Center on International Education Benchmarking

The Study Guide

1. New Data on U.S. High School Dropout and Completion Rates

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a new report this week on high school dropouts and completers in the United States. The data are compiled from a variety of surveys, including the Current Population Survey which found that dropout rates have trended downward over the past 40 years from 14.1 percent in 1976 to 6.1 percent in 2016. For the first time in that same 40-year period, there was no measurable gap between white and black dropout rates. Data on the adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) have been collected since 2010-11. The ACGR has increased from 79 percent to 84 percent in that time period. Data are also available by state with more than two-thirds of states reporting graduation rates between 80 and 90 percent. To read the full report, visit NCES here.

2. Japan Panel to Recommend Variable Hours to Tackle Teacher Overwork

According to the Japanese Ministry of Education, some 30 percent of elementary teachers and 60 percent of junior high school teachers are at the risk threshold for “death from overwork.” In response to this problem, a government panel has recommended the introduction of a variable work-hour system for public school teachers. The system would allow teachers to work longer hours during busy periods while taking more days off during less busy times. According to estimates by the education ministry, working three extra hours per week will allow teachers to take 15 more annual holidays. The panel also recommends setting an upper limit for teachers’ overtime as well, to 45 hours per month. At present the average elementary school teacher works 59 hours of overtime per month, and the average junior high teacher works 81 hours of overtime per month. In addition, a preliminary report by the panel lists school duties that should no longer be carried out by teachers, such as caring for students during breaks between classes, cleaning school buildings and coaching students in extracurricular activities. The panel will submit a full report to the education minister early next year, and the ministry will revise the work system for teachers based on that report. Read more at Japan Times.

Japanese Math Teacher

3. Quebec Plans to Abolish School Boards

Quebec’s new Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge confirmed the new majority political party’s plan to abolish school boards in the province. The Coalition Avenir Quebec’s (CAQ) won the recent provincial elections, and took over the majority from the Liberal Party. The CAQ government wants to replace school boards with “service centres” that would provide administrative support to schools. The party believes this would be more economically efficient. The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA), which represents boards for the English language schools, opposes the move and questions its legality as the English-speaking minority has a constitutional right to control their own education. For more, see Global News.

Quebec Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge
Quebec Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge

4. Performance Gap Narrows for Disadvantaged Elementary Students in England

Based on data released this week on the performance of primary schools and students across England, the UK Department for Education finds the performance gap between disadvantaged students and their more advantaged peers has closed by more than 13 percent since 2011. Disadvantaged students are defined as those who have been eligible for free school meals anytime during the past six years or who have been in the care of local authorities – for example, in foster care. The performance gap is based on students’ scores on national end-of-primary-school tests in English and mathematics and measured using the disadvantage gap index, which takes into account changes in these tests over time. Despite recent progress, a performance gap remains, with only 51 percent of disadvantaged students reaching the expected standard of performance across reading, writing and mathematics on their end-of-primary-school tests in 2018, compared to 70 percent of their more advantaged peers. BBC News estimates that if the gap continues to close at its current rate, it will take until 2070 for disadvantaged students to catch up to their peers. Read more from BBC News.

Young Children Reading

5. Australian Education Minister Says ‘Too Much Is Being Taught’

During an education conference held at Australian National University, Education Minister Dan Tehan said Australia’s curriculum has become too cluttered and called for a more simplified approach in classrooms. “What I’m hearing from teachers and principals is there is just too much on the curriculum, there is too much being asked of teachers to teach,” said Tehan. In turn, he has called for a review to look at decluttering the curriculum. “The Australian curriculum has the fundamentals right and therefore a total overhaul is not required but we can maintain stability while reducing complexity,” stated Tehan. During his speech, Tehan also signaled wariness about the growing push for soft skills at the expense of basic skills like literacy and numeracy, citing Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel’s recent address that warned against undue emphasis on soft skills. Tehan also called for the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians to be updated to “encompass education from early childhood through higher education, vocational training and then beyond.” Since the declaration was signed in 2008, Australia has dropped in global rankings in reading, math and science. Read more in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Australian Education Minister Dan Tehan
Australian Education Minister Dan Tehan

6. New Zealand Report Calls for Organizational Change

A report released by the Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce calls for transformational change to the way New Zealand’s education system is organized. Titled Our Schooling Futures: Stronger Together, the report recommends the nation’s Board of Trustees self-governing model developed nearly 30 years ago be replaced by about 20 “Education Hubs” which would be crown entities with minister-appointed directors. Each hub would partner with around 125 schools to provide teachers with curriculum and assessment support and principals with leadership council, amongst other responsibilities. In all, the report identifies eight key issues and a total of 31 recommendations. The proposals included in the report have not yet been endorsed by the government, but if adopted, would reverse the 1989 decision that abolished regional education boards and split the old Education Department into multiple agencies. “Everything in this report – every recommendation – is focused on improving the wellbeing and success of all children, particularly those not well served by the education system,” said taskforce chair Bali Haque. Read more in The New Zealand Herald and Radio New Zealand. For an overview of New Zealand’s education system, read their country profile from CIEB.

Bali Haque
Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce Chair Bali Haque

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