MySchool is better than your school

There has been a lot of hype in the media and by so called media experts on the woe that befalls us in the guise of the new MySchool web site launched by the Federal Government in January 2010 to provide contextualised comparisons between Australian schools.

I have a strong background in data analytics and as a parent I was obviously keen to see how my children’s primary school faired in comparison to other schools we had considered. I noted with interest that numeracy sat lower than desired which was consistent with my own observations of my children’s learning. Of course there was really no surprise in this since the data was the same NAPLAN testing that the school had already shared with us late in 2009.

MySchool provides the results for other schools, which was not readily available previously, and there is also an opportunity to compare schools. Until now I could only see my children’s results in relation to our school and National and State averages and had to make those comparisons myself by eyeballing two separate reports.

So if the data is already available information what is the problem? MySchool does let you see the results for other schools and this is where the critics come in. Instead of looking at this as a tool with which to expose resourcing and programming issues in some schools, there has been heavy sledging with very little in the way of coherent argument.

A good example is a blog article using Finland as an example of how to get it right. Ah the delicious irony of using data based on PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) league tables to make a point about why MySchool data will be used to make evil league tables!

On another blog the author slams MySchool for being decontextualised however the problem is the exact opposite if anything with perhaps too much emphasis on a newly contrived measure of equivalence called ICSEA (Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage). The article then moves on to a rant about the role of technology in 21st century education. I lost interest after seeing ‘holistic view’, ‘discrete focus’, ‘innovative support systems’ and ‘multi-dimensional abilities’ all in the first sentence!

My children are above average students with particularly strong skills in numeracy thus far. I have noted my concern regarding numeracy teaching at the school and they had already started a review based on the NAPLAN data so all good. Being able to compare my school to others in the same area frequented by friend’s children gives us a great starting point on which to discuss our personal observations and each school’s response. The key here is that we’re using the data as a basis for discussion, not a sole basis for decisions.

I note that some misguided parents are trying to move their children from schools that scored poorly to one with better comparative results. The head scratcher for me is why they have waited until now to act as the NAPLAN data would have already been hi-lighting the issues at their school for a couple of years.

Should parents be considering changes their children’s education in order to place them in a higher performing or more supportive environment? Hell yeah! We all want to provide the best opportunity for the future that is within our means. Will some people make ill-informed decisions? Of course; we all do at one time or another.

Don’t be the ignorant gun.

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2 Comments

  1. Darcy Moore says:

    Peter,

    You have linked to my post re: MySchool as an example of ‘heavy sledging’ and lacking in ‘coherent argument’. I am pretty certain this is not an accurate or fair analysis of my posts on this vexed issue.
    However, we would probably agree that having data, as a parent, is a good thing.

    I understand the point about PISA and Finland that you make but there is more to this serious picture here than just a chuckle about irony. The Fins have a truly comprehensive system that is producing highly literate people, regardless of socio-economic background whereas the gains that politicians hoped to make in the US and UK, with this ‘name and shame’ approach has failed and very significantly, resulted in worse schoolining outcomes.

    Do you really believe that the socio-economic injustice evident in the data ie. the staff student ratio will be addressed by the government? I hope so but would be surprised if it is.

    All I would ask, is that you have another read of both my posts and do me the courtesy of making a fairer analysis of what is a major issue of national importance for our entire system education and society. Even better, drop me a line down the track when the politics have played out and see if better educational outcomes are a result. I hope you are right and there has been great improvements. Unfortunately, all the data from our most like educational neighbours, the US and GB, suggest we will regret this reform.

  2. The press did a fine job in pumping up the hyperbole with extreme examples whilst totally ignoring the fact that schools develop reputations, good or bad, and parents already make decisions on incomplete information.

    I picked on a couple of the more subtle issues rather than the ignorant sledging by the press. I should perhaps have noted that.

    There is a flaw of logic in using a data from a league table to support one argument then flagging league tables as a major issue in a “deeply flawed” launch of MySchool. The contradiction is rather distracting amongst a number of valid points.

    Now the information is liberated, the analysis and presentation can be refined and further issues identified and prioritised. It’s use in the public system will promote a positive shift and private schools have an opportunity to invest further to create opportunities for better learning outcomes (although not necessarily exceeding the best public schools).

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