Sunday, 29 April 2018
Saturday, 28 April 2018
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
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.
Tuesday, 24 April 2018
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
Saturday, 21 April 2018
Friday, 20 April 2018
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
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
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
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
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.