We talk a lot about the importance of innovation in education – as we should. We talk less about how to foster, sustain and share successful innovations that enhance student learning and engagement. This is a pity. In this recent expert comment article for The Conversation, I discuss the astonishingly blunt and honest comments of Victoria’s education chief, outlining why states and not the Commonwealth government should drive education policy. It was encouraging to hear a very senior bureaucrat, who has worked at state and federal levels, concur with my PhD findings on the opportunities our federal system of government offers for innovative and best-practice policy-making, tailored to the needs of their residents. Could this be the dawn of a new era in education federalism in Australia?
I also spoke recently on Radio National‘s Drive program on the controversial “IBM school” in Brooklyn, New York. I argue that such innovations, when developed carefully to meet the needs of students at a particular school, can work wonders. Dismissing them as “US-style corporate schools” is a missed opportunity to learn how new models of schooling can improve excellence and equity here in Australia.
The Mitchell Institute for Health and Education Policy is an independent think tank that works with researchers, governments, analysts and communities to improve the connection between evidence-based social research and public policy reform.
The Institute will put emergent policy issues at the heart of its research agenda and promote sustainable policy change that addresses some of Australia’s most challenging health and education issues.
Our first publication ‘New approaches to persistent problems in Australia’s schools’ outlines four bold propositions policymakers could pursue to enable and accelerate system-wide improvements to learning and equity. Downloaded it here.
Since 2008, Australia has had a national assessment program for literacy and numeracy (NAPLAN), providing objective, nationally-comparative ‘point in time’ data to governments, schools, parents and the public on how students and schools are tracking on these essential learning foundations. It replaced standardised literacy and numeracy tests at the state level that had been in place for almost 20 years but were difficult to compare and not available to the public or external researchers. It is not an authoritative, holistic assessment of the capacity or quality of a student, teacher or school. Nor is it a high stakes test – students are not penalised for poor performance and NAPLAN results do not effect the remuneration of individual teachers. NAPLAN is a diagnostic tool to assist school leaders and policymakers deciding how to allocate resources and tailor programs and strategies to maximise learning for their students. It also provides objective “snapshot” data to parents and teachers on how individual students are tracking, and an extra piece of information – objective data – to assist them deciding which school to send their kids, rather than relying solely on visits, advertising materials, at times sensationalist media and hearsay. While NAPLAN’s objectives are very worthy, misconceptions over the test and an over-emphasis on it by a small minority of parents and schools has raised serious concerns. I joined Senator Penny Wright on ABC television’s News Breakfast program on 28 March to discuss the Senate Inquiry into these concerns. Here’s the segment and the report. I also discussed whether MySchool be abolished on ABC’s Radio National on March 7.