Who is writing our education story?
I don’t watch a lot of commercial T.V. and yesterday I was reminded why. In my twitter feed tweets from educators expressing dissatisfaction, concern and feeling like they have had their professionalism questioned began to appear. I was disturbed by this as they are people I have been connecting with on Twitter for some time, and feel I know them reasonably well. They are people that I respect as a result of the conversations I have had with them online and the support that they have provided me. It was at this point that I asked what was going on – feeling concerned as this was not the normal discourse I see in my twitter feed. I was then alerted to the Grattan Institute Report – Targeted teaching; how better use of data can improve student learning. This was then followed by the question posed by Today to be discussed on their Facebook page and on their program – this caused the alarm.
I am disheartened that we have T.V. programs and other media that feel the need to encourage a story about our education system that is not honestly reflecting the truth. It appears that media desire to create a narrative that does not belong to our education system (private or public). The question posed by Today disturbs me, as it is put out there to hook people in, to get people to respond and fuel a narrative that is not ours. The question does not even state the study it is suggesting makes such claims. It weighs heavily on the hope that people will respond emotionally, rather than with thoughtful discourse. This, in itself, is not helpful.
After spending a year in the USA I can say I am proud of the education system that I have been educated in and am employed within. I work with and connect with dedicated educators who go above and beyond all the time, they care about the young people they teach. As a result they are constantly looking to improve the work they do and the learning opportunities they provide each child.
If we were working in a system that judged the effectiveness of a teacher by the test results of the learners, then yes, you could suggest that this would logically reflect poorly on their teaching. But we don’t work in a system that does this. We work in a system that understands that each child is an individual, that each child learns at a different rate and has a range of variables that impact on their learning, that learning is something which is built on over time. Teachers strongly hold onto this as has been expressed when discussions around NAPLAN occur. We don’t hold onto a simplistic view of teacher effectiveness, as the USA does through the PARCC testing process and consequent use of the data obtained. We also are aware that it is not one teacher that makes the difference, it is through collaboration, working together, supporting each other that the best outcomes for student learning can be achieved. On the surface it might appear that it is one teacher, but when you dig deeper it is very clear that it is not.
Teachers are employed to enable and support learning. Marks are not our focus, the learning is. It is here we need to be very careful as data is becoming more important in the space of education, data is more than just marks and is best used to inform, to help determine the next step for a student’s learning. To support learning professional honesty is a vital component, as educators we are very aware of this. As educators we determine the learning that occurs, we prioritise what is the most important learning for a child in our classroom, framed within our school context.
Having spent a year in the USA I can see that it is possible that maybe the media is getting confused with what is our story and what is the story that belongs to another country. I have seen this happen in relation to high stakes testing. I have heard this creep into our narrative, but we don’t have testing that links to the effectiveness of the teacher. My experience in the USA led me to encounter for the first time a student expecting to have marks bumped up so they could get a better overall assessment – this horrified me! My integrity and the respect I have for the other students in the class are more important. Furthermore, my experience in the USA allowed me to see first hand students handed an A without evidence of marking. There is a strong sense of user pays for the qualification, which seems to drive this concept. I firmly believe we can learn a lot from another culture’s education system, but lets not subtly pick up their narrative. Let’s tell our own story!
It is for this reason that I am passionate about educators having a voice. Having opportunity to tell their story so that the reality is well understood. Spaces like @EduTweetOz provide opportunity for this to occur. We cannot let our story be written by someone else who is just looking for click bait.