Educational policy and the Gonski brand

For the past four months I’ve been teaching a course on policy and politics to masters students. It’s a course I love teaching as it always links to contemporary events and it’s easy to point students to media stories and policy announcements. Things are always happening in the policy space (and we wonder why teachers get change fatigue). Over the time that I’ve run this latest iteration of the course, the policy that has been in the media the most, I believe, would be Gonski. Gonski in terms of the new 80-20 funding model and Gonski, the education review called ‘Growth through Achievement‘.

My analysis is that ‘Gonski’ has become a brand. And the Liberal party have been working hard to transfer ownership of the Gonski brand, to themselves. Continue reading

Links of interest on the Gonski report 2.0

This post is the second in my ongoing exploration of the second Gonski Report. The first post is Through Growth to Achievement #Gonski Review 2.0

The ever insightful Dean Ashenden presents his analysis in Inside Story: An end to the industrial model of schooling? Ashenden writes that while the latest Gonski report points a way to the future of school reform, it has not broken with its disastrous past.

The panel was constrained by four realities. It was asked to “focus on practical measures that work,” an approach that, it turns out, it didn’t really agree with. Second, what no doubt looks to the minister to be a perfectly reasonable effort to ensure value for money may look to others like a velvet glove around Canberra’s financial fist. A third difficulty is that the report had to come up with an approach that could and would be implemented faithfully by each of Australia’s twenty-plus very different school jurisdictions. And, finally, the review was required to focus on school and classroom practice when most of the problems, including problems in practice, have their origins elsewhere.

In sum, the panel was asked to resolve two deep and ancient schisms in Australian schooling — the conflict between “conservative” and “progressive” educational approaches, and the conflict between the federal government and the states — while pinning down the notoriously elusive relationship between school funding, educational practice and academic outcomes — and to do it all with one hand tied behind its back, in eight or nine months.

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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

Ethics, Ed Tech and policy in school

The facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal raises some important questions about the use and security of user’s data, and the operating practices of such companies. The scandal is not so-much that there had been a “breach” but rather that users data had been shared as part of facebook’s business model. It is a model that relies value provided by the data that facebook’s users share. This data, it turns out, is not only of value to advertisers, but as it turns out, political analysts and campaign consultants.

Arguably, this situation has developed because facebook is a form of what’s been termed ‘platform capitalism’. [See Nick Srnicek’s Platform Capitalism for more information]

‘With a long decline in manufacturing profitability, capitalism has turned to data as one way to maintain economic growth and vitality in the face of a struggling production sector.’ (p6)

Platforms as data engines

This is where platforms come in. If data has become a massive new raw material for capitalism, then platforms are the engines that allow it to process this data

Given that such platforms need data as the basis of their product that they use to turn into a profit, techniques developed at places such as Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab are used to the develop and refine these platforms so that people enjoy sharing their data, photos, comments, ‘likes’, etc and receiving positive feedback. This “quantifiable social endorsement” (Sherman, et al, 2018) reinforces data-sharing behaviour, and increases the likelihood that people will continue to provide data to such platforms.

Like all many new technological developments, ethics seems to be the caboose on the end of the train, never able to get ahead and steer the developments powered by new scientific and technological discovery and exploration. Continue reading

Teachers decry the marketisation of education

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

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12 months ago I blogged about the Australian education policy context by providing an overview of the Melbourne Declaration. Today, The Age has published an anonymous piece by three teachers from Victoria who provide a scathing critique of the same context, and the education policies proposed by the opposition party in Victoria. In reference to the latter, they note that the:

draconian plans – which include installing police in our 10 most “high-risk” schools, abolishing the Safe Schools program, pumping up parochial Australian nationalism and stamping out celebration of diversity in the curriculum – are bound to have a devastating impact on the educational opportunities of our most disadvantaged and marginalised students.

For these teachers however, the half baked idea of putting police in disadvantaged schools does not represent the real problem. What they are really concerned about is the marketisation of education that’s been orchestrated by both the Labor and Liberal parties over the past ten years. Continue reading

On policy evaluation

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

data

Policy analysis and evaluation seems like a straight forward and obvious requirement for school leaders and government departments. Basically if you implement policy one might assume that you would wish to evaluate said policy. However, in the frenetic pace of schools which, in Australia at least, have been in a policy reform cycle for at least two decades there is little chance to analyse nor evaluate policy as the next policy-cycle is upon leaders. Policy makers themselves are beholden to Australia’s short election cycle and the have to design policy to differentiate one government from the next with new policies and policy foci.

Continue reading