Minister Robert’s Letter to ACARA

This one fell off the back of a bus.

Embedded below is a letter from Stuart Robert, the Acting Minister for Education and Youth, to Derek Scott, the new Chair of the ACARA Board. The letter (which we have been assured is a public document) reinforces the resolutions of this month’s Education Ministers meeting, in regard to ACARA’s invisible redraft of their draft Australian curriculum. It seems that the letter was tabled by a representative from Minister Robert’s office during last week’s Senate Estimates.

 

The following sections of the letter are worth noting:

Without diluting the improvements already achieved in learning standards, I seek the following improvements in Mathematics:

  • lifting standards to ensure they match those of high-performing nations (this could include being clear about which operations students need to be able to do without a calculator)
  • ensuring a focus on mastery of foundational material in the primary curriculum
  • ensuring content descriptors are written clearly
  • reducing the number of elaboration examples, ensuring only those that show the most effective, evidence-based way to teach the content are included.

I also ask that you consult a number of experts in determining your revisions, as outlined in Attachment B. While I ask ACARA to reach out to these experts, gauge their interest in being involved in the revision process, and consult with them over the coming months, I may also seek their individual advice on the process and revisions made.

We do not have access to Attachment B of the letter, and we do not know the specific “experts” listed in that Attachment. One would hope that any such experts are more expert than ACARA’s previous “experts”. It is also unclear what “consult with [ACARA]” is intended to mean, nor what it will mean in practice. Finally, it is unclear the nature of the advice Minister Robert is seeking and/or would be willing to accept. In brief, nothing is clear.

Nonetheless, the implication is that ACARA is being actively shoved to talk to and to incorporate the ideas of people who might know what they are talking about. That would be news, and that would be good news.

UPDATE (21/02)

Adam Carey has an article on Robert’s letter, here.

10 Replies to “Minister Robert’s Letter to ACARA”

  1. “…, I may also seek their individual advice on the process and revisions made.” Almost sounds like an “if you don’t, I will”. Wow.

  2. “Given the short time frame available …” doesn’t fill me with hope. There’s obviously an artificial – short – deadline for the revisions to be made.

    On the other hand, Derek Scott \displaystyle is Chief Executive Officer of the Haileybury corporation, and this business \displaystyle does constantly trumpet its use of the Fleming Explicit Teaching Model ( https://medium.com/@peterjthomas/teaching-explicit-instruction-93362d593a67 ) in all its slick glossy marketing … Stranger things have happened. I expect a distinct change in emphasis from version 9.0.

    On the topic of Scotty Everywhere, has there been any word public on recommendations from the ITE review ( https://www.dese.gov.au/quality-initial-teacher-education-review )?

  3. I love the third dot point: “Ensuring content descriptors are written clearly.”

    It seems to me that this, above the other concerns are perhaps the most common gripe of those who actually have to design lessons from this document.

    Yes, the rest is very important such as “lifting standards” and “without a calculator” and to department heads and school curriculum leaders, perhaps these are of more significance. But to someone asked to take a study design and produce a couple of hundred hours of lessons, the clarity of descriptors seems paramount.

    Here’s hoping that good news is coming…

  4. https://www.theage.com.au/education/maths-curriculum-s-most-pressing-conundrum-inquiry-based-learning-20220210-p59vd1.html

    Quote from MAV CEO Saffin: “… said Mathematical Association of Victoria chief Peter Saffin. The association was comfortable with the draft curriculum presented last year and is eager for it to be approved so that schools can begin to adopt it next year.” Idiot.

    Quote from a so-called ‘master-teacher’: “Colin Chapman, one of Victoria’s new master teachers and a member of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority’s teacher reference group for mathematics, summed up the difference, saying: “If you’re looking at multiplication, let’s say, is it more useful to know your eight times tables by heart, or to recognise that to multiply any number by eight you just have to double it three times?” he asked.

    The clear implication being that rote learning of times tables is bad. And that rote learning in general is bad. Another idiot. And completely misrepresenting explicit teaching. Serving the ACARA propaganda agenda.

  5. Re: Update.

    “A curriculum authority spokesperson said education ministers have asked the organisation to provide a revised version of the curriculum by April, and the updated curriculum will be published following its endorsement.”

    So there will be no public scrutiny of the revised version. We have to trust the expert panel and Scotty Everywhere. *Hmppph* And there are \displaystyle so many reasons why we should trust …

    ACARA and the ‘experts’ have shown they can’t be trusted to write a curriculum for teaching dogs how to piss on a tree (actually they probably could – pissing on a tree lends itself nicely to inquiry-based learning). The only reason a revised version is being written is because the public outcry was over-whelming. Otherwise that piece of shit (aka Version 9.0) from ACARA and its ‘experts’ would have been rubber-stamped and dumped on Australian maths teachers with Education Ministers no doubt saying that it ushered in a new era of education in Australia. A new era of mediocrity. Just like ACARA’s current curriculum was going to do when it was rolled out with fanfare and trumpets in 2016.

    Why should we trust that a revised version will come even remotely close to addressing the legion of mistakes and problems Version 9.0 has?

    Who are these new (?) ‘experts’???

    1. John, you should separate out issues (and watch your language). Don’t rant.

      1) The “experts” Robert is suggesting for ACARA to “consult” are presumably different from the “experts” that ACARA has used up until now.

      The new “experts” may be no better (it’s difficult to imagine them being worse), but they are likely different. That could be important. Of course even the new experts are better, ACARA may consult in only a token manner. But, ACARA is under pretty heavy scrutiny from Robert. If they are too dismissive, they’re likely to lose their whole curriculum (which would be the best outcome).

      2) Even if the new “experts” are excellent, you are correct that there is still no public scrutiny, and you are correct that this is utterly disgraceful. The education reporters should be absolutely hammering this point, but they really don’t seem to care. Carey made the point briefly in the article I’ve just linked, but that doesn’t cut it. The secrecy of the current process is obscene.

      1. The final paragraph says it all:

        “A curriculum authority spokesperson said education ministers have asked the organisation to provide a revised version of the curriculum by April, and the updated curriculum will be published following its endorsement.”

        So a bit over a month to revise a basket-case draft curriculum (aka Version 9.0) via a secret process. And the basket-case draft took how many years to write?? (And how many re-drafts if we’re up to version 9.0??)

        And then the final product gets dumped on teachers without the opportunity for further critical review by the public.

        I hope the Minister has the courage to scrap the whole curriculum and give the brief to a competent and transparent group of people. But with Scotty Everywhere’s reputation on the line to deliver a curriculum by April that will be endorsed by the state Ministers, politics and ego will most likely ensure that this happens. The disease that is the ACARA draft curriculum will get only one treatment – band-aids and bandages to cover up the gangrene.

        I’ve said several times – it’s the idiot education ‘experts’ that caused education standards to steadily decline over the last few decades, and yet it’s the idiot education ‘experts’ that keep getting asked to fix things. Insanity. The curriculum has been used as a plaything by the so-called education ‘experts’ for decades, to the detriment of generations of students.

        Get rid of the self-promoting, existence-justifying, agenda-serving education ‘experts’ and bring in genuine experts.

        1. Yes, this process is utterly screwed. It seems pretty obvious Robert is looking to approve the re-re-draft, no matter how awful it might (will) still be.

          I’m planning to post on this insane Act II.

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