The Rudd and Gillard education revolution is taking place by stages.
The first stage is about to take shape: the publication on the ACARA MySchool website of what Gillard claims will be “rich data” on each school in Australia. It will be the realisation of what she calls, borrowing from New York’s Joel Klein, the “transparency agenda”.
Controversially, that data will include the NAPLAN tests, diagnostic snapshots taken once every two years between Grades 3 and 9 of a very narrow, but certainly fundamental, area of learning.
That such data was not designed to communicate information about what schools actually achieve across the spectrum of academic and personal growth, or that it its publication as school league tables will shame and embarrass both public and private schools that serve particular communities, seems not to worry Julia Gillard.
“I’m unapologetic about that,” she told one reporter.
Nor is she worried that her sources of overseas inspiration seem not to stand up to scrutiny.
Conservative educator Professor Brian Caldwell, who hardly sees eye to eye with the Australian Education Union on most issues, has described (PDF 1.32KB) the New York City grades assigned to individual schools - one of the main “reforms” of schools chancellor Joel Klein - as “utterly discredited”.
Dr Ken Boston, former South Australian and New South Wales education departments CEO, and more recently, for seven years the head of the United Kingdom’s Qualifications and Curriculum Authority says that since the introduction of NAPLAN-style tests in the UK, and their use to publish school league tables, “The school curriculum is narrower and poorer than it was when the tests were introduced in 1907.”
In October, the biggest investigation into English primary education since 1967 called for league tables to be scrapped and for education to be reclaimed from politicians.
With Gillard determined to stare down opposition from parent and principal associations, education unions and academics, to Stage One of the education revolution, we need to know what “new resources and new reforms” she may be looking to unfold in Stage Two.
The two parts of the latter phrase may hold the key.
Rudd has made it quite clear that he is a financial conservative and that there is no blank cheque for education.
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