Bookmarked Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner, Ted Dintersmith (Scribner) From two leading experts in education and entrepreneurship, an urgent call for the radical re-imagining of American education so that we better equip students for the realities of the future.
The Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools discusses a model that gives children personalised teaching based on their ability and achievements, rather than grouping children together according to their age.
On Focus, Nadia sets out to find out exactly what personalised learning is, how it works and what its benefits - or shortcomings - might be.
She speaks to Professor Geoff Masters, CEO of the Australian Council for Educational Research, who outlines the shortcomings in our current system and the alarming decline in the performance of 15-year-olds compared to students in other countries.
Dr Glenn Savage, senior lecturer in Public Policy and Sociology of Education at the University of Western Australia agrees that while there is a definite decline in the achievement of Australian students compared to their international peers, he is more sceptical about the recommendations made in Gonski 2.0.
He says there are better things to be spending our education dollars on than another big overhaul of the Australian education system.
He also believes several changes over the past few years have not helped stem the decline and we still have not tackled the issues of inequitable access to education funding that were identified by the first Gonski report.
Glenn Savage and Geoff Masters talk with Nadia Mitsopoulos about the new Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools. Some of the points discussed include:
- Does the new report addresses the question of inequality?
- Is ‘personalised teaching’ worth the money and investment?
- Is the educational sector exhausted by continual reform agendas?
- Do the recommendations really address what is happening in the classroom?
Glenn Savage also summarised his thoughts in a post on The Conversation. While Geoff Masters (and Ray Adams) published a post in the ACER Newsletter addressing the question of ‘inequality’ arguing that recent findings have found that equity and fairness are often more important.
In an ‘equitable’ school system, students’ special needs and unequal socioeconomic backgrounds are recognised and resources (for example, teaching expertise) are distributed unequally in an attempt to redress disadvantage due to personal and social circumstances. Here again, ‘equity’ is achieved by prioritising fairness over equality.source
Long story short: I’m a realist. Teachers are never going to make a fortune. It’s not fiscally responsible — and the fact of the matter is that we HAVE to be fiscally responsible.
But let’s quit pretending that teachers who are using their voices to draw attention to the sad state of funding in our public schools and to the impact those funding choices are having on kids are bad people trying to fleece America.
When the wall of old habits and customs is broken down the quest for the possible can begin.
Diane Kashin’s description of what is ‘possible’ seems in contrast to the picture of education offered by Andrew Laming and planning for learning once a term.
If the school year is grinding teachers down mentally to the point where long holidays are required, then the solution is to address what is causing the problems in school term time.
First we must offer teachers the chance to go home like the rest of us and switch off. Second, the bulk of lesson planning needs to shift out of term time, even if teachers are on-site over school holidays. That is when the pupil-free days should occur.
Third, I want principals to change culture tomorrow and be given a slice of the Gonski resources to fund the extra hours that definitively improve student outcomes.
Fourth, we need an explicit focus on the children that do not gain a year of learning in a calendar year, and not dump the responsibility solely on classroom teachers who are forced to pass the parcel.
Finally, states and territories must replace annual incremental pay rises with a genuine teacher-designed merit-based model rewarding sub-specialisation and further education.
Students' progress will be assessed alongside standard academic benchmarks under a new approach to school education.
So the wheel continues to turn. First we had progression points. Then we moved to ‘Standards’. Now we are focusing on the individual:
Under-achieving students would focus on improvement, while more advanced students would be pushed to meet “stretch targets” beyond their age or year level. End-of-year results would be scrapped in favour of “learning progressions” that can be assessed and attained at any time – and tracked, even if a student changes schools or states.
Although this is a considerable change, it has been something spoken about for a number of years. Interestingly, this comes with a review of ‘autonomy’ and the ‘social status’ of teachers:
Mr Gonski also called for an “urgent” review of what students are taught in years 11 and 12, greater autonomy for school principals and measures to boost the social status of teachers.
This seems fair until the buck is passed from Federal or State level to the school. Again no mention of equity (opps, that was Gonski 1.0). In a post for The Conversation, Glenn Savage argues that any changes must be in addition to those called for in the first review, not in replace of this:
We need to (once again) question whether the contemporary reform fever does any more than treat symptoms while deeper structural conditions continue to ensure, as the original Gonski report put it, unacceptable links between young people’s socioeconomic backgrounds and levels of achievement.
We need to be careful not to stray too far from where the first Gonski report started out. That is: addressing inequalities in Australian schooling through re-distributive funding.
Interestingly, on the one hand we want to boost teachers, while also undermine them with a ‘new online assessment tool’ to seemingly justify results:
The restructured curriculum would be underpinned by a new online assessment tool teachers use to gauge where their pupils are up to and develop “tailored teaching and learning strategies” for individual students.
With all this said and done, I was a little confused by the discussion of ‘de-privitisation of teaching’:
There was emerging evidence to support what the report called the “de-privatisation of teaching”, which involved moving away from a model where teachers would stand alone at the front of the classroom and took sole responsibility for their pupils, towards greater collaboration.
I look forward to reading the analysis from those much more informed than me.
There is a summary of the report that can be helpful to look at:
It’s worth remembering, of course, that A Nation at Risk wasn’t so much a fact-finding commission as it was a carefully constructed (and statistically suspect) narrative about “failing schools” – a narrative that continues to be wielded in sequel after sequel after sequel after sequel after sequel after sequel.
Don’t you dare tell me that it is illegal for teachers to strike. One thing I learned working in civilized countries, like Australia, is that there is no such thing as an illegal strike. It is a basic human right to withhold one’s labor, otherwise we are slaves.
I find this all problematic Kevin. I feel that deciding that the supposed ‘child-led’ approach is at fault is no different to me questioning the ‘effect on what’ of the evidence-based approach. I wonder if what is really at fault is teacher agency. We need ‘evidence’, but surely this needs to be informed by context as well. I think that Dr. Deborah Netolicky captures this best when she says:
A multiplicity of research approaches provides diverse ways of understanding education, but we need to interrogate the approaches and arrive at conclusions with caution. Teachers’ wisdom of practice and immersion in their own contexts needs to be honoured.
The key thing is not to get caught up chasing other people’s innovative projects. They might just not be applicable for you. Ask yourself is this idea “new” for us or “new” for the world? Pay attention to the needs of your own context and the students in front of you.