23 SES 02 A, Teacher Education
Teacher education continues to be the focus of major public debate around the world as nations attempt to reform education systems to redress apparent “problems” with school outcomes, standards, and quality. As Ball (2013, p. 1) argues, with education now considered “crucial … in ensuring economic productivity and competiveness in the context of ‘informational capitalism’”, the reform of teacher education is pivotal in broader attempts for nations to keep up with the global education race (Bailey, 2010). This paper analyses one recent policy example of teacher education reform—the Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education(LANTITE) in Australia—with particular attention to understanding who passes and who fails the LANTITE test and the perspectives of recent test takers. A quantitative analysis of 2,013 student results on the test, alongside the perspectives of 109 recent graduates, from a large university in Australia, suggest that the LANTITE does not lead to substantive reform but is a meaningless yet costly hurdle.
With international and national test scores declining and Australia slipping in their place in the global knowledge economy race (AGDET, 2016; Baroutsis & Lingard, 2017; Gardner, 2017; Gorur & Wu, 2015), the federal establishment of the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG) in 2014 and their subsequent report titled, Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers, were pivotal in heightening a national interest in teacher quality in Australia. The report, which stipulated 5 key proposals, along with 36 recommendations in their call for reform of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) in Australia, set into motion a series of initiatives to improve teacher education quality with an emphasis on more “transparent selection” procedures (p. x). This included mechanisms to better discriminate who can enter teacher education courses in the first instance, along with greater evidence of pre-service teachers’ classroom readiness as a condition for graduation. As Rowe and Skourdombis (2017; see also Sayed & Ahmed, 2015; Scholes, et al., 2017) have observed, terms such as “transparent selection” and classroom readiness “evidence” (p. x) emphasise the move towards increasingly standardised—and often de-contextualised—measures of ‘quality’ as it relates to education. It is against this backdrop that the external, high-stakes standardised Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education(LANTITE) was introduced as one reform measure from the TEMAG recommendations in 2016.
While LANTITE is currently the one of the few national initiatives of its kind in Australia, the cost of this reform measure is not born by the federal government but is primarily paid for by the teacher candidates. With each test-taking attempt costing $185 AUD, with each component (literacy/numeracy) being $92.50 (ACER, 2018a) and with teacher candidates allowed at least three attempts to pass the test (ACER, 2018b), teacher candidates are investing a substantial amount of money into a test that most can pass (Authors, 2016, Riddle, 2015). By exploring the quantitative and qualitative data from a large ITE program in metropolitan Australia, we further explore the ‘cost’ of the LANTITE and the extent to which it is leading to meaningful reform from both a statistical and teacher candidate perspective. We conclude by considering the implications of policy trends, such as LANTITE, that now shape teacher education globally.
With the introduction of the Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education (LANTITE) in 2016, an opportunity existed to explore the impact of this reform initiative in a large initial teacher education program in Australia. This paper interrogates the findings from two parallel projects: (a) a nonexperimental quantitative study which examines the quantifiable indicators of “success” as elicited from the LANTITE results of 2,013 students at a large metropolitan university in Australia, and (b) a qualitative pilot study which explores the experiences and attitudes of recent graduates (from the same university as above) in regards to recent policy changes, drawing specifically on the introduction of the LANTITE. This paper balances the rhetoric on “education policy by numbers” (Lingard, Creagh, & Vass, 2012) that focuses on statistics to justify policy decisions, with the voices of those who are central actors in this policy initiative. The paper will answer the following questions: 1. To what extent are pre-service teachers in an Initial Teacher Education program able to achieve a passing score on the LANTITE? 2. What are the attitudes and experiences of recent graduates from an Initial Teacher education program on the LANTITE? Ethics was obtained to gain access to de-identified student data from an Education faculty at a large metropolitan Australian university. The data set for the quantitative study contained demographic and academic information, such as LANTITE scores, for 2,013 education students. Descriptive statistics were employed to explore the demographic attributes of the sample and also assisted in the understanding of the scope and distribution of the responses on each item. This was important to identify if underlying statistical assumptions have been met. For the qualitative study, ethics was received to survey and interview fourth year teacher education students (from Early Years, Primary and Secondary Education courses) at the end of their program. Of the approximately 500 potential participants, 109 recent graduates responded to the mixed methods, online survey, with five questions relating to the LANTITE. Four weeks after the survey data was collected, six focus group interviews were conducted, consisting of a total of 21 students. Transcripts from these interviews were thematically coded and responses relating to the LANTITE have been used to substantiate the impact and implementation of the LANTITE at the institutional level and interrogate the alignment between what the numbers depict versus what individuals say.
With a national average of approximately 90% to 95% of teacher candidates passing the test (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2016; Barry, 2017; Riddle, 2015), the ITE program in this study falls within this statistic for the literacy test with an average fail rate of 9.9% but with a lower fail rate in the numeracy test (4.4%). Given that the 9.9% literacy fail rate represents the number of students who have failed the test on their first attempt, it does not represent the number of students who have been excluded from teacher education due to their inability to pass the test after the three or four attempts allowed. The findings from this study suggest that those who re-sat the test statistically had over a 50% chance of passing the test. With only three students failing the test after three attempts, yet who had been granted a fourth attempt, the percentage of teacher candidates who are being excluded from teacher education due to this policy gate-keeping mechanism is very small, making this policy, as a reform measure, very limited. In addition, while recent graduates argued that the test is “just another hurdle,” a “waste of time” and discriminates against multilingual learners, it also appears troubling that a test that most students eventually pass, yet have to pay to sit the test, is an initiative that is still being posed as providing meaningful reform and improving teacher quality. We argue that teacher education policies globally need to be further interrogated, particularly in light of international policy-borrowing trends (Lingard, 2010), to ensure that the costly focus on teacher quality does in fact lead to substantive teacher education reform.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation [ABC]. (2016). Teaching students failing numeracy test under new agreement. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au Australian Council for Education Research (ACER). (2018a). Literacy and numeracy test for initial teacher education students: Payment. Retrieved from: https://teacheredtest.acer.edu.au/register/payment Australian Council for Education Research (ACER). (2018b). Literacy and numeracy test for initial teacher education students: Re-sit. Retrieved from: https://teacheredtest.acer.edu.au/results/re-sit Australian Government Department of Education and Training [AGDET]. (2015). Action now: Classroom ready teachers—Australian Government response. Retrieved from https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/150212_ag_response_-_final.pdf Australian Government Department of Education and Training. (2016). Quality Schools, Quality Outcomes. Canberra, Australia: Author. Retrieved from: https://docs.education.gov.au/ Bailey, J. (2010). Teacher preparation and global competitiveness: Forging the link. SEEN. Retrieved from http://www.seenmagazine.us/ Ball, S. (2013). The education debate (2nd ed.). Bristol, England: The Policy Place. Baroutsis, A., & Lingard, B. (2017). Counting and comparing school performance: An analysis of media coverage of PISA in Australia, 2000-2014. Journal of Education Policy, 31(4), 432-449. Barry, S. (2017). New teachers score 95 percent in skills test. Retrieved from: https://www.school-news.com.au/news/new-teachers-score-95-percent-in-skills-test/ Bowles, T., Hattie, J., Dinham, S., Scull, J., & Clinton, J. (2014). Proposing a comprehensive model for identifying teaching candidates. The Australian Educational Researcher, 41(4), 365-380. Darling-Hammond, L. (2017). Teacher education around the world. European Journal of Teacher Education, 40(3), 291-309. Gardner, P. (2017). NAPLAN: The writing is on the wall but who is actually reading it? English in Australia, 53(1), 15-23. Gorur, R. & Wu, M. (2015). Leaning too far? PISA, policy and Australia’s ‘top five’ ambitions. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 36(5), 647-664. Lingard, B. (2010). Policy borrowing, policy learning: Testing times. Critical Studies in Education, 51(2), 129-147. Lingard, B., Creagh, S., Vass, G. (2012). Education policy as numbers: Data categories and two Australian cases of misrecognition. Journal of Education Policy, 27(3), 315-333. Rowe, E., & Skourdoumbis, A. (2017). Calling for ‘urgent national action to improve the quality of initial teacher education’: The reification of evidence and accountability in reform agendas. Journal of Education Policy, 1-17. Sayed, Y., & Ahmed, R. (2015). Education quality, and teaching and learning in the post-2015 education agenda. International Journal of Educational Development, 40, 330-338. Scholes, L., Lampert, J., Burnett, B., Comber, B., & Hoff, L. (2017). The politics of quality teacher discourses: Implications for pre-service teachers in high-poverty schools. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 42(4), 19-43. Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group [TEMAG]. (2014). Action now: Classroom ready teachers. Retrieved from https://docs.education.gov.au/
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