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Fri, Apr. 18th, 2008, 02:45 pm
Another brick in the Wall.

Lest we forget the many crimes of the Liberal Party, before Kevin Rudd's Labor Party floods us with it's own idiotic decisions.

I count almost 70 horrendous policy decisions during the last decade; roughly seven a year. Well, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard just scored two or three in only the last week. Partly by copying Liberal Party policy.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard is pushing three suggestions to screw up our schools as cheaply as possible:
1) performance based pay for teachers,
2) national standardized literacy/numeracy tests,
3) publishing of the results of those tests per school, explicitly so that parents can pick and choose schools based on these tests.

1) Performance based pay for teachers. This will ensure that teachers are motivated to "teach to the test". It works to produce students who can rote answer exam questions that will push up the teachers scores, rather than to teach kids to actually comprehend a topic, or to take risks by taking on more difficult students. It will give them a reason to discourage students from taking up challenging subjects. It will also give them an incentive to lie about how well their kids are doing, and to cover up or sideline low-scoring students. Lastly, it will almost guarantee that schools in poor areas are even less likely to attract teachers.

Q: What is the single best predictor of a schoolkid's performance on a test?
A: Their post-code.

Why would you want to teach at that poor school, attended by children with parents who can't afford to be home spending any time with them, who can't buy them the study aids they need (or who are stuck in a culture of stupidity because they were abused by their father at age 6 and got pregnant at 13)? You won't get those shiny bonuses Gillard wants to toss at you for performing tricks.

2)... national standardised tests. Educational professionals generally consider national standardized testing to be one of the banes of their jobs. These tests are a massive waste of time and expenditure. They waste the student's time, they waste the teacher's time, they waste the limited public money that's made available for education-related issues. They exist because of six little words: Stupid. Voting. Parents. Like. Stupid. Tests.

Well, technically that's five words. The fact is that a test cannot capture a person's competency or understanding. Your results are dependant on the time you take the test, your state of mind, the way the test is actually assessed, and how much you crammed for it last night while ignoring and setting aside any desire you might have had to comprehend the issues in the subject you're studying. We all know idiots who got 99.95 ENTER scores, and brilliant people who got in the high 40s. That's not just random chance - it's a reflection of the inherent difficulty in assessing human understanding.

The point is, standardized testing is a nuisance at best. At worst, it can be detrimental to your education. I don't remember a single person in high school saying "Wow, these VCE exams are great! They really make you want to learn how to tick the right box!"

Psyching people up for tests and stressing them out over the results are simply idiotic ways to teach - in fact, they are not a part of teaching at all. They only exist so we can decide who gets into university and who doesn't, without having to think about it too deeply. It's got nothing to do with actually educating. Presumably education is the point of a school, right?

The only way to make standardised testing worse is to punish or reward schools based on the results of standardised tests.

3) A clear plan to punish or reward schools on the basis of standardised tests.

To an economist, this makes perfect sense (Well, an economist with a very limited understanding of her own field...). Competition is how you refine industries in the financial world.

Except that, as i've said above, competition on test scores:
a) reduces a student's ability (and desire) to seriously learn a subject properly,
b) reduces a student's ability (or desire) to take up challenging subjects, and,
c) reduces a teachers incentives to teach challenged students, or challenging subjects, and gives them a reason to focus on raising scores on pointless tests.

And both students and teachers get great incentives to cheat, which means we then have a reason to put them under fairly hideous social pressures to feel as if they're being monitored all the time for signs of illegality.

All those things converge when you make a school's enrolment dependant upon the test results in a list printed for a bunch of dumbass parents (who don't know the first thing about education, testing, or statistical procedures - probably because they were educated under an inferior system in which their final marks where more important than their enthusiasm and understanding).

And as i said above, students postcodes are the best predictor of their performance on a test. Test scores are heavily influenced by socio-economic status.

So, basically, you will have parents clamouring and killing themselves to send their kids to prestigious sell-outs of schools (like Ringwood Secondary College or Melbourne High), all to escape the low scores at their local school, which are being caused by the socio-economic status or cruddy culture of the fricking parents in the first place.


Bad, bad, bad Labor Party. Go to the back of the class.