Eric Sidoti challenges the common opinion
Eric Sidoti, CEO of The Whitlam Institute, has long been a questioner. He took on the task of investigating the impact of NAPLAN. In The Impact of High Stakes Testing on School Students and their families, Eric raised serious questions about the real educational value derived from the tests in terms of learning and feedback to students and teachers. His report also placed on record the detrimental effects tests often had on children, families, and raised questions about the narrowing of curriculum breadth, the dampening of staff morale and the overall public perception of what schools are about.
According to Eric Sidoti, when it comes to schooling the wheel is turning. He told the Beautiful Failures forum that it is tempting to think that when it comes to schooling we have simply lost the plot.
“There is so much time devoted to debates about education among our politicians, in the media and around dinner tables but you can’t help but feel that it is all so much noise,” he said.
Taken at face value, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) data and NAPLAN results suggest that these new testing regimes have been accompanied by a steady decline in educational attainment.
It is a view that mirrors research findings from the Whitlam Institute into the impact of ‘high stakes’ testing. The final report concluded with Professor Johanna Wynn and her colleagues from the Melbourne Graduate School of Education finding that NAPLAN undermines quality education and is “not in the best interests of Australian children”.
“It makes you wonder whether the more we measure, the less we achieve,” Eric Sidoti said.
But according to Sidoti, there is a whiff of change in the air. He noted that there are increasing questions being asked about the purpose of education, and whether it was time to think differently about learning and learners.
“The truth is it is not all gloom and doom. In Australia we have great examples of what teachers and schools can do for their students - and their communities - and what more schools could do given the chance,” he said.
These examples though will remain but glimmers on the horizon if we are not prepared to challenge the prevailing assumptions about what education is really for and open the way to re-fashioning our education system so that it genuinely puts the best interest of our children first.