Non-government actors such as think-tanks are playing an important role in Australian policy work. As governments increasingly outsource policy work previously done by education departments and academics to these new policy actors, more think-tanks have emerged that represent a wide range of political views and ideological positions. This paper looks at the emergence of the Grattan Institute as one significant player in Australian education policy with a particular emphasis on Grattan’s report ‘Turning around low-performing schools’. Grattan exemplifies many of the facets of Barber’s ‘deliverology’, as they produce reports designed to be easily digested, simply actioned and provide reassurance that there is an answer, often through focusing on ‘what works’ recipes. ‘Turning around low-performing schools’ is a perfect example of this deliverology. However, a close analysis of the Report suggests that it contains four major problems which seriously impact its usefulness for schools and policymakers: it ignores data that may be more important in explaining the turn-around of schools, the Report is overly reliant on NAPLAN data, there are reasons to be suspicious about the evidence assembled, and finally the Report falls into a classic trap of logic—the post hoc fallacy.
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Since leaving the Grattan Institute, Dr Jensen has created another consultant organisation Learning First, whose website states that it: “produces informed, extensively researched reports on key education policy issues that provide effective solutions to improve student learning. Many of these reports provide a toolkit for schools and policy makers to help guide reforms. The reports gather the lessons from the world’s best-performing education systems and the research on effective practices to build an evidence base governments, policy makers, school leaders and teachers can use to implement changes to improve student learning”. http://www.learningfirst.org.au/what-we-do/.
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Loughland, T., Thompson, G. The problem of simplification: think-tanks, recipes, equity and ‘Turning around low-performing schools’. Aust. Educ. Res. 43, 111–129 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13384-015-0190-3
- Policy Simplification