Sunday, 29 April 2018

Gonski 2.0 funding fraud

Prime Minister Turnbull will push for a radical overhaul of the Australian curriculum after endorsing a blueprint by businessman David Gonski to fix the country's lagging school system.

The Gonski 2.0 plan will transform the school system to assess and reward personal progress, not just standard academic benchmarks. It challenges the Commonwealth, states and territories to ditch their "industrial model of schooling" in favour of a more modern and individual approach.

He concluded three in 10 primary schools were "cruising": maintaining middling results but doing little to garner improvement. Stronger students were "not being stretched to achieve in the top levels of proficiency in mathematics, reading and science".

The rigidity of the national curriculum was a handbrake on the system, serving up "a fixed year-level diet of knowledge, skill and understanding", Mr Gonski said.

"Teaching curriculum based on year or age levels rather than levels of progress leaves some students behind and fails to extend others, limiting the opportunity to maximise learning growth for all students," the report found.Under-achieving students would focus Mr Gonski also called for an "urgent" review of what students are taught in years 11 and 12, greater autonomy for school principals and measures to boost the social status of teachers.

Mr Gonski's report conceded there would likely be "a need to reduce teaching contact time to enable this to occur". Senator Birmingham said the point was "not [to] increase the workload on teachers but to make sure that those teachers are able to use their time as effectively as possible".

An urgent review of year 11 and 12 curricula, which vary from state to state, was needed in part to counter the undue focus placed on getting students into university, Mr Gonski argued.

This could "crowd out broader educational outcomes," he wrote, while the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) played "a disproportionate role as a yardstick for overall school performance".

Mr Gonski said a more flexible senior curriculum, including apprenticeships or work experience, should be considered, as well as potentially splitting senior grades from the rest of high school.

Senator Birmingham said the senior secondary years needed to prepare students "for the range of different pathways people will take after school, of which university is but one".

Among the other recommendations - all of which have been agreed to in-principle by the federal government - is the creation of an independent institute to assess educational evidence, a body which has already been promised by Labor.

For instance, there was emerging evidence to support what the report called the "de-privatisation of teaching", which involved moving away from a model where teachers would stand alone at the front of the classroom and took sole responsibility for their pupils, towards greater collaboration.

The review also urged freeing school principals from the shackles of administration and handing them more autonomy over teaching practices - and more professional development for teachers.

@tanya_plibersek on Gonski 2.0: The government has redesigned needs-based funding to say that kids in public schools only need 20 per cent of the schooling resource standard. How can that be fair?  
The Turnbull Government is worsening inequality in our schools. They will fund public schools below the agreed resourcing standard and fund private schools above the agreed standard.
Turnbull government needs to:

1. Reverse $1.9 billion cut from public schools & disability cuts.

2. Fund all schools at 100% of agreed schooling resource standard.

3. Establish a public schools capital fund.

4. Remove 20% public school funding cap.

From the AEU
President of the Australian Education Union, @CHaythorpeAEU: We'll be very interested to see how the Turnbull government responds to these recommendations in the context of their $1.9 billion cuts to the public school system.

From Shorten
.@billshortenmp on the budget: You cannot take the Liberals seriously on education funding. 

'If they want to be taken seriously on education they have to reverse the cuts to schools.' 
We are ranked 25th in the world for maths. If we finished 25th on the Olympic medal tally, there would be a national outcry and Turnbull would be throwing the kitchen sink at fixing it. 

Saturday, 28 April 2018

TAFE drama

TAFE funding cuts have devastated Australia’s ability to provide high quality skills for the future:

❌NSW lost 35% of TAFE workforce 2010-2016
❌Victoria’s TAFE workforce declined 44%
❌QLD by 25% 
❌SA lost 17% of its TAFE workforce in recent years

Rich schools get richer....even in the state system

By Henrietta Cook in the Age

Melbourne’s most advantaged state schools are reaping four times the money from parent levies than their poorer counterparts, new research has found.

The study raises concerns about growing inequity within the public education system and has sparked calls for greater oversight 

While parents at the poorest state schools forked out an average of $408 for each child every year, those at the most advantaged state schools stumped up $1430, according to research by Deakin and Murdoch universities.

It found that the average annual cost of sending a child to a state school in metropolitan Melbourne is $846, a big burden for many parents.

Langwarrin mother Melanie said she had to borrow money from her sister and fell behind with her electricity bills when her twin children, Molly and Blake, started Year 7 this year.

“I thought, ‘How am I going to do this'?” Melanie said. “It was quite overwhelming.”

She scoured op shops for shirts that matched Elisabeth Murdoch College's uniform. And for the first few weeks of class, Blake didn’t wear the school jacket because his family couldn’t afford it.

“I have to get double of everything, every cent I have has gone to this,” Melanie said.

“We haven’t been able to do anything special for months, because money is so tight. We had no fun over school holidays.”

Parent payments include essential learning items such as textbooks, uniforms, stationery, camps, music programs and excursions. While they include voluntary payments, they exclude donations.

Melanie estimates she’s already paid the state school $1500 to cover these items.

The costs would have been higher had she not received assistance from the state government’s camps, sports and excursions fund and state schools relief.

She said the school had been understanding, and let her pay in instalments.

Researchers used My School data to analyse parent payments at 150 state schools in metropolitan Melbourne between 2013 and 2016.

While the poorest schools each received an average of $352,956 in parent payments every year, the wealthiest schools, which tended to enrol more students, reaped $1.58 million.

Deakin University academic Dr Emma Rowe, who co-authored the paper with Murdoch University’s Dr Laura Perry, said advantaged schools generated more money from parents and were able to provide more resources.

Poorer schools, which can't draw as much money from their communities, miss out.

Dr Rowe said needs-based funding did not offset these gaps.

“This is another impact of segregation,” she said.

Dr Rowe said elite state schools knew they could ask for more money and parents were often happy to contribute because it was a fraction of what they would have to pay at a private school.

“On one hand I think it’s fantastic that parents are willing to contribute the funding but some parents simply can't,” she said.

She said there needed to be greater regulation of parent payments in schools, and potentially a cap on how much money parents can be asked to contribute.

The researchers pointed out that in Ontario, Canada, schools are asked to share resources and funding to ensure a level playing field.

Victorian Council of Social Service chief executive Emma King said some students were not choosing certain elective subjects because of the extra costs.

“Families are faced with impossible choices – buy a blazer, but your child can’t afford to play sport," she said. "Buy an iPad but have no money left for food.”

She said there was inadequate monitoring of the Education Department’s revised parent payment policy, with some schools failing to understand or comply with the new rules.

A department spokeswoman said the revised policy, released in 2016, ensured that school costs were fair, transparent and efficient.

“Schools must ensure that parent payment costs are kept to a minimum and the parent payment policy requires schools to provide enough detail to allow parents to understand what is being charged for,” she said.

Schools understood that parents faced challenges, and worked with them to determine hardship arrangements, she said.

“Every school is different with different needs and expectations, therefore school councils can set their own parental payments and limits in accordance with [the] department’s policy."

A 2015 Auditor-General's report into the cost of state education found that schools had become reliant on parent payments. It found that schools charged for items including textbooks, head lice checks and stationery, which should be provided for free.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Beware the return of GONSKI

The landmark second Gonski report will recommend new structures to measure the performance of education programs but is “philosophical” in tone and does not attempt to dictate specific reforms to schools, Guardian Australia understands.

Based on conversations on background with four sources who saw drafts or were briefed on its contents, the Guardian understands the review of education excellence in Australian schools calls for measurement of students’ annual growth relative to students with their characteristics.

The report will also echo calls from within the sector for an increased focus on “evidence-based” policy to evaluate the effectiveness of different teaching practices.

The state school turning lives around for disadvantaged children

The revelations come ahead of a meeting with state education ministers, scheduled for Friday, in which the review’s chairman, David Gonski, will brief states on the report. The Guardian understands state ministers are yet to see the report.

The report – which was commissioned by the federal education minister, Simon Birmingham, with the goal of dictating the way funding in schools should be directed – will on the whole avoid advocating for specific teaching policies and does not endorse one-size-fits-all educational reforms such as greater phonics teaching in schools or class sizes.

“It’s a vision statement, not a blueprint,” one person with knowledge of the report’s contents said. Another said it was fair to describe the report as “philosophical” in tone.

A third source said the review was “more high level and general” and proposes “structures to determine if particular educational reforms are useful” rather than prescribing particular reforms.

The report will make recommendations around assessment and reporting regimes, and will lean on education researcher John Hattie’s calls for a “year’s growth for a year’s input” in learning.

Hattie has called for assessment measures in education to shift from a focus on “high achievement”.

Instead, children should receive a year’s learning no matter what developmental level they are at. The idea has implications for Australia’s model of school assessment because it places less emphasis on the idea that students should be achieving a certain year-level average.

Sources in the education sector expect the review to recommend improving the evidence base for educational methods to spread the best teaching practices and programs between schools, states and systems.

The Productivity Commission identified the need for a national education evidence base in a 2017 report that concluded it would “turn best practice into common practice”.

It said more evidence on successful methods would “drive better value for money and improve the outcomes achievable from any given level of expenditure”, one of the key aims of the Gonski review which will not weigh into the debate on the levels of schools funding.

Developing the evidence base was favoured by a number of parties who submitted including the Grattan Institute’s school education program director, Peter Goss, and Social Ventures Australia and its Evidence for Learning not-for-profit.

Educational inequality widening Australia’s rich-poor gap, report finds

Goss told Guardian Australia that Grattan’s submissions were released in a report in February that suggested the commonwealth should only get involved in schools where there was evidence the intervention was working.

He said the report calls for better information at the macro and micro level, with a “national measure of learning progress” as well as providing teachers with better information about the improvements of individual students to determine what helped them learn.

Suggested models for an evidence base vary. The Productivity Commission recommends the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (Acara) should perform the function, the Grattan Institute favours a new independent body and Evidence for Learning wants an independent body decided by tender.

In anticipation of such a recommendation, Labor proposed a $280m evidence institute for schools in February.

Labor’s proposed body would commission research, assess programs promoted and sold into schools and provide educators with guides summarising the evidence of best teaching practice.

Labor’s education spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, said the institute “will help improve schools by ensuring teachers and parents have high-quality research at their fingertips”.

“Armed with the best and latest evidence in digestible, easily applicable formats, teachers will be able to exercise their professional judgment about how to best help their students,” she said.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Shit from Donnelly as usual

'Government schools, in particular, suffer because they lack the flexibility and freedom to select and manage staff, to implement a curriculum that best suits their students’ expectations and abilities and to innovate and implement best practice pedagogy.

It should not surprise that Catholic and independent schools achieve stronger results compared to government schools, even after adjusting for students’ home background, as they have greater autonomy and the freedom to compete.

A definition of madness is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. In many ways Australia’s education system epitomises such an approach, as the politicians, policy makers and educational bureaucrats in control keep repeating the same mistakes.

As to whether the report investigating the most effective way to spend the additional Gonski 2.0 billions signifies a radically different or new approach we will soon know – but based on past practice don’t hold your breath.'

This arsehole was given oxygen again by The Age. This is part of his horseshit, I couldn't be bothered to copy and paste it all.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

DeVos lied...

A new report from Betsy Devos' own Department of Education exposes destructive racism in American schools.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos openly supports policy decisions that treat disciplinary bias against black students as if it were a myth. She’s even gone so far as to say protections for minority students have made schools more violent.

But a recently released report proves the racial bias is extremely real, in the midst of DeVos’ attempted whitewashing. Perhaps ironically, the department DeVos heads is the source of the report.

Looking at data from the 2015-2016 school year, the Department of Education found that while black students are 15 percent of the total population in American public schools, they make up 31 percent of the students who are arrested or referred to law enforcement.

By comparison, white students are 49 percent of the student population and are 36 percent of those arrested or referred to authorities.

The report also found disciplinary actions were more likely to take aim at black students.

The data comes out as DeVos has been pushing to rescind guidance from the Obama administration that sought to prevent black students from being punished more severely than their white counterparts. DeVos’ team has even taken to using the tragic shooting at Stoneman Douglas High as cover, going so far as to blame the Obama-era protections for making schools less safe.

Todd A. Cox, director of policy for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, told The Hill the Trump team was “using that horrible tragedy to attack the guidance.”

In a hearing last month, Devos’ indifference to racism in schools was slammed by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who had asked DeVos in June 2017 to address how school segregation might adversely affect minority students.

But instead of answering the congresswoman, DeVos’ office went silent. In the hearing, DeVos appeared to suggest she would answer when Democrats in Congress rubber-stamped more of Trump’s nominees.

Lee responded to DeVos’ attempt at evading responsibility, saying, “Madame Secretary, you just don’t care much civil rights of black and brown children.”

DeVos has already succeeded in rolling back rules put in place by the Obama administration that enshrined protections for victims of sexual assault. Going after racial protections now is in line with the Trump team’s disregard for racial and gender equality.

The initiative to roll back the Obama rule proves Lee’s accusation is accurate, and the evidence shows that harm is being done, and DeVos does not care at all.

HOORAY 151000 views

Monday, 23 April 2018

New schools

Melbourne's urban fringe will be showered in an election year cash splurge with the state government allocating more than $350 million to build 12 new schools.

The new schools announcement marks another chapter in Labor’s pitch to growth areas as the November election approaches.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced the May budget would include $353.2 million to build nine primary schools and three high schools.

Finally they've allocated money for a primary school at Lucas after helping to pay for a Catholic school to be built there first!

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Private school enrolments to flatline

The number of students attending private schools in Australia will flatline over the next decade, according to federal government projections, as more parents choose to keep their children in the public system.

Enrolments that were once growing at a rate of 20,000 a year will slow to as little as 3000 by the middle of the next decade, according to the projections, presenting a stark marketing challenge to the nation's private schools.

Public school enrolments will also slow from their current boom, but will still grow faster than they did in the Howard years and up to 2011, a period when private school growth outstripped that of their public counterparts.

Of the 367,000 additional full-time equivalent students projected to be in schools by 2027, it is expected 288,000 - or 78.5 per cent - will be in government schools. At present, 65.6 per cent of the country's children are in the public system, which will inch up to 66.8 per cent by 2027 if the department's projections are accurate.

Meanwhile, the Turnbull government has committed an extra $300 million for private school infrastructure over the next 10 years to "take account of student enrolment growth".

The funding has been criticised by teacher unions, who are calling for a similar fund for public schools, but the federal government says that is a responsibility of the states.

The projections show private school enrolments increasing from 1,324,360 in 2017 to about 1,333,000 this year, and climbing to 1,375,000 by 2021. From there until 2027, growth in enrolments is expected to slip to an average of 6000 a year, and as little as 3000 in year 2026.

In recent years that figure has been growing by about 20,000 students each year.

Conversely, public school enrolments are expected to leap by 150,000 in just three years, then slow to a growth of 15,000-20,000 a year by 2026-27. Until 2012, public schools were adding only about 10,000 students a year and, as recently as 2008, enrolments were actually declining.

The projections provided to Fairfax Media by the federal Education Department are national, but Australian Bureau of Statistics data show the trend towards public schooling is happening in NSW and Victoria, where the vast majority of Australian children are educated.

Last year, enrolments in NSW Catholic schools declined for the first time in 20 years. In Victoria, Catholic school enrolments rose by just 746 students, or less than half of 1 per cent.

Ray Collins, acting executive director of the National Catholic Education Commission, blamed demographic changes, financial pressures on families and government funding decisions for weak enrolments in the Catholic sector.

Some Catholic schools that wanted to expand their capacity were also hamstrung by state and local government planning rules, Mr Collins said.

"In NSW, for instance, state and local government requirements to contribute to infrastructure around new developments make it extremely difficult for Catholic schools to build new schools because of affordability," he said.

Colette Colman, executive director of the Independent Schools Council of Australia, said enrolment growth in the independent sector had been "strong in recent years". She said 90 per cent of infrastructure funding for independent schools came from parents and the community, not the government.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham defended the extra $300 million for private school capital works, saying the funding was indexed to the growth in building costs and enrolments.

"If enrolments flatline then federal funding only keeps up with building cost growth and there will be no enrolment-based growth in funding," he said.

Senator Birmingham said building public schools "has always been the primary responsibility of state governments" and Labor's global financial crisis-era school hall program "shows how much of a disaster federal intervention can be in this space".

Labor's federal education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said the enrolment projections highlighted the case for more public school funding.

"If [Prime Minister] Malcolm Turnbull thinks this is the case, why do his cuts hit public schools hardest?" she said.

The Education Department warned the projections were only estimates and could not account for future changes in education or immigration policy. Projections beyond five years were potentially less accurate, it cautioned.

That's about right....

ACT teachers and principals were asked to identify the main beneficiaries of #NAPLAN. In order, they listed: the media, the federal government & educational businesses. When asked who benefited the least they listed, in order, students, schools & families.

ATAR bad for STEM

Schools, universities and the ATAR system are driving students away from vital science, maths and technology subjects, according to chief scientist Alan Finkel, who has strongly defended the importance of STEM in a report to the country's education ministers.

Dr Finkel has urged a review of the university entrance system, the reintroduction of maths as a prerequisite for relevant university courses and the tracking of students' performance from cradle to grave using a controversial ID system.

"Teachers, parents and businesses agree: we need a better conversation about the purpose of the ATAR, with an emphasis not just on getting into university, but getting in prepared to do well."

The report found that "while there has been a slight decline in the number of year 12 students studying STEM subjects over the years, the more concerning trend is what appears to be a reduction in the level of difficulty of the subjects chosen by students". It noted participation in science subjects dropped to 51 per cent in 2013 from 55 per cent in 2002.

Dr Finkel argued students were receiving the "wrong signals" from universities, and consequently bad advice from their own schools. Another "unhelpful signal" was the erosion of maths as a prerequisite for many university courses, he said.

The report noted just five out of 37 universities required intermediate or advanced maths to get into a bachelor of science - while out of 34 institutions offering engineering degrees, only one required advanced maths and two did not require applicants to have studied maths at all.

Dr Finkel backed a "phased in" reintroduction of mathematics prerequisites for relevant courses on the basis that "mathematics is the language of science, and that mathematics skills need constant development and cannot be acquired effectively in a short bridging course".

The chief scientist also recommended introducing a national "unique student identifier" to track student outcomes in tests such as NAPLAN from birth to death. A similar tool is already used in schools in Victoria, the ACT and Western Australia.

The data would be de-identified for aggregation and analysis at a national level, but could also be used by students at an individual level. "Strict access and privacy controls" would need to be built in to the scheme, the report acknowledges, much like eHealth records.

Last month, NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes sparked fresh debate over STEMwhen he called it a "buzzword" and a fad driven by "intellectual snobbery". He accused politicians, journalists and business leaders of "piling in" to denounce the value of humanities, the arts and philosophy.

Dr Finkel's report repudiates that view without addressing those comments specifically. It says industry is concerned about graduates' capabilities in the areas of science and maths, and urges: "Student attitudes to STEM are established in primary school and this is when the work on engagement and excitement needs to begin."

The report did not recommend making mathematics or science compulsory all the way through to year 12, which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has previously supported. Shortly before the last election he said it was a "big priority" that "maths or science should be a prerequisite school subject to have completed to go onto university".

Among the other recommendations of Dr Finkel's review are:

  • Clarifying the future needs of the STEM industries.
  • Setting minimum standards of continued professional development for STEM teachers.
  • Engaging more students in STEM by focusing on real world problems rather than careers.

The STEM Partnerships Forum, headed by Dr Finkel, was briefed with improving school-industry partnerships and conceded it took "a broad view of our mandate". Federal and state education ministers are expected to respond to the recommendations shortly.

From the Age

Friday, 20 April 2018

We think NAPLAN is bad

New York State began Common Core aligned high-stakes testing in grades 3 to 8 last week. State officials argued this round of testing would be less disruptive of education and less stress inducing for students because the English-Language Arts test was reduced from three days to two. Parents continue to dispute this. A survey conducted by Newsday found the overall opt-out rate for the test on Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk counties was over 50% and in some districts it exceeded 60%. Most Long Island school districts used the pencil and paper format for the test. Those whose students took the computer-based version were in for a surprise when students had difficulty logging on to the test or their connection, mid-test, was interrupted. Questar Assessment, the vendor that created and administers the test for the New York State Education Department attributed these problems to “technical issues.”

Because of parental protests, New York State shifted it testing contract to Questar Assessment from Pearson in 2015 because Pearson would not release test questions to teachers and the public for review.  Analysis of reading passages and questions released by Questar from the 2017 8th grade ELA exam reveal major problems in the design of the test and its value for assessing student learning and improving instruction.

A well-designed test starts with easier reading passages and questions to build up student confidence as they proceed through the test. Placing easier passages and questions first, and having a variety of different types of questions, helps educators establish the specifics children are having trouble understanding. But the Common Core aligned exam has reading passages that are almost all of similar length and difficulty and with the same types of questions. Not only is it designed so that large numbers of students fail, but it also gives educators no information about why they are failing. It is worthless as a learning assessment to inform instruction.

A potentially more significant problem with the Common Core/high-stakes testing regime dominating education in the United States is continued poor performance by students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) despite a focus on skill acquisition and test preparation. While eighth-grade reading scores show slight improvement over 2015 results, there has been no no improvement in grade 4 and 8 math or in grade 4 reading. In addition, according to recently released test result analysis, the United States’ poorest-performing students scored worse in both reading and math than they did in 2015. The average score only remained steady because of improved test results by higher-performing students. Pro-testing groups have celebrated the lower opt-out rates in minority communities, but these are the students left furthest behind by the high-stakes testing regime.

In New York State, on the latest NAEP fourth grade reading exam about one-third of children scored below basic reading level, another third at basic reading level, one-fourth at proficient reading level, and less than 10% at the advanced level. African American and Latino students on the average performed 25 points lower than White peers. Students from poorer families also scored significantly lower than students from more affluent families. While the scoring gaps have decreased since 1998, after 20 years they remain unacceptably high. In New York City, scores on the 4th grade math test have declined by seven points since 2013.

What the NAEP results demonstrate is that under the Common Core/high-stakes testing regime real education is sacrificed to prepare students, especially poorer and minority students, for specific tests. But when they are given different tests, the deficiencies with this type of miseducation and testing program are exposed.

There are no excuses for failure of the Common Core/high-stakes testing regime. High-stakes tests were mandated by federal government with the Bush era No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 and reinforced by the Obama Race to the Top federal grant initiative in 2009. The Common Core standards that shape curriculum and tests were introduced in 2009. Every child tested by the NAEP has known nothing but Common Core and Common Core aligned tests for their entire school career.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Oh dear....that's not good. Nazis are not good.

London: The pioneering Austrian paediatrician whose name came to describe patients with Asperger's syndrome was in fact a Nazi collaborator who sent children to their deaths, new research reveals.

Hans Asperger has for decades been regarded as a hero in the field of autism treatment and research, said to have shielded his young patients from the menace of Hitler's occupation.

But analysis of a crucial set of documents, which were previously assumed destroyed, shows he not only collaborated with the Nazis but "actively contributed" to their eugenics program.

Published in the journal Molecular Autism, the study says Asperger referred "profoundly disabled" children to the Am Spiegelgrund clinic in Vienna despite knowing what took place there. The children were murdered through starvation or lethal drugs as part of the Third Reich's goal of engineering a genetically "pure" society through "racial hygiene". Their cause of death was recorded as pneumonia.

Asperger, who died in 1980, subsequently became director of a Viennese children's clinic and after the war was appointed chair of paediatrics at the University of Vienna.

In his inauguration speech he boasted of being hunted by the Gestapo for supposedly refusing to hand over children. However, the new research by Herwig Czech, a historian of medicine at the Medical University of Vienna, finds no evidence for this.

Instead, he concludes "Asperger managed to accommodate himself to the Nazi regime and was rewarded for his affirmations of loyalty with career opportunities".

Czech also found the paediatrician "publicly legitimised race hygiene policies including forced sterilisations". A linked editorial, co-written by Cambridge experts, says Asperger "willingly became a cog in the Nazi killing machine" and describes a wider corruption of the psychiatric profession which "became part of the eyes and ears of the Third Reich".

Asperger was the first to designate a group of children with distinct psychological characteristics as "autistic psychopaths". He published a study on the topic in 1944, which only found international acknowledgement in 1980, after which "Asperger's syndrome" became increasingly used, in recognition of his contribution to the field.

Asperger's syndrome is one of a range of similar conditions on the autism spectrum disorder which affects a person's social interaction, communication and behaviour.

Carole Povey, director at the UK's Centre of Autism, said: "Obviously, no one with a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome should feel in any way tainted by this very troubling history."

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Yeah, this is what American schools need!

A Minnesota lawmaker wants public schools to display the United States motto “In God We Trust.”

A State Senate Committee on Tuesday held an informational hearing on the bill, which is getting some push back. It’s part of a nationwide movement to convince public schools to display a poster with the motto “In God We Trust” in a prominent place in the school.

The display would be paid for with private funds. Critics say it violates the separation of church and state. But the bill’s author says it’s actually a message of respect.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Why kids don't go into teaching

Seven reasons people no longer want to be teachers

The oldest profession — teaching — is no longer attractive. The Queensland Deans of Education have revealed there have been alarming drops in first preference applications for this year's teacher preparation courses.

Queensland has experienced an overall 26 per cent drop. Most alarmingly, the University of Queensland reported a 44 per cent plunge. The Queensland University of Technology saw a 19 per cent drop.

These figures reflect a national trend.

Australian Catholic University figures are down 20 per cent for campuses in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. This follows disappointing interest in 2017.

The Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre reported a 40 per cent drop in 2017 compared with 2016.

So why don't people want to be teachers anymore?

There are at least seven reasons people aren't so keen.

1. Teacher education competency fixation

Our best teachers can inspire a student to achieve beyond their wildest expectations. They find the teachable moments and use humour to explain key concepts.

They care for their students as individuals and go that extra mile to design their teaching to connect with them in meaningful ways. Their assessments are fair and they rejoice with students when they master important ideas.

These professional attributes are the essence of good teaching. But accredited teacher education programs must be designed around 37 competencies, as prescribed by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). These competencies don't address these personal attributes.

Having a competency framework is not so terrible. We need teachers to have observable capabilities to plan assessment, to know content and related ways to teach it.

The skills are necessary, but not sufficient. We need the relationships dimension in the teacher education package.

The types of things we value in our best teachers are conspicuous by their absence in program accreditation. So why would someone aspire to teach if the interpersonal dimension is lost?

2. Standardised testing obsession

Standardised testing has become a national sport, with PISA and NAPLAN. Much class time is spent preparing students to do well. The stakes are high for the teachers and their schools.

While teachers do need to test their students to check on their progress, the national obsession is a problem.

Teachers spend a great deal of time preparing students for these tests. Standardised tests are a unique testing genre, and teachers need to attend to this preparation without abandoning everything else they need to do. This is a challenge, and the first casualty is teacher creativity.

International reports also argue this point. Where's the fun in teaching if you don't have scope to be creative?

3. Lack of autonomy

Finland enjoys attention for their successful education system. Finnish teachers have an open brief to decide what to teach their students and how.

In Australia we micromanage and control. The emphasis on play and the arts in Australian schools is lacking.

In Australia, departments of education provide explicit guidance for classes well ahead of time. This means the teaching approach and content is in place even before a teacher meets their students.

This undermines the ability for teachers to be responsive and tailor teaching to learners' needs. And so, the professional responsibility of Australian teachers is compromised — making the job seem rather unattractive.

4. Work intensification

Work intensification refers to the increasing range of duties and responsibilities that have been attached to the role of teachers. Teachers report the rewards of teaching are obscured by this, and the crowded curriculum. They are stressed by the range of things they're required to teach and the snowball effect that emerges from increased requirements.

Intensification is due to many factors, not least of which is the expansion of teacher responsibilities to include social skills development previously addressed at home.

Teaching is well known to be hard work. Yet, hard work without appreciation or respect is a disincentive.

5. Negative public image

An audit of newspaper stories in Queensland over the past year shows a tendency to report negatively on teachers. In the 12 months examined, 11 months featured more negative stories.

6. Teacher bashing

Teaching as a vocation is publicly scorned. This is commonly called "teacher bashing". As a career, teaching is tolerated as a convenient backup pathway for people, but not endorsed as the main game. There have even been reports of teachers being actually physically bashed.

7. Teachers' salaries are poor

The final nail in the coffin: poor salaries. A graduate dentist from a five-year course earns A$130,000. The majority of secondary teachers have also completed a five-year program, but the starting salary is $65,486, reaching $71,000 after five to 10 years.

No wonder people don't want to be teachers

It's not surprising, then, that numbers of applicants for teacher education programs have slumped. The programs are long and intense, the creativity and relationships aspect of the vocation has been eroded, there is pervasive negativity in the media, and comparatively poor salary and working conditions.

It's hard to know where to start, but appealing to the vocational drive of those who love leading others to achieve by raising the profile of these additional attributes in teacher education programs might help. This would require a gentle review of the national program design and accreditation guidelines. Or perhaps we need to be better at reporting teacher success in the mass media.

Nan Bahr is Pro Vice Chancellor (Students)/Dean of Education, Southern Cross University; Jo-Anne Ferreira is director of teaching and learning at Southern Cross University.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.