Saturday, January 30, 2010

MySchool Website

The MySchool website ( was launched this week, amid much controversy. As you read it, remember to "never confuse a test score with an education". The website crashed for significant amounts of time. From an IT perspective, that was either poor planning, or poor implementation because that traffic was foreseeable. I suspect the problem is more likely to be underlying database errors. Serious questions have also been asked about the following:
  • the resultant league tables created by the media. Remember the media do this simply to make a quick buck from sales, and possibly to denigrate some schools, or school system.
  • the site does NOT give amounts of Federal and State funding in total, or per student. That might well have been politically damaging for Julia Gillard, and the Federal and State Governments. Some reports say such information will be included in the a later version.
  • the site makes comparisons between statistically dissimilar groups/schools. eg boys-only schools with girls-only schools; high schools with primary schools; comprehensive schools with selective schools
  • the site assumes that all students from a school conform to the demographics of the suburb/town in which it is sited.
  • NAPLAN testing and performance does not measure an education.
Nevertheless, it was announced with much fanfare, and many media appearances from the Federal Education Minister, and Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. This gives some clue to the sites real purpose: it is politically-driven. Ms Gillard wants to fight public and private school teachers, and state education systems. She wants what every Minister for Education wants: to be the 'Great Education Reformer'! The tests of reform will not be the media interviews, the press releases (with photo), or Parliamentary comments. The test of her reforms will be: more equitable distribution of public resources; provision of more staff for public schools (lower class sizes have been shown to improve educational outcomes). While she's at it, Ms Gillard might work to restore Federal funding for TAFE and Universities to reasonable operating levels. They have been screwed for money since Paul Keating was Prime Minister, and John Howard continued the policy almost relentlessly. I think that Julia Gillard won't do it, in which case she will have failed the public education reform test.

As for the MySchool site, and its data:
  • remember, like investing, "past performance is no indicator of future returns"
  • "Never confuse a test score with an education" (John)