Archive for October, 2011

October 31, 2011

Is ‘No Child Left Behind’ Coming to Quebec?

By Robert Green

An abbreviated version of this op-ed appeared in the Montreal Gazette September 14, 2011 under the title “A reform that will miss its target – No child left behind was a disaster for the U.S. education system. Why should Quebec go down a similar road?”

In the spring of 2008 Jean Charest’s Liberals passed a reform of Quebec’s Education Act entitled Bill 88. Though the bill had far reaching implications for Quebec’s public schools there was relatively little public debate and discussion about its content.

This past spring one of the major implications of this bill became clear as the governing boards of each of Quebec’s public schools were required by the MELS (Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport) to sign what is being called a “Management and Educational Success Agreement”. These agreements identify numerous objectives for the school with specific measurable targets such as “to increase graduation rates from 83% to 86%” or “the success rate for mathematics 404 will increase from 42% to 45%”. Some of these performance indicators are determined by the school board while others are determined by the schools.

So what could possibly be wrong with asking schools to set such measurable targets? The answer to this question lies south of the border where the use of such performance indicators has been at the heart of a revolution in public education that began with George Bush’s 2001 “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) legislation and has been accelerated by Barack Obama. The appeal of this revolution is in the simplicity of its message: use high-stakes standardized testing to hold teachers and schools accountable for the success or failure of their students. Reward success; punish failure. This means offering both the carrot of additional funding or ‘merit-pay’ (often in exchange for union-protected job security) and the stick of threatened school closure or loss of employment.

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October 31, 2011

Article on the Ongoing Efforts to Disempower Teachers in Quebec

Aux premières lignes, mais sans pouvoir: quel est le rôle des enseignants du Québec?

“La principale différence des propositions de Legault d’avec le document du Parti libéral est que Legault y traite d’enseignants « performants », en opposition aux autres dont les élèves n’obtiennent pas de bons résultats, et que l’État devrait être en mesure de mettre à pied, séance tenante. Ça peut maintenir l’illusion que le Parti libéral se tient « au centre », mais en définitive, cela ne change en rien à sa vision antinationale de l’éducation. Pour ces tenants de la politique américaine basée sur la « performance » des enseignants, ceux qui sont valables seront ceux qui feront de l’offensive antisociale leur manifeste pédagogique, et les autres, qui y résistent d’une façon ou d’une autre, forment le groupe qu’il faudra faire taire sans rendre de compte à personne.”

http://www.cpcml.ca/francais/Lmlq2011/Q410357.HTM#2

 

October 31, 2011

Dianne Ravitch on “Miracle” Schools

If You Believe in Miracles, Don’t Read This

“But as long as public officials insist on making test scores the measure of teacher quality and school success, then their claims should be closely scrutinized using the metrics that they themselves have made the coin of the realm. Many of the schools that politicians hail as successes have records no different from other schools that the politicians are closing. ”

Read more: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2011/10/if_you_believe_in_miracles_don.html

October 31, 2011

Henry Aubin on Merit Pay for Teachers

“Merit pay makes excellent sense in theory. That’s why Legault has plenty of company in seeing it as a eureka solution for ailing schools. The Bush and Obama administrations, the Gates Foundation, the New York Times and the Washington Post editorial boards have all embraced the idea.What, you ask, can possibly be wrong with a system that pays teachers more if tests show their students are improving well?Answer: Actual practice, as disinct from theory.At least 10 U.S. states, taking advantage of a federal funding carrot, have so far adopted merit pay based on student testing. Legault might consider this south-of-theborder initiative as a giant pilot project. Results are coming in.”
October 31, 2011

Freakonomics Debate on Teacher Merit Pay

The Debate over Teacher Merit Pay: A Freakonomics Quorum

“Thirty years ago, the methodologist Donald T. Campbell framed what he called a ‘law’ of performance measurement:

‘The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.’

Since then, social scientists have documented how simple accountability or incentive systems based on quantitative output indicators have actually harmed the institutions they were designed to improve – not only in education but in business, health care, welfare policy, human capital development, criminal justice, and public administration.”

Read more: http://www.freakonomics.com/2011/09/20/the-debate-over-teacher-merit-pay-a-freakonomics-quorum/

October 31, 2011

Great Article About the Joy of Learning in Finland

Joy in Education

“And what is up in Finland’s schools? ‘These schools are joyful places,’ says Hancock. “In America, we tend to think you have to suffer to be the best, but the Finns think, no, if the kids are suffering, you’re doing something wrong.”

Read more: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/10/03-2

October 31, 2011

Students Aren’t Being Taught Crucial Reading and Writing Skills

By Robert Green

A slightly edited version of this op-ed appeared in the Montreal Gazette April 14, 2011

The English Language Arts (ELA) program has long been considered a ‘core’ academic subject for students in Quebec’s English School Boards. This is for very good reason. Strong literacy skills are recognized as key to improving students’ future employment prospects as well their ability to engage with their world creatively and participate fully in our society’s democratic institutions. The lowering of standards in the ELA program therefore has grave implications not only for individual students but also for society as a whole.  Sadly after five years in the teaching profession, I am firmly of the opinion that such a lowering of standards is occurring in Quebec’s English schools and that the Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sports (MELS) is entirely to blame.

Initially the infamous ‘reform’ to Quebec’s curriculum was presented as a move away from the rote learning that had occurred in the past and a move towards a more constructivist methodology that recognizes that learning is a much more active and dynamic process than the simple memorization of facts. When I first heard this as a student at McGill, this was music to my ears; however, upon entering the profession I soon began to lose this enthusiasm.

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