Can ‘poor’ schools offer rich education?

The richer the school, the better the education, right? Generally, yes. But don’t get too concerned if you can’t afford to send your child to a private college — there are plenty of ‘poor’ schools with loads to offer.

The article Status of school can affect results, recently published in The Australian, discusses a study by Murdoch University revealing that ‘the socio-economic status of a school can mitigate the effects of a student’s own background.’

It was found that students from poor economic backgrounds, who attended one of the richest schools, improved test scores by an average of 57 points in reading, maths and science. Similarly, the test results of the richest students attending one of the poorer schools dropped almost as drastically across the board.

Education researcher, Dr Laura Perry, who along with Andrew McConney analysed the study’s results, said it suggests the background of the school’s majority could affect the results of a single child.

“It was previously thought it would benefit lower socio-economic kids to go to a richer school, but that it didn’t matter as much for privileged kids because they’ll do well no matter where they go to school,” she said. “It’s not true. They’re just as sensitive to the composition of the school as any other kid, which was a depressing finding for us.”

Depressing, perhaps, but as a psychologist and teacher of more than 30 years, these findings come as no surprise. Rich schools, more often than not, offer positive learning environments, comprising high quality teachers and students who serve as role models to peers. Such environments promote development and foster improved academic results.

In poorer socio-economic schools, however, there is often little peer pressure to perform. There is also almost no incentive for schools to change, as they are not offered support or encouragement from governments or the communities. As with children, expectation and encouragement are great motivators. Consequently, students in these environments often suppress their abilities so as not to stand out from the crowd. Like kids in rich schools aiming high to match the performances of their peers, kids in poor schools will often allow their results to slip to ensure they don’t draw unwanted attention.

However, it isn’t solely socio-economic status that will determine the success of any one school. A school’s identity, and how it projects the importance of education, can impact significantly on student performance.

Early in my career I taught at schools where the main role of the teacher was simply to manage children; there was no value placed on actually educating them. Meanwhile, other schools in similar socio-economic environments were aspirational and encouraged students to look beyond their families’ standings and backgrounds, and strive for success.

More recently, as reported on Four Corners, poorer schools like Toronto High School in Sydney and Hume Central Secondary College in Melbourne, have been able to buck the trend. By employing highly skilled, passionate teachers, and creating positive learning environments, their academic results improve enormously.

Further, this turnaround subsequently benefits the rest of the community, as it breaks the cycle of failure. Kids can aspire to achieve irrespective of their home environment. It creates a whole new mind-set, and a fresh, positive outlook.

So, while a schools’ socio-economic status can provide an indication of academic performance, schools lacking in funds aren’t always poor. The key to success for all schools, as Edworks recognises, is offering positive education — an environment in which teachers engage students, and where students constantly challenge and motivate each other.

My Dog

My Dog
By Georgie

My dog’s name is Roxy and her colour is white. Her floppy ears are brown. She’s very funny when we wash her. It’s like she’s rubbing her shoulder. She is also very playful. I’m very, very happy to get one.

In October, I was hoping to get my dog because I’ve never had one before. My Dad did not want one but Mum and I wanted one. My mum kept on talking and I’m not sure why but my dad said yes because my mum convinced him.

When I got home from my friend’s house my mum came up to me and said “Daddy said yes!” I bolted to my bedroom and celebrated.

Jax likes me a lot. Every time we let him over, he always comes to me. We have a doggy flap. We let Jax come over a lot of times.

Roxy is very smart with training. We take Roxy for drives and walks a lot of times. She gets very happy when she comes inside.

Planning Beyond NAPLAN

Since its inception in 2008, the NAPLAN testing scheme has received much public criticism. In reviewing the article, School test results not improving (The Age), it appears this criticism has been warranted.  When compounded by the issues discussed in the article, We risk losing education race, Julia Gillard warns  (The Australian), it becomes increasingly clear that a change in policy is required … and fast.

Edworks’ 2011 blog article, NAPLAN fails students, discusses the claim that schools are manipulating the national testing system in a bid to protect their own interests.

Another major criticism levelled at the scheme is that teachers often discard academically favourable curriculums to focus solely on yielding attractive exam results — ‘teaching to the test’, as it’s been termed.

The most damning assessment, however, comes from the NAPLAN national report for 2011, as quoted in The Age: ”Nationally there are no differences between the 2009 to 2011 and 2008 to 2010 cohorts in gains in reading or numeracy from year 3 to year 5 or from year 7 to year 9”. In short, NAPLAN testing has effected no academic improvement in students since its inception four years ago.

What makes this discovery all the more disturbing, is the fact that Australian students are being left behind by their Asian counterparts in both literacy and numeracy testing, as reported in The Australian.

In presenting OECD figures indicating that Australian education standards were falling relative to those of nations like Korea, Singapore and Japan, Julia Gillard suggested we are at risk of losing ‘the education race’ and becoming the ‘the runt of the litter’.

So what is the Australian Government planning to do in response? While Gillard has acknowledged the areas requiring most attention — low-income families and ‘kids at the top end’ — there is an obvious lack of direction from our leaders.

For more than a decade those in power have advocated a move towards becoming a ‘clever nation’, yet, little has been achieved. The strategies of literacy and numeracy tuition vouchers (where teachers at the core of the problem were offered opportunities to tutor kids outside of school) and computer handouts have not focused on qualitative measures of success.

One of the fundamental reasons Edworks’ students thrive is that we focus on skills, not scores. The Government must adopt a genuine revolution, which, like Edworks, focuses on the development and assessment of students’ skill-sets.

In devising this new approach, it’s vital we consult experts outside of the current system for considered advice, and draw inspiration from those countries with successful structures in place. A paradigm shift will simply not occur when those in control are inward looking.

Ultimately, if NAPLAN is persisted with, Australian students will continue to flounder while our counterparts flourish. It’s time the Government be held accountable for its failings and commit to wholesale change.


A bad day boating

A bad day boating
By Gregory

“Pant, Pant, Pant,” Mathew had just come back from his peaceful, quiet and tiring morning jog. He was so sweaty that he made a puddle whenever he stopped. Mathew lived up on the hills near the beach. Nobody lived there apart from him. That was why he loved his morning jogs. He disliked lots of things, but worst of all, his nephew Danni. He didn’t like him because he talked too much. Danni’s hair was black as a road and Mathews hair was as brown as a bear.

Mathew was 50 and Danni was 25. They both loved boats. Really big boats. The type of boat that when you see it from close up, it looks like a mountain.

Once the holidays started Danni came over to talk about boats.  One time Danni got the surprise of his life when Mathew told him that he got a new boat with a chef and a captain. Mathew asked if Danni wanted to go on a ride with him.

On the day they were leaving Danni was up and already at Mathew’s house by 6am. Mathew was still sleeping so he went in quietly through an open window and went to Mathew’s bedroom. Mathew woke up to see a smiling face looking at him. Danni’s face was so close that Danni’s sweat was pouring on Mathew’s. Mathew got so scared that he fell out of bed.

“Come on let’s go,” Danni cried.

“OK,” grunted Mathew, and off they went.

When they got on, Danni heard something and it sounded like a moving camera. But Mathew told him that it was just the chef cooking for them. “I’m not hungry,” said Danni. So Danni went to the lounge area and leaned over the edge, whilst Mathew went to have lunch. After a while it began to get really windy and some chairs went flying as if there was a tornado. Then suddenly a red chair went flying and hit Danni on the head and Danni fell off the boat.

About 20 minutes later Mathew came out to check on Danni but he couldn’t find him. Mathew searched everywhere. Then he thought maybe Danni fell off the boat. He looked over the edge and saw an unlaced shoe and a red chair. “Oh no,” Mathew said in a panicked way. He ran to the captain and told him to go back.

When they arrived back at shore he ran straight to Danni’s house to see if he was there, but he wasn’t. Then, as he was going from house to house he found a newspaper and on the front cover it said: “Johnson gives canoe company’s money.” It had a picture of Mathew pushing Danni off the boat. Next to it had a picture with Danni and a man who happened to be his dad. Mathew ran over to his dad’s house to find Danni and some news writers. Mathew walked up to the news writers and told them to meet him in court.

30 minutes later they come out with crying news writers because they had lost their jobs.