Julia Gillard is reported to have said this month that she was blown away by the works and ideas of Joel Klein, the former Assistant Attorney General of the United States – anti trust division. Mr Klein has been the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education for the past few years and is committed to improving student learning. An article in the Australian reported: His “key words were accountability and transparency, and the linchpin was a schedule of standardised tests in maths, science and English that would determine whether students won promotion to the next year of school. The practice of social promotion was to be weeded out. The test results were to be made public along with a host of other school information, including qualitative assessments of schools, parent and teacher surveys, and the grading awarded to each school at year’s end.
Schools that failed to show improvement in students each year or scored a consistently low-letter grade faced being restructured or shut down. The teachers who worked there were to have no guarantee of another job.
The tough love was to come with better pay for teachers and principals, more school autonomy and academic support for struggling students, including an intensive summer academy, parent co-ordinators in every school and better translation and interpretation services. After six years, statistics show high school pass rates are up, parents are more engaged with their kids and schools are safer.”
Julia can I make a suggestion or two. Firstly testing is not teaching – building the instructional skills and content knowledge of teachers and a curriculum that has challenging tasks whilst not as sexy as no social promotion of students headlines does it in the higher performing systems around the world. So on the PISA results for OECD countries , which I commented on in a previous post, we are about 5th in the world and you go to one of the poorer performing systems, New York in a country that rates 16th or worse on the same tests and try and copy their solutions. Please Julia why not read the work of academics like Richard Elmore or Michael Fullan who all advocate building teacher capacity in the classroom, controlling entry level qualifications for teachers and working on a rich curriculum first – before being impressed. Feel free to comment!