Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience – all well tested.
Time As A Resource
On Wednesday, 9 January Minister Peter Garrett announced the introduction of a new chic subject for inclusion in the school time table called Economics and Business. If you did not hear about it, don’t be surprised. It did not make the TV or paper media until 21 January where it was mentioned in an insert called ‘Your Money’ in the Courier Mail . [It may have received a headline in other Australian newspapers. I looked but could not find it.] It was introduced this time by ASIC executive Robert Drake in the CM insert, who, with a coaching director, Mr. Ward. explained how a trial will be conducted and its linkages with ‘mathematics, science and English’ will be arranged. Ho hum.
Quite obviously some politicians, business interests, inexperienced curriculators and [too many] school administrators view schools as mere test factories to which another assembly line can be added. Is the new addition important or is Economics just one of a list of endless worthy enterprises who want a piece of school time; but it had an inside run? Research by Des Eastment for the Queensland Primary Curriculum Committee  revealed that it had 33 worthy lobby groups on its books at the time seeking a place on the school time table. There are probably more around now, judging by reports of various public bodies who frequently suggest that “It = whatever it is = needs to be taught at school.” Who decides in the long run who gets the space in the factory?
If the decision on how to use the extra time required is left to the school by the government, then surely the right of rejection must. The issue of school time is too serious to be left as a casual announcement in the back pages of the daily press. A public explanation of how school time would and should be used is essential.
Time is the most precious resource that a school has. It needs to be used in the most economic ways possible. There’s so much to do during a school day. Managing time within a classroom, especially in such a go-go-go intense teaching/learning environment, requires exceptional managerial skills. To add something else, no matter how worthy, is an extra burden. You can’t gain-say it, nor pretend that integration with established subjects won’t cause disruption.
In a busy school day, anything extra means something has to go. Some other aspect of classroom teaching/learning has to pay. If a government introduces something extra to its schools, it has to announce what the innovation will replace. It carries this responsibility. It just can’t dump and run, patting itself on the back.
Now, Let’s apply the issue of ‘time as a resource’ to high-stakes testing of any kind. NAPLAN. What subjects are dumped so that extra time can be given to the intense test preparation required?
Hands up those old Queensland Scholarship teachers who taught music, art, physical education, health and other non-examined subjects right up to the week of the Scholarship Examination? They were dropped as soon as the School Inspector, the Departmental guardian of the curriculum, left the premises, weren’t they? I confess. Of course I did. So do today’s teachers. Mad if they don’t. Their reputation depends on it.
“Please do your best.” I say. “Please don’t make me look bad.” [ Larry Strauss says in The Big Snooze – High stakes Testing and Low Stakes Mentality. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/larry-strauss/california-standards-tests_b_1561196.html ]
Mr. Garret, ACARA and other testucators cannot pretend that no school time is stolen from important school subjects to prepare pupils for a few days of gruelling tests in May.
They are in control. They know it happens. They created the dysfunction. The spy network that reports to them for “Incidents” can tell them what happens if they don’t understand. Australia has copied a fear-based system in which the whole curriculum, except the NAPLAN sections, is back=seated for the production of scores, with little relationship to the learning enterprise or to accountability processes. Manipulating school time to cater for externally imposed tests is a serious business. They know it happens and they prefer to ignore it.
Which subject do they recommend should be ‘chucked out’ first? Which subject(s) does your child’s teacher chuck out first when NAPLAN preparation starts? Just as bad, do they spend the major part of Mathematics and Literacy sessions on examination topics or test practice? If Peter and his ACARA expect and approve of schools to re-order their teaching-learning programs around the tests, shouldn’t they also suggest a hierarchy of the untestable every-day learning topics that they would recommend for dumping…..or….don’t they know enough what happens in schools? Imposing their stern non-negotiable will on the teaching/learning processes in each and every classroom in the country carries a heavy responsibility. They need to start exercising it democratically, properly and decently…..or..
Throw NAPLAN out.
It should never have been introduced.
“Political control of bureaucrats is not bad just because it happens. It’s bad because it is anti-pathetic to an education system that is based on national development and life-long learning. It can lead, too easily,to a maintenance model of schooling and of static standards.”
Click: ‘Care for Kids’
January 22 2013