Standards or Suggestions

November 23rd 2017

Can Australia afford to lower their standards when it comes to educators? That is the question Family Focus Consultancy is asking when we first learnt that teachers will be able to self-identify their professional development standards in 2018. That concern grew when it was discovered that not all the seven Australian Professional Standards for Teachers will need to be met.
Why call them standards in the first place if they can be disregarded, why not just call them suggestions? The standards are established to define the knowledge, practice and professional engagement needed for high quality effective teaching that improves student learning outcomes.
The seven standards once completed ensure that teachers know students and how they learn. Know the content and how to teach it. Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning. Create and maintain effective teaching and learning. Assess, provide feedback and report on student learning. Engage in professional learning. Engage professionally with colleagues, parents/carers and the community.
Why are we lowering the benchmark? Is it fair to ask teachers to identify their needs in terms of professional development? If all seven standards aren’t undertaken does that mean a teacher is at a disadvantage to their peers?
Educators already speak of overcrowded timetables, overwhelming workloads, minimal opportunity for training and development and restrictive school budgets. When faced with self-identifying the professional development standards these tensions will no doubt be factors that persuade the decision-making process. Schools may find it too convenient to sign off on Standards that compliment what is already scheduled and planned. No cost and low-cost options will be what teachers will be encouraged to choose. Areas of professional development that may fall into the too hard, expensive and time-consuming categories will probably not even get a look in. Schools are always looking to save money, it is a reality of their administrative processes.
Professional development is not meant to be economics. It is always meant to focus on raising the proficiencies and abilities of educators. Society needs great teachers. Now more than ever. By 2026 teachers are going to be responsible for educating the largest enrolment numbers Australia has seen since the World War 2 “baby boom”. Based on the nation’s birthing rate there will be an extra 705,000 students entering school by that time. Think overcrowding, underfunding and dropping assessment scores are an issue now? Just wait.
Many peak bodies, research bodies, governments and teachers themselves concede that the education system does not work effectively or efficiently and certainly not for the benefit of all students. One does not need to be an academic to predict that a lessening of standards coupled with a population boom will see an already overstretched profession being pushed to breaking point.
The reality is schools need to be as best prepared for tomorrow as they can be. Essential to that is the ideology preached by those in charge of education. Standardise educational options, increase teacher skills by way of standards, measure individual growth in students, offer a diverse curriculum, provide outcomes that will witness the learner’s success and engage parents as partners in the child’s learning.
Which of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers is the least important? All seven standards seem critical and have a direct purpose in terms of professional rigour. If you don’t need some of them then it makes one question why you need any of them? Standards or suggestions? Success or failure? Teachers deserve to have every opportunity to succeed in their careers. The modified version of professional development sends a mixed message. Time for one message to be said loud and clear, all teachers deserve to realise growth and accomplishment in all seven standards. Because great educators are key to our communities’ successes.