October 2009


The Monthly, October – Biographer Christine Wallace on ‘Julia Gillard’ : The Education Revolution schools policy, meanwhile, is the site of significant implementation problems and, in key respects, has a dubious conceptual base: it incorporates a fixation with conservative policy motifs, such as school reporting, that continue in a direct line from Howard Government policy.

5 Oct – On Line Opinion – Julia Gillard : What makes my beliefs left rather then right-wing is that, whilc I believe individual effort and personal responsibility are fundamentally important, I also believe that collective responsibility and democratic action are necessary to ensure people can develop themselves and excel in all kinds of ways.

6 Oct – Dan Harrison,  The Age:   About 650 principals at the Australian Primary Principals Association’s recent conference unanimously endorsed a motion urging the Federal Government to post information about the margin of error on its website of school profiles.        The website, scheduled to go live in January, will include each school’s test results, along with staff numbers and information about its student [sic] population. Information about a school’s funding will be published from later next years.

Associate Professor Wu’s research finds that if students [sic] were tested annually with a 40-item test, such as those being used to test literacy and numeracy nationally, measurement errors would lead to about 15 % of students [sic] appearing to go backward when they had actually made a year’s progress. She also finds the uncertainty around class averages from such tests is equivalent to more than half-a-year’s growth.  “Any suggestion that teacher performance should be determined by such measurement of student [sic] growth is of serious concern.” she writes.  “It should be made clear to parents it is only a single test, and does not reflect where their child is at,” Professor Wu says. “It is at best indicative of how their child is going.”

9 Oct Sam Chaltain in Forum for Education blog:: At the Forum, we share Secretary Duncan’s sense of urgency regarding the reauthorization of ESEA, and we appreciate his call for substantive policy ideas from the field of advocates, educators and others. We also agree that standardized tests, when used as the sole measure of student [sic] achievement, distort our public-education system and discourage educators from creating healthy and high-functioning learning environments.”

14 Oct. Justine Ferrari –  The Australian : Dr. Bert Jensen of the new independent think-tank, The Grattan Institute, Melbourne said that value-added models focussed on student [sic] progress and the contributon of schools to the improvements made by students [sic], rather than taking a snapshotof student [sic] performance in a single test. “Value-added modelling is a fundamentally more accurate method with which to measure school performance than just looking at raw test scores, even if they are categorised into like-school groups,” he said.  “These value-added progress scores have gained widespread support from a variety of stakeholders such as schools, teachers and ond parents in conutries such as the US, the UK and a number of European countries because they are fundamentally more accurate and. unlike some other methods, do not disadvantage schools serving lower socioeconomic communities.”

19 Oct. The Wall St. Journal : The National Assessment of Educational Progress – often called the “nation’s report card” – found fourth graders had made no learning gains since the last time the NAEP math test was given in 2007. Previously fourth graders had made scoring gains on every NAEP math test given since 1990.  Secretary Arne Duncan called the results “unacceptable”. He indicated that the Obama administraton needs to adopt tougher startegies, such as opening more charter schools and linking teacher pay to performance.

19 Oct – Dan Harrison – The Age : Education Minister Juia Gillard has signed a deal with US President’s Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, to foster collaboration between Australia and the US on ways to improve schools.    Under the memorandum of understanding, which was signed during Ms Gillard’s recent visit to Washington, policy officers from both nations will come together regularly to share ideas on education reform.  Ms Gillard said the two countries faced similar challenges and shared common views on how they should be tackled.

But Trevor Cobbold, the spokesman for public education advocacy group Save Our Schools, said it was “bizarre’ to look to the US for ideas on education.  “Why would you sign a memorandum with a country that’s so far behind us on average results and on dealing with low socio-economic and minority students  [sic] ?” he said. Australia should instead look to Finland, which outperformed both Australia and the US in international tests.

20 Oct. Anna Patty – Sydney Morning Herald : High-stakes testing is encouraging schools to avoid publicly recording the results of underperforming students [sic] to raise the academic profile of the school, critics of the system say. The proportion of students[sic] who did not turn up to school for national  literacy and numeracy {NAPLAN} tests this year increased by 10 percentage points or more at 13 NSW schools compared with last year.

A Greens NSW MP John Kaye, who obtained the State Government figures in response to a question on notice, said they “provided a taste of the high-stakes testing future”.     Dr Kaye said the publication of school performance data on a web-site later this year would put schools under pressure “to put their reputation ahead on the best interests of individual students[sic]”.

A spokeswoman for Mrs. Firth, Education Minister, rejected any suggestion that schools or teachers were deliberately withholding their students [sic] from the NAPLAN tests.

23 Oct –  Telegraph, U.K. Prof. Robin Alexander [Chairman – Cambridge Primary Review – most comphrehensive review of Primary Schools in UK for forty years. See above.] :

What are the problems ? First, the definition of ”standards’ is too narrow.

Primary education should amount to much more than basic literacy and numeracy. SAT tests are of doubtful reliability until recently. Although they have much to do, they end up doing nothing.

We can dispose of a couple of myths. It is not testing but good teaching that drives up standards, and tests are but one kind of assessment among several.  Let’s reform the system but first let’s enlarge the vocabulary.

See www.primaryreview.org.uk


If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to treat each problem as a nail.