"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Aussies to Klein: Political Apparatchik, Go Home

Joel Klein is traveling Australia pumping his business solutions for schools, all courtesy of Swiss bank, UBS, which is to say, I suppose, courtesy of Swiss taxpayers, who recently provided the "world's biggest subprime loser" a multi-billion dollar bailout. One must wonder if Swiss citizens will be as interested in bailing out Raoul Weil, who was recently indicted by a Florida grand jury as "the CEO of Global Wealth Management at UBS AG for allegedly moving $20 billion out of the United States to evade income taxes for U.S. clients." Oh yes, UBS is a Partner company in the prestigious New York City Investment Fund. More on that later.

Anyway, Klein's reception has raised the ire of Australian educators concerned with the possibility that their schools could be turned in the testing hells that they read about in America. From theage.com:

EARLIER this week on ABC2, Virginia Trioli asked federal Education Minister Julia Gillard if she agreed with Rupert Murdoch, who, in his Boyer Lectures, called Australia's public education a disgrace. Murdoch had said: [Aaarrgh] "The failure of these schools is more than a waste of human promise and a drain on our future workforce, it's a moral scandal." [Aarrrgh]

"I'd have to say I think Rupert Murdoch is making a lot of sense," Gillard said. "When we look at our children in international testing compared with children around the world, what we see is two disturbing things: first, we're not getting our high-achieving students up to the best possible standard. Second, we've got a long tail of under-achievement. That is, lots of kids don't meet minimum benchmarks, and disproportionately they are the children of poor households."

The only qualification that Murdoch has to judge our schools is that he owns about 70 per cent of capital city daily newspaper circulation. When billionaire media magnates speak, the rest of us listen.

The same cannot be said for the other American citizen, New York schools chancellor Joel Klein, who Gillard has brought to Australia, "impressed" by his education reforms, especially school league tables, which had produced "remarkable outcomes".

Rubbish. Internet comments on the test results show the improvement in school performance measurement comes from manipulating the tests by prepping students. Klein also makes claims about the results that cannot be supported by any fair analysis. Statisticians who have examined the results say they can be explained by random error.

Klein, a corporate lawyer and political apparatchik, is here to spruik the virtues of Gillard's wacky plan to publish a rating system for schools. Critics point out that the system, based on experience in Britain and the US, "names and shames" poorly performing schools whose output is predictable based on socio-economic background and lack of funding.

The schemes' great political virtue is that it allows governments without any real commitment to raising the standard of poorer schools to appear to be doing something. . . .

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