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.

Continue reading

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

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