Too often parents are the forgotten part of the NSW schools system. With the decline in testing, grading and academic standards, there is less classroom-specific information available to parents than ever before. Many parents have little idea about the quality of their child’s teacher and how much value is being added to their child’s education.
NSW One Nation will change this by measuring teacher performance and reporting the results directly to parents. Accountability of this kind is essential to upgrading rigour and results in our schools. As with all parts of public administration, what gets measured gets done. Parents have a right to know detailed information about the person who, other than themselves, can have a profound impact on their family’s future: their child’s teacher.
One Nation believes in measuring teacher performance through a rigorous, regular system of classroom testing, with the emphasis on value-adding – the value each teacher adds to the education of their students. For example, testing a class at the beginning and end of the year and assessing the improvement (or regression) in results over the 10-month period.
For the first time in NSW, we will establish a reporting system on teacher performance directly to parents. At the beginning of each year, parents will receive a detailed report on the past performance of their child’s teacher through his/her career. Then they will receive an update at year’s end on the value added for that class.
Some teachers (and certainly the Teachers Federation) will strongly object to this level of transparency. But what’s the alternative? The current system where, in terms of teacher performance, nothing is measured and nothing is reported? Failing teachers are allowed to hide in the system, damaging the education and future of their students, with no action from anyone. And worst of all, parents are kept in the dark.
In practice, a profession with growing prestige and financial rewards (as per One Nation’s policy for increased teacher performance pay) must have high standards of transparency and accountability. This is a 20th century reality and it’s time for teaching in NSW to be modernised accordingly.
Ending Teaching Fads
One Nation is worried that some teachers have become more like social workers than scholars. Instead of emphasising academic achievement, they are more interested in pastoral care, ‘mental wellness’ and experimental ‘social skills’ programs such as ‘project-based learning’.
The most worrying feature of neo-Marxist programs such as Safe Schools and Respectful Relationships is not necessarily the number of parliamentarians willing to endorse them, but the hundreds of school principals willing to have this nonsense in their schools. In the Leftist laboratories formerly known as ‘government schools’, the teaching of fragility is given higher priority than the values of resilience and determination in life.
If teachers are more like social workers, keen to avoid academic content, they are more likely to adopt teaching fads in the classroom. This is a tragedy for our schools – an unnecessary indulgence. Often there is a public debate about ‘what works in education’, as fad-teaching methods are popularised. Politicians call for extra studies and set up new research institutions.
Yet internationally, school programs and results have been studied to death. There is nothing new to discover. For instance, in his book Visible Learning (2009) Melbourne University Professor John Hattie analysed 800 metadata studies to create a graded index of what works and what fails in the classroom. That is, he put evidence ahead of personal opinion and ideology.
This was the most comprehensive assessment of teaching methods ever conducted. In his conclusion, Hattie lamented how, “The key question is whether teaching can shift from an immature to a mature profession, from opinions to evidence, from subjective judgments and personal contact to critique of judgments.” His findings point to the futility of fad-teaching methods, such as inquiry- or project-based learning (where students work in groups initiating their own research, with teachers acting as ‘facilitators’).
So what works in practice? Hattie identified a stand out teaching success story: the rich interchange of knowledge, ideas and concepts between teachers and students. This is described as “highly structured learning or direct teaching, which emphasises testing and feedback” – a continuous improvement model.
Why hasn’t this approach been adopted as the gold standard in NSW schools? Why have evidence-free fads been given priority instead? In truth, politics and ideology have got in the way.
Education Ministers, Labor and Coalition, haven’t been interested in urgent, sensible reform of the system. They would rather make politically convenient compromises and accommodations with the Left-wing Teachers Federation. They are more interested in winning the votes of teachers than serving the interests of parents and students. Coalition Ministers Piccoli and Stokes have been as bad as any Labor Minister.
One Nation will put rigour back into the profession by abandoning fad teaching methods and restoring an evidence-based approach. Hattie’s continuous improvement/direct instruction model is an obvious direction to follow.