Change is relative to the observer.
"Teachers were overwhelmed and their stress levels skyrocketed. Data about student outcomes is useful, but it should be kept in the classroom. It should not be about clicking thousands of boxes. Data needs to help us inform teaching decisions, not determine them." Correna Haythorpe
If we want to get to the root causes of why the education system is broken and what can be done to fix it, we need to free ourselves from the ideology that makes Caplan’s calculations all but inevitable.
Practice does not necessarily make perfect, but understanding the affordances and constraints of our tools helps, as does focus on the task in hand.
If you’re someone in education who hires others, I urge you to think about the the value of generalists. When people hire I think many tend to look for specialists, the applicant who maximizes that job description that was conveniently constructed with the help of that HR form. Think about how specialized you really need that new hire. Think about how valuable someone with more general skills, yet also capable at filling that position, will be at communicating with others and understanding the roles around them. Think about how much more nimble your team will be in the future.
I wonder Greg how your blog has developed? Are any ‘changes’ that stand out to you? Has your practice over ten years always been the same? Would love to know.
This is far from just a story about a haircut. It's also a story of the inevitable tension between powerful school councils and the communities they serve. Should a school pursue a change agenda it thinks will benefit the community of tomorrow if the community of today – and yesterday – isn't happy about it? To what extent should today's students and parents dictate the direction in which a school heads?
It's also a story about the ongoing struggle at schools everywhere between pursuing academic success and the health and happiness of their charges. And finally, it's about people power, 21st-century style: how a group of children and their parents used a combination of traditional and social media to force those at the top of their institution to listen. Shocked to find that, despite paying up to $32,000 per student in annual fees, they had no power over the decisions of the council and principal, the school community went rogue, enlisting the power of the media to assert their claim – and win.
Spearheaded by year 12 leaders, the campaign is feverishly adopted by students across the senior school. Adept with technology, the kids set up an online petition, which quickly gathered more than 6000 signatures, and an Instagram account with even more followers and its own hashtag, #bringbrownieback. A co-author of this piece, Henrietta Cook, has the electronic invites to her wedding hacked and a message added for some of her guests: “Evict … the school council and principal.” Choppers hover over the school as TV journalists stake out spots at the entrance for their live crosses.
Bruce Dixon adds his own commentary on this, especially in regards to power and agency.
The Trinity case offers an insight into the current state of education, with a balance between wellbeing and academic results, as well as private verses public:
Striking the right balance between students’ wellbeing and academic results is something every school worries about. Dr Mark Merry, the head of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia and also the principal of Yarra Valley Grammar, says the rise of performance data, including NAPLAN and ATAR league tables, has made schools more publicly accountable than ever before. Choosing between a focus on intellect and identity is fraught with tension. “Are you getting the balance right? Everyone agonises over this,” Merry says. “You can’t hold your hand on your heart and say you got it right all the time.”
It is also a story of old boys and old power holding onto the past (and their blazers):
Parents might not rank alumni as a top priority, but the old boys’ network – which runs events, helps with fundraising and has a network of sporting teams – plays an important role in the lives of many former students, including Thomas Hudson. The 29-year-old corporate banker with curly red hair feels deeply about his old school. “I care about Trinity because I want others to have the same experience that I did,” he explains. Hudson was among dozens of former students who squeezed into their school blazers for a community meeting at Hawthorn Town Hall. It was here that the old boys threatened legal action if the council didn’t resign.
Cook shares the extremes that people go to get people into these schools:
Parents at similar schools around the country have been known to try enrolling their unborn children – using the day of their scheduled C-section as the date of birth – only to be told that the child does in fact need to be physically born. Even the review of Brown’s dismissal had a top-end-of-town flavour. This was no little internal inquiry but an external investigation headed by a former Federal Court judge and a commercial barrister. Would public interest in such a spat be as high if it had unfolded at a state school in Melbourne’s outer north, or in Sydney’s far west?
Interestingly, the rush to ‘private’ is supposedly flat-lining.
When students choose what universities to go to, two key trends can be seen in Howard Gardner’s latest research, revealed at the International Conference on Thinking. Some go for transactional purposes — to get a good degree and pack their CV full of things so that they can head into ‘real life’ in the best possible way. Others go for transformational reasons — they see university as a chance to evolve from being a high schooler into something new, to reinvent themselves.