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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Alice in Wonderland-not Julia Gillard- alive and well

It's hard to believe the troubled reaction to proposals for publication of basic information about school performance.

Deputy Prime Minister Gillard had a discussion with 150 school principals in Canberra this week .
Here is what she told them. What is contemplated is that each school will have its own profile webpage that will contain a range of information about the school. The categories covered will include: information about the type of school, student and staff numbers, student attendance rate, socio-economic background of theschool student body, results from national literacy andnumeracy tests, and data about vocational education participation and Year 12 attainment.

Information will be available about how a school performs in literacy and numeracy, compared to other schools that serve student populations that have similar socio-economic backgrounds (known as like-school groups). A like-school group could include, for example, schools with similar proportions of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and comparisons would be made between these schools. Like-school comparisons will be the only form of comparison made. The website will include a list of schools in the local area of the selected school, but comparisons between schools in the same local area will not be undertaken.

Fairly modest really. And the reaction? According to the ABC, teachers and academics have condemned the move, saying the information could be misused to name and shame schools.

I'm no expert in education but I can only see good coming from greater transparency about what's happening in our schools, given the enormous investment of public money and the importance of the issue. A friend who has spent his life in the school system told me today the prime problem was most teachers haven't kept up with the world around them and those in NSW, at best would read the Daily Telegraph each day. If this is near true, no wonder performance measurement is a foreign concept and the reaction to publication of information on the situation in and some achievements of various schools is one of concern.

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