Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Pell Does Schools

Sydney's Catholic schools are getting Visitations, of a sort....

It's a good move; the Bosses here won't even divulge SAT scores for the archdiocesan high schools....

The marking system, to be announced today, will be carried out by principals and then independently reviewed by education authorities.

The marks will show the parents of 63,000 students how well their child's school performed on a scale of one to seven in 30 "components" seen as critical to raising standards.

They include "Catholic life and culture", financial management, selection and retention of staff, teaching practices and student achievement, maintenance of facilities, school culture, commitment to pastoral care, greenery in the playground and even water conservation....

The Sydney Catholic Education Office's executive director of schools, Kelvin Canavan, said the new system would enable schools to measure the value added to students' learning.

"We wanted to take the hit and miss out of school evaluation," he said. "Traditionally schools review themselves and someone strolls in and says, 'This is satisfactory, that is satisfactory' … but there were no firm benchmarks. These criteria will remove ambiguity."

Other NSW Catholic dioceses had expressed an intention to introduce the same or similar standards, Brother Canavan said.

While there was "no pass or fail agenda", there would be a strong focus on identifying and fixing shortcomings, he said.

Principals may award a seven when "major strengths" are seen across all areas, a three if weaknesses outweigh strengths and a one when they identify serious weaknesses.

To ensure schools remain accountable, a panel from the Sydney Catholic Education Office will use the same rating scale to formally review the school's performance every fourth year.

The marking is divided into seven "key areas": Catholic life and religious education; student learning; pedagogy; management of staff; resources, finances and facilities; involvement with parents and the community; and innovation. These in turn are broken up into 30 smaller components that assess things such as the display of religious icons and "greening of the school environs".

A senior Catholic education officer, Kathy Campbell, said the schools were aiming to be "more rigorous and accountable".

Well, with Catholic Schools Week around the corner here in the States, it's something the American apparatus should look into.