Jen Ames TFA Alumna (2011-2012), Former MUDSian (2006-2010)

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Education Debates. Jen Ames TFA Alumna (2011-2012), Former MUDSian (2006-2010). Today’s Class: Who am I? Unions – a quick recap School Autonom School Competition PPPP Shameless Plug. Who am I?.
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Education DebatesJen Ames TFA Alumna (2011-2012), Former MUDSian (2006-2010)Today’s Class:Who am I?Unions – a quick recapSchool AutonomSchool CompetitionPPPPShameless PlugWho am I?
  • I applied to TFA in September 2010 and was accepted into the program for 2011 as part of Cohort 2.
  • I was offered a place at Glenroy College, a public school in the northern suburbs (next to Broadmeadows).
  • I have taught Year 7, 9, 10, 11 and 12 English, and Year 8 and 9 Humanities (SOSE), have been debating coordinator since 2011 and am currently Year 9 Coordinator. I am also running a pilot Literacy Intervention Program designed to improve the reading skills of our lowest performing Year 7 and 8 students.
  • For the first 6 months of 2013 I taught Year
  • 7/8 English, SOSE and Maths in a remote indigenous town: Halls Creek District High School in northern WA.Teachers’ UnionsWhy I joined the AEU:
  • Improved pay over decades of hard negotiations across the globe (esp. since 1970s)
  • Reduced face-to-face hours and limited after-school meetings/extra-curricular involvement allows teachers to be better prepared for classes and more involved in the school community
  • Protection against litigious parents and children in a potentially dangerous workplace
  • All of these combine to make teaching a more attractive profession, which in turn makes it more likely that talented individuals will consider becoming teachers
  • In addition, the Australian Education Union (and its respective state branches) campaign to make the public aware of educational issues they may not know about, e.g. inequitable school funding models and the terrible pay/conditions for Education Support staff
  • Teachers’ UnionsWhy I’m thinking about quitting the union:
  • Generally opposed to new ideas/reforms (e.g. Teach for Australia, performance pay)
  • Their strongest weapons (strikes and bans) hurt innocent students and turn public support away from teachers
  • The union wants the best for its members, which is not always in the interests of students:
  • Stopping principals from firing teachers (even if deserved)
  • Pushing for all teachers to move up the pay scale (despite poor performance by some)
  • Fighting against 1-year contracts, which means schools become stuck with poor teachers because you can’t “try before you buy”
  • Autonomy: the “next big thing”
  • FEDERAL: 2012 Labor introduced the Empowering Local Schools Initiative – use financial incentives to encourage greater autonomy in three key areas: governance arrangements, funding and infrastructure, and workforce
  • FEDERAL: 2014 Pyne launched the $70 million Independent Public Schools Initiative to turn at least 1500 more public schools into independent public schools by 2017
  • VIC: 1993 (!) Kennett’s Schools of the Future policy devolved control of 93% of the state’s education budget to individual schools
  • WA: 2010 began implementing its own Independent Public Schools Initiative– 264 schools so far. They have ‘more freedom and flexibility to make decisions about… the curriculum, student support, staff recruitment, financial management, governance and accountability’
  • SA: 2010 proposed legislation reform to ‘devolve relevant employment responsibilities to principals, directors and other education leaders’ 
  • ACT: 2011 framework for improving secondary schooling – key direction 11 is to ‘enhance local decision-making through increased school and school board autonomy,’ particularly for ‘staffing and the allocation of school resources’ 
  • NSW: 2012 introduced the Local Schools, Local Decisions reform – a pilot group of 229 schools have been granted ‘greater flexibility to make decisions about the best mix of staff’. By 2016 the Department aims to have all NSW public schools managing ‘more than 70% of the state public education budget’ – up from 10% in 2012
  • Autonomy: The Theory
  • Increased autonomy allows schools to reform and innovate according to their needs and the needs of their students. SOME research has shown that increased autonomy is connected with improved school/students outcomes (e.g. Caldwell and Spinks 1992; 1998; 2008; Hargeaves 2010; 2012)
  • In the US they have a growing Charter School movement: autonomous, independently run but publicly funded schools that are supposed to have better student outcomes than traditional public schools
  • Autonomy: The Reality
  • Victoria is of the world’s most autonomous school systems. NSW is Australia’s most centralised school system. If autonomy is the key driver for school improvement, Victoria should significantly outperform NSW on national and international tests (e.g. NAPLAN, PISA, TIMMS). BUT – they don’t.
  • Hong Kong (a high performer internationally) has a high level of school autonomy, yet Finland and Korea do better and have less autonomy.
  • In the US some Charter Schools do wonderfully (e.g. KIPP), many do no better or worse than traditional public schools, and some perform much worse. (see: CREDO National Charter School Study 2013)
  • SCHOOL COMPETITON – the theoryREAD: ‘The Myth of Markets in School Education’ by Ben Jensen (The Grattan Institute)
  • Allowing schools to adapt, reform and innovate will give them an edge over other schools, and thereby increase competition.
  • Increased competition should lead to better schools, as schools will have to compete for students (and therefore funding) by improving their results.
  • The My School website allows parents to compare nearby schools to choose the highest performing school.
  • SOME research has shown small positive effects from school competition (e.g. Belfield and Levin 2002; Forster 2011)
  • SCHOOL COMPETITON – the reality
  • New Zealand’s attempts to increase competition actually had a negative impact on many schools, especially those in low SES areas
  • Not everyone has choice when it comes to schools – some issues include distance, cost (e.g. private/Catholic fees and paying for new uniforms and books etc), capacity of schools, concern about falling behind in new curriculum
  • Despite My School there is little evidence of enrolment shift based on school performance data – many poorly performing schools have doubled, while some high performers have reduced enrolments
  • If we don’t shut down poorly performing schools (and we don’t – TAS government recently floated the idea and it was then immediately shelved due to backlash from all corners) then competition doesn’t actually improve them, it just labels them as “bad” and makes the community feel even more negative about their educational prospects
  • Performance, Pay and Performance PayWhat happens currently?
  • 99.8% of teachers progress up the pay scale each year
  • In the public sector it’s around 80%
  • A 1st year graduate teacher salary is now $59,000
  • Once you reach the top of the pay scale (around $80,000) you can’t earn any more money without taking on less teaching and more administrative roles
  • We don’t currently have any form of bonus/incentive scheme
  • 49 schools have been part of a trial of performance pay in Victoria over the past 4 years, with most finding it a “significant challenge” to implement the new schemes. There was remarkably little interest from staff or schools to join the trials.
  • Performance, Pay and Performance PayWhy do people oppose performance pay?
  • It’s hard to do fairly: who decides which teachers are “good”? Which measures are used? What if my principal hates me? What if I teach in a really tough school? How do you measure progress in Art or PE?
  • It might reduce collegiality and incentivise teacher competition
  • It might deter new teachers from joining the profession, and push out those who may have become great teachers in time
  • Performance, Pay and Performance PayWhat can we do?
  • We could allocate bonuses to teaching teams, thus increasing collegiality
  • We can encourage teachers to seek out mentors and examples of best practice in order to improve and thereby be rewarded
  • We can use this model to attract hardworking new teachers, who will feel rewarded
  • Everyone in the school knows which teachers work hard and which ones are genuinely “good teachers”
  • The Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project (The Gates Foundation) say that it is possible to identify great teaching by combining three types of measures: classroom observations, student surveys, and student achievement gains. BUT these measures take time to perform, require trained/reliable observers, and don’t always predict test performance.
  • Shameless Plug
  • In the UK Teach First has been shown to boost GCSE results
  • 100% of principals in the program say they would take on more TFA Associates
  • 71% of alumni teach beyond their 2 year commitment
  • Applications for this round close on 13th April (this Sunday!)Visit http://www.teachforaustralia.org/
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