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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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US study challenges national certification as measure of teacher quality

A study of fifth-grade teachers in North Carolina has found that national certification doesn’t necessarily translate into greater student success in the classroom. National teacher certification in the USA, awarded by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, is widely taken as evidence of high professional skills. Teachers may apply for it in addition to the required state certification.

UNICEF assistance efforts in Lebanon

UNICEF is undertaking emergency relief efforts in Lebanon, where an estimated half a million people have been displaced by the Israeli bombing campaign. The World Health Organisation and UNICEF, in coordination with Lebanon’s Ministry of Health, are distributing food and medicines and other supplies, including chlorine tablets for drinking water. UNICEF is also working with partners to minimise the separation of children from their families. However the aid effort is severely hampered by the bombing of airports, bridges, ports, fuel depots and highways, as well as power stations, food warehouses and food processing plants.  See UNICEF statement, 19 July 2006, article in the Guardian, 21 July 2006.

New school staff plan for South Australia

The system for allocating staff numbers to each government school is being revised in South Australia. Staff will be allocated on the basis of actual enrolments at the start of each term, rather than predicted enrolments before the school year begins. Schools will also receive staff for specific needs, such as their geographic area or the presence of special needs students. The State's overall staffing and resource levels have not been altered. See New school staff plan proposed, p. 1, Xpress, 29 June 2006.

UNICEF Cup for Kids tournament

Australian schools are invited to stage a football tournament during Children's Week in October 2006 as part of UNICEF's Cup for Kids campaign. Promoting every child's right to play, the tournaments will raise money for children who are affected by war, disease and poverty.

Queensland physics curriculum attacked

An article in The Australian (19 July 2006) has attacked the secondary school physics and maths curriculums and the assessment system in Queensland. The author, senior physics lecturer Peter Ridd, calls for more fact-based content in the syllabus and a return to assessment via examinations. He describes the Queensland Studies Authority as 'an organisation rotten to the core with modern educational theory', and argues that 'in the ethereal world of education theory, teaching content is for the dinosaurs. To many of our educationists and academics there is no such thing as a fact'.

National nutrition survey

Four thousand Australian children up to age 16 will be interviewed, weighed and measured as part of the Federal government’s $3 million national nutrition survey. The first stage of the ongoing survey will run between February and July next year, with adults and other groups to follow. Survey results will be used to inform policy to fight obesity and chronic diseases. The States are continuing to call for a ban on junk food advertising, despite Health Minister Tony Abbott’s previous rejection of the proposal. See article in The Age, 19 July 2006. See also Health Minister’s media release, 19 July 2006.

Teacher education faculties challenged over primary maths

Jan Thomas of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) has argued that preservice primary teachers should receive basic mathematics instruction from maths departments rather than from education academics. She has called on Australian Government Education Minister Julie Bishop to 'take on' education faculties over the issue, according to an article in the higher education section of The Australian, 19 July 2006.

Education restructure in Tasmania

Tasmania's Education Minister David Bartlett has said that the education system is to be restructured over the next 18 months. Principals and teachers are to be freed from a range of administrative duties, which will now be undertaken by 150 officers redeployed from the Department of Education. The Department's three branch offices will be replaced by four 'learning services groups'. They will be managed by Learning Support, 'which will essentially be a radically reduced curriculum unit of the department', according to the report 'School admin burden lifted' in the Hobart Mercury, 15 July 2006. The article states that corporate benchmarking will be applied to schools, which will be accountable through 'balanced score cards' rating them in terms of academic achievement, suspension rates, and student and teacher satisfaction.

Teacher shortage forces subject cull, survey finds

A survey by the Australian Secondary Principals Association (ASPA) has found that a wide number of schools can no longer offer some subjects as a result of teacher shortages. Foreign language and ICT courses have been the subject areas most commonly cut back, with physical education and special needs subjects the ones most likely to be taken by teachers without specialist knowledge. Many schools were unable to provide specialist maths or English teachers for a significant proportion of classes. Teacher shortages were found to be most acute in rural and remote areas. Approximately one-quarter of government secondary school principals responded to the survey, which is likely to be extended to principals of Catholic and independent schools next year. See report in The Age and article in The Australian, 19 July 2006.

Release of the Science, Engineering and Technology Skills Audit Report

The Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Hon Julie Bishop MP recently announced the publication of the Australian Government’s Science, Engineering and Technology Skills Audit. The audit identified a perception that secondary education is currently not preparing students adequately for tertiary science study or employment in scientific fields, and reported that high-scoring students tended not to pursue careers in science and technology. See report in Sydney Morning Herald, 19 July 2006. See also 'Report warns of dire scientist shortage', Australian Financial Review, 20 July 2006, p. 3 (fee-based access).

Merit-based pay for teachers discussed

A call by Australian Government Education Minister Julie Bishop for teachers to be paid according to their students' results has generated widespread discussion. Cheryl O’Connor, CEO of the Australian College of Educators (ACE), suggests that many excellent teachers are reluctant to advance claims for higher individual pay due to perceptions that their teaching relies on support from other teachers and their school, or due to fears that their individual recognition will incur animosity from peers. Claims may be resisted by principals concerned at the reaction of other staff. A teacher may excel only with particular types of students. Another issue is how long merit-based reward should be continued. It may be difficult to measure value-added by a teacher. Teachers may in part be rewarded for their ‘compliance’. Despite these possible objections, she argues that merit-based rewards for teachers are ‘well overdue’ (see ACE media release, 19 July 2006). The Association of Independent Schools NSW has proposed that teachers’ salary and conditions be linked to standards ‘compatible with those of the NSW Institute of Teachers’. One of the arguments in support of this proposal is that it offers successful teachers access to higher pay and conditions without having to abandon the classroom for an administrative position. In advancing this argument, AIS NSW Executive Director Geoff Newcombe expects ‘sectional interests’ to oppose the move, ‘and these same vested interests will oppose the use of Work Choices as the instrument to deliver these changes’ (Education system to benefit all, The Australian, 17 July 2006). Maralyn Parker warns against teachers receiving merit pay determined only by student results, on the basis that this approach has worked to undermine cooperation between teachers in the USA. Instead she supports evaluation by a range of standards-based criteria ('Teaching standards will pay off', Sydney Daily Telegraph, 19 July 2006). The News South Wales Independent Education Union has supported the Institute's model for accreditation and evaluation (report, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 July 2006).

NSW secondary principals' body opposes Australian Government school funding model

The President of the New South Wales Secondary Principals Council president, Jim McAlpine, has said that the Australian Government's Investing in Our Schools program fails to allocate funding according to need, giving an unfair advantage to some small and newer schools. See article in the Sydney Morning Herald, 18 July 2006.

No academic benefits in single-sex education, according to British study

Placing girls in single-sex schools makes no real difference to their educational achievements, according to a wide-ranging British study led by Professor Alan Smithers of Buckingham University. The main reason for the better performance was that they were generally private, with pupils drawn from more privileged backgrounds. His conclusions contest the belief that girls in particular prosper in a single-sex environment. The report is titled The Paradox of Single-Sex and Co-Education: The Latest Research. See article ‘No benefit for girls in single-sex schools’ in The Independent, 25 June 2006.

Secondary students in Chile warn of further protests

Secondary school pupils in Chile have warned of further protests if the government does not carry through on promises to boost education funding, which were made after an intense street campaign by the students. See report from cnn.com, 4 July 2006.

Battle over English curriculum in Texas

The State Board of Education in Texas is likely to replace a student-centred English curriculum that calls on students to use their own attitudes and ethics to interpret texts with teacher-centred instruction that emphasises the basics of spelling, grammar and punctuation. See ‘How English is taught in Texas likely to change’ in Chron.com, 5 July 2006 (registration required).

Calls to revise history teaching in Australia and in Canada

The Minister for Education, Science and Training, Julie Bishop has announced a summit 'to research ways of strengthening the place and maintaining the integrity of Australian history in the school curriculum'. Participants will consider two papers: one on what is currently set to be taught in primary and secondary schools, and one on the rationale for, and outline of, a narrative approach to Australian History in schools. See Ministerial media release, 18 July 2006. In Canada, an article in the Toronto Star (1 July 2006) supports a call by historian Jack Granatstein to emphasise factual content, rather than problem-solving and critical thinking skills, in the country's school History curriculum. 'The ministries of education in our provincial capitals and the boards of education in our cities and towns have bought holus-bolus every trendy theory to emerge from the faculties of education’, according to the historian.