Thursday, June 25, 2009

School inspections (English-edition)

Michael Barber's presentation last Friday has me thinking about school inspections. I found the most recent published report from Ofsted, the English agency responsible for such work, here.

Marriott Primary School was inspected in January 2008 resulting in this blunt finding:
In accordance with Section 13 (3) of the Education Act 2005, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector is of the opinion that this school requires special measures because it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvements in the school.
In that report, there's an intense expectation of consistent high teaching quality and a blunt statement that the expectation has not been met:
There is wide disparity between the best lessons, where pupils make excellent progress, and unsatisfactory lessons, where the quality and pace of learning are inadequate. In too many lessons teaching does not plan in detail what, or how, different pupils will learn, and does not make effective use of additional adult support. In weaker lessons, pupils spend too long listening for information. When the pace of learning slackens, pupils tend to become restless and inattentive, or are simply too passive to make gains in learning.... Some marking is good, but assessment and target setting are underdeveloped. Assessment information is not used consistently to set suitable learning objectives or to guide improvement. The pupils are often either unaware what they need to do to improve their work or simply ignore comments in marking.
That January 2008 report led to four follow-up monitoring reports including one earlier this month. The most recent report finds progress satisfactory on the indicators checked, and describes important improvements, but pushes for major additional work, with these priorities:
• Endeavour to appoint teachers of proven high quality with support from the local authority.
• Increase the proportion of consistently good teaching to improve rates of progress further for all pupils throughout the school.
• Continue to improve rates of attendance and punctuality further by continuing to work with pupils, parents and carers and the education welfare officer to promote good attendance.
• Continue to work with local authority officers to provide appropriate training for teachers to support better those pupils identified with learning difficulties and behavioural problems.
• Continue with efforts to secure a full complement of [Interim Executive Board] members so that the board can effectively hold the interim headteacher to account for the progress made towards school improvement.
That's short and clear, with teacher capacity-building firmly at the forefront.

I've read quite a number of Kentucky scholastic audits over the years, and similar issues are regularly. Only, the teaching quality issues have been surrounded by other issues that all seem to be equally important, so that even blunt language on instruction has not left the same impression that classroom practice is the main thing that must improve. Roughly, our reports read as though teaching matters, but not as though it overwhelmingly matters most. And, of course, we don't routinely see four further published evaluations within eighteen months.

The English model, tied as it is to England's rapid recent improvement in literacy and numeracy, probably deserves closer Kentucky attention.

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