Aus: Dr Jennifer Buckingham 'Cut the losses on Gonski and quietly back away'

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Re: Aus: Dr Jennifer Buckingham 'Cut the losses on Gonski and quietly back away'

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sat May 05, 2018 12:07 am

Thanks to Yvonne Meyer for flagging up this article from The Australian:

NAPLAN: small schools are beacons of light at chalkface

Noel Pearson The Australian, May 5, 2018

Yarwun state school is a small rural school serving 34 students from this township and surrounding properties in the countryside outside Gladstone. I turn up the day before Anzac Day amid preparations for a small ceremony later in the morning, as they will attend a larger gathering elsewhere on the day itself.

The children and staff are welcoming, if bemused. I am visiting with a former director-general of the Queensland education department, Julie Grantham. The little ones shake my hand and introduce themselves spontaneously.

Yarwun is like hundreds of small state schools dotted across rural, regional and remote Queensland, and the township is tidy, with one shop and maybe a couple dozen houses. But Yarwun is no ordinary school.

We meet principal Jayne Hoffman, who is working part time because she has been on maternity leave. She shares the principal’s role with Amanda Ryan, a local and former education lecturer. At once you sense this is a powerhouse partnership. They are teaching principals in a small school with composite classes.

We are introduced to Ros Penrose, a long-time teaching aide from the local community. Hoffman says: “She is really a teacher. She teaches the rest of us.”

I have come to Yarwun because it was No 1 in the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy in Queensland primary schools last year. Schools that my organisation works with in Cape York and across remote Australia are of similar size and face the same, if sometimes more extreme, challenges. I want to learn from Yarwun. I figure that if Yarwun can do it, then the schools I work with can do it, too.

For the next couple hours of interrogation and touring the small campus, Hoffman and Ryan give the former director-general and me insights into their school improvement journey and their remarkable achievement. We visit the chook shed and the garden in the back of the school. They offer a strong music program and robotics. They accumulate and constantly have their eyes on student data. “We know where every student is at,” says Ryan. They know where they want them to get to and the kids know it, too.

They are self-effacing and humble, and almost indifferent to NAPLAN. They want their kids to do well, but they make it clear to me that it is not the be-all and end-all for their school. They explicitly teach the children through a phonics program that they use throughout all primary years. There is not much fancy computer technology in the school. The broadband connection is not great, and a collection of those One Laptop Per Child green things sits on a table, unusable. Whatever Yarwun is doing right, it has nothing to do with computers.

These women are obviously expert educators. They are on top of the literature and, while they are reticent to prescribe what other schools should do, they cite University of Melbourne professor John Hattie’s evi­dence on what works in schools.

Yarwun’s results started to climb in 2014 when Hoffman became principal. However much she may want to brush it away, it is obvious Hoffman and Ryan put this school on a trajectory to excellence. Yarwun may have been a good school years ago but now it is excellent. The most striking insight for me is what they say about the conversations they have about teaching challenges, techniques and practices — and the needs of their students. There is great collegiality in the staffroom, and teachers share insights and learning with each other. If a teacher is facing a particular difficulty, she will ask colleagues in the staffroom who will suggest something, and that teacher will then report back on how she went. This is the essence of teacher professionalism and a school that is focused on its teaching craft and every child’s learning.

Education departments do not publish “league tables” comparing the relative performance of schools in annual NAPLAN results. I understand the reasons for not doing so. However, it is possible to construct a table from publicly available data. A table com­paring years 3 and 5 results from last year, assembled by the organisation I co-chair, Good to Great Schools Australia, puts Yarwun at the top of the Queensland table.

Another rural school in the Gladstone hinterland is No 6.

We drive another half-hour down the highway to the small township of Benaraby, whose state school was established in 1886, the oldest in the district. This is another school serving small towners, property owners and indus­trial workers. There are 100 stu­dents and seven of them are indig­enous. They have lost some mar­ket share to a nearby Catholic school and I wonder whether the parents paying those fees understand the local state school is one of Queensland’s most excellent primary schools.

The principal, Jane van der Weide, meets us and we are introduced to the groundsman, who is a local builder. The school buildings are meticulously maintained and the grounds are bucolic and prideful. The man whose hand I shake has obvious pride in this school, which has such a close connection with the local community it is able to draw on it for all forms of engagement and support.

The diminutive principal is a former physical education teacher. She is a teaching principal, teaching all aspects of the curriculum except what she calls “the fluffy stuff”. She, too, is humble and self-deprecating, but you can sense the steely determination of leadership under the surface.

There are explicit behavioural expectations and routines posted all over the school. You could not fail to know what is expected of you as a student or a staff member at Benaraby.

The school’s phonics program, too, is taught throughout all years. This surprises me. Rather than just phonics for prep and the earliest years, they do it to Year 6, presumably increasing fluency and automaticity with all students in the school. They host a reading club first thing in the morning before school starts. Then all the students go for a run for a couple of kilometres. This is clearly the physical education principal coming to the fore. Then the teachers read to their classes. What is common to Yarwun and Benaraby is they allocate at least two hours, often more, to literacy each day.

Yet remote school systems resist timetabling more than an hour of literacy instruction a day with Aboriginal students who do not have English as a first language and who come from much more impoverished backgrounds than kids at these schools.

Van der Weide says several times throughout the tour that her approach to teaching literacy and numeracy is like her approach to teaching swimming: “We keep going until the kids learn it.”

It reminds me of a metaphor I sometimes use to emphasise the crucial importance of literacy and numeracy. It is like teaching swimming. If we don’t teach the child to swim, they will drown. If we don’t teach the child to read, they will drown. We know how to teach swimming. We know how to teach reading. Why are we not preventing Australian children from drowning through illiteracy?

This week businessman David Gonski’s report to the Turnbull government, the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools, was released. This is the so-called Gonski 2.0 report. Gonski 1.0 recommended funding formulas and a significant increase in funding for schools. This new report is aimed at advising government on how to best use the funding to achieve better education outcomes for Australia.

Australian educational funding increased dramatically during the past two decades. The point has been made many times over many years now that this increased investment has not produced better results. In fact, Australian schooling has gone backwards relative to other leading systems around the world. This new report makes for sober reading of how far Australia has fallen behind.

Compared with the year 2000, our 2015 Program for International Student Assessment results show catastrophic decline. In reading we were fourth out of 25 OECD countries, and 16th in 2015. In mathematics we were seventh and now we are last out of 25. In science we were fourth and now we are 14th.

Our national schools performance is in crisis. That is the truth.

Many of our schools are doing very well, but most are not. The Australian Education Union objected this week to the Prime Minister describing the great middle of the schools spectrum in Australia as “coasting”, saying it was offensive to educators.

Coasting is the word used by Gonski. If offence at the use of such a word in the face of all of the evidence of decline is the response of the AEU, then it kind of explains why we are in the state we are in.

Surely some honesty in facing the situation is necessary if we are going to do anything about it. The great middle of Australian schools systems is one tectonic performance stage behind where we should be. Good schools need to become great schools.

The Gonski report is a disappointment. I cannot see how it provides a road map to school excel­lence. Simon Birmingham, one of the most astute ministers to have held the education portfolio in my experience, will have to decipher his own strategy in response to the Gonski committee’s vagaries and failure to come to grips with what the worldwide evidence says about how school systems (which surpass us today, like Singapore and Shanghai) leapt ahead while we declined.

There is virtually nothing said about pedagogy: how schools teach. There is no mention of effective instruction or explicit instruction, which has been central to the progress of many Queensland schools in the past decade, and schools elsewhere in the country that have focused on teaching. Can you believe there is no mention of the word phonics in the entire report?

Whatever curriculum school systems adopt, how do we teach the chosen curriculum effectively and successfully? The what of curriculum has an even more important follow-up: the how of pedagogy. The Gonski panel obviously decided to shy away from these ideologically charged debates and took a disingenuously agnostic approach. In doing so it has squibbed its mandate and done a disservice to the Turnbull government and Australians.

There simply is no road map to school improvement and school systems transformation.

This is most clearly evidenced by the fact the report does not grapple with the fundamental question facing the federal government: how does it ensure the money it provides to state, territory, independent and Catholic systems is invested in those things that will achieve educational excellence? What mechanism can the commonwealth use to ensure these systems deliver? Because they did not deliver on previous investments. They didn’t deliver on Brendan Nelson’s 2005 national reading inquiry, of which Gonski makes no mention.

The massive National Partnerships funding under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard did not yield improvement. Why did these previous efforts fail? Gonski’s report says nothing about past performance and offers no inkling as to what mechanisms will ensure Gonski 2.0 funding will produce reform in the future.

There was one thing Gonski said this week that made sense and I extend here. We should give every school, principal and teaching staff an award within the Order of Australia, specially created to recognise those schools that have been raised from good to great and sustained it for five years. McKinsey & Company has a metric to objectively identify such schools.

If it were up to me I would be heading back to Yarwun and Benaraby next year to pin a medal on Hoffman, Ryan and van der Weide for the outstanding service they’ve given to their kids and to the country.

Noel Pearson is a director of Cape York Partnership and co-chairman of Good to Great Schools Australia.
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Re: Aus: Dr Jennifer Buckingham 'Cut the losses on Gonski and quietly back away'

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sat May 05, 2018 12:32 am

More from The Australian:

Gonski 2.0 skims over key indicators such as discipline in schools

Blaise Joseph, Jennifer Buckingham, The Australian May,5, 2018

“Not good enough.” That’s what Malcolm Turnbull said this week about Australia’s declining results in international school tests.

As noted in the Gonski 2.0 report, Australia has fallen in absolute performance and relative to other countries in the three Program for International Student Assessment tests run by the OECD. These assess the science, maths and reading abilities of 15-year-old students.

The factors linked to good outcomes are well known: they have to do with the quality of teaching, including classroom management. Yet they barely rate a mention in Gonski 2.0.

The OECD notes the five strongest factors associated with student performance, for good or for ill. Those associated with higher achievement are teacher-­directed instruction, adaptive instruction and school disciplinary climate. Those associated with lower achievement are inquiry-based instruction and perceived feedback.

What comes through loud and clear is that four of the top five factors influencing student achievement are about instruction: that is, methods of teaching.

The fifth factor is the level of disruption in the classroom, which indirectly is also associated with instruction. Gonski 2.0 has little to say about this well-established body of evidence.

The OECD factors in play need some explanation. Teacher-direc­ted instruction is defined as the teacher explaining and demonstrating ideas, leading whole-class discussions and responding to student questions. Consistent with decades of research, the OECD findings indicate that teacher-­directed instruction is highly bene­ficial for student learning.

Inquiry-based teaching, which in some ways is the opposite of teacher-directed instruction, is characterised by class-led learning activities and encouragement of discovery through group collaboration. This style of teaching is ­associated with less student achievement.

On the surface, adaptive instruction sounds similar to one of the main recommendations of the Gonski 2.0 report, adaptive learning. This refers to teachers adjusting their teaching to cater for the needs of their class and individual students.

Most teachers try to do this as much as they can, with varying degrees of success. For teachers to know the levels and range of ability in their classes, and to calibrate their teaching accordingly, is an important skill.

However, Gonski 2.0 went much further. It recommended students be assessed based on their growth in learning rather than according to age-based or year-based curriculums. The idea is to give teachers an online assessment tool to continuously measure learning growth, with the expectation they would provide “tailored teaching” for individual stu­dents depending on their ability.

Adaptive learning as described by the OECD is much simpler. It means teachers adapt lessons, provide individual help to struggling students and change the structure of lessons when covering difficult topics. It does not mean going to the great lengths of using a continuous online assessment tool or coming up with an individual learning plan for every student.

Taking the OECD data as a guide, the task of teachers adapting to the needs of students is much simpler than the Gonski panel’s proposal and Australian students think teachers are already doing this reasonably well.

This is where Gonski 2.0 could have made a valuable practical contribution — an objective and detailed investigation of the factors that have the biggest impact on student learning, and an analysis of how to deploy them in Australian classrooms.

Discipline is the other key issue that Gonski could have tackled. School disciplinary climate is the factor that most clearly differentiates Australia from the top 10 performing countries, and not in a good way. According to students themselves, Australian classrooms are unsettled and disruptive to learning. The data is clear.

The “disciplinary climate index” is based on how often these things happen in class: students don’t listen to what the teacher says; there is noise and disorder; the teacher has to wait a long time for students to quiet down; students cannot work well; and students don’t start working for a long time after the lesson begins.

This PISA data on student behaviour and school discipline in Australia is corroborated by the most recent results from two other international education datasets — the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and the Teaching and Learning International Survey — which both indicate Australia has relatively high levels of student misbehaviour relative to other countries.

These results are not surprising, given a series of recent studies showing Australian university teacher education degrees in the main do not adequately equip new teachers with classroom management techniques based on evidence.

And recent research from Macquarie University researchers found school discipline is far more important than school funding in determining a country’s educa­tional performance.

The OECD has found that for developed, high-income countries such as Australia there is no clear relationship between school funding and student outcomes. This should give us pause for thought as the federal government puts an extra $23.5 billion of taxpayer money into schools across the next 10 years.

But on the factors that do make a difference — teaching method and school discipline — the Gonski 2.0 report stayed almost silent.

As a coda, some qualifications of our argument are necessary.

The PISA 2015 analysis of the factors in student achievement deals specifically with science classes — so we need to be cautious about generalisation — but the results correspond with similar analyses in previous years and with other educational research.

Also, the data is based on self-reporting, thereby limiting the conclusions that can be made.

However, the PISA result involves a large sample size and there are no obvious biases in the survey and assessment instruments.

It’s true that Australia performs above the international average on adaptive and teacher-directed instruction, which are both associated with high student achievement. But there are question marks over the categories and descriptions of instruction at issue.

Notwithstanding these caveats, instruction — or teaching method — is clearly the big-ticket item for student achievement and should have been a major focus of the Gonski 2.0 report.

Blaise Joseph is a policy analyst and Jennifer Buckingham is a senior research fellow in the education program at the Centre for Independent Studies.
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Re: Aus: Dr Jennifer Buckingham 'Cut the losses on Gonski and quietly back away'

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sat May 05, 2018 12:36 am

And this from The Australian:

New broom could see end of NAPLAN

Greg Brown, Samantha Hutchinson, The Australian 5, May 2018

Education Minister Simon Birmingham says NAPLAN tests could be phased out if recommendations in the Gonski report are adopted but insists the skills-based tests stay in the short term.

Senator Birmingham yesterday rejected a call by NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes to ban the standardised tests immediately, saying parents liked transparency in the school system.

He said the Gonski recommendations released this week could eventually make the tests redundant.

“There may be a point of time a long way down the track where, if you fully implement all of the details in the Gonski report, you’re going to get the type of data and so on in a much richer, better way than perhaps ­NAPLAN gives us today,” he told Sky News.

However, he said this would not happen overnight.

He said the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy gave the community confidence children were acquiring the basic skills on which learning depended. The tests are sat by all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

Mr Stokes’s comments were labelled a “cop-out” by the ­Coalition’s eduction spokesman in Victoria, Tim Smith: “Unfortunately Rob Stokes sounds like he’s been captured by the Australian Education Union, rather than being on the side of parents.”

Senator Birmingham met state and territory education ministers in Adelaide yesterday and they agreed to further consider the Gonski recommendations.

“There was a shared sense of what the ambition should be and an agreement that we would work through the recommendations in this report,” he said. He added there would be terms of reference discussed later this year for a possible review of NAPLAN.

Bill Shorten said the standardised testing system, introduced by the Rudd government in 2008, should not be jettisoned until there was a better replacement: “So I’d like to see, on a bipartisan basis, people work towards seeing how we can improve it, deal with the concerns (of) teachers and parents, but not automatically junk the whole policy overnight.”

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said there should be a wholesale NAPLAN review of both reporting and content. “Terms of reference are already being prepared for this review and it is important we get it under way as soon as possible,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace said the state supported a NAPLAN review.

South Australian Education Minister John Gardner said he did not support calls to scrap the test, but changes could be made.

Tasmania’s Education Minister, Jeremy Rockliff, backed the test but also supported a review, saying some form of benchmarking was needed but “we should be aiming to continuously improve”.

Additional reporting: Matthew Denholm, Sarah Elks, Michael Owen
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Re: Aus: Dr Jennifer Buckingham 'Cut the losses on Gonski and quietly back away'

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sun May 06, 2018 5:08 pm

Still featuring the Gonski 2.0 report, Greg Ashman writes:

No more peace of the ignorant ... -ignorant/

It’s tempting to feel sorry for David Gonski. When he dropped his panel’s platitudinous, light on detail and, in parts, just plain wrong report on a waiting public last Monday, he must have expected the usual slaps on the back. The worst he might have predicted would have been apathy, as the report struggled for column inches against the latest Trump antics or leaked titbits from the impending budget. Nevertheless, he would have been sure that the education community would line up behind him and quietly set to work turning his vague recommendations into policy detail and bureaucracy.

He must have expected such a response because it is the way of these things. Think of the knowledge-lite 2008 National Curriculum in England. Think of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence. Think of the impending Donaldson Disaster in Wales. Think of every one of those conferences where speakers rise to criticise the industrial model of schooling and transmission teaching before predicting an uncertain future full of jobs that don’t exist yet that, in order to prepare for, we need to do more projects or meditation or something. And think of all the delegates nodding sagely, half aware in the manner of listening to the words of a well-known song, asking each other what time lunch is scheduled and rating the quality of the goodie bag.

But something has changed.

The failure of this report to satisfy evidence-informed educationalists/teachers because of the failure to base many of the suggestions within the report on actual evidence, raises the question as to who, and why, people are selected to conduct such national reviews in the first place.
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Re: Aus: Dr Jennifer Buckingham 'Cut the losses on Gonski and quietly back away'

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Mon May 07, 2018 10:05 am

Jenny Allum writes her thoughts in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Gonski review is an abject failure and a wasted opportunity ... 4zdoo.html

Early last week, when I was asked about the Gonski review, I wrote to some colleagues: "My initial reactions vary widely – some things I think are drivel, some things are motherhood statements, some things we have tried before and they didn’t work, some things are interesting and possibly worth a really strong level of support. But it is too early for me to be able to make sure that I know which are which, and to be sure that I would put my name to that assessment."

Having now read the report carefully, my views are clearer. The Gonski review is an abject failure and we have missed an opportunity to make meaningful changes to the Australian education scene.
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Re: Aus: Dr Jennifer Buckingham 'Cut the losses on Gonski and quietly back away'

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Wed May 09, 2018 9:07 pm

Greg Ashman interviews Glenn Savage on the Gonski 2.0 report - very interesting:

Glenn Savage on Gonski 2.0 ... n-gonski2/

I have been reading Glenn Savage’s articles for some time, particularly his contributions to The Conversation. Glenn is Senior Lecturer in Education Policy and Sociology at the University of Western Australia. His writing therefore often explores the policy aspect of educational initiatives. I thought it would be good to interview Glenn on the ‘Gonski 2.0’ review, given that I have been posting a lot on this topic and he can offer a different perspective. Glenn kindly agreed. You can find him on Twitter via @glenncsavage

Question 1. As an analyst of education policy, was Gonski 2.0 what you were expecting?

Yes and no.

Do read the full interview!
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Re: Aus: Dr Jennifer Buckingham 'Cut the losses on Gonski and quietly back away'

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Wed May 16, 2018 8:06 pm

Greg Ashman shares some thoughts on 'differentiation' in light of the Gonski 2.0 report: ... ype-cycle/

The education hype cycle

Differentiation is a blancmange. Its squishy and amorphous. To some extent, I use differentiation every day by varying my teaching to the needs of different students, but I don’t subscribe to schemes such as Universal Design for Learning or Carol Tomlinson’s widely publicised approaches to differentiation. This is because they lack evidence substantiating their effectiveness.

When I learnt that a group of Australian researchers were conducting a systematic review of differentiation research, I made the following prediction on Twitter:

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