Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Collateral Damage

This term has come into our language via the military. It is used to refer to unintentional consequences (usually casualties) as a consequence of the actions of the great and powerful, usually in connection with a struggle converting ideological intent to military action.

The victims are often the innocent and helpless – those without power or the means to escape or defend themselves. The phenomenon is not confined to military activity.

Sometimes damage occurs through government policy. An example of this has become obvious to me as I support kids with disabilities in bush schools. Some of these schools have as few as ten students enrolled. The performance of one student assumes a significance way out of all proportion to reality when NAPLAN* results are posted on (for example) the myschool website.

This is not an issue if the student falls within the percentile rankings common to most kids, but suppose – just suppose - this kid has a significant intellectual disability. He will need to perform more poorly than 75% of the population before he is excused from being tested using the NAPLAN process, and there are many who just squeak over this mark.

His results then will have a disproportionate negative affect on the whole school performance. If he were attending a large (or even moderately sized) metropolitan school, this result would be far less significant, as it would be lost amongst a large group of average or near-average kids.

So now, not only do these kids have to deal with the dearth of support available in the bush, they are seen as “problems” who pull down the reputation and achievement of their small-school peers.

They and their families become collateral damage, casualties in a flawed effort to gain political advantage in the name of accountability.

It’s pretty poor – and will make the task of bush principals just a little more unattractive. Recruiting in the bush will become more of a problem.

I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time……

* National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy


Boy on a bike said...

I refuse to look at that website. To me, it is a "macro" view. I prefer to take the micro view as far as education is concerned. If there are 10 dud teachers at Junior's school, he will do well so long as he doesn't have any of them. The ranking of the school is largely irrelevant. What we have found is that it is the quality of the individual teacher that makes the difference for Junior. If they are on the ball, he does well. If they are slack and useless, so is he. I am putting all my energy this year into monitoring the "micro" things at his school to ensure that he achieves his best. And you know what - it's already making a big difference.

1735099 said...

Back in the nineties there was an initiative in Queensland called “Leading Schools” that provided additional funds to schools that went entirely into self-management mode.
At the same time, research was commissioned at U of Q to prove that there was a connection between how the school was managed and how well students performed.
It proved nothing of the sort.
What the research showed conclusively a few years later was that the strongest predictor of student success was teacher effectiveness. “Leading Schools” was dropped.
Continue to monitor the teachers.

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