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Education policy analysis: from global to local #3

September 28, 2014

Policy text production


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The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership is a Commonwealth government company which

provides national leadership for the Australian, State and Territory Governments in promoting excellence in the profession of teaching and school leadership (AITSL, 2012, About Us).

Crucial research from the Hay Group, OECD, Grattan Institute and Boston Consulting Group, among others, has been used to justify the Performance and Development Framework which the federal and state Education Ministers endorsed in 2012 as a means of overcoming complicated performance management practices and a lack of transparency (Hay Group, 2012).

Drawing on evidence that quality teaching is the most significant factor in school affecting student outcomes (Hattie, 2009), along with research supporting the importance of “considerable ongoing investment in professional learning and development” required to achieve excellence, the urgency of a change imperative was established (Timperley, 2011, p. 22).

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Development of the policy document also involved consultation

with all state and territory education employers, Catholic and Independent school authorities, teacher regulatory authorities, peak national bodies, including teacher unions and principal associations, and practising teachers and principals (AITSL, 2012, preamble).

Feedback in response to the draft framework can be seen supporting notions of flexibility and endorses a view that teaching is best seen as a “research-based profession” (ACDE, 2012, p. 6) while also questioning whether mandated annual reviews and accountability can be achieved through regulation of performance appraisals, especially where this process lacks clarity (AHISA, 2012).

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Language used in the 2007 Rudd-Gillard “education revolution” campaign clearly influenced construction of the Australian Teacher Performance and Development FrameworkPolicy borrowing is reflected in rhetoric endorsing both teacher certification and standards in No Child Left Behind policy in the US (superseded by Race to the Top in 2012); similar centrally-driven reforms in the UK claimed to yield “sustained improvement” through promotion of “best teachers” under Teach First (Blair, 2005). Overall, global reform discourse emphasising

  • 21st century learning,
  • realising our potential,
  • promotion of “equity and excellence”, and
  • focus on achieving “high quality” or “world class” standards

is suggestive of increased state and market control over policy processes (ALP, 2007; Vidovich, 2014). The prevailing neoliberal ideology endorses a view that measurements of productivity – quality teaching – will ensure economic success or competitive advantage through achievement of OECD targets tabulated in PISA test results in a global knowledge society (Klenowski, 2012).

Outcomes become paramount.

Since 2006, then, in the context of perceptions surrounding Australian students’ PISA performance, and with the goal of raising the stakes, a new priority across the globe focuses on quality and equity (McGaw, 2008). Accountability within this discourse of competition and effectiveness can be seen as a means of ensuring practitioners achieve targets while answering to stakeholder groups including students, parents, colleagues, managers and citizenry, in accordance with the market since standards are ideologically aligned with national economic interests (Vidovich, 2014).

Specifically, the National Professional Standards for Teachers – crucial to the policy ensemble underpinning Performance and Development – defines what teachers should know and be able to do, and identifies four levels: Graduate, Proficient, Accomplished and Lead teacher (AITSL, 2011). Concerns exist, however, since

for standards to be effective they must be dynamic rather than static and be responsive to social and professional needs to support quality teachers (Sachs, 2005, p. 1).

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As tensions prevail in standards which are both centralised and controlled, and where defined terms serve to either enhance or challenge teacher professionalism, contestation is apparent in a recent evaluation identifying challenges implementing the Framework as:

  • Compliance-based, top-down, surveillance approach to the implementation process
  • Misinterpretation of the Standards
  • Difficulty in ensuring and encouraging teachers to engage with the Standards in the context of other significant national reforms such as the Australian Curriculum (AITSL, 2014, p. 10).

Once again, culpability lies within the parameters of a “policy pandemic” (Levin, 2010), especially if management of performance is enacted as both a divisive means and end in a reform process which re-centralises power in a culture of performativity (Ball, 1993). Elsewhere, numerous strategies to achieve an “education revolution” have been described as the replacement of “coercive federalism” with “cooperative federalism”; legitimacy is also questioned (Reid, 2009).

Complex change processes underway are comparable to what has been defined in the UK as steerage through “intelligent accountability” whereby self-regulation emerges as a tool to promote governance and the centre “maintains control through its management and use of data” (Ozga, 2008, p. 149). From this vantage point, teacher quality is conceived as problematic, and definitions of professional identity – what counts as outcomes – is patently a site for struggle (Ozga, 2000; Sachs, 2001).

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In the global discourse, driving interests of a nationally consistent approach to building a culture of Performance and Development generates impetus for Australian teachers to seemingly act in the interests of prosperity and “productivity growth” (ALP, 2007). By seeking here to clarify struggle and compromise attached to different contexts which yield “ad hocery” in the midst of complexity, a policy trajectory analysis may form the best possible means “of ensuring that policy analyses ask critical/theoretical questions, rather than simple problem-solving ones” (Ball, 2006, p. 16).

Selected references

ACDE. (2012). A consultation response by the network of associate deans of learning and teaching in education on behalf of the Australian council of deans of education. Retrieved September 29, 2014

AHISA. (2012). Response to the Australian teacher performance and development framework draft consultation proposal (draft framework). Retrieved September 28, 2014

AITSL. (2011). National professional standards for teachers. Retrieved September 29, 2014

AITSL. (2012). Australian teacher performance and development framework. Retrieved June 12, 2014

AITSL Insights (2014). Evaluation of the implementation of the Australian professional standards for teachers: Interim report. The University of Melbourne: Graduate School of Education. Retrieved September 6, 2014

ALP. (2007). The Australian economy needs an education revolution: New Directions Paper on the critical link between long term prosperity, productivity growth and human capital investment. Retrieved September 28, 2014

Ball, S.J. (1993). Education policy, power relations and teachers’ work. In British journal of educational studies 41(2), pp. 106-121. Retrieved September 26, 2014 from Taylor & Francis

Ball, S.J. (2006). What is policy? Texts, trajectories and toolboxes. In Discourse: Studies in the cultural politics of education, 13(2), pp. 10-17. Retrieved August 22, 2014

Blair, T. (2005). Full text: Tony Blair’s speech on education reform. Retrieved September 29, 2014

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London and New York: Routledge.

Hay Group. (2012). Growing our potential: Hay Group’s view on implementing an effective performance improvement and development framework for teachers. Retrieved September 27, 2014

Klenowski, V. (2012). Raising the stakes: The challenges for teacher assessment. In Australian educational researcher, 39(2), pp. 173 – 192.

Levin, B. (2010). Governments and education reform: Some lessons from the last 50 years. In Journal of education policy, 25(6), pp. 739-747. Retrieved July 5, 2014

McGaw, B. (2008). How good is Australian school education? In Marginson, S. & James, R. Education, science and public policy: Ideas for an education revolution. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, pp. 53-77.

Ozga, J. (2000). Policy research in educational settings: Contested terrain. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Ozga, J. (2009). Governing education through data in England: from regulation to self-evaluation. In Journal of educational policy, 24(2), pp. 149-162. Retrieved July 6, 2014

Reid, A. (2009). Is this a revolution?: A critical analysis of the Rudd government’s national education agenda. In Curriculum perspectives 29(3), pp. 1-13.

Sachs, J. (2001). Teacher professional identity: Competing discourses, competing outcomes, In Journal of Educational Policy, 16(2), pp. 149-161. Retrieved August 16, 2014

Sachs. J. (2005). Professional standards: Quality teachers for the future. Melbourne: Keynote address presented at Sharing Experience: ways forward on standards conference. Retrieved September 19, 2014

Timperley, H. (2011). A background paper to inform the development of a national professional development framework for teachers and school leaders. AITSL commissioned report. Retrieved September 29, 20 14

Vidovich, L. (2014). Education policy trends: Global to local (EDUC 5658) – Topic 4. UWA course materials.

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