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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Another battle pits vested interest against public benefits from transparency

Of course Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard is right in taking every opportunity to get the message out that we need greater transparency about school performance. In a long list of interviews she has pushed the issue along in recent weeks with this basic theme:

"I would like to see performance information for schools available in the public domain and available most particularly to parents. And the reason we want to do that is to not create simplistic league tables that tell you nothing. We want there to be rich performance information available. We want to understand who is studying in each school, the number of children in each school who may face some form of educational disadvantage and need extra help. And we want to understand how schools are attaining so we can compare schools in like positions and if one’s doing better than the other, find out why and then spread that best practice. It’s in everybody’s interest, and certainly the interest of every Australian child studying at school today, for the maximum amount of information about our education system and their school to be available publicly and we will be pressing for that."

Mark Coultan offers some lessons on this from personal experience in New York, where the Minister recently saw first hand the performance benefits from greater transparency. As Coultan (and this editorial) in the Sydney Morning Herald points out " it is this sort of information that the entire education establishment, including teachers' unions and state governments, is determined to suppress."Here is a prime example from Western Australia:

"WA Council of State School Organisations president Robert Fry said data about school performance and demographics should be kept secret because it would invite unfair comparisons between schools."

Go Julia!

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