Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Right and wrong

Teachers are both wrong and right about the standardised testing. (here and here for example).
Both sides of the present discussion no doubt agree that it is important that we focus on our children.
If you don't ask evaluation questions (And in reality teachers do this all the time) like "has Johnny's spelling improved?" or "Can she do long division?" then you are doomed to go round and round in circles. .and just guess at what is happening.
However nothing is more certain than the fact that this information also will be often only crudely analysed. It will be misunderstood and even abused by some with other axes to grind (this would seem to be the core of the teachers' objection).
Part of the reason for this conflict is that there does not seem to be any agreed purpose for the testing.
I mean "so that we can weed out dud teachers" is a fear-driven goal...and probably misplaced. (but it lurks there).
In reality we need to get rid of this fear & blame based stuff and state that the purpose of evaluation is to identify weakness and throw more resources at it.
If we don't do the evaluation then the identification of weakness is just intuition and guess work. Some may be good at this, but it is not the smart or prudent way to do it.
The solution should be to state the clear positive goals of evaluation and what responses might be made. I don't hear this at the moment. Even from Ms Gillard.
"The parents right to know" is not sufficient rationale. "To know what?" and "What is going to be done as a consequence?" are also consequent questions.
In theory, there can be nothing wrong with identifying areas of under-performance and making the connection that more resources need to go in that direction.
In theory there is nothing wrong with identifying areas of excellence (here for example) and suggesting that we promote that.
We can and should do both.
The perversity of our system is that often the connexion is made that we only see what areas are doing well and say "This is where our money is best spent".
So the rich get richer!!, and, The poor get poorer!!
Let's not do that

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