Aussie Friends of Treehorn
encouraging adults to think sensitively, to care for kids, to make wise choices….with their hearts
in gear, their pens active and their votes available .
Accountability during the present era of schooling is described in  Arabic numerals.    Finland is said to be better than Singapore because it scored higher numbers on the peculiar PISA tests for 15  year-olds. Are you sure?  How’s its Music and Social Education programs? Northern Territory has a better system of schooling than Victoria because it scores better at Literacy kinds of tests. Are you sure?   How’s its Art and Environmental Education? Turpentine High [7] is a better school than St. Custard’s Grammar [4] because it scored higher on NAPLAN tests.  Are you sure? How descriptive can  these silly statements be, when there is no reliable arithmetical mechanism known to man to authenticate them ? Using numerals to describe a child’s abilities for lively, active social intellectual undertakings like learning through an holistic curriculum, and then using an average number to describe  a school or a schooling system, is just not possible. It’s ridiculous! Then the art of making wide-sweeping generalisations after testing only three small parts of extensive standaridsed subjects!   Just think. Isn’t such activity listed in the upper reaches of lists of crazed behaviour?
An outcome of managerialism, it’s a crazy, puerile way of describing things, surely. Some ‘funny’ adults even believe in it! It’s how NAPLAN operates. Why not use Egyptian hieroglyphics or Greek icons?  It is such a stupid idea…..extracting numbers under duress once every two years from a collection of small kids who don’t like what they are doing.  These small kids are human beings, part of humanity and cannot be classified by using inhumane procedures to produce a digital description. We use our children for the wrong purpose.  We exploit them.
As Kathleen Lynch {‘New managerialism in education: the organisational form of neoliberalism’} suggests, managerialism stripped the public service and schools of ethical values during the 1980-90s; and replaced them with the ideals of profiteering. Things had to be quantified before they could be judged. In the case of schooling, those sections that could be run for profit, were isolated and exploited, including …..
1. TESTING and its associated industries: publishing, special programs, concocted curriculum appendages, computer tablets and  associated software.   It’s now worth billions to its exploiters. Our children are intellectually, emotionally and socially dismembered for the sake of a score.
2. PRIVATIZATION. Running a private school can be a very lucrative business. Fees and government subsidies have never been so high. While non-fee-paying public schools have always set the main for general achievements and social maturity without much fuss, the ‘air of respectability’ and the inculcation of neoliberal values that private schools claim, is hard to beat.
NAPLAN, it must be said, is an organisational blunt weapon of neoliberalism used on the most vulnerable of Australia’s citizens. It reduces first order teaching and learning principles as well as respected social and moral attitudes, like ‘be kind, and care for kids’,  to lower order principles. “Trust, integrity, care and solidarity with others are subordinated to regulation, control and competition. In this regard it [managerialism]  provides a unique type of moral guidance for businesses and organisations modelled on businesses, including hospitals, schools. welfare offices and housing departments.’  says Katheen Lynch. NAPLAN has suppressed professional values to the extent that its conduct has become incidental to the running of the school, whose broader curriculum it cunningly controls.
In terms of accountability, the public, it is said, has the right to know which schools are working properly and which ones are not. We don’t insist on  this in other caring professions’ edifices. Have you ever heard of a hospital, dental clinic, child-care centre, aged home or any other caring institution described by a newspaper or official statement in numbers after a paper and pencil test of clients? We trust such places to do the right thing. They all do.
Honestly, does Australia really need unenlightened, uncaring, inexperienced, bullying individuals  to test our children without permission, to produce a useless score; and then say ,”Here’s the evidence that one school or one system is better than another?” Such poppycock!
If high stakes levels of accountability are necessary for the education system, why not try one that works?
Why not select a group of school experts who have had creditable experience in the classroom and in the curriculum administration of a school; and request them to visit schools to evaluate the standard of operations ofall the things that schools are obligedto do to have its future citizens  learn about learning.  If one has spent a reasonable period of time teaching and administering, one doesn’t have to be in a school for too long, before one can ‘feel’ the atmosphere. Visiting classrooms, talking around, observing child behaviour in learning terms, watching the teacher-pupil interactions, getting immersed in the physical environment as a learning centre all have their messages for an assessor whose ‘been there, done that’ previously. Why not choose the very best of those known to be expert at these things to circulate around a number of schools and report to the controlling authority on the state of things?
Let’s do the job properly.   Let’s find out how good each school is, public  and private within a geographical area.  Because of their classroom expertise, such people will be able to talk turkey to all school personnel about their style of pupilling and curriculum application. They’ll be able to see things and comprehend their meaning  and then fly with pollen on their wings to other places, spreading useful ideas and helping all human beings in each school, within their bailiwick, to grow professionally and to teach better. They will know real pupilling when they see it. They’ll know a real learning classroom when they see one. They’ll be on the spot to give advice when they see that an adjustment is necessary.
If they work as a team and have a real, institutional connection with the major curriculum body at state level, everybody knows what’s going on and the public has access to the state of affairs of a particular subject or special curriculum activity at any particular point in time.  No more one hit fear-based tests on pieces of language or maths or science and then broadly defining the condition of a school. Such poppycock!
Think about it. Yes, You’ve heard of this kind of thing.  You know that it works. You know that it keeps schools on their pupilling and curriculum toes.
Why not re-invent it?                      ______________________________________________________________
Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  07 5524 6443               

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