Thursday, December 17, 2009

No destructive labels - stop league tables

(Above, school principals address the gathering before meeting with Minister Lomax-Smith)

Despite schools having closed for the holidays, a hundred or so AEU officials and school leaders met outside the head office of the Education Department yesterday to demand action to prevent the publication of league tables.

More than two hundred letters signed on behalf of individual schools by principals and sometimes by governing council (parents) chairpersons and AEU sub-branch secretaries, were delivered to the Minister for Education, Dr Jane Lomax-Smith.

The Minister was also presented with a copy of the AEU Charter on accountability, improvement, assessment and reporting (see: )

Chanting No Destructive Labels - Stop League Tables the principals and AEU officials called on Lomax-Smith to lobby her Federal counterpart, deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard to introduce legislation to prevent the formation of school league tables.

Gillard has created a MySchool website which will publish national literacy and numeracy (NAPLAN) tests results for grade 3,5,7 and 9 students.

This is a governmental misuse of a diagnostic test that was never intended to be a summative statement of how individual schools perform.

It is an even more shocking misuse in Queensland and South Australia, where year 7 is part of primary school, rather than the first year of secondary school.

In these two states, secondary school will be named and shamed on the basis of predominantly multiple choice questions of students in a single year level in a test that carries a high statistical margin of error.

Gillard is yet another Australian politician aping the failed education systems of the United States and the UK.

The social democratic ALP used to pretend that it wanted high quality free public education in every local community.

Now they want to promote “parental choice” through league tables as a cop-out from their former policy.

Rather than doing something about inequity in educational provision they want the parents to “walk with their feet” (Kevin Rudd) and be responsible for their own children being given a successful education.

This is the neo-liberal mantra of letting the market decide.

It continues the neo-liberal con job that has resulted in over a third of Australian students ending up in private education.

It is believed that Minister Lomax-Smith sees what is happening, disagrees with much of it, but feels unable to change the immoveable object that is the Deputy Prime-Minister.

Some educational commentators, including those who would not normally see eye to eye with the AEU such as Prof Brian Caldwell, have called on teachers to ban NAPLAN until there is legislative protection around its use.

Such legislation must outlaw the publication of school league tables.

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