Archive for category politics

How to raise NAPLAN and PISA scores in 6 easy steps

Raising student performance is really this easy!

Raising student performance is really this easy!

Jk. Hope you took the click bait.

Here is a wrap up of my favourite posts this week in response to the usual sky-is-falling in education, ‘where’s-the-bandaid solution’ sh*tshow that has followed release of the latest PISA results.

If you want some intelligent, grounded-in-reality reading about improving ‘student performance’, I highly recommend:

  1. Misty Adoniou’s piece in The ConversationAustralia’s students are failing. I blame the politicians (PS. So do I)
  2. Charlotte Pezaro’s blog post about a phonics debate that got way out of hand: The unforgivable
  3. Stewart Riddle and Bob Lingard’s piece in The GuardianPisa results don’t look good, but let’s look at what we can learn before we panic
  4. The joint statement by ALEA and PETAA: on phonics instruction in early reading development

Also a few older posts here:

  1. Eileen Honan’s March 2015 piece on the AARE blog EduResearch MattersThis is how Australian teachers are taught how to teach children to read: not just phonics
  2. Darcy Moore’s October 2016 blog post about test data and measuring outcomes: The KFC fix

Please share any or all of the posts above with your friends.

And a reminder, as always, NOT TO FEED THE TROLLS.

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Guest Post: ‘Christopher Pyne, equity goals, and the p-word’

This week a former student of mine posted a link to a piece she had written for the University of Sydney student newspaper, Honi Soit. I read the story (feeling proud, impressed, and agreeing with her the whole time), and quickly asked if she would mind if I reposted the article here as a guest post on my blog.

Lauren checked with Honi, and Honi were fine with it (thanks editors!). Which makes me happy, because I think this story about the systematic exclusion of disadvantaged students from university is an important one to tell. As a ‘first in family’ university student from Sydney’s Southwest, I too have experienced the cultural and financial barriers to university success.

So here, with kind permission from the author, Lauren Pearce, and the original publisher, Honi Soit, is the article…

Christopher Pyne, equity goals, and the p-word

Lauren Pearce thinks those advocating to keep USYD “prestigious” often do little more than lock out the disadvantaged

by Lauren Pearce, published by Honi Soit on October 15, 2013.

I’m going to drop the p-word: prestigious. There’s really nothing wrong with that word. The only real issue is if you keep applying the word to yourself, justly or otherwise. Then you start to look like another p-word: pretentious.

On Thursday, 10 October Tony Abbott emerged in Melbourne to assure reporters the university reforms that Christopher Pyne announced earlier were to be put on a back-burner. These changes would mean a cap on university places as opposed to the “demand-driven system” currently in place and the axing of equity goals that encourage students from low-SES backgrounds to enroll, a move that Pyne stated would ensure quality but which had been criticised by the NTEU as detrimental to students from low-SES backgrounds and regional students.

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I give a Gonski

The Federal Government commissioned David Gonski to conduct a comprehensive review of school funding in Australia – the final report was released in February 2012.

I wanted to post here the series of tweets that I sent out yesterday, when Peter Garrett was in Brisbane:

What comments would you make in relation to the Gonski recommendations?

Are you a public school supporter? A public school teacher?

What do you think it will take to close the gap?

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What Giroux said…

…in his address at the launch of the Werklund Foundation Center for Youth Leadership Education in Calgary.

Before coming to the 2012 AERA conference I had the absolute pleasure of attending the Inaugural International Youth Studies Congress at the University of Calgary.

As well as hearing from distinguishes scholars, teachers and students on issues relating to youth studies, the major highlight for me (and tbh, the carrot that helped me decide to attend in the first place), was the keynote address by Henry Giroux.



If you consider yourself a ‘radical’ educator and have not yet read Giroux’s work, I highly recommend it! He is doubly awesome in my book, given his commitment to getting his scholarly thoughts out into the wider-read public domain. I thought it very fitting, therefore, that I should tweet the ideas from his talk that stood out most for me.

You can read the gist of his talk in this op-ed article: The ‘Suicidal State’ and the War on Youth.

(NB: I accidentally tweeted the term ‘suicide state’ instead of ‘suicidal state’. Oops…)

I used the hashtag #girouxsays to mark the tweets…given the fickle, temporal life cycle of hashtag searches, I’ve collected them all here for y/our convenience and later reference:

A big shout out to Shirley Steinberg, the Werklund Foundation Chair in Youth Leadership Education, for hosting this inaugural event. She’s kind of a big deal in the fields of #radical_education #freire_project #critical_pedagogy – loved hearing more about this work! (my radical itch was in need of a scratch…)

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Dear Mr Gonski

The biggest review of schools funding in over 30 years is almost over.

I was number 5126 to join the For our Future website tonight.

Here’s what I wrote in my message to the Gonski review panel:

There can be no serious attempt to argue that the current education system in Australia is socially just. With the exercising of ‘choice’ in education increasingly being seen as a feature of responsible parenting the provision of education is becoming even more stratified.

Government policy has been instrumental in encouraging the allowance of parental ‘choice’, giving parents ability to seek the school that will provide the greatest level of ‘excellence’ for their child. A need to invest in excellence based on the manufactured concern about the decline in standards in public education has meant an increase in Government funding of private schools to enable more parents to have the option of ‘choosing’ a private education for their children. This has led to the creation of a dualistic, market oriented education system, where public and private schools compete for enrolments and for Government funding, and ideas about what an ‘excellent’ education really consists of are distorted in order to lure ‘consumers’.

Despite public perception, it is not my belief however that a private education is a ‘better’ education, or that education in specialist schools such as selective or performing arts schools is more beneficial to the students who attend them. In fact inequity in education is diminishing the educational experience of these students by creating schools that lack diversity and encouraging social reproduction. It is not just a matter of the ‘poor local public schools’ being at a disadvantage because of lack of resources, funding and staff, but ALL students being disadvantaged by a curriculum that is too narrow and largely exam driven, and which therefore cannot develop fully the talents and capacities of many students.

It is largely the marketisation of the education system that has resulted in competition between schools, which lowers the standard of educational experience for all. The idea that schools should be striving for ‘excellence’ and the threat of falling enrolments and possible school closure if schools do not demonstrate themselves as achieving this ‘excellence’, has led to a dramatic rise in focus on NAPLAN results and Year 12 exit credentials, and exaggerated interest in comparing schools’ performance. The result is a decrease in the ability of ALL schools to provide a holistic, democratic and inclusive curriculum that caters to the needs of individual students and values diversity.

It is for these reasons that I argue the need for a substantial increase in funding to public schools, as well as a radical reduction in the proportion of funds made available to non-government schools in future funding models.

I was taught in public schools, and I have been a public school teacher.  There are many of us out there who are loyal to the democratic values of public education, and will not falter in our support of this system.  Please invest in us – we won’t let you down.

Write your own note, or just use the form letter provided online to send your own message today via the For our Future website:

Before it’s too late, join parents, teachers and principals from around Australia and send a final message to the head of the review, Mr David Gonski, about the importance of investing more in our public schools.


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National Day of Action for Public Education

There’s a lot at stake over the next few months in the countdown to the Gonski panel’s final advice on schools funding. That advice, and the Government’s response, could determine the long-term future of schooling across Australia and, in particular, the nature and quality of public schooling in this country. (J.F. McMorrow ‘Real Reform in Schools Funding’ paper Sept. 2011)

A wealth of material is available to learn more about the Gonski review into schools funding, including the paper quoted above. The review is due for release in December, and while the (one month!) period for submitting formal responses has closed, there is one last opportunity to have a say on the issue of schools funding.

I have written before about the Gonski Review, but am sorry to admit that I did not enter a submission when they were called for earlier in the year.

As luck would have it, however, the Australian Education Union has organised a special website for people like me (and maybe you) to lodge their view:

It’s quick and easy to show your support for Public Education in Australia by signing the petition on the site.  If you want to do more, you can join as a supporter to “tell us why investing more in public schools is so important”. Whichever you choose, you should do this TOMORROW, Tuesday 16th November, the National Day of Action for Public Education:

There has been very little public conversation about this issue in my circles – as Darcy Moore pointed out to Stephen Downes in October.  I fear that many teachers that are passionate about Public Education are weary from years of arguing about equity, only to see nothing change.  The approach of telling people how unfair things are just hasn’t worked so far.  Explaining how big the funding gap really is hasn’t worked so far.  Arguing that diverse student populations produce better educational outcomes than homogenous ones hasn’t worked so far.  The idea that parents should be ‘free to choose’ is too appealing, and sounds too much like ‘common sense’.  But, for those inclined to look beyond their own backyard, and to the society at large, it is clear to see the devastating impact that ‘school choice’ has had on the wider community. While we continue the charade of ‘meritocracy’, the current schools funding model has continued to deliver a system in which learning facilities and access to knowledge and social status can be bought by those with means.  When that is the case, it’s hard not to enter the discourse of class wars, don’t you think?

This is not just about class wars, however.  A summary of public views put forward collected by the Australian College of Educators observes that “Australia’s approach of providing funding as an entitlement to the independent sector is not the standard approach of most OECD countries”.  And yet, this question of measuring Australia’s financial commitment to education against other OECD nations was seen to be largely absent from public debate.

As for me, I support a substantial increase in funding to public schools, and a narrowing of the resource gap between public and independent sectors.  I do not support policies that position families with means as being entitled to more educational choice than others.  Tonight I will be adding my voice to the For our Future website, and wishing for a future where the support, learning and success of all students is priority number one for politicians and citizens alike.

I hope you will join me.


I’m a public school teacher and I vote

I’ve been reading Darcy Moore’s series of posts about the Gonski Review, which recently concluded and posed this question:

How much data do we need to tell us that a well-educated, motivated teacher in an appropriately funded, resourced and supported school, freed from bureaucratic regulation, can give students what they need?

Darcy makes some excellent points about the resourcing of schools that is needed for a ‘high equity, high quality’ schooling system in Australia.

I want to add to these today simply by reminding people that Public schooling – the kind that is provided for free to all young people in Australia – is an institution that is particularly worth fighting for in this time of change.

While Public schooling often suffers at the hands of bureaucratic micro-management and ill-conceived Government initiatives, this is a scenario that can change.

What WILL NOT CHANGE, unless there is a drastic shift in the proportion of funding provided to Public schools (not just the amount), is the cultural hierarchy of schooling in Australia that sees greater choice and opportunity for those young people whose parents can afford it.

I went to a public school.   There were never enough material resources, never enough flexibility…but I know other schools that had it worse.

I’ve seen the inside of the ELITE Private schools in NSW, Queensland and Victoria.  There is no excuse for sustaining a system that provides some children with tennis courts, cricket pitches and drama theatres, when teachers at other local schools are penny-pinching to buy more whiteboard markers.

Your school has enough boats for a shed?

Your school has boats?

It is disturbing to see people speaking in hushed tones around the issue of the Gonski Review, seemingly frightened to suggest that IT’S NOT ALRIGHT for some families to buy their way into status and social advantage.  And I don’t care to hear about people who “really are supporting a middle class family, working three jobs to afford the school fees”.  

What gives a family the right to withdraw and segregate their children from the social fabric that others are relying on for the project of “diversity” to actually work?

Gated School Communities

Gated School Communities

Of course I will always be committed to working at University and through Professional Associations to help prepare and develop excellent English teachers to work in every school sector…but, as a school teacher, I will only ever work in the PUBLIC sector.   I will not teach in other sectors; they can’t buy my labour.  So, if you find yourself wondering whether Public schools really are worth fighting for, in this day and age, know this:






Mr. #Gonski please stop the over funded Elite schools from buying their way out of this!  Please disincentivise social snobbery and segregation.  Please implement a funding model that rewards families for supporting their local community school.


Did you just realise you don’t know what the Gonski Review is?


Catch up on the story so farthe Gonski schools funding review has been through all of the boring phases, and we are now in the throws of watching various stakeholders campaign during these LAST CHANCE weeks for submission of public responses to the review.

Angelo Gavrielatos provides an excellent summary (from the AEU perspective) here:

And if, like me, you find it hard to find any information about how to submit a response online (funny that…) here is the link to the page you need:

The panel invited submissions on the issues reflected in the Emerging Issues Paper between
16 December 2010 and 31 March 2011. This submission process has now closed.

A Paper on Commissioned Research will also be released on 31 August 2011, along with four research reports.  Submissions will be accepted until 30 September 2011.

Please note that all public submissions to the review panel will close on 30 September 2011.

The panel will release further details of its work through panel communiqués as the review progresses. Register online to have announcements and communiqués sent to you by email.

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Apathy and politics: Omar Musa @MWF

In this week’s episode of Q&A (from the Melbourne Writer’s Festival) there was some interesting discussion about young people and apathy in politics.

I was especially glad to head from Omar Musa, an award winning Australian slam poet who my students recently brought to my attention.  An extract from the episode transcript follows; the full episode can currently be viewed on the ABC website (

OMAR MUSA: I can’t speak for previous generations but when I talk for my generation, I see a lot of selfishness. I see a lot of materialism. I see a lot of superficiality and I think that’s something that we should all be – as artists we should all speak up against. I mean I think people have enjoyed such a good standard of living for so long in Australia, that – all right there’s – from the way I see it, there’s two different types of apathetic people in Australia. There are those who are apathetic because they feel that the government is not properly representing them and that they have no alternative choice and then there are those who are apathetic because they feel so entitled to this prosperity that we have that they can’t feel any sense of compassion to those who are vulnerable and, you know, I think that’s something we need to interrogate as a society, you know. I just see that there are problems in this society. I mean I’m proud to be Australian but, you know, as someone who is patriotic, I feel that it’s my responsibility to criticise and to ask these sort of questions about our past. Why is a dog whistle – always, you know, it invariably works in Australian politics. I mean a pugilistic wing nut like, you know, Tony Abbott almost won the last election by using the dog whistle when most people don’t even like the guy, you know. And so why is it that that sort of stuff works.

TONY JONES: In that same poem, My Generation, you talk about witnessing Prime Ministers slain, hush coups in the halls of parliament house. I mean does that sort of taint your view of politics, when you see something like that happen?

OMAR MUSA: Yeah, definitely. I mean it’s got to a point where it feels like it’s a choice between the devil and deep blue sea, you know. You’ve got this pugilistic knob head on one side and then you’ve got this sort of gutless wonder on the other and so I understand that – the young lady that asked the first question, I understand that feeling of apathy but I guess it’s times like this when it’s more necessary than ever to speak up and to question these sort of things.

These sentiments were followed by some very stirring words by Afghani activist and writer of A Woman Among Warlords Malalai Joya including the insistance that

The silence of the good people is worse than the action of the bad people.

I wonder what role I will play in the grand scheme of de-apathising the ‘youth of today’, including my own generation?  Surely the answer must lie in art, like Omar’s poetry, and in active protest, like Malalai’s…not just in retweeting exclamations of outrage and sharing witty remarks about news articles on Facebook?  Not that I’d be without those things mind you 😉

At the end of the day, will hip hop save our lives?

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Gamification and Behaviourism

I dig gamification. I also dig Games Based Learning (GBL).

But sometimes when I’m watching these concepts get promoted, big alarms go off in my head.

Take a look at this list of some key elements of gamification:

  • Points
  • Badges
  • Levels
  • Challenges
  • Leaderboards
  • Rewards
  • Onboarding

Doesn’t this remind you of anything?  Add that together with our enthusiastic embrace of digital and electronic teaching, and the ‘games & machines’ motif becomes really familiar.  I’m thinking Skinner, and Behaviourism, and Pavlov’s dog…which means that we need to think about the ethics of gamification, stat.


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