Evidence II: The mathematics strikes back

So just over 12 months ago, I blogged about the ‘Evidence for Learning’ [E4L] Toolkit, which was, then, newly available for Australian teachers as an accessible resource which purports to break down research in order to provide a metric of “what works”. (At this juncture I’m reminded of Dylan Wiliams’ warning that ‘everything works somewhere, and nothing works everywhere’). Anyhow, discussion about evidence is back on educational radars once more.

In my post last year I referred to the work of my colleague, James Ladwig, who at that time, blogged about why Australia does not yet have the research infrastructure for a truly credible, independent National Evidence Base for educational policy. James has returned to the topic of evidence again, writing about what is going wrong with ‘evidence-based’ policies and practices in schools in Australia:

Now just think about how many times you have seen someone say this or that practice has this or that effect size without also mentioning the very restricted nature of the studied ‘cause’ and measured outcome.

Simply ask ‘effect on what?’ and you have a clear idea of just how limited such meta-analyses actually are.

This is all very topical because yesterday’s report into the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools  recommends (recommendation 5.5) the establishment of a national research and evidence institute  to drive better practice and innovation. As an educational researcher myself this sounds very good, depending of course, on how evidence is defined and understood. Continue reading

Making sense of Gonski 2.0

This post is a part of a series being written for my EDUC6352 online masters students.

Historical background: School funding is a perennial policy problem and the original Gonski model (circa 2013) cemented Labor’s reputation for being the party concerned with education. Tony Abbott committed the Liberal party to matching Labor’s education plan dollar for dollar at the eleventh hour in the 2013 election. And, once the Liberal party won that election, they matched the funding for the first funding cycle but without committing the states (except for NSW who’d signed a deal with the outgoing Labor party) to the conditions of the Gonski plan (ie. needs based funding – the funds needs to be distributed according to a particular model that adds loadings to a base level according to levels of disadvantage).

Screenshot-2018-4-17 Tony Abbott election promises - Google Search

In order to neutralise school funding as an election issue the Liberal party have introduced their own funding model, dubbed Gonski 2.0. Sensationalist media reporting (Private schools getting $6700 more per student than NSW public schools; Richest private schools get payments from $7m government ‘slush fund‘; Funds bias hurt Catholic schools) have made it hard to determine the differences (in effect rather than in dollar terms) between the original Gonski model and Gonski 2.0.

From what I can glean, however, in terms of realpolitik, Gonki 2.0 may have advantages. It enshrines an 80:20 funding arrangement in legislation, replacing previous ad hoc, opaque, confusing funding agreements. Here is some of the analysis available: Continue reading