The Australian Government MP representing much of the region burnt in Victoria's bushfires, Fran Bailey, has called for schools to be protected against future fires, either through new construction or redesign. She noted that, if the fires had occurred on a school day, large numbers of children would have been present in the schools that were destroyed. She has also called for schools to be available as safe havens in the event of a future disaster. See report on ABC News 15 February 2009.
The Australian Secondary Principals’ Association (ASPA) has released preliminary results from a national enrolment survey completed by public secondary school principals across Australia. Respondents have reported a rise in enrolments, resuming the upward trend evident in the few years prior to 2007, with greatest growth in the first year of senior school. The respondents attribute the shift to the economic downturn, as well as improved public perceptions of public secondary schools following considerable efforts to improve their profile. ASPA President Andrew Blair has urged the Australian Government to quickly meet the needs generated by increased enrolments. See ASPA media release 18 February 2009 and article in The Age 19 February 2009.
The Australian Government has funded a scheme to expand the teaching of Asian languages. The Government aims to double the number of Year 12 students fluent in Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian or Korean within a decade. Funding will cover additional Asian language classes in high schools, teacher training and curriculum development. The scheme will be overseen by the National Curriculum Board. See report in The Age 15 February 2009.
Western Australian Education Minister Liz Constable has announced a new agreement between the State Government and BHP Billiton Iron Ore. The agreement will provide a range of academic and vocational opportunities for secondary students in Newman and Port Hedland. See Minister's media statement 18 February 2009.
The trial of an Australian Government scheme linking welfare payments to school attendance will not proceed owing to opposition by the Western Australian Government, according to a report in the West Australian 16 February 2009.
Tasmanian Premier and Minister for Education David Bartlett has revealed plans for the greatest school modernisation program in the State's history. At a special meeting of school principals and School Association Chairs in Launceston, the Premier announced plans to enhance school facilities with funding provided under the Australian Government's economic stimulus package. See media statement 17 February 2009. See also report on ABC News 18 February 2009.
Research by University of Tasmania Honours graduate Joshua Moore has supported the belief that high quality teachers are the biggest influence on student success. His thesis, Where to for our boys?, shows skilled, well-prepared teachers who can build strong relationships with their students are the biggest influences on Year 10 Tasmanian boys as they decide on further education options. Retention rates for Tasmanian males from Year 10 to Year 12 are lower than the national average and have fallen against the national average over the past two years. See University of Tasmania media release 6 February 2009.
A US study of 18,000 biology, chemistry and physics students has found gender bias in student ratings of high school science teachers. Researchers at Clemson University, the University of Virginia and Harvard University have found that, on average, female high school science teachers received lower evaluations than their male counterparts even though male and female teachers are equally effective at preparing their students for college. The findings appear in Science Education online in the research paper, Unraveling Bias from Student Evaluations of their High School Science Teachers. See Clemson University media release and article in Science Daily, both 2 February 2009.
A new study will examine how new teachers' emotions impact on their developing professional identities, potentially yielding information about how best to retain new teachers. The study, based at the Queensland University of Technology, will track the emotions of well-qualified high school science teachers as they enter the workforce. The study will involve videotaping volunteer new teachers at work, replaying the video recordings to the teachers for comment, and micro-analysing the videos for speech and gestural patterns. See Queensland University of Technology media release 30 January 2009.
Involving Fathers in Early Childhood Services is a new website developed by the University of Newcastle's Family Action Centre and the charity agency Good Beginnings. It provides free tools, guides and tips to help early childhood centres involve fathers more in their activities. The website contains examples of programs, research evidence about the benefits to children of fathers' involvement and a set of training DVDs for workers and parents to view. See media release 13 February 2009.
Participants are currently being sought in Melbourne and Sydney for studies addressing childhood obesity. The Melbourne study, run by RMIT, is seeking children aged between 10 and 13 to look at the impact of excess weight on physical function and pain. Volunteers receive personalised advice about healthy living as well as a detailed health assessment. The Sydney study is seeking children aged 12 to 16 for the Western Sydney Adolescent Sports and Physical Activity Program (WASPA), which is to begin by early March. WASPA will examine the success of a physical activity-based program. For further information, see RMIT media release 20 January 2009 and University of Wollongong media release 11 February 2009.
An international study is to examine mobile phone use and brain cancer risk in young people. The five-year study will involve young people aged 10 to 24 who have had a brain cancer as well as people of a similar age who have not. Participants will be recruited from a range of countries including Australia and New Zealand. The study will be one of the first in the world to look at any association between brain tumours and mobile phone use in this age group. See Monash University media release 29 January 2009. Meanwhile a University of Tasmania Honours student has found that rules on students using mobile phones at school are a failure. Martin Beattie surveyed students and teachers from five Hobart high schools and found that even in schools with strict no-phone policies, 85 per cent of students in Years 9 and 10 admitted sending an SMS text message without teacher permission. See University of Tasmania media release 2 February 2009.
An article in the US journal Education Week 27 January 2009 notes a shift in the predominant methods used for educational research, away from controlled experimental studies and towards the use of 'old-fashioned practical know-how' and a 'stepped-up emphasis on generating findings, programs, and products that practitioners find useful'.
In the USA, a recent study has found that students whose teachers have been certified through alternative training programs do no worse in mathematics or reading achievement than students whose teachers have been certified by traditional teacher education programs. The study, An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification, was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. See article in Education Week 9 February 2009 (registration required).