Save Our Schools, a Canberra-based public education advocacy group, today called on the Education Minister, Julia Gillard, to release details of her controversial school performance reporting plan.
SOS spokesman, Trevor Cobbold, said that the imminent visit of New York Schools Chancellor, Joel Klein, is an opportunity for informed public debate about school reports.
“Julia Gillard wants schools to be open and transparent about their performance. Yet, she is not applying the same standard to herself. She has restricted public information and debate about her proposal. It is all being decided under the cloak of secrecy.
“It is time for Gillard to come clean and reveal the details of what she proposes for Australian schools.
“Klein is being brought to Australia to tout New York’s school progress reports. Let us have an informed debate while Klein is here and not just a one-sided presentation to bolster Gillard’s secret negotiations with State and Territory Governments.
“Parents, teachers and the public are entitled to know what school performance information will be made public and how schools will be compared. They need to be able to assess whether the information can be used to construct misleading league tables, whether it will actually reflect school performance rather than family social background and whether the information is statistically valid and reliable.
“Gillard says she that she rejects ‘simplistic and silly’ league tables and wants to compare ‘like schools’. However, the Klein model that so ‘impresses’ her fails both tests.
“The New York system reports the performance scores of all schools, thus making it possible to create school league tables. Many of its so-called ‘school peer groups’ are very un-alike in their social composition.”
Mr Cobbold said that the Education Minister’s refusal to provide the details of her proposal contradicts the Prime Minister’s promise of open government.
“It seems that it is all being decided behind closed doors with the axe of Commonwealth funding held over the heads of State and Territory Governments to ensure compliance. What a way to conduct the open government promised by the Prime Minister!”
“The Prime Minister’s message clearly has not got through to his Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister. Instead, she is taking her cues from her champion, Joel Klein, on how to force through controversial measures without public debate.
“Secrecy and avoidance of public debate are characteristic of how Klein has implemented change in New York’s schools. There too, teacher and parent organisations were excluded from the process. Gillard has clearly learned from him.
“Gillard needs to demonstrate that she is as open and transparent as she wants schools to be. She should release the details of her proposal for school progress reports and invite public discussion. We should have real public debate over proposals before implementation. This is what open government means.”
9 October 2008