1. Does the preamble to the Standards give a clear picture of the context for the reason, use and purpose of the Standards?

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1 RESPONSE TO THE DRAFT NATIONAL PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS FOR TEACHERS from THE ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS OF SPEAKERS OF OTHER LANGUAGES (ATESOL) ACT 1. Does the preamble to the Standards give a clear picture of the context for the reason, use and purpose of the Standards? No. We suggest that the following would improve the preamble: 1) The Melbourne Declaration principles on which the Standards are based should be explicitly stated, together with an elaboration of precisely how they have been applied to the Standards. At the moment, the connection seems tenuous. Likewise, it should be made more explicit how the other documents referenced in the Introduction have been carried forward in the Standards. This could be summarised in the Introduction and elaborated in an Appendix. 2) A richer, soundly theorised understanding and explicit description of teacher professional development is required. Tokenistic references to research and knowledge should be replaced by reference to the research (if any) that actually informs the Standards. This description should capture the transformative process entailed in how a teacher develops from a beginner to lead teacher. 3) The actual purpose to which the four levels will be put should be made much clearer: Graduate accrediting teacher education programs Proficient licence to teach?? Highly accomplished?? Lead?? Currently, the actual function of the first two levels is obscured and that of the higher two is not well thought out, much less clear. See also our answers to Questions 3 & 5 below. 4) The basis for the sub divisions/rows within each Standard (e.g. 1.1, etc) should be made explicit in the preamble currently this is not articulated and often impossible to infer. Based on this clarification, an extra column should be added to each standard that labels each sub division/row. 5) A non embellished, factual history (as distinct from a rhetorically driven sanitised account) of previous attempts to develop national standards for teaching would assist educators in understanding the difficulties and complexities involved and encourage them to respond constructively to this latest attempt. The envisaged relationship between the generic Standards and previous work on subjectspecific Standards should be made clear. 6) The preamble should describe a process for on going evaluation, refinement, revision and development of the Standards. This process should allow for genuine teacher input and direct those wishing to make this input to the appropriate places. 1

2 2. Do the draft Standards describe a realistic and developmental teacher professional standards continuum? No. The current descriptions do not appear to be informed by any credible practical or theoretical understanding of teacher development. The continuum seems ad hoc. The basis for selecting issues to describe is hard to detect see comment (2) re the preamble. Often it s hard to know what is actually being described. The difference between levels is frequently a matter of phrasing rather than discernible substance. (e.g.: 1.1 what s the substantive difference between know and understand and how to apply this and know theoretically and practically and knowing how to apply knowledge to their practice?). Often it simply boils down to a bit more of the same. Sometimes the difference between levels is, frankly, absurd (e.g. 1.1: do graduate teachers not need to be able to apply their understanding in their teaching, while proficient teachers do?) Other problems: The Graduate level for all Standards is too skewed in favour of academic knowledge, as distinct from reflecting how theory underpins practice. For example, rather than knowing and understanding, those graduating from pre service courses should be able to demonstrate teaching strategies that are based on sound research, and should be able to articulate the rationale for what they do with reference to principles grounded in sound research; they do not necessarily need to be able to describe the research itself. In regard to research (notably, 1.2 and 1.5), even educators at the highest levels in schools and Education Departments generally have quite low level knowledge and understanding of current research, much less do they know how to analyse or evaluate research. These descriptors are quite unrealistic and themselves indicate a lack of knowledge about research and how it underpins educational practice. It is unrealistic to expect Graduate teachers to be able to address the learning needs of all students even highly experienced teachers are commonly frustrated in achieving this goal. Why is active membership of professional associations reserved for highly accomplished teachers (7.6)? 3. Do the draft Standards reflect what you would expect teachers to know and be able to do for each of the four levels? No. The descriptions of each level are often difficult to interpret because it is unclear what each level (aside from Graduate) refers to. Therefore, see our answer to Question 2. 2

3 Further, the descriptions are vague and the evidence would support them is unclear. Therefore, see our answer to Question Are there other descriptors that the Standards should include? Yes. An audit should be done to ensure the Standards carry forward at least the following: the Melbourne Declaration the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan (despite its defects!) the Australian Curriculum. ATESOL ACT is particularly concerned that the following issues go unreferenced or are poorly treated. (i) English language learning and students other languages/varieties The Standards are totally inadequate in regard to requiring and encouraging teachers to attend to the English needs of Indigenous and non Indigenous learners of English as a second/other language or dialect (EAL/D). (Note: Indigenous students are not all EAL/D learners). They do not acknowledge the significance and impact of students knowing another language or English variety. For example, the requirement that teachers know their students and how they learn cannot be divorced from knowing about students language backgrounds and how to respond appropriately. Where language needs are implied in the descriptions, it is largely in relation to literacy. This is not only inadequate but also perpetuates erroneous responses to EAL/D learners. For example, a focus on literacy ignores: EAL/D students particular oral English learning needs as the foundation for English literacy (in fact, there is a vast body of research going back to the 1960s at least which shows that all students need to develop the spoken language associated with learning as a basis for literacy and school learning; for EAL/D learners, this requirement is more acute) the possibility of EAL students having well developed literacy in other languages (i.e. teachers should not conflate English needs with literacy needs) the modes in which EAL/D students may have highly developed language skills on which literacy can be built (e.g. oral narrative skills). We cannot understand why language (as distinct from literacy ) is mentioned in the descriptors for 2.1 (with reference to knowing content and how to teach it ) but not in relation selecting content (2.1), knowing how students learn (Standard 1), planning (Standard 3), the learning environment (Standard 4), assessment!! (Standard 5), professional learning (Standard 6), and the community (Standard 7). In the various listings of student backgrounds, characteristics etc, the words language or English language should be added, and the implications of this change considered for how descriptors are framed and their meanings. (ii) Engagement with parents/guardians and the community The descriptors are inadequate in the attention given to the communities from which students come and potential diversity of these communities. 3

4 For example, where do the Standards provide grounds for teachers knowing that any involvement by parents/guardians might depend on the use of interpreters? Where do they require teachers to consider whether students come from two parent, single parent or no parent households or households for which they themselves are responsible? Where are teachers required to consider the effects of torture and trauma on students? Where are teachers encouraged to draw on community leaders for advice and even support in the classroom? These are real issues. Our members report (and research evidence backs them up) that these issues go unrecognised in many schools, leading to some EAL/D students being labelled as difficult, developmentally immature or remedial. (iii) Collegial and expert support The descriptors do not encourage or make reference to the crucial requirement for teachers to recognise their limitations, work collegially, turn to others for advice and, in some cases, know when to refer students to other experts within and beyond the school. For example, where do the Standards provide for judging when to seek advice from one s principal, head of department, the student counsellor, ESL teachers or other colleagues? Where do they encourage team teaching (often the most effective way for ESL and mainstream teachers to collaborate)? It would appear that teachers are not expected to be involved in mentoring others until they are at Highly Accomplished level. This would rule out large numbers of teachers currently supervising pre service trainees. The general assumption in the document appears to be that teachers are largely individualistic in their practice and aspirations. Such an assumption does not reflect the fundamentally collegial nature of schools and education. (iv) Creativity and initiative The Standards pay little or no attention to teachers identifying issues that need attention in their schools, taking the initiative or playing an advocacy role. This is crucial in the case of ESL teachers from the beginning of their careers but applies in different ways to other teachers. The current draft seems focussed on conformity and implementation of current policies rather than inspiring on going development in individuals and school communities. Where do the descriptions reflect the kind of enthusiasm one finds in younger new teachers and how this should be fostered and be transformed as teachers mature? Where is growth in self confidence described? See comment (2) on the preamble. (v) The realities of teaching in schools The descriptions do not acknowledge the day to day, time consuming, mundane but crucial work done by some teachers. For example, ESL teachers working with youth with minimal/no schooling and teachers in Indigenous communities must work long and hard out of class to ensure that their students come to class and to support the well being necessary (e.g. a place to live) for these students participation in education. If these special demands are ignored in the Standards descriptions, teachers are likely to be penalised for the time they spend in attending to them. 4

5 The descriptions of teachers acquiring increasingly sophisticated skills in classroom management are vague and impoverished. Is it seriously intended that Graduate students don t need to listen and respond positively to students (4.3)? what kind of balance do teachers need to learn in this regard? 5. Will it be possible for educators to use the Standards to evaluate teacher practice (with substantive support materials)? Not in any meaningful or constructive way. As framed, the Standards: 1) would encourage tokenistic and inconsistent application 2) are not sufficiently robust to withstand any kind of dispute over their application 3) would not permit distinguishing between a teacher who is or is under performing at any given level 4) would not permit distinguishing a teacher at one level rather than another. For example: The difference between Graduate and Proficient levels is often hard to determine. What is meant by Proficient is unclear: is this a lowest common denominator level below which a teacher should not be registered or is it a description of what all teachers should aspire to? What is meant by Highly Accomplished is also unclear: are these aspirational standards for all teachers or only an elite group? What is meant by Lead is equally unclear: a principal? head of department? outstanding teacher? In many places, the Highly Accomplished and Lead descriptions seem are more appropriate to teacher consultants than classroom teachers. The descriptions should be reworked to facilitate evidence based assessment. Note: this recommendation means that it should be possible to gain data or evidence that is referenced to the descriptions; it should not be interpreted to mean that everything should be measurable numerically. Evaluation should not have to rest on drawing inferences from the proposed substantive support materials. The poor quality of the current descriptors leads us to suspect that devising descriptions that will actually support teacher evaluation was placed in the too hard basket as a problem to be solved by those tasked with preparing the support materials. 6. General comments ATESOL ACT warmly welcomes the move towards national generic standards for teachers. We believe this is an opportunity for genuine reform and improving professional learning. Consequently, we are profoundly disappointed with the draft Standards. As currently framed, they would set back existing achievements in this area and provoke deep cynicism in the teaching profession. Further, we abhor the haste with which this consultation has been undertaken and with which we have been forced to prepare our response. It has come at a time when we are already overwhelmed with other demands, both locally and nationally, not least in regard to the draft Australian 5

6 Curriculum. There has been insufficient time even for the significance of the draft Standards to be understood by most of our members, much less for us to offer more than the largely negative commentary above. Although we are grateful for the opportunity provided to make this commentary, we regret that the timeline has not allowed us to go beyond this. The current timeframe reduces to meaningless rhetoric the claims in the Introduction that the proposed Standards will increase teacher capacity over time and enable teachers to reflect on their effectiveness, identify professional learning needs and determine career pathways. In fact, it subverts these goals. A genuinely consultative process would not be driven by an impossible timetable, would seek to draw on teachers wisdom about their work, would acknowledge the complexity of the task at hand and would be designed to respect that complexity. ********************************** 6

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