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.