Boycott is the Only Answer to Gillard’s Intransigence on League Tables

Save Our Schools today called on parents to support the planned teachers’ boycott of the national literacy and numeracy tests this year. SOS National Convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said that parents should consider withdrawing their children from the tests.

“School league tables will be the inevitable outcome of the publication of school results at the end of this month. They will do immense harm to Australian education and seriously mislead parents about the quality of schools.

“Teachers and parents are left with no other option but to boycott the tests because of the Federal Education Minister’s intransigent refusal to stop league tables. She ploughs ahead regardless of all the evidence of the harm they do.

“Many former advocates of publishing school results are now opposed because of the damage it does to education. Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education under President George Bush Snr., says that Gillard’s much admired New York City school reporting system is “inherently unreliable”, produces “phoney results” and amounts to “institutionalized lying”.

“Kevin Donnelly, former advisor to the Howard Government, says that the track record of school reporting in both England and the US is “poor” as it has failed to raise standards.

Mr. Cobbold said that many newspapers and other organisations are gearing up to publish league tables as soon as school test results are published on the My School website on 28 January.

“Low achieving schools will be ‘named and shamed’ without regard to their circumstances, just as occurs every year in England and the United States.

“All the overseas experience with league tables shows that they narrow children’s learning. Schools respond to the pressure to lift league table rankings by devoting more time to the literacy and numeracy at the expense of science, history, languages, arts and music.

“League tables turn classrooms into test preparation factories. Weeks and months come to be devoted to preparing for tests at the expense of the rest of the curriculum.

“League tables are an unreliable measure of school quality. School results are affected by a whole range of factors outside the control of schools and teachers, including the socio-economic and ethnic background of students and even the extent to which parents engage private tutors outside school.

“Overseas experience also shows that schools respond to the high stakes pressure of league table rankings by manipulating and rorting the results to make them look better. Schools resort to selecting high achieving students, denying enrolment to low achieving students, suspending low achieving students on test days, using special dispensations for tests and even outright cheating.

“Some of this is already happening in Australia. We can expect it to turn into an epidemic from now on.”

Mr. Cobbold said that strong action is needed to defend Australia’s high quality education system.

“Australia’s literacy and numeracy results are amongst the best in the world. We have done this without publishing school results and league tables. So has Finland. League tables threaten the continuing quality of our education system. Only strong action from both teachers and parents can avert this threat.

“Parents can support the boycott by withdrawing their children from the tests next May.”

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