Teaching and Learning Audits publication has led to misuse

KBates-Thm-1.jpgMuch has been made in the media of the QTU’s opposition to the release of the Teaching and Learning Audit results to The Courier-Mail and the way they were published on Saturday 28 January 2012.

Central to the QTU’s concerns about the publication of the audit outcomes was the capacity for media outlets to misuse the information by the creation of league tables. This concern is now shown to have been well founded.

Critically:

  • The audit tool was never designed to be used to compare individual schools
  • Claims from both the government and the media about “transparency and accountability” are somewhat cynical as audit outcomes are already shared with the principal, teachers and parents of individual schools
  • The audit outcomes represent a snapshot from a variety of time periods and may be as much as two years old
  • The audit outcomes, published without context – including the explanations of the process and criteria used in conducting the assessments and school-specific information – are of minimal value to any audience
  • The Principal’s Associations and the QCPCA also made strong public statements opposing publication.

Some responsible media outlets have understood the complex issues associated with the audits and published strong editorials supporting teachers, schools and the QTU’s position opposing publication. A number of other media outlets have begun publishing league tables of the audit outcomes of schools in their catchments. Headlines such as “Best and worst schools in X” and “Students at X school go to the top of the class” abound.

The questionable motivations of some media outlets are exposed by the belated publication of an opinion piece by Professor Geoff Masters (“Stages set for schools’ excellence” – The Courier-Mail, 1-2-2012, p. 27) on the Queensland Teaching and Learning Audits. The QTU is aware that this material was available last week and is crucial to aiding understanding of a complex process and yet it was not published in full until four days after the audit outcomes.

Correspondence with the QTU by members has made it clear that the publication of the audit outcomes has had a serious detrimental impact on some schools. This comes at a time when all schools are dealing with implementing the very significant change agenda of both state and federal governments, particularly curriculum change.

Principals and teachers have told us that they are angry and feel betrayed by the government. They have every right to feel this way. However, many of these same members have indicated that the audit process and the outcomes produced are of benefit to their schools and the communities they serve.

The challenge now confronting the QTU is the exploration with members of what options, if any, exist, for amendment of the audit process, including the protection of the outcomes from publication. Such alternatives will inform negotiations with the Department.

Kevin Bates
QTU President
2 February 2012