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Week in review: NAPLAN, streaming and teachers fighting back

This story was published on 19 May.

Hi, I’m Wade Zaglas, education editor for Education Review. Today we’re starting our weekly round up of the key stories and issues of the week. You can either read the summary or listen to the podcast below.

Predictably, this week was all about NAPLAN – the pros and cons of the test, the debates surrounding it and the annoying technical glitch that irked both teachers and students this year. On the first day of NAPLAN we published a story borne out of Dr Judy Rose’s research. The research was a systemic study of the discourses surrounding NAPLAN in its first decade as well as an evaluation of how effective it has been in communicating student achievement. The study concluded that there are many misconceptions about the purposes and aims of the test and this can be seen in the different ways it’s been discussed across different landscapes. Is it a tool for social justice or a whip for low-performing, low-SES schools? Time will tell, I guess.

Another interesting and related story that popped up this week focused on streaming. It’s the norm in Australia, with 98 per cent of schools using it in one form or another. Typically, high performing students are put on the “fast track to excellence” while low-ability, low-SES students are grouped together and languish in a state of low self-esteem. In an online article for Aeon, Melbourne teacher Oscar Hedstrom argued that the system produces elitism and inequality from the get-go, where “the smart get smarter, and the dumb get dumber”. The article prompted outrage on social media sites, with some arguing that streaming promotes excellence among high-achievers. “We are not going to get to Mars from average students, and pretending otherwise is dishonest,” one person commented.

Finally, a West Australian Associate Principal was cleared after pinning down a student during a violent brawl. Greg Walton from Eaton Community College was suspended after footage of the incident appeared online. While he was reinstated by the WA Education Department after parents spoke out in support, he said he would handle things differently in the future. He will also receive extra training.

“I certainly agree with the director general that intervening in a fight physically is a last resort,” said Walton, who has 30 years’ experience in the education sector.

“We are here to do a job and keep people safe. If it comes up where I’m in a situation where somebody requires that level of assistance, of course, you do.

“But on the whole, you do what the training tells you to do, which is to try and calm the situation.”

The Associate Principal was aware of the fight being filmed and said one of the boys challenged him with his fists after being released. You make up your mind whether he needs more “training”.

And that’s our Education Review round-up for the week.

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