Essential reading - Prof Pamela Snow's powerful piece on 'accountability'

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Essential reading - Prof Pamela Snow's powerful piece on 'accountability'

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sat Mar 24, 2018 10:00 am

This is yet another MUST read because the issue of professional accountability lies AT THE HEART OF THE MATTER of where we are now with regard to how we teach reading.

Thanks to the internet, and thanks to decades (and more) of research findings and experience shared, it is no longer acceptable for any teacher, or teacher-trainer, or writer of policy on reading instruction, or politician dipping a toe into official curricula to continue to promote whole language and mixed methods, and promoting or exercising 'professional judgement', which is not in line with the findings of a body of research on reading instruction.

So, the issue then, is how to hold those in authority to account where the research findings and truly leading-edge practice continues to be disregarded and teachers continue to be mis-led and mis-trained - and parents continue to be mis-guided with regard to how they support their children to read.

Education's West Gate Bridge

24th March 2018 ... l?spref=tw

What does it actually mean to be a member of a "profession"? Here's what the Professional Standards Councils website has to say on the nature of a profession:

A profession is a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards. This group positions itself as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised body of learning derived from research, education and training at a high level, and is recognised by the public as such. A profession is also prepared to apply this knowledge and exercise these skills in the interest of others.

I'm going to focus here on these key words contained above:

adheres to ethical standards

body of learning derived from research

education and training at a high level

prepared to apply this knowledge and exercise these skills in the interest of others.

We would expect, I think readers will agree, that the medical registrar at our local Emergency Department has an in-depth body of knowledge derived from research, has been educated and trained (yes, trained!!!) to a high level, and is prepared to apply this knowledge and skill in your best interests. If you really are having a heart attack and our med reg opines that you'll be OK in the "watchful waiting" triage category, we (and you in particular) have a problem.

But the key thing here is that being a professional does not mean "choosing your own adventure" with respect to decisions made and approaches adopted. Being a professional is actually about accountability - both to scientific evidence, and to the community.

Education's problematic relationship with evidence has been the subject of many commentaries, including this one, by Dr Kerry Hempenstall, formerly of RMIT University in Melbourne (note, the bolded emphasis is mine):

“Education has a history of regularly adopting new ideas, but it has done so without the wide-scale assessment and scientific research that is necessary to distinguish effective from ineffective reforms. This absence of a scientific perspective has precluded systematic improvement in the education system, and it has impeded growth in the teaching profession for a long time (Carnine, 1995a; Hempenstall, 1996; Marshall, 1993; Stone, 1996). Some years ago in Australia, Maggs and White (1982) wrote despairingly, “Few professionals are more steeped in mythology and less open to empirical findings than are teachers” (p. 131)”.

Do read the whole piece - it isn't long - and it is SO important.

Time for more action - we should flood those in authority with official complaints TO HOLD THEM TO ACCOUNT when their guidance and training or teaching provision is simply not in line with the body of evidence.
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Re: Essential reading - Prof Pamela Snow's powerful piece on 'accountability'

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Tue Mar 27, 2018 7:49 pm

Here (link below) you can see what we are up against with regard to ascertaining both how children are faring in their decoding ability and how teachers are measuring up with regard to their teaching effectiveness in something so completely essential as foundational literacy - have no doubt about it - a life chances issue.

Critics of the check commonly shout loudly about teaching 'professionalism' and the right to teacher autonomy and yet, surely, if teachers were professional enough, they would want to know how effective their phonics teaching was compared to others in like circumstances. Would they not want to know whether they were teaching as effectively as others in the most effective schools?

Indeed, historically it was noting the year-on-year results of standardised tests in reading in both England and in the US that alerted people to the dip in literacy standards linked to changes in teaching methods for reading (to 'whole word', 'whole language', 'real books', 'mixed methods', 'balanced literacy') including the abandonment of systematic, or any, phonics teaching.

My original professional background was primary teaching and when I was an infant teacher for several years, for science I was teaching children about fair testing (I headed for infants because I wanted to find out more about reading instruction - so alarmed was I about the number of children entering juniors who were very weak in literacy). I am incredulous now to think we have so many in the teaching profession (and others) who cannot appreciate the value of national scale (very simple) objective assessment. I just don't get it.

Year 1 standardised testing diminishes teachers' professional standing ... okies=true

I am also incredulous as to the protestation of teachers (and others) who think that a short one-to-one assessment consisting of reading 40 words with the children's own teacher is 'stressful'. If it is a stressful experience, it is because of the adults' mis-handling of the assessment, perhaps including the run-up to the assessment and putting pressure on children about the assessment.

Then address that. Make sure that as part of teacher-training, teachers understand how to handle such a simple assessment - and although I think it should be entirely unnecessary to do so, also train them to value an objective assessment of something so important as children's foundational literacy - and how well teachers teach this.

Teachers' leaders, including union leaders, should be leading teachers in the objective, educational and moral direction of national literacy assessment - and emphasising why this is so important.

The assessment would occur as a one-on-one interview between teacher and child. The literacy test particularly would be based on the phonics screening check used in the UK since 2012.

The current proposal, however, seems to be unreliable in regard to its inception and the practicality of its implementation.

Teachers already assessing their students’ abilities

Year 1 teacher and IEUA-QNT member Sandie Wands said teachers are already conducting checks of their students’ abilities regarding phonics, sight words, writing and reading.

“There is no doubt that the assessments we already conduct are more telling of a student’s ability and progress.

“Our current assessments are synthesised over a period of time and through various means to form a complete picture of each child’s level of achievement.

The huge problem with reliance only on in-school assessment is that teachers have no idea whether the children's results are what could be expected after a certain length of time in school. The danger is that any weak results for children are all too easily attributed to within-child difficulties rather than teaching inadequacy.


We know that teaching methods and content make a huge difference. England's adoption of the Year One Phonics Screening Check has already demonstrated than an emphasis on phonics teaching and the results of that teaching have improved results - FOR REAL CHILDREN.

In the 2011 pilot of the Year One Phonics Check in England, only 32% of the children reached or exceeded the benchmark of 32 out of 40 words read correctly or plausibly. In 2016 and 2017, 81% of the children reached or exceeded the benchmark. England still has some way to go but 1,000+ schools reach levels of 95% to 100% of their Year One pupils reaching or exceeding the benchmark.

So FAR more children can now 'lift the words off the page' in England - and common sense alone should lead anyone to realise this is a 'good thing' meaning far more children are far more likely to read, to enjoy reading and to therefore increase their vocabulary and knowledge and understanding of the world through their wider literature experience (known as the 'Matthew Effect').

I suggest that anyone arguing for teachers' right to 'professional autonomy' are undermining the rights of teachers to know how effectively they are teaching something so fundamentally important as foundational literacy - and the rights of children to be taught foundational literacy as effectively as possible.

What is more important?

[Further, a simple national assessment does not affect or prevent teachers' detailed in-school assessment.]

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