A fantastical set of ‘School Evaluation Indicators’ were recently published by the education review office; put together by a group of government-aligned academics; and now forming the basis of ERO’s newly developed Raising Achievement Plan (RAP) being imposed on schools.
The indicators are disgraceful at many levels: were the academics who wrote the school evaluation indicators for the education review office bereft of their humanity for the occasion? if once were teachers, did they think back on the suitability in purpose and expression of those indicators? did they consider the usefulness of such jargon-laden, coldly-abstract, humanly-distant indicators? did they consider the effect on teachers of that tumbling, fractured, tautologous, pretentious assembly? did they think of their responsibility in the interests of children to be clear, incisive, and practical? were they aware that such lists – lists beyond sense, practicality, and applicability – provide the education review office with a readymade means to trip up schools (on the whim, personality, and mood of the reviewer, or because the reviewer wants to stamp out individuality or independence) in a way that is unfair but beyond countering?
And where are teachers and schools? Much talk of evidence based, but where is the evidence basis for excluding teachers from the development of curriculum documents they have to work with and make work? There is none. The evidence used is that which is self and career serving: elitist academics standing on the backs of teachers and children.
The lists go on and on in turgid, overlapping, relentlessness: a parody of themselves, a wound on the English language, and an exploitation of teachers and children. You have failed as academics to use your knowledge to present the central tasks of teaching in a transparent and classroom-practical way. Your attention was not to teachers and children; it was to your patronage. I don’t believe the origins of the lists lay within the group of academics, but in other lists that in being transposed were complicated further rather than clarified.
Much of my professional life has been spent working on lists, lists always considerably reduced from their starting point, expressed in accessible language, useful and enhancing for teachers – a distilling of the essence of a curriculum area or school function. I felt it was my responsibility as a person who worked with teachers to do nothing less.
A typical indicator from the education review office document: ‘Evaluation, inquiry and knowledge building for improvement and indication – Policies, systems and processes and teaching practices embed evaluation, inquiry and knowledge building activities into the way the organisation plans for, and takes action to, accomplish its vision, values, goals and priorities.’
Another from the same section: ‘Leaders and teachers are data literate: posing focused questions; using relevant data; clarifying purpose(s); recognising sound and unsound evidence; developing knowledge about statistical and measurement concepts; making interpretation paramount; and having evidence-informed conversations.’
I would like the reader to think of the demands of being a teacher and a requirement like this (amidst hundreds more in the document and hundreds more in other documents) being imposed on them.
The list of ‘Principles for selection of indicators’ says the indicators must be ‘observable or measurable’. The education review office might have made this a demand, but members of the group to allow themselves to be organised by it, have betrayed their humanity and teachers. What is the evidence for just such a decision? The ‘observable or measurable’ dictum is an ideological instrument to allow education review officers to move around demanding measurable data to the terrible disadvantage of teachers and children.
As well, given the power imbalances in the way the education review office works, its bullying hierarchical structure, the narrowness of its curriculum perspective, I find the association of Maori concepts in this education review office document disturbing. To me, the translation of those concepts (manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, ako) into educational outcomes disorders them and draws attention away from the nauseating nature of the indicators in the rest of the document. Are the Maori concepts, those avowedly spiritual concepts, subject to the same requirement to be ‘observable or measurable’?
More on this in the next posting.