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3 May 2017

Testing Teachers: Episode Three

Students in low socioeconomic communities are on average almost three years behind their wealthier peers.

Students from schools serving disadvantaged communities are significantly more likely to be behind their advantaged peers in achieving education milestones.

Students from low socioeconomic households, who are Indigenous Australia, from rural or remote communities or from a refugee or asylum seeker background are more likely to experience educational disadvantage.

And only 40 per cent of teachers believe that their profession is valued by society.

Testing Teachers has helped make these statistics more real and personal.

Education is the circuit breaker

‘Disadvantage’ is not a choice, but an experience.

For children, it is not of their making and yet the forces at play can shape their future.

Without addressing the inequity in access and achievement of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the gap grows over time. If carried on to the next generation of students, a cycle of disadvantage is created.

“Experiences at home can often spill over into the classroom.”

“No one needs me at school or anything, but my family does.” – Tennant Creek High School student

We know that the cycle of disadvantage is escapable though.

Great teachers and leaders are key.

“I go to school every day because I’ll find a job, a better future.” – Tennant Creek High School student

“For me, education was always the way that I could go on to be able to get job that would support myself.” – Associate Sasha

Resilient students and dedicated teachers

Despite the barriers that students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds face, it is possible for them to catch up.

The challenges that they encounter are complex, but students are extraordinarily resilient.

“He finished the year as one of her top students, getting his best result in science.”

“95 per cent of his Year 8 students have improved their results since last year.”

“10 students in this class were not passing and then by second semester those 10 students are now passing.” – Associate Stephanie

“In one year, he improved his grade from an E to an impressive C.”

Of course, at school, it’s not only the students who learn.

Our program, in particular, is designed and supported so Associates can learn on the job, as well as through formal teaching studies.

“I think that every day that has passed has always been a lesson in patience. Patience and patience and patience.” – Associate Emmanuel

“I don’t think that I’ve really ever seen a kid at this school give up, they don’t give up. I think it’s kind of rubbed off on me as well because as a teacher you get so many different things that inhibit your ability to teach well. And you want to get outcomes absolutely, but you’ve got to be resilient to get those outcomes.” – Associate Will

Teaching strategies extend beyond observable teacher tactics. Research evidence is clear: Teachers’ perceptions and beliefs of their students’ abilities also influence students’ educational outcomes.

Among Emmanuel, Fiona, Kitty, Sasha, Stephanie, Will and their many colleagues, we see those beliefs: unconditional positive regard and high expectations of students included.

“He still has that spark. There’s something about him that makes me think, ‘I am not going to let you slip through the cracks’.” – Associate Stephanie

Whole school and community efforts

The achievements of Melton Secondary College, Southern River College, Tennant Creek High School and their respective communities are remarkable.

“At Melton, 70 per cent of students entering Year 7 are below the expected literacy and numeracy levels. By the end of the year, most… students have finished above standard.”

“Things are changing, now around 40 [Southern River College] students [apply to go to university] each year.”

As any educator knows, a teacher’s job is never done. At Teach For Australia, we believe it is important to always celebrate the wins – big and small – along the way.

“It makes your day seeing a student say, you know what I can do it… and they do it!” – Associate Kitty

“It’s been amazing. It’s definitely been the most rewarding year of my life, by a long way.” – Associate Fiona

“I think that changing careers is the best decision that I’ve ever made. I love being a teacher.” – Associate Stephanie

Part of the solution

Teach For Australia stands for closing the education gap through teaching and leadership.

“A program that believes quality teachers are the key to closing the education gap.”

“Students placed with the top 10 per cent of teachers will progress twice as fast as those with the lowest 10 per cent.”

We are just one part of the solution to educational disadvantage.

Many, many other individuals and organisations are dedicated to this cause as well, dedicated to ensuring all children reach their potential.

Want to join in the effort? Click here!