Public Money

Teachers who work in government schools have their salaries paid from public money. In Australia, even independent schools get a significant amount of funding from the government. And yet I think we sometimes lose sight of who we are working for.

For instance, it is perfectly valid for any taxpayer to comment on the education system. Yet dismissing the views of non teachers is common. 

And when teachers argue against standardised testing then they need to answer a simple question: how else do you propose to be accountable to the people who are picking up the bill?

Because, morally, we are be accountable.

Standardised testing is not perfect. There are aspects of Australia’s NAPLAN tests that I dislike and the VCE in Victoria has its idiosyncrasies, having been steered by those with particular agendas. But I would far rather have external measures of this kind than no external measures at all.

Evidence shows that teachers’ own assessments are biased and can act to the disadvantage of the most vulnerable groups in the school population. Standardisation acts as a check on this.

Sadly, the idea that we should do away with external checks and simply be trusted as a profession to get on with things is untenable. This is a profession that has embraced learning styles and does things because of Marxist critical theory. 

Yet there are hopeful signs. In recent years we have seen the emergence of teacher-led movements such as researchED that challenge woolly notions and ask for evidence. Social media has created a forum for an influential subgroup of teachers to engage with research and argument in a way that previously did not exist.

Over time, if this reflectiveness develops then I think we will grow-up as a profession and, amongst other things, we will see those standardised test results start to shift.

Once we are there, the bloke down the pub will no longer feel compelled to tell us how to do our jobs.

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7 Comments on “Public Money”

  1. Tara Houle says:

    I, too, am encouraged by Research Ed. However the question looms, how do we get our educators to listen? https://thetraditionalteacher.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/why-teachers-wont-listen-to-cognitive-science/

  2. If testing is there for accountability (I assume you mean of teachers, schools or the wider schooling system) as a form of quality assurance, then where is the feedback into the system?

    We know there are teachers who despise all forms of testing but they would be in the minority. This idea seems to come out of the USA as a backlash to learning being replaced by testing. I have heard first hand from US teachers that the focus for teachers is being moved from learning to beating tests as their positions are linked to their class’s next results. We’re nowhere near that in Australia but there are those of us that believe we could go down that road quite easily.

    If you want wholesale acceptance of testing then the justification for these tests need to be made. If the results are used to improve the opportunities for our students then they’ll be widely welcomed. But let’s be upfront. Are we testing the students or the teachers? If the government testing bodies are transparent about that and how results will be used to improve schools; only then will (inter)national testing support the growth of our profession.

    • gregashman says:

      I think that standardised tests quite clearly have two functions. They provide information to the school on individual students’ progress. But they also give data on school performance. It would be silly to directly compare outcomes of very different schools but useful comparisons can still be made. Schools that are doing a particularly good or poor job can be identified.

      • Chester Draws says:

        Standardised tests have another, very important function. They expose the Pseuds.

        I’ve met useless teachers who will tell you that they teach for deeper understanding using constructivist techniques, or that they work emotionally with their kids and that they make their lessons fun and engaging and with that comes learning, whereas I am merely teaching rote skills. They swear black and blue that they are better teachers.

        Yet standardised teaching exposes them. Without it, parents and students will swallow the best told lies.

  3. Chester Draws says:

    Sorry “standardised testing” obviously.

  4. Tempe says:

    As a parent I like testing, although in primary school we never know the test results, just a report card at the end of semester. I find that strange. My kids tell me they sat a test, I ask how did you go and they shrug and the inevitably say, “I dunno”. When we did tests we were given our mark the next day so we could go home and tell our parents. Now you’re made to feel like a pushy parent if you inquire as to your child’s reading level or any test result. That’s why I like Naplan. It is very clear if your child is below the average, middle or high. Parents need some kind of reassurance that academically their kids are progressing well. I never feel I get this from report cards. The reason for this is that the major piece of assessment for English could be “project based”, so a poster design showing how important water is, or a box painted like a bushfire, to show competency in Geography or science…sorry but that tells me nothing about how my kids is at English. Parents are consistently told that we are an important part of our childs’ education and then we get pushed aside. No one wants to hear from us (what we think, our concerns etc) because we are not the teachers and we just don’t “get it”. The only thing the school seems to want us for is to come to P & C meetings to talk about fund raising for new laptops or Ipads and volunteer our services. Yes, testing is for the student and the school as a whole. I certainly don’t think it should be linked to teachers pay but I do think that if a school is consistently failing its students and the other schools just down the road are not, then that school should be adjusting their methods accordingly. I’d also like to see a return of school inspectors because at our school some teachers neglect maths instruction (my kids had a teacher that only did half an hr a week) and others neglect English.


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