14 SES 09 A, Aspirations and Success of Young People in Rural and Urban Areas
Until 2015, Tasmania retained a system of senior secondary education (years 11 and 12) that is largely separate from the comprehensive high school model, which is normal in all other Australian states. Unlike other Australian states, secondary education in Tasmanian government schools has been divided into Years 7 – 10 in schools and Year 11 and 12 in colleges. In keeping with the 2018 ECER conference theme, the problem of educational inclusion takes on a particular caste in the context of Tasmania with its highly dispersed population, traditions of primary and secondary industry employment, and its particular approach to the delivery of educational services across geographic and social space. We have been working in a space of cultural change and system reform that is fundamentally designed to engage the entire population, regardless of geographic and social location, in the mainstream of state schooling.
We have been investigating a state-wide project that began in 2015 to “expand” select high schools to include years 11 and 12 program offerings. This project began with 6 rural high schools and has now expanded to include 29 rural and urban schools. The expansion project is variously understood as a transformation of senior secondary education, a complementary system functioning alongside the established model of years 11-12 matriculation colleges, and in some instances as a potential replacement of the matriculation colleges themselves with a network of community-based comprehensive high schools as some high profile critics have recommended given the state’s relatively poor school retention and measured educational performance data (Eslake, 2016; Ramsay and Rowan, 2014). There is clearly in Tasmania a policy consensus that educational culture needs to change and that the completion of a standard 12 year public education becomes a strong normative expectation rather than an option only seriously considered by academically oriented students.
While the quantitative data tell an important story, both community level stakeholders and state leaders are interested in understanding how the new programs are being received, understood and experienced. Last year our attention was drawn to the question of what constitutes success of this initiative, thus, this paper reports on perceptions of school-based actors concerning their own indicators of success in the final years of schooling in expansion schools. For instance, the quality of relationships between different groups of actors is central to the overall success we observed in the schools we visited. In this paper we examine specifically success criteria expressed by key school-based actors: i.e. principals, teacher-leaders and students.
In the literature and support materials for schools are survey to assist schools with identifying perceptions of students and parents (ACARA, 2016) which in the case of students seeks feedback on their perceptions of expectations, feedback, treatment, approachability of teachers, feelings of safety and acceptance of ideas, motivation from teachers, engaging curriculum, and school’s improvement strategies. These themes are similar to those examined by Fisher and Fraser (1981), and much more recently have been reflected in material published by New Zealand’s Education Review Office (2016). Furthermore, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (n. d.) referred to “whole environments for the whole child” (p. 4), while the OECD (2009) has identified “school climate” (p. 39) as central to student learning and success. We see our work here as an introductory journey toward expanding the idea of success criteria beyond those items which are currently measured and reported such as school retention data, standardised test scores and attendance data.
We understand policy in Easton’s (1953) terms as the “authoritative allocation of values” and therefore we situate the expansion initiative as an attempt by policy actors to manage and direct behaviour and cultural change with respect to education in the state, and to tackle comprehensive a set of nested “wicked problems” (Rittell and Webber, 1973) relating to Tasmania’s educational performance (Corbett and Tinkham, 2014; Corbett et al, 2017; Cranston et al, 2014; Watson et al, 2016). We are particularly interested in this paper to develop an understanding of how school-based actors understand success in the those schools that have implemented the Years 11-12 expansion. This is a concern for policy makers and at the same time it represents a way of making sense of how policy is received, enacted and evaluated by school level actors. To access this level of understanding, a research design that focuses on meaning-making processes of ordinary participants seems to us sensible. This research employs a primarily qualitative design including a roster of more than 100 interviews with stakeholders (see Figure 1) and a close analysis of documentary sources relating to the Years 11-12 expansion project in Tasmania. Central stakeholders interviewed for the purposes of this paper include: a) the school based leadership team (principal and years 11-12 coordinators), b) teachers and c) students. Figure 1 Key stakeholders Through late 2017, the research team interviewed school-based stakeholders in 6 schools, some of which had only recently begun their school’s years 11-12 expansion, and some of which had been offering expanded offerings for nearly three years. Between 4 and 10 interviews were conducted at each of the six sites. Through the process of interviewing, memoing, and preliminary iterative data analysis, the research team shared findings and impressions in order to generate a set of thematic frames through with success could be understood. In this presentation we will elaborate on how students, teachers, years 11-12 coordinators and principals think about he impact of the community based expansion programs in terms of how and why they are considered successful, or not. We examine a number of non-standard assessment frameworks, notably Dart and Davies (2003) narrative assessment model, Harwell’s (2018) critique of SES and how it is measured, McArthur’s (2016) assessment for social justice, along with the concept of scale (Dyson et al, 2014; Nespor, 2004); to explore how evaluation can and should operate at a number of complementary levels.
The students we interviewed spoke of completed work assignments, projects and courses. For some, these positive experiences are new. Some students spoke of their realisation that they were developing focus in school for the first time. Fundamentally though, success meant being able to remain in a home community and to continue formal education beyond the historically normative compulsory 10 years. Reports from the school actors addressed relevance of curriculum and the importance of place to many geographically or socially “isolated” students. Some schools are members of education consortia where each contributes unique courses and works collaboratively with other schools and with proximal matriculation colleges. Principals and teachers are beginning to work across school locations (campuses) to devise new ways of conceptualising their work and to support learning and teaching across space rather than exclusively in one place. Principals in schools where significant change and growth are experienced articulate a clear vision and provide details of strategies to achieve goals and work closely with a skilful and experienced teacher-leader. While they did speak of the importance of attendance in school and the way that the school either does or does not create a climate that promotes engagement and presence, few key stakeholders spoke to the importance of measured and tested forms of accountability. Our research then suggests that success can be understood in terms of community and a range of affordances made available by the presence of academic programs in relatively isolated communities that have, until the roll-out of this program, had little effective access to a full an inclusive secondary education.
ACARA. (2016). School opinion information. Retrieved from http://www.acara.edu.au/reporting/school-opinion-information#1 Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (n. d.) Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/le_white_paper-1.pdf Corbett, M., Roberts, J., Fraser, S., Smith, H. and Reaburn, R. (2017). Building A New Generation: Community Expectations On Raising Aspirations In Rural Tasmania. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 27(3), 8-24. Corbett, M., & Tinkham, J. (2015). Small Schools in a Big World: Thinking About a Wicked Problem. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 60(4), 691–707. Cranston, N., Watson, J., Allen, J., Smith, C., Wight, S., Roberts, W., & Kameniar, B. (2014). Factors impactin on student retention beyond year 10 in rural, regional and disadvantaged communities in Tasmania - A wicked problem. University of Tasmania. Retrieved from http://www.utas.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/749579/RETENTION_REPORT_OCT_2014.pdf Dart, J., & Davies, R. (2003). A Dialogical, Story-Based Evaluation Tool: The Most Significant Change Technique. American Journal of Evaluation, 24(2), 137–155. Dyson, A., Kerr, K., & Raffo, C. (2014). Education, Disadvantage and Place: Making the Local Matter. Bristol Chicago: Policy Press. Easton, D. (1953). The Political System, an Inquiry Into the State of Political Science. New York: Knopf. Education review Office, New Zealand. (2016). Wellbeing for success: Effective practice. Retrieved from http://www.ero.govt.nz/publications/wellbeing-for-success-effective-practice/schools-with-good-wellbeing-practices/ Eslake, S. (2016). Tasmania Report. Hobart: Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Indusstry. Retrieved from http://www.tcci.com.au/Events/Tasmania-Report Fisher, D. L., & Fraser, B. J. (1981). Validity and use of My Class Inventory. Science Education, 65, 14–156. Harwell, M. (2018). Don’t Expect Too Much: The Limited Usefulness of Common SES Measures and a Prescription for Change (p. 21). Boulder CO: University of Colorado Boulder. Retrieved from http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/SES McArthur, J. (2016). Assessment for social justice: the role of assessment in achieving social justice. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 41(7), 967–981. Nespor, J. (2004). Educational scale-making. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 12(3), 309–326. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2009). Teaching and learning international survey. Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/edu/school/43023606.pdf Watson, J., Wright, S., Hay, I., Beswick, K., Allen, J., & Cranston, N. (2016). Rural and regional students’ perceptions of schooling and factors that influence their aspirations. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 26(2), 4–18.
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