Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Of Teachers and Tests

The Australian media is currently in a flurry about the refusal by some teachers to take part in the next round of National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) scheduled for May. Here is the situation in its greatest simplicity (by my understanding):
  • All school children will take a standardised test
  • Those results will be published
  • Teachers of 'underperforming' schools will be punished accordingly, for failing our children!
Indeed, according to a commentator at the Gold Coast Bulletin, this will "empower parents," enabling them to judge how "teachers are teaching their children."

That's one take.

Another take is a little more cynical. While it is certain that these tests will highlight underperforming schools, the results shouldn't come as a suprise and won't necessarily demonstrate teaching standards. Here's my prediction: these tests will highlight what we should already know. The underperforming schools will be those situated in low socio-economic areas, and especially those areas with a high population of refugees. While, I would imagine that high scoring schools will be private educational facilities.

First and foremost, low socio-economic status does not equal dumb. It does, however mean that the children in these areas come from homes that are statistically more likely to not have a high level of parental education and a host of other societal problems. In areas with a high population of refugees, the students may also face cultural and language barriers - not to mention the post-traumatic nature of being a refugee; coming from a hell hole and, once being 'processed' being thrown into Australian society with what amounts to sweet FA government support. (Money doesn't count)

Oh, and lest we forget - these lower socio-economic schools receive less government funding than those fancy private institutions that upper middle classians pay $15,000 a year to attend.

And you know what - the government knows this.

However, by framing this issue as somehow the teachers fault it deflects the attention away from issues of say: government funding. Indeed, I find it convenient that before the results of testing are released the government has already framed the blame so to speak.

This way - when the results are in there will be no major impetus on the government to actually investigate the outcomes and perhaps divert funding and instigate programs where they are needed most. Rather - they will save themselves money by docking individual teachers pay.

How fucking cheap.
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