Well, after 6 months or so of blogging here it’s about time I did something a little controversial. So, keeping in mind that these views are not the views of anyone other than yours truly (not Teach for Australia, not my school, not the education dept, etc) – here’s my thoughts on the NAPLAN saga.
Background (from the media)
Australian teachers, through the education unions, were threatening to boycott supervision of the National literacy and numeracy test which for acronymical details that elude me is called the NAPLAN test. The data from this test have been the backbone of the controversial MySchool website.
Background (from my end)
We (as staff members) have received trickles of information about how the AEU (Australian Education Union) was not going to have their members supervise the test. I’m not currently an AEU member, though I’m not yet certain that I won’t be in the not-too-distant future, and as such I am at liberty to choose whether I would support the AEU ban. All our staff members got an email today saying that a list would be at the office, where we could sign to indicate whether we would be supporting the ban or not. Then late today we received official word that the AEU had been satisfied in negotiations with the government and the ban would no longer go ahead. If you need any more background – this gives you an idea.
Why I Wouldn’t Have Boycotted
On receiving the email requiring to state a position quite publicly, I was forced to think about which way I’d go. So why not boycott?
- I think that the NAPLAN results are a valuable tool for teachers in understanding their students a little better. This in itself is a slightly controversial opinion, but I’m in favour of teaching staff having the option of knowing as much about where their students are “at” with issues of literacy and numeracy as possible.
- I agree with the MySchool website in principle. There, I said it. I actually do believe that schools should be accountable and (to a degree) transparent. My issue with the site is actually that the data is currently poor. Very poor. The site lists NAPLAN data for year 7 students who have barely been at the school for a term. It’s not measuring improvement of students during their time at the school – it’s just listing where an individual cohort is at. And I actually believe (perhaps naively) that the government is interested in improving the data, with things like their (relatively) recently announced national student number. Once you can start tracking improvement at schools, rather than just some arbitrary measure of exactly where students are at a certain point in time – you end up with something different.
For their part – I’m actually quite impressed with what the AEU has managed to negotiate for: a working party to evaluate the best way to be using student performance data with AEU members on the working party. And I do think that as it stands MySchool is a damaging attempt at bringing competition policy into the education sector. But all the same, that’s my position. And now I don’t have to worry about it after all.