Evaluating My School
Volume 9 Number 2, June 2010; Pages 7–11
The author, CEO of the Australian College of Educators, considers how the My School website should be evaluated. Before the introduction of the website schools in most government systems were basing strategic planning on a range of evidence, including NAPLAN test results; other data on students' academic progress; parent and student surveys; student data on 'attendance, turnover, post-school destinations, school expulsion and discipline'; and teacher data about performance, development and turnover. It would have been useful to evaluate the operation of accountability in this environment, to establish baseline data to compare against changes after the introduction of My School. An evaluation of current conditions should take place as soon as possible. Accountability based on multiple-choice tests raises the stakes for high-needs schools, 'precisely because their results are lower and their options fewer'. Research by Linda Darling-Hammond in the USA suggests three ways in which this discrepancy will play out. Firstly, the pressure on high-needs schools from such tests is passed on to the highest-need students, who are less likely than other students to take these tests due to suspension, dropout, grade retention or other causes. Secondly, 'the higher the stakes, the more the negative impacts on the stability and quality of teaching'. In the USA the average experience level of teachers in high-needs schools fell after the introduction of the No Child Left Behind accountability program, and funding to support struggling students has often reduced their time with qualified teachers in favour of time with support staff in targeted programs. Thirdly, any move to narrow the curriculum to content that is subject to high-stakes tests, will disproportionately impact on high-needs schools. If these problems are not addressed parents are likely to move away from such schools, perhaps on 'spurious' grounds, but in any case increasing the residualisation of the public system. My School uses ICSEA values to compare 'like schools' with similar demographic characteristics. This is done 'for good reasons', but an unintended side-effect is to distract attention from the large and troubling discrepancies in student results between schools in advantaged and disadvantaged communities.
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Working towards a 'world-class' curriculum
Volume 9 Number 2, June 2010; Pages 30–33
The President-elect of the Australian College of Educators examines issues surrounding the introduction of the national curriculum. He argues that before further development proceeds there are a number of 'flaws to be ironed out' relating to the overall shape of the curriculum. One issue is its internal coherence. The national curriculum should emerge from a holistic consideration of the knowledge and skills to be covered, the organisation of this knowledge, and theories of learning associated with it. There should also be a clear overall conception of its core and elective components, as well as how it relates to assessment and reporting that accompany it. Another issue is curriculum design. An explanation is needed as to how the national curriculum will connect to curricula currently operating in states and territories, and how differences in their 'conceptual bases and architectures' will be resolved. The national curriculum's 10 capabilities 'hold some exciting possibilities' but more explanation is needed about their content, sequencing across stages of schooling, relationship to learning areas, and the equality with which they are treated. Cross-disciplinary learning is important to reflect the nature of challenges posed in the contemporary world, but at present the national curriculum subordinates such learning to established disciplinary categories, and represents it simply as 'the appearance of aspects of one learning area inside another'. More attention is required as to how the national curriculum will address issues of educational equity. The article also discusses the consultation process and its timeline. The author calls for more clarity about the relative responsibilities of ACARA and the state and territory systems, and argues the need for closer engagement between ACARA and the teaching profession. He recommends that implementation should be delayed to give more time for teacher professional development and for universities to adapt teaching training programs so they are in line with the new curriculum.
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
Volume 22 Number 3, September 2010; Pages 189–214
While parental expectations play a key role in children's academic success, their influence has been found to vary with socioeconomic and ethnic background. A literature review of 18 studies undertaken in the USA was used to examine differences in parental expectation, as well as the factors influencing these expectations, between parents of different backgrounds. Asian American parents were found to hold particularly high expectations when compared with other parents. While prior achievement was one of the strongest predictors of parental expectations for European American students, parents from Asian, African American and Latino backgrounds showed a tendency not to link prior performance with future achievement. In the case of Asian parents, this appeared to be due to conceptions of success as being related to individual effort rather than innate ability. Gaps between the other groups' expectations and their children's prior achievement, however, may be attributable to parents placing low value on grades and teachers' assessments, or to parents' perceptions of their own ability to provide support for their children's learning. Except in the case of European Americans, no significant relationship was found between actual academic achievement and parental expectations. This indicates that other factors may mediate the influence of parents' expectations. These include the degree to which parents communicate the value they place on achievement, children's own competency beliefs, the degree of parental involvement in children's learning, and teacher perceptions of children's abilities. These factors have implications for educators. They highlight the need for teachers to develop strong understandings of the beliefs and expectations of parents from different ethnic groups and backgrounds, and to understand that these beliefs may not necessarily be representative of children's actual or potential achievement. Teachers should be encouraged to become sensitive to different cultural values, and schools should aim to improve communication channels with parents. Similarly, parents need to form realistic expectations in relation to their children's achievement, and be able to appropriately communicate these expectations to their children.
Subject HeadingsParent and teacher
Parent and child
Getting from here to there: the roles of policy makers and principals in increasing science teacher quality
Volume 21 Number 3, April 2010; Pages 283–307
The recruitment and retention of high quality science teachers continues to be a policy focus in the USA. The authors interviewed 13 policy makers and 7 principals from a school cluster in California to examine how each group sought to improve science teacher quality and to overcome science teacher shortages. While both groups made concerted efforts to recruit science teachers, at times their approaches conflicted. For example, the policy makers' emphasis on recruiting science industry professionals was cause for concern among the principals, who worried that these teachers would lack the necessary pedagogical content knowledge and commitment to the profession. The principals also perceived the new state-level credentialling requirements as narrowing the pool of potential applicants and being disadvantageous to older teachers who had entered teaching under different admissions criteria. Both groups considered the integration of innovative technology into the curriculum to be a powerful recruitment incentive, while relevant professional development such as PD focused on new technologies, was considered key to teacher retention. However, the principals noted that lack of funding was a barrier to such strategies. The leadership of the principal was seen by policy makers as central to retaining and developing high quality science teachers. The principal community, to which the principals interviewed belonged, were invaluable in providing opportunities to share ideas and approaches, and supported them in developing school-level approaches to improve teacher capacity. One substantial difference in the approaches of the two groups was in relation to the assessment of teacher performance. Where policy level approaches focused on standardised, summative tests, the principals emphasised formative assessment as well as assessment that took into consideration a wider range of student and environmental factors. The groups' substantially different approaches to meeting similar goals highlight the need for collaboration and information sharing between policy makers and school principals. Moreover, the participants' responses also indicated that both groups would benefit from access to informative and accessible research-based evidence that can be used to guide their decision-making.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsTeachers' employment
United States of America (USA)
Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association
Research has highlighted high levels of principal mobility and attrition in the USA, leading to concerns about principal shortages. Using data from the Texas Education Agency, the authors examined the career pathways of ten cohorts of ex-principals in the ten years following their resignation from a principalship position. In the first year after leaving a principalship, close to half of the ex-principals were not employed, however by the tenth year this figure had risen to almost two-thirds. Those who remained in employment tended to move into an assistant principalship role, another principalship, or to take positions as central office instructional or administrative staff. Almost ten per cent of ex-principals were found to have returned to a principalship role in the five years following their initial resignation from a principalship position. Further breakdown of the data indicated that primary school ex-principals were most likely to leave the profession altogether, while middle school ex-principals tended to take on assistant principal roles or other principal positions. High school ex-principals took on a range of instructional and administrative roles, with a number taking on positions as superintendents. Ex-principals who had worked at poorly performing primary and middle schools were more likely to remain in employment as assistant principals or central office staff than those from highly performing schools, but the opposite was true for principals from poorly performing high schools. Gender was also found to play a role in ex-principals' career paths, with a greater percentage of female ex-principals not employed after leaving the principalship. In addition, more male than female ex-principals took on superintendent roles; a greater percentage of males also eventually returned to teaching. Female ex-principals, on the other hand, were more likely to take on roles as central office instructional personnel. These differences held across all school types, and were particularly evident at the high school level
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
A reading revolution in classrooms: focus on reading 3-6
Volume 18 Number 2, June 2010; Pages 23–30
Focus on Reading 3-6 is a new program being implemented in NSW schools. The article reports on its early implementation at 37 schools that cover all three sectors. At these schools the program is taught in all classes from Year 3 to Year 6. It is conducted by certified trainers, who demonstrate expertise in literacy and experience teaching at these grade levels. After completing their training for the program they receive ongoing help through a wiki. The program emphasises the teaching of high-level, metacognitive strategies for comprehension vocabulary knowledge and fluent text reading. It also makes extensive use of rich texts, subject based material, multi-modal texts and 'the type of texts that interest and motivate learners in the middle years'. Students are also encouraged to talk in depth about the texts, engage in self-directed learning and collaborative learning in pairs. Awareness of Aboriginal culture is also promoted, and the program examines 'common ground between Indigenous pedagogies and optimal pedagogies for all learners'. Focus on Reading 3-6 is closely aligned to the Best Start program used in the early years, to the Literacy on Track program and to new literacy teaching guides. There are plans to extend Focus on Reading 3-6 to secondary level, and some central schools are already involving Year 7 students in it. The program is registered with the NSW Institute of Teachers and it counts toward a master's degree at several universities.
Subject HeadingsNew South Wales (NSW)
Improving learning in computer-based instruction through questioning and grouping strategies
Volume 19 Number 1, 2010; Pages 79–102
Strategies such as note taking, responding to pre-written questions, and generating one's own questions have been found to help students monitor their learning and improve their understanding of material studied. The authors examined the efficacy of these strategies when used as part of a multimedia-based social studies unit. The participants, 107 secondary students in the USA, worked individually or in pairs, and were assigned one of the three strategies as they completed the unit. Interviews and assessment data were used to examine the efficacy of the different strategies. Post-test assessment indicated that overall the students' understanding of the material studied was quite low, although the note-taking group achieved at greater levels than the other groups. The generally low achievement was seen as being due to students' lack of familiarity with working with open-ended multimedia formats, as well as with their limited skills in engaging critically with an unstructured subject such as social studies. The students who worked with the pre-written questions demonstrated lower levels of engagement than other students, and reported skimming through the online learning materials in order to find appropriate answers. While the students in the self-generated questions condition were more engaged, they tended to provide responses that were unfocused and not relevant to the lesson objective, indicating a need for supportive scaffolding. Greater familiarity with the subject material might also have helped students engage more appropriately with the material. The students in the note-taking group, however, showed evidence of being able to selectively focus their attention and organise information in ways that indicated they were actively engaging with the material. Even when working in pairs, they tended to construct relevant responses that were personalised to their own learning needs, organising their material in flow charts, columns or dot points. This is in contrast to the students in the other conditions who tended to work together to come up with shared, identical responses to a prompt. The results have implications for the design of instruction involving unstructured learning environments and indicate that students may need support in developing the problem solving and critical thinking skills required to work with such environments, as well as in monitoring their learning, particularly when working with unfamiliar material.
Key Learning AreasTechnology
Subject HeadingsMultimedia systems
Group work in education
Imagination in your pocket – mobile learning
Volume 33 Number 1, June 2010; Pages 27–31
The article describes four research projects in which students and teachers have trialled the use of mobile technologies while exploring new approaches to learning. During the iPodagogy Project a class of 25 Year 8 students used the iPod Classic with other technologies for cross-curricular work with six teachers covering English, SOSE, maths, science, music, and health and physical education. The teachers identified improvements in students' retention of what they had learned, as well as in their behaviour, motivation and sense of responsibility for their work. Students perceived themselves as having fallen behind other Year 8 classes, however teachers saw these students as being ahead of their peers, having covered the work in different ways. During the iPod Touch Project three teachers in different primary schools investigated the use of this product to enhance aspects of literacy in Year 3 or Year 6 classes. The students developed and shared podcasts. Students from non-English speaking backgrounds created them in their native languages alone or in combination with English, which allowed them to share their creations with their parents. The students were active in coaching students in younger classes and in developing activities for one another. Students discussed the iPod Touch devices on school blogs. The Global Mobile Learning Project again involved students in the use of the use of iPod Touch devices at three schools based respectively in Australia (Victoria's Shepparton High School), Singapore and the USA. The Nintendo DS Project involved students in four Year 5 and 6 classes at Xavier College and Trinity Catholic Primary School in a maths program. The author offers a number of pointers for effective use of mobile devices in the classroom. For example, projects should make use of 'the power of visual media and social networking'. Teachers need time to familiarise themselves with the technology before using them in class. Devices should be used with clear learning goals in mind, that develop skills and encourage students to pursue knowledge on their own. The devices should be integrated with other technologies used in the classroom, and technical needs and support mechanisms should be identified at the outset.
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Teaching and learning
Career development in schools: increasing relevance and building relationships
March 2010; Pages 13–14
Careers education in the USA is sometimes given low priority due to increasing pressure to improve academic outcomes. The author argues that careers development can be integrated into the curriculum in a way that complements academic achievement. Careers education can provide context and relevance to learning, and can help students build relationships within and beyond the school community thereby improving student outcomes. The efficacy of careers development can be improved by encouraging teachers and careers counsellors to share responsibility for careers education. Two successful approaches for integrating careers development into the curriculum are discussed. The first, High Schools That Work, is a program that encourages schools to develop and integrate into the academic curriculum a range of technical and vocational courses. Students also participate in a number of work-based training opportunities. The program has been found to improve student engagement as well as school completion rates. The second approach is the Career Advisories program. This approach involves the development of multi-year planning portfolios to track individual students' learning and progress, as well as ongoing participation in careers-related small group activities. Careers counsellors provide support to both teachers and students throughout these processes. Evaluations of this program have indicated that participating students tend to take more advanced classes and graduate at higher rates. The above approaches highlight how the integration of careers development into the existing academic curriculum allows students to receive more opportunities to connect academic and workplace learning, and also to develop closer relationships with their teachers and careers counsellors, all of whom offer support and relevant expertise.
Subject HeadingsSecondary education
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