This will take money, not words.

I share his frustration. The problem is far more complicated than a 20 second grab can handle, so we're stuck with spin and glib populism. The fact that politicians from both Labor and Coalition are singing the same jingle is simply sad. I'm glad I've retired, and my kids are all (almost) through the system. The only "transparency" evident in this is the political motivation.


Anonymous said...

I fail to understand why teachers oppose accountability.

What wrong with rewarding good teachers?

If there is a problem identified at a school, my understanding is that it will receive more resourcing to overcome the problem.

Surely that's a good thing?

Performance appraisals are a part of life, well except for teachers apparently.

They say they want to be treated as professionals - you don't see many teachers wearing coats and ties.

And at 3.30 pm the teachers' car park is almost empty.


1735099 said...

Performance appraisal has been part of teaching since Adam was a pup. As a principal, I did heaps over the years. They were more meaningful than the performance reviews I have observed in private industry.
Good teachers tend to move into administrative positions which takes them out of the classroom. They do this because they continue to get paid`peanuts if they stay in the classroom.
I don't know what teachers' car parks you're watching, but when I was classroom teaching, I'd knock off at 3.30pm, go home and sleep for two hours because I was buggered, and then go back to school and work until late just to get my preparation done for the following day.
For every hour you're in front of the kids you need to put in at least half an hour in preparation.
Coats and ties in Queensland? - You've got to be kidding!

Anonymous said...

Well.... what about a safari suit then?

I'm sure you can still get them somewhere, particularly in Queensland LOL!!!

You are right about those that want to get ahead moving into administrative positions, they are then seen as the enemy by the teachers' unions.


1735099 said...

There's a lot of mythology surrounding the role of teachers' unions. In the first place, teaching is highly unionised because the union will assist teachers if they're sued, which is a very common occurrence these days. Any teacher who doesn't take advantage of this coverage has rocks in his/her head. Teaching administrators generally remain members of the union.
I worked for a while in staffing schools after I had been a principal. In this job I had to negotiate with Union organisers quite often, principally around a process called "Diminished Work Performance" which was essentially a way of handling under-performing teachers. Once it was established that the teacher was indeed under-performing, the Union would usually take the line that they should be taken out of the profession and assisted in finding a new career, and would help in this. In my experience, I never saw any obstructionism in the way of this process, despite what the average Joe on the street believes.
I terms of what teachers wear (if we're being serious) - in my career I taught in Primary, Secondary and Special Schools, and what I wore depended entirely on the situation. A jacket and tie (for example) would be a waste of time on a Pre-school teacher, but it might be appropriate on a Principal.
What you wear matters a lot less than how you function as a motivator and leader of kid's learning.

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