Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Bleeding Obvious (Take Two)


Today the Courier Mail published a supplement with the statewide league tables of 2008 NAPLAN testing.


To read their editorial material over the years, you'd be excused for thinking that they had somehow opened up this data to scrutiny in the face of obdurate opposition from a education sector with something to hide. Apart from the fact that this information has been available for years on school websites, there hasn't been any political opposition from the current state government.


All that the supplement does is to make it easier to compare, although to my way of thinking, any parent too lazy to log on to the websites of the schools of interest to do his/her own research probably isn't going to make good decisions. I suppose there may be some parents without access to the internet, but then, the same material is available in hard copy on request from schools.


So the first myth busted is that of this information being hidden.


There is another myth being promoted by the Courier Mail.


This one is that private schools are a better bet when it comes to choosing schools if you want a high standard of literacy and numeracy. On the face of it, this may seem to hold water given the Courier's headline that "Private Schools Top the Class".


Looking at the data, it's clear that more private schools are positioned at the top of the league than state schools, although interestingly enough, many small state schools do very well - but can't be counted because of the sample size problem. Most of these are in the bush. These are the schools I support.


What becomes abundantly clear if you spend five minutes with the tables is that the clearest correlation is between high scores and socio-economic status of the feeder area. The private-public comparison is submerged in this, but the Courier pulls it out as a headline because it creates a political issue.


I suppose a headline reading "wealthy kids do better" doesn't create the controversy that the public-private debate does, and doesn't sell as many papers.


What is not measured and published for public scrutiny is the time lost in coaching students for the tests, the curriculum content (usually intrinsically interesting material such as music) abandoned, and the insidious effect that teaching to the test has on professional practice. What will become abundantly clear as the years roll by, will be a steady improvement in the results. This will have nothing to do with improving literacy and numeracy standards, and everything to do with schooling for the tests.

This
is what has happened everywhere else in the world where standardised testing has been applied, and we're not going to be any different.


And it means nothing to the parents of the kids I work with, many of whom have absolutely no choice as to where they send their kids to school. These are students with disabilities, and in most parts (rural and metropolitan) of this state, the private schools simply won't enrol them.

These private schools are funded for the most part with taxpayers' money, and yet these parents can't enrol their kids in them.


Stinks a bit, doesn't it?


I wonder whether the Courier would run an editorial on that issue?

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Coal4breakfast


As I travel west along the Warrego, I'm noticing heaps of crudely crafted signs referring to a group called Coal4breakfast.


They also have a website.


The first time I heard of them was at community cabinet at Toowoomba earlier in the year when they staged a well-organised (and well-mannered) picket as the cabinet ministers arrived. These people aren't smelly hippies - they're salt-of the-earth farmers from grain properties on the darling Downs.


Their beef is the taking out of coal-mining leases on prime wheat and barley-producing land by some of the more aggressive coal extraction organisations. These groups can see a handy profit to be made, and are aware of the existing infrastructure (particularly rail) ironically built to move the grain.


Already, the railways is refusing to carry grain unless the farmers enter into written up-front agreements. This results in an ever-increasing number of grain trucks on the highway, which are swiftly destroying the road. This problem goes as far west as Thallon.


So, apart from threatening the livelihood of the locals, wrecking the environment, and destroying the quality of life enjoyed in these townships, this industry is going to bugger the vital road infrastructure.


But it's OK, because the state government will make lots from the royalties, and the mining companies will also make a motsa.


Well - not if these people have anything to do with it.


Get behind them - there's plenty of coal to be sourced from areas not useful for other purposes, and we keep hearing how much is out there.

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