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A message for the Secretary of State for Education
April 4, 2014 2:33 AM   Subscribe

"Dear Mr Gove" - a poem by Jess Green.
posted by EndsOfInvention (16 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Weird how it takes skill, aptitude, education, training, and dedication to create just on teacher while you can destroy an entire school system just through political appointment.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:19 AM on April 4 [5 favorites]


Not only is that fantastic, it's considerably longer than my "Dear Mr Gove" poem.
By about 5 minutes and 43 seconds.
posted by fullerine at 5:31 AM on April 4 [2 favorites]


Could someone put this in context for me? It's brilliant without it, but I'd like to know the controversy about which it is speaking.
posted by dejah420 at 5:43 AM on April 4


Gove is tying school outcomes in Britain to Chinese student performance. Really bizarre.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:10 AM on April 4


- Teachers: life inside the exam factory Long hours, endless targets, worried children: as Michael Gove shakes up our schools, we find out why teachers are quitting in droves
- Recent teachers' strike
- England's GCSE pupils will be benchmarked against their Chinese counterparts from 2017
- "On behalf of teachers I'd like to dedicate this award to Michael Gove and I mean dedicate in the Anglo Saxon sense, which means insert roughly into the anus of."
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:20 AM on April 4 [2 favorites]


And just to sum up Michael Gove - he says that all schools in the UK should get an Ofsted rating of "Good" (the scale is Inadequate, Requires Improvement, Good, Outstanding). Part of the definition of "Good" is that the pupils are above the national average.

So... how can all schools be above average?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:28 AM on April 4 [2 favorites]


So... how can all schools be above average?

Dude's a Woebegonehead.
posted by one_bean at 8:09 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]


(1) English schools* aren't very good. They're kind of middling. The private sector is very good. The state sector is mediocre. Not terrible. But not great.

(3) Education ministers have been trying to reform schools for the last fifteen years (at least). However, the current education minister is a Tory, so he is particularly loathed, although his reforms are broadly in line with the previous Labour administration.

(3) Most outcomes are determined by social class: however, we don't manage to do as well with the variation that isn't social class as we should. Early intervention is more effective, but how to know what interventions to apply to whom? Teachers, I think, would say they should decide based on their opinion. Ministers, and I think many education experts, think we should use standardised tests: this is regarded as an attack on teachers' professionalism. But see (1).

* Different parts of the UK have different education systems.
posted by alasdair at 8:34 AM on April 4


Every time I see Gove I imagine he's spent hours in front of a mirror practicing screaming "How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?".
posted by benito.strauss at 9:25 AM on April 4


Ministers, and I think many education experts, think we should use standardised tests: this is regarded as an attack on teachers' professionalism.

My impression is that standardized tests barely work in countries where there is a high degree of standardization in student experience (for a fairly grainy definition of "experience"). In large, multi-ethnic and -class situations, the tests are almost certain to further disadvantage the already disadvantaged.

A large part of the reason politicians and policy makers like standardized tests is that they provide a comforting illusion of data -- that the results are somehow indicative of progress toward goals that were, more often than not, based on ridiculous premises developed far from the "front lines" where policies interact with children. Note the example where all students are expected to be "above average," above. How does that even work? (There is a current US program that punishes schools in the lowest 10% of achievement -- there will always be a "lowest 10%," no matter how well everyone is doing.) Also, if you scratch the policies even a little, it's pretty easy to see where they are designed to punish teachers and teachers' unions rather than benefit students in any meaningful way.

The problem is compounded by the simple fact that pretty much everyone has experienced education, so they think they have an informed opinion on it. And they don't. Your half-remembered memories of being in high school 40 years ago give you about as much insight into education as riding your bike over a bridge when you were 6 have you insights into mechanical and civil engineering.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:25 AM on April 4 [6 favorites]


I want to recommend the "inside the exam factory" link posted by EndsOfInvention, it is fascinating.

It would be good to see academy "partners" held more accountable. One of my local academies was placed into special measures and ofsted largely blamed the leadership including the governors; eventually the head left for personal reasons. That made the local papers, but what the local papers didn't do was put any pressure on the local archdiocese and a local university who are supposed to be helping run the place. If the academy system is going to ruin careers, surely by rights it should ruin some there as well...
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 1:27 PM on April 4


(1) English schools* aren't very good. They're kind of middling.

I would be interested to hear what data you are basing this on. I'm not convinced that it's an easy thing to measure or that personal impressions, even extensive and varied ones, are necessarily reliable.

There certainly seems to be a lot of evidence that English schools are very uneven and I think that this is much more deeply rooted than current or recent reforms, although they could be making it worse.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 1:45 PM on April 4


The Inside the Exam Factory link pretty much describes the education process in Texas too. So many private charter schools owned by political contributors to the governor, and an entire curriculum dedicated to passing tests instead of learning or teaching. We just had a week of high stakes tests, and it was so much stress on my 5th grader that we may end up pulling this profoundly gifted student out of school because he's gone from doing calculus for fun to hating math because the test questions are absurd and designed to make kids fail. Seriously, he brought sample tests home and for two of the questions, 3 people with PhDs, one of whom teaches math at the university, couldn't figure out how to answer it.

I can't imagine why any rational country would copy Texas for anything that doesn't involve barbecuing or music, but gods know that the education here sucks.
posted by dejah420 at 2:08 PM on April 4


(1) English schools* aren't very good. They're kind of middling.

I would be interested to hear what data you are basing this on. I'm not convinced that it's an easy thing to measure or that personal impressions, even extensive and varied ones, are necessarily reliable.


English schools aren't very good. They produced the current government.
posted by horationelson at 6:30 PM on April 4


Being an [US of] American, I had never heard of Michael Gove until yesterday, when I read in Ukulele Hunt that Michael Gove had declared that Mr.B was his favorite rapper. Mr. B responds.
I don't profess to know all the finer details of his education policy..., but my chums who are either teachers or have children of school age see Gove as pretty much the devil incarnate. Being neither a teacher nor having any children, I see him more like the boy at school upon whom you might take pity and befriend because he is bullied, only to discover that he was in fact a little git all along.
posted by MtDewd at 9:02 AM on April 5 [2 favorites]


I would be interested to hear what data you are basing this on. I'm not convinced that it's an easy thing to measure or that personal impressions, even extensive and varied ones, are necessarily reliable.

No, I quite agree: I would also add that international comparisons are extraordinarily difficult, though it doesn't usually stop people from saying things like "but the USA should be more like Denmark!". But I would cite, for example, the OECD PISA results. For 2012:

"The United Kingdom performs around the average in mathematics and reading and above average in science ... The United Kingdom has a higher GDP and spends more on education than the average in OECD countries, as well as higher levels of tertiary education and a lower share of the most socio-economically deprived groups. However, these comparative advantages do not have a clear relationship with educational outcomes." (OECD 2012)

So English schools are... okay. But as you observe, that might be variation, not systematic mediocrity. I'd be interested to hear what data you are basing this on.

My impression is that standardized tests barely work in countries where there is a high degree of standardization in student experience

That's interesting. Could you cite some examples? My field, for reference, is special needs education: dyslexia, cognitive impairments. There, we generally believe that we should try to catch such conditions through standardised tests (see the Rose Report). I'd be interested in anything suggesting that such tests were ineffective, because I think they are generally good if - BIG IF - used for identifying children who need more help, rather than political point-scoring. For example: Phonics Screening.
posted by alasdair at 12:17 PM on April 5


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