So, the NAPLAN tests have gone ahead.
The AEU had been talking tough, but turned out not to have the bottle to follow through with its threat to boycott the tests.
The media has, as one might expect, crawled all over it, and already allegations of cheating have been raised.
But for me, the most prominent issue is not whether or not some schools are cheating, worrying as that might be. Nor is it the fact that schools are already starting to teach to the test (or at least that’s what is implied by this article from the Age). No, for me, the main issue right now is how the debate over MySchool and Gillard’s high-handed tactics have affected the public perception of the teaching profession.
As evidence for this, and what I find most disconcerting, are comments like these on the ABC News website:
“Forget about comparing and grading schools. Let’s get back to where we can actually compare and grade TEACHERS on their actual results – the amount learned (or otherwise) by their pupils.”
“Australia has the same problem in a lot of areas: we look at the problem without even thinking of searching for the CAUSE.
In this case, the TEACHERS are the cause and I agree that comparing and grading schools is not necessarily the answer, but if a web site like myschool is what gets parents beginning to THINK about how poorly their kids are being taught, then so be it.”
“Teachers fudge their figures and their students’ scores so that their schools score better overall, in order to get their funding.
It’s about time the truth comes out and the frauds who call themselves ‘teachers’ are exposed.
No wonder they didn’t want the site to go live!
This idiotic government of ours has done ONE THING RIGHT, and that is… the MYSCHOOL website.”
“It is about time our teachers were held accountable. I don’t know of a profession where you are not rated on your ability to deliver results.”
“So the winging [sic] again revolves around standards. The only standard is the national one. It is about time teachers got out of there [sic] rut and started doing some brainstorming. It’s not the NAPLAN that’s at fault is the curriculum.”
[Comments taken from http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/05/11/2896141.htm]
Not all of the comments are like this, of course. There are others commenting on this and similar articles who don’t feel the need to assail an entire profession based on their own warped understanding of what teachers do. And I certainly wouldn’t say that these views represent the majority. Just a particularly outspoken section of those who read the news on the ABC website.
Nevertheless, I find myself wondering why I would want to stay in a profession that is regarded so poorly by some, including our politicians. The students in my school have done quite well in the NAPLAN tests over the last couple of years, and also in the Basic Skills tests before that. I know that I do my job well, and my students don’t just learn how to pass tests.
But I can’t help but think that the Government has sought to take advantage of some people’s dissatisfaction with our education system in pursuing its own agenda and has been happy to see teachers become the ‘bad guys’ in the process. The NAPLAN tests’ credibility has also been sacrificed for the same reason.
Ultimately, the narrowing of the curriculum is the fundamental issue and it’s the students who will be the losers. But right now, it’s teachers who are bearing the brunt of the assault on our education system, and more than a few good teachers will walk away from teaching because of it.
I may be one of them.