Saturday, February 02, 2008

teach for australia

I'd like to become involved in this scheme because it addresses the most important current educational need in Australia.

Teach for Australia: a practical plan to get great teachers into remote schools (23pp)

There is an educational crisis in remote Australia that is not abating. On the key literacy and numeracy benchmark measures, remote students are well behind mainstream levels. Amongst Indigenous students in remote areas, educational results are at catastrophic levels: the most recent publicly available data shows that only 4 percent of remote, Indigenous students in the Northern Territory passed the basic minimum Year 3 reading benchmark. Students are leaving school functionally illiterate with little or no chance of properly engaging in the real economy.

The current approach to remote education must change. The existing system is not delivering, and current reform is too slow. Fundamental reform is required.

Critically, school attendance – a particular problem in remote schools – must be addressed. Welfare payments should be made conditional upon a good school attendance record. The Australian Government has already announced plans to move in this direction. A decisive impact on the quality of school education can also be achieved through focussing on the most important lever to improve educational outcomes – the quality of teachers. ANU research shows that a teacher who rates in the 90th percentile of performance can achieve in half of a year what a 10th percentile teacher can achieve in a full year. Nothing else has been shown to have such a stark impact on results.

This paper outlines a plan to ensure that remote schools receive a higher proportion of the 90th percentile teachers. It recommends the creation and funding of an independent organisation – Teach for Australia – that recruits and evaluates high quality teachers to be available for placement in remote schools. Teach for Australia would create:

• Teach for Australia Fellows. Experienced teachers who have an exceptional track record in delivering results would be recruited as Teach for Australia Fellows and would receive an annual $50,000 fellowship (in addition to the usual salary package) once placed in a remote school. The fellowship would be contingent on the teacher regularly assessing student’s literacy and numeracy performance and ensuring that students are progressing against objective measures in these areas. A teacher who is not delivering would not have their Fellowship renewed.

• Teach for Australia Associate Teachers. The ‘best and brightest’ individuals who are currently not in the teaching profession would be recruited, provided with two months of intensive training and then placed alongside a Fellow in remote schools. A $20,000 stipend would be provided (in addition to the usual salary package). As with the Fellows’ stipend, the Associate Teachers’ stipend would be contingent upon adequate performance. This pathway is modelled on the successful ‘Teach For America’ initiative and the UK’s ‘Teach First’.

As well as recruiting and placing high quality teachers, Teach for Australia would provide the training for the Associate Teachers and professional development for the Fellows. It would also develop tools for effective teaching in the classroom, including ongoing student assessments to inform teaching and to be included as part of regular performance reviews. It would undertake these activities in conjunction with Macquarie University, through the establishment of the Teach for Australia Academy for Effective Teaching. Academy training would also be made available to Indigenous Educators who work in schools where a Fellow-Associate pair are employed.


lisa-gaye said...

Oh, finally!! Bill I too would like to follow this, can you keep me posted?

Wara said...

Perhaps this a chicken and egg issue but the problems with performance in remote schools is MUCH bigger than education and teachers. Remote communities need to have an economy to participate in to start with. I could imagine a young person at school thinking - what's the point? So my family and community put a high emphasis on education? Is there something for me to do that will use these skills once acquired?

If there is evidence that this program is one of a multi faceted strategy then there is a chance that it will make a difference.

Bill Kerr said...

hi wara,

Yes, aboriginal participation in the real economy is essential - a multi faceted strategy is essential

Cape York Institute under Noel Pearson's is developing such a strategy:
economic viability

Here are a couple of papers discussing this issue:
Can Cape York Communities be economically viable?

The ‘Gammon Economy’ of Cape York: Lessons for Nation Building in Pacific Island Countries?

I think the depth of Pearson's strategic leadership does offer some real hope here

Em said...

I am currently looking to possibly teach in Australia next year. I am an American and have taught in a public high school here for three years. I was searching teaching in Australia and stumbled upon this. I have thought about doing Teach for America before, but my job fell in my lap so I took it. This program looks fabulous and I was wondering if they are accepting applicants and if you know whether or not they would be interested in Americans teaching abroad?

Bill Kerr said...

hi em,

my understanding is that the rudd government has not and is unlikely to endorse the "teach for australia" scheme - unfortunately

Em said...

bummer! it works reasonably well here and i have plenty of friends who have had a lot of success with it!

Anonymous said...

I am currently a Teach For America corps member teaching on the Navajo Indian reservation in New Mexico and love working with the native population here. I am very interested in teaching native peoples in Australia and found this article and would like to follow up. Do you know who wrote the paper? In it the author states that they have made preliminary contact with both Teach for America and Teach First in hopes of gaining support from those programs. I would love to find out who he spoke to and if there is any way to begin to build momentum. What do you know?

Bill Kerr said...

reply to anonymous:

Who wrote the paper? I don't know for sure but Noel Pearson (Cape York Institute ) and Kevin Wheldall (Macquarie Uni MULTILIT scheme )both would have had a big say in it

I've tried to contact Noel Pearson through the CYI but haven't been successful

The connection b/w 'teach for australia' and 'teach for america': I found this job opportunity - Country Relations Manager, Australia on the Teach for America site but don't know whether it is still current - it might give you a lead in

john said...

so where does this stand, as i write this in december? is teach for australia dead??? i too am an american living in aus, and just know that aus could benefit from this...why is rudd govt resistant?

Bill Kerr said...

hi john,

There is an article, Thinkers take up the chalk in The Australian from September co-authored by Steven Schwartz (vice-chancellor of Macquarie University) and Noel Pearson - which is an attempt to keep the 'Teach for Australia' scheme alive. But as far as I know it didn't go anywhere beyond that.

Why is the Rudd government resistant?

One reason would be that the teachers union is against performance pay and they might be reluctant to get that Union too much offside. teachers union opposes ...

franith said...

They announced the program was going ahead at COAG in november - it's in the small print at,25197,24718360-2702,00.html

So hopefully there will be a website or something up soon.

If anyone else sees useful info keep us posted here.

Bill Kerr said...

thanks franith,

Due to ongoing interest I have written a new blog on this topic:

Teach for Australia, revisited

Maxie said...

Hi Bill,

As an Indigenous teacher I would like to see more effort to create jobs for Indigenous teachers. I worked with a teaching program that created solid positions for Indigenous teachers throughout the State of Queensland. I agree that actions are better than words but we need to ensure that we sustain great teachers in our communities. Our success to train and employ Indigenous teachers in their home communities has had great success. Paying teachers from large cities to teach in Indigenous communities is a worthy ideal but this is already happening. Remote incentives provide communities with some great teachers, however they often serve their term (sometimes 2 yrs) and then leave.

"Teach for Australia" may work but if the same amount of funding was directed at similar funding projects like the one that I once worked on, we could produce another 300 B.Ed qual teachers in 5 years.

Just some food for thought.

Bill Kerr said...

hi max,

I agree that training more indigenous teachers, like yourself, is a must.

The way I read the 'Teach for Australia' scheme, it is to provide large numbers of both experienced (Fellows) and highly qualified (Associates) teachers quickly. I'd see your proposal as more long term (5 years) and the TFA proposal as a necessary short term emergency measure.