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Inside Teaching : April 2010
www.atra.edu.au | email@example.com ON MY SHELF 43 Inventory, a research-based needs assessment that provides immediate feedback on how students, parents and school personnel perceive their school’s overall environment for learning. Democratic practices will help create an environment where people feel both empowered and protected. We should take stock of how effectively schools equip young people with the understanding, motivation and skills they need to become active and visible contributors to the common good. Schools should measure the extent to which administrators establish and maintain structures and meaningful roles that involve students, parents, staff and community members in decision- making; and the extent to which students are routinely encouraged throughout the curriculum to agree, and disagree, honestly and respectfully. Equity is vital if we’re to reduce the predictive value that sociocultural and economic characteristics have on student achievement. This should be measured by tracking the extent to which the aspirations, strengths and weaknesses of each student are known by at least one member of the school staff; and by the extent to which the school actively collaborates with its students’ families as partners in the students’ education. Measuring schools using Chaltain’s ABC, and supporting them to make progress across all five categories, will bring us closer to the holistic picture of school achievement that the Commonwealth government appears to be striving for. While common sense dictates that a holistic picture would also necessarily include the views of students themselves, the voice of young people is all too often left out of the education debate. This is why the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) in partnership with the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development launched Tell Us. Beginning in February and running until the end of April, it’s a campaign to enable Australia’s secondary school students to share their views with decision makers on what success means to them, and the ways in which they’d like to be measured. The Prime Minister says he wants to expand the information available on the new My School website and I commend the government’s commitment to providing a broader view of a school’s overall culture. What’s still missing from this picture, though, is the voice of students themselves – which is why the Tell Us survey is so important. Tell Us aligns with the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, the national agreement to improve outcomes for students in all Australian schooling by promoting equity and excellence to enable all young Australians to become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens. Currently, our education system assesses successful learning through the rigorous measures of literacy and numeracy. While important, these alone cannot capture or encourage the range of learning that is needed to prepare children for the real-life application of knowledge. Already, student responses to Tell Us indicate that while traditional academic assessments contribute to their feeling of fulfilment and satisfaction at school, a broader assessment agenda, akin to Chaltain’s ABC framework, is their preferred way to go. The Tell Us initiative, like Chaltain’s ABC scorecard, isn’t a radical proposal for our education systems; it’s actually a logical extension of government policy, and represents a progressive movement towards a more balanced scorecard of achievement, one that incorporates the views and aspirations of students for the first time. ■ Adam Smith is the Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation for Young Australians. LINKS Visit Tell Us at www.tellus.org.au For more on the Comprehensive School Climate Inventory, visit www. schoolclimate.org/programs/csci.php For more on the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, visit www.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/ National_Declaration_on_the_Educational_ Goals_for_Young_Australians.pdf REFERENCES Chaltain, S. (2010). The big picture on school performance. The Huffington Post. Available at www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-chaltain/ the-big-picture-on-school_b_446865.html