The great schools revolution, Ctd

Continuing on our discussion about the great schools revolution.

This post will set off the teacher unions even more than the last one. It seems that setting high standards for teachers, nationals standards to keep track of underachieving pupils and school choice are big factors. Watch the vested interests oppose every one of those initiatives. The results though can’t be argued.

Culture is certainly a factor. Many Asian parents pay much more attention to their children’s test results than Western ones do, and push their schools to succeed. Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea sit comfortably at the top of McKinsey’s rankings (see table 2). But not only do some Western countries do fairly well; there are also huge differences within them. Even if you put to one side the unusual Asians, as this briefing will now do, many Western systems could jump forward merely by bringing their worst schools up to the standard of their best.

So what are the secrets of success? Though there is no one template, four important themes emerge: decentralisation (handing power back to schools); a focus on underachieving pupils; a choice of different sorts of schools; and high standards for teachers. These themes can all be traced in three places that did well in McKinsey’s league: Ontario, Poland and Saxony.



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  • thor42

    Excellent stuff, WO! Keep it up!
    I agree – track and focus on the under-achieving pupils. Bring in vouchers (PROVEN to work) so that parents can spend funds at the school of their choice. High standards for teachers – bring in pay-for-performance.

    I am also a strong supporter of phonics-based reading education – the methodology that the wonderful late Doris Ferry used on the Kapiti Coast here. The so-called “whole language” method (which took over from that) has been a dismal failure. See these sites for more on that –

    From the “vasresearch” page above –
    “One of the leading advocates of Whole Language guessing practices was Kenneth Goodman. He once described reading as a ‘psycholinguistic guessing game’ and yet, as far back as 1978, Goodman’s own university (Arizona) demonstrated, in one of the biggest literacy studies ever carried out, that Whole Language strategies failed in almost every aspect of literacy. The margin of defeat for the Whole Language method was ***fourteen times*** that necessary to prove statistical significance.

    And yet the Whole Language advocacy continued unabated, impervious to data, driven by belief. Until California, historically the most literate state in the USA, did what we have long been urging Australian educators to do, they tested outcomes.
    Californians found that in the years during which Whole Language had been mandatory in California, the state had slipped from top to the bottom of the educational literacy league.
    Other states followed, including N.Carolina, Ohio, Massachusetts and Texas. Even Arizona, the birth place of modern Whole Language advocacy has since also officially abandoned Whole Language.”

    Dame Marie Clay brought in so-called “reading recovery” which is based on a whole-language approach. She has a lot to answer for. What a f**king WASTE of money! Teach reading correctly in the first place and you **will not need** expensive and ineffective programs like that.
    I have a great article from an old Listener here which is very damning of Reading Recovery. It also has a great piece on Don Buck Primary School in Auckland. They have a very high proportion of ESL students, but they use a cheap and EFFECTIVE phonics program and EVERY child in the school can read.
    Quote – “For just a few hundred dollars, an off-the shelf phonics kit had done what shared reading sessions and TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars of Reading Recovery tuition couldn’t.”
    ( Now tell me, Ms lazy-and-ineffective Minister Tolley, why you have not brought in phonics across all schools….. ? )