Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fallout from School Report Cards

It looks like the whole school report card thing will be a fizzer . I certainly hope so.

Nothing in the local paper except for my article. It is so easy to discredit the process as at least one Principal has done. Each school can cite many instances of nonsense from the reports hence the meed for sense making to be applied to the data (see my previous posts). For example, in one school the Staff Attendance was deemed to be "Trend Down" largely as the result of a staff member with cancer. No reasonable person would accept this data accurately reflected a decline in school performance.

My recommendation would be to promote as little interest as possible (at least one other principal has adopted this strategy) . And this is not simply to avoid the difficulties of the School report Cards. Rather it enables the school to devote its energies to the real task... dealing with the everyday things that are impeding the achievement of success and well-being for all. That is, genuinely placing the 'student at the centre'.

The main outcome of the school report cards process is likely to be significant underlying damage to the working relationship between schools and the Department (and Government) . This seems to be part of a very confused notion of 'Learning Services' that has emerged from the current Department structure and arrangements... it combines resourcing, supervision, compliance enforcement and well as professional learning... This complex mix of centrally controlled interactions with schools based on various 'carrots and sticks' is of concern in terms of its impact on
  • the effectiveness of the schools
  • the long term interactions between schools and the Department (and Government) and
  • (psychological) OH&S for Principals (and staff), as reflected in the very small number of applicants for Principal positions
The OH&S issue arises from the fact that Principals frequently try to absorb the tension between
  • the demands of the system / government, and
  • the needs of the school and its people.
This phenomenon has been verified in research across the world. See also my previous posting on 'Schooling is not a service'

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