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.