Wednesday, November 04, 2015

UK: Semi-literate teachers 'hold back pupils' grammar and vocabulary'

Semi-literate teachers are hampering attempts to improve pupils’ grammar and vocabulary, a new report has suggested. Many are still struggling with the basics and lack the confidence to teach youngsters about proper use of English such as accurate punctuation and spelling.

The findings have been revealed by the National Literacy Trust which has urged schools to invest in greater training for teachers to help boost pupils’ attainment.

It surveyed 2,326 teachers from 112 primary and secondary schools in the United Kingdom about current requirements in the national curriculum.

These require schools to embed the teaching of literacy across all subjects between Key Stage One in primary school and Key Stage Four at secondary level, the charity stressed.

Teachers of all subjects are expected to develop pupils’ spoken language, promote reading for enjoyment and emphasise accurate spelling, grammar and punctuation in written work.

However, one in five – 21 per cent – admitted they are not confident they have the ‘subject knowledge’ to teach the new curriculum, according to the research. And six in ten – 63.3 per cent – claimed that ‘their colleagues would benefit from improving their own literacy’.

Almost half – 45.1 per cent – said that ‘quality of teaching and learning’ was a barrier to children’s overall literacy attainment.

Most teaching staff – 95.2 per cent - across subject areas said it was their job to teach and promote literacy. But 51.7 per cent cited ‘lack of knowledge of how to support literacy’ as the main barrier to improving pupils’ standards in their own schools.

This was followed by lack of time for literacy promotion (51.2 per cent); lack of understanding of the importance of literacy (30.6 per cent) and other priorities (29.3 per cent).

National Literacy Trust director Jonathan Douglas said: ‘Our research shows that teachers recognise how vital it is to teach and promote literacy and want to do so.

‘However, the new national curriculum has highlighted a gap, reflected in our survey, between what is required of teachers and what they feel able to deliver.’

He added: ‘Literacy must now be taught by every teacher even if their specialism is in maths or science.  ‘A changing education landscape over recent years means that some teachers will not have been trained to teach literacy and other teachers may not even have learnt literacy at school themselves but are now required to teach it.

‘There is a clear need for literacy to be embedded in continued professional development plans to equip teachers with the knowledge and confidence that our research shows they feel they lack to meet the literacy requirement.’

Liz Robinson, headteacher at Surrey Square Primary School in Southwark, London, said: ‘This research highlights that it is a shared responsibility for teachers across all subjects to teach literacy skills.

‘This shouldn’t be seen as a separate task, but part of the work they are already doing. ‘Teachers need to be more confident in their own abilities to teach literacy as they know more than they think.’  [Really??]


No More Common Core in Arizona

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas made national headlines last year for standing up for parental rights in education and opposing Washington, DC-driven Common Core standards.

This morning, Superintendent Douglas motioned the state education board, the entity responsible for adopting Common Core in Arizona back in 2010, to vote on the standards, which were defeated. As KTAR News reports:

    "The Arizona State Board of Education in a 6-2 decision voted to repeal the Common Core State Standards Monday morning.

    Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas brought the motion to the board to reverse the 2010 adoption of the standards.

    In a letter addressed to board President Greg Miller, Douglas wrote, “It is hereby moved that the actions of the State Board of Education (SBE) on June 28, 2010 to adopt Common Core, now referred to as the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards, as the standards for language arts and mathematics be reversed and that all links to Common Core be severed.”

Elsewhere, ABC 15 News (Phoenix) reported that the 45-minute debate became heated:

    “The board is just saying, ‘We can take care of Arizona’s children and this is a very proud day for Arizonans,” said Douglas.

    “This will send a clear message to the citizens of Arizona and the nation that Arizonans are smart enough, engaged enough, and collaborative enough to control the education of our own children.”

The existing standards will stay in place for the time being, but Arizona now has the freedom to enact standards its citizens think are best.

The challenge will be not to repeat the mistakes of the past, with seemingly rigorous standards on paper, but shamefully low passing scores for students to be deemed performing. (See here and here, too.) And that’s the problem once we put politicians in charge of academics.

No matter how well-intentioned elected officials and their appointees may be about education, there’s always powerful pressure to make it appear as though they’re “doing something”—and no politician wants student scores to go down on his or her watch.

Cases in point. In response to political pressure from Washington, DC, to make 100 percent of students proficient during the Bush II No Child Left Behind era, the overall rigor of Arizona state standards went from a B- in 2003 to a D+ in 2009. One year after Common Core was adopted by the state board—but had not yet been implemented—Arizona standards moved up to a C in 2011.

So in less than a decade with politicians in charge, the rigor of Arizona’s standards declined overall—at a cost to a generation of students that can never be fully quantified. The monetary cost to their parents and taxpayers, however, can.

In a nutshell, Arizonans have spent close to $400 million implementing Common Core, but we only got $25 million of our hard-earned tax money back from the feds to implement it.

Superintendent Douglas was elected last year by a majority of Arizona voters who want Washington, DC, and politics out of children’s classrooms. She’s stayed true to her promise to work to empower parents over their children’s education—because parental choice, not more government mandates or empty standards—is the best way to ensure a top-quality education for all students.


International Baccalaureate exams begin in Australia and around the world

It is the exam so secret that not even teachers know what it contained until a day after students put down their pens.

Tamper-proof packaging, investment bank-style encryption and invigilators are all part and parcel of the International Baccalaureate, which began around the world on Tuesday.
"A bit of banter between the groups," says Alexandria Smith, left, with Annabelle McMahon.

"A bit of banter between the groups," says Alexandria Smith, left, with Annabelle McMahon. Photo: Janie Barrett

At St Paul's Grammar in Cranebrook, two-thirds of the year 12 cohort took the IB over the HSC this year but, unlike their HSC classmates, none of them could talk about the English exam they had just finished.

Globally, 77,000 students from 400 schools in 148 countries take the transnational certificate that is an alternative to the HSC.

The worldwide nature of the examinations means that students must wait 24 hours before discussing the tests with anyone.

It is a longer wait than most for Australian pupils, who are some of the first in the world to hear the examiner call "pens down" at 11:30am.

"It gives me time to make peace with myself," said 17-year-old Annabelle McMahon. "It's better for me because I get really nervous when I ask people about the exam."

Annabelle's St Paul's classmate, Alexandria Smith, echoed her sentiments. "I'm more happy not knowing anything. We can't improve it now. It is just more stress."

Along with 60 of their classmates and more than 350 other NSW students, the pair will sit up to 12 exams between now and November 24, almost twice as many as their HSC counterparts.

Overall, there are more than 80 IB exams in subjects as diverse as global politics, philosophy, English and maths, with a curriculum that focuses more on breadth than specialisation and has a compulsory community service component.

The IB diploma goes for two years compared to the HSC's one.

"You can be tested on day one of year 11," said Alexandria.

The teenagers said that finishing their IB almost a month after the majority of the rest of state's year 12 students was worth the wait.

The last of the state's 77,000 HSC students will finish their HSC exams when  the Visual Arts exam concludes at 3:30pm on Wednesday.

"There is always a bit of banter between the groups," said Alexandria. "We have had six weeks to prepare and be better equipped for our exams."

"For our HSC friends we are a bit jealous that they do get to go on to holidays now, but my HSC friends said I'm going to be jealous of your ATAR'."

Last year Australian students dominated the International Baccalaureate exams, performing well above the global average and claiming a high proportion of the top marks despite the relatively small cohort.

Overall they made up 10 per cent of the top scores, despite accounting for less than 3 per cent of all students.

The national average of 34.22, which equals an ATAR of more than 90, was well above the global average of 29.95.

Antony Mayrhofer, the Director of Learning Services at St Paul's, said that the IB was becoming increasingly popular as an accreditation for Australian universities.

"But there is not a huge jump into the IB diploma in NSW," he said. "One reason is because the HSC is such a strong credential".

The IB continues on Wednesday with Economics, English and Classical languages. 

The HSC finishes with Visual Arts, Food Technology, French Extension and Modern Greek Extension.


No comments: