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Vouchers for literacy


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I thought some of you could do with a bit of a laugh. If you think your govt is balmy, we can do better. Our Federal Minister for Ed (soon up for re-election) has just announced a scheme to solve our perceived literacy problems. Each parent of a Grade 3 child who hasn't reached the national literacy benchmarks will receive a voucher for $700 to buy after school literacy tutoring. And guess who he is suggesting MIGHT do it? Teachers IN THEIR SPARE TIME!!!! Or good-hearted community members.

No consideration of our many kids who live in isolated areas, no requirement for "tutors" to have any qualifications or training, no understanding of the multi-faceted causes of illiteracy, no realisation that the very kids in need are hardly likely to want to do another hour of schooling after school, no understanding that many poor parents won't know how to use it to best advantage (eg our isolated indigenous and refugees). Can Blair beat that for stupidity do you think?

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I've often wondered why there are so many half-baked proposals going the rounds in the world of education. This is my theory:

Firstly, education uses up a large portion of the national budget, so politicians can't ignore it. On the other hand, the amorphous nature of what we regard as success in an educational system makes it very difficult for politicians to take credit for anything.

Secondly, everyone once went to school, and we all have a tendency to think that the educational world we saw from the 'pupil' side of the desk is the same as the world seen from the 'teacher' side.

Thirdly, it's a lot easier to come up with a half-baked suggestion than to tackle the real problems of schools, pupils and teachers.

Reminds me of the great education vouchers debate in the early 1980s in England, where politicians were seriously suggesting that popular schools would be able to build extra classrooms in order to house the pupils whose vouchers would be 'spent' with them, whilst unpopular schools would close classrooms down (and stop paying for them?) at the same rate.

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I've often wondered why there are so many half-baked proposals going the rounds in the world of education. This is my theory:

My theory is similar David :)

The real issues in my view are quality and trust. Quality in teacher training must be a priority and until we get away from the paper gathering model of achieving a qualification (how long before we can achieve a PHD by portfolio of competences???) this will not happen. Once you have quality you then have to trust them to do a professional job and stop driving them mad with half baked initiatives.

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Speaking of half-baked ... this one is totally raw! I had a good laugh at a section in yesterday's TES which stated that the phrase 'personalised learning' is on the lips of every government minister but few seem clear about its meaning.... but despite the lack of clarity the phrase is spreading like a virus, with schools advertising for teachers with experience and understanding of personalised learning'.

What a surprise!! Yet another band wagon ...New Labour's next 'Big Idea' for trying to persuade voters that they have something really cutting edge to introduce into schools during their next term of office (when they are elected of course!).

Anyone out there a secret expert? Tell us what it is! :)

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:lol::lol: I always did like to call homework "personalised home learning" and for that matter a spade an earth inverting implement. Perhaps I could be a "mental processing facilitator" - teacher just sounds like it won't go down well with electorate :)
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There's another aspect to this too. 'Putting the student in the centre' was a catchphrase here in Sweden a few years ago. Then people pointed out that this could just as well mean 'leaving the student in the lurch'. I.e. "we put you in the centre, gave you the facilities we thought you needed, so any responsibility for failure is yours, not ours".

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There's another aspect to this too. 'Putting the student in the centre' was a catchphrase here in Sweden a few years ago. Then people pointed out that this could just as well mean 'leaving the student in the lurch'. I.e. "we put you in the centre, gave you the facilities we thought you needed, so any responsibility for failure is yours, not ours".

I once attended a training day (must have been about 1992) the thrust of which was that teachers should simply invent resourced tasks for students to complete rather than "teach" as such. It had some ludicrous title like "the student centred approach".

At that point in my career I had encountered many teachers who couldn't teach, and plenty who didn't want to, but this was the first one I had met who had combined both states of mind and called it an educational method :)

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Well, David, at least in Sweden it sounds as if the people got to have a say - which is, of course, a particularly good Swedish practice!!

Here we just seem to lurch from idiocy to idiocy as far as I can make out. When I first started teaching, policy was not much driven by politicians. In fact I can't seem to remember that we had much "policy" apart from teaching kids subjects and keeping them as well behaved as possible, with some reasonable sanctions to do it and relatively sensible parents who usually supported teachers.

Then came bureaucratic policy from enlarged departmental offices - they had to earn their money and their promotions from coming up with new ideas. Then came academic gurus who needed to sell their books and promote their theories in order to get known and get better academic positions, then came politicians thinking they knew better because they'd been to school once and look where it got them! So they boufgt into the theories of academics and popular education writers. Now we seem to have a combination of these all pouring in at the same time.

I suspect there is eventually going to be a backlash to all this stupidity - you can sense it in some of the books coming out. The Hirsch one I mentioned before and a new Australian one called "Why Our Schools Are Failing" by K Donnelly, but like whole word reading, it will have done its damage to a generation of kids in the meantime. Am I too cynical? I'm told so by our powers that be!

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There is a 'saving grace' in educational systems, though. You could call it conservatism, or you could call it inertia. The various 'national curricula' that have come out over the years here have all sounded really nice - it's just that schools have more or less caught up with the one that came out in 1968!

The danger comes when states try to micromanage education, as seems to be happening in the UK. However, the micromanagers find that they can't actually achieve their goals - just whatever adaptation and approximation of their goals which teachers are actually prepare to carry out … which leads to new 'initiatives' and 'targets' until the whole process becomes ludicrous. Beneath this, though, there are kids who need to learn things and teachers who teach.

Still, it would be nice to be able to teach together with our lords and masters, instead of despite them.

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Just came across this - very interesting.

Klein on Charter Schools

It's fair to say that Joel Klein has made some slips as chancellor of the New York City schools. It's also fair to say, however, that his intentions are right, his instincts mostly so, and he's wrestling with an extremely tough situation.

To the latter points, do not miss his recent remarks on public charter schools which you can find here. A few highlights:

So why is it, that I —the public schools Chancellor— am an unalloyed supporter of charter schools? Frankly it’s simple: educators, families, and children want good schools. Charters are one way to create them. Charters bring in new blood. These are leaders and entrepreneurs who are not otherwise part of the system. They are people with ideas, with creativity, and who are willing to give their all for their students. On that central basis, when we have a city where there are thousands of kids not getting the education that they need and deserve, I don’t see why we would in any way shut down more options and new opportunities. In the end, I want to see every kid in New York City in a school that each and every one of you will be proud of. If those schools come from the traditional public sector or the charter sector, that’s fine with me.

I think we should support charters for another reason. Public education in large urban areas in the United States has failed. This is a somewhat heretical thing for a schools Chancellor to say. But if we are not going to be candid, I don’t think we can take the kind of steps we need to make the necessary changes. New York City is actually one of the best urban school systems in the United States, but by any measure, I guarantee you that at least half, probably more than half, of our students are not remotely getting the education they deserve...

...So why have we had so many decades of reform and so little change? I think it is because people continue to focus on program-based reform. They are unwilling to get their heads around the fact that in large urban areas the culture of public education is broken. If you don’t fix this culture, then you are not going to be able to make the kind of changes that are needed. Programmatic reform is important: curricula, class size, after-school programs, summer school—those things are very important. But unless we are prepared to deal with the culture in public education, I don’t think we can get the kinds of results that we need for our kids

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