Archive for June, 2009

Raising the stakes on the outcomes of literacy and numeracy national testing, so that schools were judged publicly on the collective performance of students, would undermine the important role of these tests in diagnosing learning issues. Schools would be under pressure to spend valuable curriculum time preparing students to maximise results. Teaching to the test, rather than testing in order to teach, would undermine educational outcomes.

2115071765_7332f76fe4_mSo writes John Kaye, Greens MP in Upper House  of the NSW Parliament, in the Sydney Morning Herald today (no, I am not sponsored by them!!). The government recently tried to pass new legislation to allow publication of school performance in national testing. (Still not sure if they succeeded).

He makes some good points. One being that the tests are not designed for the purpose of creating “league tables” where school testing results are published on a national website available to the public. The government argues that they are not creating league tables, rather they are providing information about “like schools” with similiar SES (socio-economic status).

Who is right?

We do need to heed the lessons from the UK. It seems that league tables created a punitive culture whereby schools were “named and shamed” but for what end?

The focus should be on how we can continue to do things better – professional development, focus on teacher quality, meeting equity challenges – to improve student learning.

However, will publication of school results on a national website achieve this?

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Gotta love technology

Thanks for sharing this Sue! Great laugh. I can also relate! All the technology malfunctions I have experienced of late at work….just wish I thought of using scissors!!!!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Gotta love technology“, posted with vodpod

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I had a good laugh when I saw this photo on Mia Freedman’s blog. You can read the article for yourself.

She raises really valid points about fairytales and some animation movies stereotyping life choices for young girls – particularly those who believe as they get older that a prince-will-come-along-and-save-them-provide-for-them-and-live-happily-ever-after.

Yes, Virginia, some girls/women still believe this. Apparently. Which is not a surprise, really. Just sad.

Of most interest are the pages of comments from a variety of people who have very diverse views on the subject. Phew-ee! Take a look.

Anyway I went to the source of the photo…and found a few more by Dina Goldstein. Now this would make for interesting study in classrooms!


Then I came across some old Golden Book covers on Flickr. By this stage, I was in hysterics! Judging by the covers, they may have a lot to answer for in creating the “Princess reality check”.

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Rant no. 467!!!!

I seem to be on a bit of a roll writing2009-06-17_0913 about newspaper reports on education.

The headline in today’s Sydney Morning Herald immediately caught my attention as it screamed…. “Kindergarten checks a test for young learners”. A test?? From what I understand about Best Start, it is a literacy and numeracy ASSESSMENT task – not a test. It is a one-on-one (teacher-child) assessment task apparently taking up to 30 minutes per child.

Nice if you have a class size limit of 20 students. Public schools in New South Wales do have this class size limit in Kindergarten – other schools don’t. Certainly not the schools I work with.

The parent interviewed in the article makes a valid point about the inappropriateness of testing young learners when the emphasis should be on students

learning basic academic and social skills and just settling into kindergarten.

2506579907_c290956f31_mSo true. However from what I understand about Best Start, it is conducted in a familiar environment, the classroom, with the child’s teacher, who takes them through a series of literacy and  numeracy tasks involving colourful hands-on materials and the tasks are linked to real-life literacy and numeracy experiences in the oral or written form.

I suppose my concern lies with the assumption that the children are familiar with English and the literacy practices that go with an Anglo-Saxon culture. Yes, I can see my colleagues eyes glazing over already as I make this point for the 3456th time!!!.

For the many students who enter Kindergarten in our system of catholic schools in Sydney, a large proportion – and I mean LARGE…up to 60% –  are from an ESL /EAL (English as an Additional Language) background. Some come to school operating only in their first language (not English) while others may have acquired some English. What we are seeing an increase in, is the child who has no dominant first language as both parents operate in different languages in the home.

What they all DO BRING TO SCHOOL ( and could teachers please refrain from saying they come with NO language! They do come with language – it’s just not English!!) is experience with literacy practices. But they may be different literacy practices to the ones that are represented in our curriculum.

2311886823_f22440061f_mSo if their literacy practices are different to the ones represented in Best Start, will kindergarten students be labelled as “not literate” or even worse, as not cognitively-able? Can Best Start be conducted bilingually for those students who function in another language?

Pauline Harris and Honglin Chen, remind educators in their article“Becoming school literate parents: An ESL perspective” (Australian Journal of Language and Literacy Vol 32 No. 2 2009), that literacy is

a social practice that is shaped by sociocultural settings …

and that we as educators need to think broadly about what constitutes literacy practice. We need to challenge the stereotype of what IS literacy. For many of us, we may view it at

being read to, that literacy only involes print-based written language, or that story reading is the only means by which children learn to be literate before school.

So does Best Start perpetuate this sterotype about literacy? That’s my concern.

End of rant……for now!

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Recently I wrote about my inspirational visit to Kinder at St Peter Chanel, Regents Park. (See previous blog post). On that day, photographers from the Daily Telegraph in Sydney were also visiting and taking lots of photos….much to the delight of the children. In fact one child got into the act and began mimicking one photographer by taking lots of his own photos with the class digital camera!!

In today’s Daily Telegraph, there they are for all to see! Great early learning in action. However, as an educator involved in the early learning project, I winced when I saw the headline. “Radical teaching”?

The ideas behind early learning pedagogy are not new. Just ask any early childhood educator. What is new, is adopting this approach within the constraints of a K-6 education system. Our ratio of students per teacher is much higher than those in early childhood settings. Our mandatory curriculum operates from an outcomes-based approach which places different demands on both teachers and students. And let’s not forget national testing and literacy/numeracy targets!!!!!

02062009(002)The two teachers at the centre of this article, Nicole and Romina, are enabling some amazing learning to occur in their classroom. They work damn hard to ensure that their students get the very best learning opportunities. And yes, they have the children at the centre of learning by tapping into their interests as the curriculum unfolds. As Nicole stated in the article today..

We have to listen to the children and look at how engaged they are and move things around accordingly

What Nicole and Romina do really well is challenge each other, critically reflect on their daily practice, the learning environment,  and struggle with the pitfalls that eventually arise. They are also pretty good at celebrating the successes but they never lose sight of what they are trying to achieve. They are themselves, great learners. This is crucial.

02062009(004)They also are greatly supported by their colleagues at the school and the school leadership team – who also consider themselves as learners. Without this support and the willingness to innovate, take risks and even fail, none of this great learning would have eventuated.

For radical teaching to really occur, we need to constructively challenge practice that is inappropriate for our young students, whether it is evident in the classroom or driven from the leadership of the school. As a system we need to continue to resource programs such CEO Sydney’s early learning project to further develop teacher’s understanding of what IS appropriate learning for the different stages of development.

Radical? I don’t think we are there yet.

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Module 2

web_2.0I finally downloaded Jing, a great screen capture tool. Comes in very handy for blogposts, wikis and presentations. Probably has lots of other uses too.

The shot shows part of a Web 2.0 0nline course that I am participating in with a group of teachers in Sydney. It’s great because it has been developed by two people in our system of schools who really understand what our teachers need in terms of Web 2.0. AND it utilises the technology we have access to. Or not (if you’re primary!!! Sorry! Had to have that dig at amount $$$$ put into secondary schools re technology!!!)

This post is one of the tasks  – our reflections on using blogs in the classroom. And I have probably failed already if I keep having digs at people!!!

I started this blog as a way of sharing my experiences, my thoughts, my concerns and basically any idiot rant that entered my head linked to education. I have been surprised by how much I enjoy writing the posts!! More surprising, has been the verbal feedback I receive from the teachers I work with. They seem to enjoy reading what I have to say – but are reluctant to respond via the blog itself. Fair enough.

I encourage teachers I work with to investigate the use of blogs in the classroom particularly as they can provide an authentic audience for reading and writing for their students. So important. It’s heartening to watch so many of them have a go, even if they are not “techies”. I know I’m not – and am aware that I have limited knowledge about blogs and their use. Transitioning to Web 2.o in the classroom has been a useful blog to help me with this.

I  also started a wiki (private) last year for schools I am working with in early learning.  It’s purpose is to share what’s happening in schools; and provide a collaborative way to reflect and document their learning. ( If I had my time over, I’d use Wetpaint rather than wikispaces – visually more appealing). It has been challenging for some – including me – to confidently engage with the wiki. Technology can frighten people.

So with that in mind, enjoy this video. (Thanks Mick!!)

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