05 SES 03 B, Urban Education & Children and Youth at Risk
Parallel Paper Session
Developed countries such as Australia are currently experiencing an era of neoliberal political agendas that result in an increasingly narrowed focus on schooling outcomes as measured by standardised testing regimes such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), leading “to a pedagogical impoverishment where anxious teachers shift toward transmission pedagogies tightly orientated toward test items” (Thomson, Lingard, & Wrigley, 2011, p. 6). For example, in Australia, the federal government’s Education Revolution has seen the advent of a national curriculum and high-stakes testing regime in literacy and numeracy, along with an alarming trend towards media-constructed league tables and the supposed increased accountability of schools and schooling systems measured on particular indices derived from performance in the national testing regime. In such a homogenising educational-political context it becomes important to recognise the rich learning opportunities that are made available to students in alternative schooling models.
Connell (1993) claims that the very concept of mainstream schooling “must be called into question, as it suggests reasoned consensus. What we are dealing with, rather, is a socially dominant or hegemonic curriculum” (p. 25). As Reimer and Cash (2003) explain, “alternative schooling opportunities are required to accommodate the educational needs of students because the traditional school system, and particularly the traditional high school, can no longer serve their needs” (p. 11).
In this study, the rich lived experiences of students and teachers working at one alternative schooling site were documented over the period of a year. The Music Industry College (MIC) is an alternative school with a central focus on preparing students for a career in the music industry. While the school works with state-mandated curriculum, assessment and reporting requirements for accreditation purposes, they are able to “work within and against the grain of policy simultaneously” (Thomson, et al., 2011, p. 4) in order to serve the particular interests and learning needs of students.
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