Listened TER #109 – How large-scale tests affect school management with Marten Koomen – 04 March 2018 by Cameron Malcher from Teachers' Education Review
Cameron Malcher speaks with Marten Koomen about his research into the process by which large-scale tests like PISA and NAPLAN affect school management and curriculum.

Marten Koomen frames the conversation around a discussion of collectivism, neoliberalism and skepticism. For collectivists, school is the responsibility of the state, whereas neoliberals consider it as another product to be consumed. While without effective governance, skepticism ends up in tragedy. Our current climate is very much in response to neoliberalism, however:

We are all part collectivist, individualists neoliberals and skeptics, so to identify in one corner is disingenuous.

The key question that Koomen tries to address is: How did Victoria go from a state that was a leader in content knowledge and democratic values to the launch of a content-free platform driven by the terror of performativity? As he explains,

They had this idea of the net, but no idea of the content … a complete infatuation with the technology.

Discussing PISA, Koomen provides some background to computer-based testing and the ‘Koomen Model’. The model involved providing schools with standardized devices for the consistency of data. It failed based on pressure.

In part, Koomen’s model tells us something about the data and what it tells us. There are groups out there that want the outcomes without the content or context. Koomen returns again and again to the difference between entity realism vs. constructivism:

Entity Realism = things are real

Constructivism = things agreed upon

Realists ignore context as it is not mapped back to a central curriculum. It also allows for the insult of the human spirit through comparison of outcomes, ratio and market results. For example, NAPLAN uses Item Response Theory, a format that does not allow any direct recall or reference to learning and development. This leads to the situation where a student can ‘improve’ yet remain on the same score. Margaret Wu explains this in her chapter in National Testing in Schools, while Sam Sellar, Greg Thompson and David Rutkowski elaborate on it in The Global Education Race.

For Koomen our decline in these scales comes back to a focus on the market:

Neoliberalism considers content as: self-evident, real, axiomatic, socially constructed and marketable. In a way that supports the status quo.

This leads to conversations with students in regards to points on a scale, rather than aspects of context and development. For example, it is easier in the media to talk about a change in ratios or job rates, rather than the collapse in the car industry and what impact that has for the state. This allows for the rise of education conferences based around data with little reference to the local context.

The answer Koomen closes with is to work together though associations to make systemic change.

Listened TER #108 – ACARA’s Literacy & Numeracy Progressions with Hilary Dixon – 18 Feb 2018 from
Main Features: ACARA’s Acting Director, Curriculum, discusses the new literacy and numeracy progressions, their relationship to curriculum, and intended applications in teaching and assessment practices; Annabel Astbury outlines the ABC’s new education initiative. Regular Features: Off Campus, ...

00.000 Opening Credits
01:31.214 Intro
01:55.324 Off Campus – Dan Haesler
12:48.141 Education in the News
20:44.068 ABC Education – Annabel Astbury
28:50.180 Feature Introduction
30:52.440 Interview – Hilary Dixon
59:28.218 Announcements
1:01:52.482 Quote & Sign Off

In this edition of the TER Podcast, Cameron Malcher interviews Hilary Dixon about the new Literacy and Numeracy Progressions released earlier this year from ACARA. Although the interview discusses what the progressions are, it also provides a critical context to their creation and where they might sit within the wider debate around NAPLAN and back-to-bacics curriculum.

Cameron Malcher interviews Massimo Pigliucci about Stoicism and its place within education.

00.00 Opening Credits
01:31 Intro
03:16 Ben Newsome – Fizzics Ed Podcast
11:19 Pasi Sahlberg on NAPLAN
17:39 Discussing disparity of school resources
21:28 Feature Introduction
24:02 Interview – Massimo Piglucci
1:19:05 Quote & Sign Off