Well Gonski Me

From a US study of resourcing in schools:

Two decades of research into educational production functions have produced startlingly consistent results: Variations in school expenditures are not systematically related to variations in student performance. Enormous differences in teacher quality exist, but differences in teacher skill are not strongly related to educational backgrounds, amount of teaching experience, or teaching in small classes. Further, more skilled teachers simply are not regularly paid more than less skilled teachers. These findings suggest that school decision making must move away from traditional “input directed” policies to ones providing performance incentives. The concentration on expenditure differences in, for example, school finance court cases or legislative deliberations, appears misguided given the evidence.

The concentration on expenditure differences … appears misguided given the evidence.

Who what have though that evidence showed that expenditure per student was not correlated with student performance.

Expenditure per student is however highly correlated with teacher remuneration; particularly when there are fixed student to teacher ratios.

The science is settled.  Can we now Gonski the Gonski “reforms”?

Although most data on the simple correlation between school expenditures and achievement show a strongly positive affiliation, the strength of relationship disappears when one controls for differences in family background.

School reform discussions that begin with the premise that constraints on expenditures are the most serious roadblock to improved student performance are, at best, misguided. Expenditure increases, if undertaken within the current institutional structure, are likely to be dissipated on reduced class sizes or indiscriminate raises in teacher salaries, with a result that growth in costs will almost surely exceed growth in student performance.

Also from Chapter 6 of this:

Paul Barton of the Educational Testing Service estimated that about 90 percent of the differences among schools in average proficiency can be explained by five factors: number of days absent from school, number of hours spent watching television, number of pages read for homework, quantity and quality of reading material in the home, and the presence of two parents in the home.

That fifth factor is supremely important, not least because it is apt decisively to influence the other four. The importance of these findings for American education is in the 9/91 factor: Between birth and their nineteenth birthdays, American children spend 9 percent of their time in school, 91 percent elsewhere. The fate of American education is being shaped not by legislative acts but by the fact that, increasingly, “elsewhere” is not an intact family. Until the government finds a way to make Barton’s five variables change, positively and quickly, the government’s various announced goals about graduation rates and math and science achievements are airy puffs of legislative cotton candy.

Who knew?

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15 Responses to Well Gonski Me

  1. Karabar

    In the blink of an eye, they can make fifteen billion go GONESKI!

  2. John A

    The primary driver of student performance, outweighing all other factors, has always been the level of interest and support of the parents of said student/s.

    This was known and backed by research conducted in Victoria in the 1970s/80s, and reported under the jurisdiction of Joan Kirner, Minister for Education at the relevant time. It led to some innovative programs (even then jargon was king) to do with parents supporting their children’s learning by reading to them outside of school hours.

    This has been anecdotally supported by evidence from other cultures (in our now multi-culti world) which value educational progress more highly than Oz Parentz seem to do. One only needs to look at the annual report of high achievers at Year 12 level exams.

    Gonski however, achieved the objective set out for it (but not necessarily recorded as such a la the Sir Humphrey Appleby modus operandus) which was to funnel more funds into the education sector.

  3. Sydney Boy

    Education spending increases year after year and performance continues to fall. And the answer is more funding for education. Somebody call Captain Blackadder!

  4. Diogenes

    There is more than enough money in the system. It how it is spent that is frustrating…

    Case in point, we need a portable classroom while some building works are going on for our expanded Special Ed Unit. We have one that has been on the premises 20 years, it leaks, and is not accessible for a couple of the kids who need ramps, and needs an internal wall removing for said children & some bibs and bobs to make it it for purpose for the class. There is one in the catalogue, yes there is a catalogue of different configurations, that is suitable – all up cost @ 30K, including delivery & removal & disposal of the old one. So far it has cost @ 60k to refurbish the old one. No you cannot dispose the PoShyte and replace as that comes from the Capital Works budget, to fix it comes out of the maintenance budget (FFS ultimately it is all out the same bucket!)

    In the US case …
    IIRC in James A Mitchener’s ‘Alaska’ , a teacher was tempted to teach in a remote part of Alaska because they had spent $1 million on the school building, she expects to find a ‘palace’ , but when she arrives arrives finds basically a tin shed. To get the timber to the school – 200k, the iron sheets 300k, a bucket of nails to attach tin to timber 10k , 200k to get the furniture in etc etc

  5. Lee

    Perhaps if teachers (not all of them) spent more time teaching instead of indoctrinating students, they would get far better results.

    My teenage nephew came home from school (a conservative Christian school of all things) one day, disparaging Donald Trump.

    His father laid his anti-Trump sentiments squarely at the teacher’s door.

  6. Rafe Champion

    The Great Society Welfare reforms of Lyndon Johnson have a lot to answer for.

    As shown in the film The Pursuit decline in poverty stopped at the reforms and possibly the decline in unemployment as well. The black family was destroyed and probably poor white families as well because a wage-earning male in the house was not necessary.

    And so everything unravels, including education performance.

    We have a clear picture of the problem, the thing is to find conservative politicians who are prepared to do something about it. Do not hold breath.

    Incidentally a reforming Liberal education minister in NSW Terry Metherill made a difference when Greiner was in power, the union had a flying squad on standby to follow him from his office and heckle in the background wherever he went in public.

  7. The first thing the teacher’s union said, when they were asked to comment about the recent brawl in one high school, was that there was not enough funding for schools. The entire defence budget could be redirected to schools and, as far as the union was concerned, it still wouldn’t be enough.

  8. Zatara

    Who what have though that evidence…

    What would a teacher make of that? 😉

  9. Bad Samaritan

    Sure Gonski is a con. But who doesn’t know that?

    Therese Rein’s companyIngeus is /was one of the biggest suppliers of labour to the govt sector. It is . was a global player in the retraining and recruitment of all manner of staff….including to the educational sector. The more money govt throws at education, the more money companies like Therese’s make out of it.

    OK, so Labor sets up an enquiry where the recommendations are already known; give more money to companies like Ms Rein’s (especially Ms Rein’s), and they also appoint the right guy for the job to get this result.

    What about that right guy being the Chairman of Ms Rein’s company; Mr Gonski!

    What a surprise that Mr Gonski sent rivers of taxpayer cash to the company he chaired, eh? FFS.

  10. jupes

    What a surprise that Mr Gonski sent rivers of taxpayer cash to the company he chaired, eh? FFS.

    Australia is the world leader at legal corruption.

  11. struth

    Parents reading to their kids after school , is the key to success according to a commenter above.
    Blaming parents?

    How did all those kids get such a great education from a bush school with one teacher and different ages when hardly any of their parents could read or write in the terrible old colonial days?

  12. Michael Daly

    While there are observations from this twenty year old commentary which are useful, weight also needs to be given to the data from the My School site which identifies schools with more influence on performance than others i.e., greater effect size. The Hanushek article suggests that teachers have less influence on academic performance than society might expect. This is somewhat contradicted by the existence of schools with identical socio-economic indicators but which achieve more. Such schools are generally well lead, data driven and self-accountable. Broadly condemning schools and teachers is not a useful way to foster the procedures and habits of schools that are making a positive difference. Schooling is a messy, human activity. Those schools that have the capacity to positively leverage student performance should be regarded as pathways to an improved schooling.

  13. Michael Daly

    Oops … thirty year old commentary

  14. Terry

    “How did all those kids get such a great education from a bush school with one teacher and different ages when hardly any of their parents could read or write in the terrible old colonial days?”

    Indeed, why were the literacy skills of my grandfather (Left in Year 9), better, far better than a Year 12 student of today (even a relatively “high performing” one)?

  15. I recall an experienced teacher, incapable of arguing her case against patent evidence, simply stated; “If that’s Socialism, then so be it“.

    As the token Libertarian, I only had to be present, not even say anything, to prompt this nonsense.

    The education system desperately needs to be rescued from the Trade Unions.

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