I agree with Hattie when he says that he :
recommends building confidence in public schools, boosting the literacy and numeracy skills of students by the time they turn eight, and having at least one highly accomplished or lead teacher in every school.
It is not just something occurring in Melbourne schools. It also happens here in Ballarat. We have families drive past our school to go to nearby big schools because big schools are 'better'or private schools are better. That is nonsense of course and it would be great if the Department would invest some time, money and effort into promoting public schools and in particular small rural public schools.
Almost 60 per cent of Melbourne students are bypassing their local school, according to world-renowned academic John Hattie.
Professor Hattie said school choice had led to a "clogging of the motorways" as students avoided their neighbourhood school in pursuit of alternatives.
School choice has also fuelled unhealthy competition between schools, he told a packed lecture theatre at the University of Melbourne on Tuesday evening.
"Nearly all this choice is based on hearsay, the nature of the students, and rarely on whether the school is or isn't adding value to the students' learning," he said.
It follows concerns about the phenomenon known as "white flight", where affluent families shun poor local schools, which are crying out for enrolments, in favour of wealthier schools.
It is understood that Education Department figures show that the majority of students who bypass their local school attend private schools.
"We need a reboot in our debate about the value of the local school," Professor Hattie told the crowd.
The professor, who is the director of the university's Melbourne Education Research Institute, said Australians had a "perverse" idea of what a successful school looked like.
"We prize high achievement, we prize schools that led to high ATARs, and we consider that successful students are the brightest. This is corrupting our system, leading parents to seek the wrong schools," he said.
The academic, who recently starred in the ABC documentary series Revolution School, said success should be based on progress instead of achievement.
He also took aim at "cruising schools", which often serve more affluent students, but add little value to their academic results.
These cruising schools are a major factor in Australia's declining performance in the Program for International Student Assessment – an international survey which pits the world's education systems against each other. Australia's PISA results in reading, maths and science have declined in every testing cycle since the turn of this century, he said.
He criticised competition between schools and called for more collaboration.
"Our classrooms are too often kingdoms, with the moats drawn on these private empires," he said.
"Once a year at enrolment time these same principals are competing against each other, so, dare they share their secrets of success with their rivals?"
Professor Hattie said Australians loved to debate the "the things that matter the least".
This included autonomy, teaching aides and class sizes.
Professor Hattie said he was not opposed to Gonski funding for schools, but wanted to make sure it was well spent.
"Over the past ten years we have had more than doubling the funding to schools relative to increased student numbers but our overall performance is stagnating or declining. Spending more to continue the current system is not wise behaviour," he said.
He recommended building confidence in public schools, boosting the literacy and numeracy skills of students by the time they turn eight, and having at least one highly accomplished or lead teacher in every school.
"Our enemy is complacency, blaming the post-codes, deploring the parents, fixing the students not the system, and arguing for more resources to continue what is not working," he said.
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