Archive for January, 2012

January 27, 2012

Raising The Retirement Age Is The Wrong Way To Deal With The Retirement Crisis

The CCPA responds to Harper’s musings in Davos about raising the retirement age

“Raising the age of eligibility for Old Age Security/Guaranteed Income Supplement (OAS/GIS) benefits is the worst possible way to deal with the retirement income security crisis facing Canadians.

Experts such as former Assistant Chief Statistician Michael Wolfson project that one half of all middle income baby boomers face a severe cut to their living standards in old age. This is due to falling employer pension coverage (down to 25% in the private sector), rising household debt combined with low savings, and the big hit to “fend for yourself” RRSPs which comes from high fees and low investment returns.

The right way to deal with this looming crisis is to expand the Canada Pension Plan now to raise incomes for seniors in the future.

The wrong way is to raise the retirement age for OAS/GIS.”

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January 26, 2012

Using Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers Is Based on the Wrong Values

Viewpoint in Jan 25 New York Times

“Numerical evaluations of educators, 40 percent of which is based on student test scores and achievement, will damage the relationship between teachers and students, a relationship at the heart of student success.

It will accelerate teaching to tests instead of teaching to the needs of kidsIt will put teachers in the terrible position of wondering whether the performance of their weakest students on a test might be a threat to their careers.

It will make principals hesitate to lead schools where test scores are low.

As a parent of a special education child who attends my school recently confided, “I worry that no one will want to teach a child like my son.”

Advocates of systems like the new evaluation system in New York, however, look to the business world for school improvement ideas. From this perspective, test scores are viewed as analogous to the way a business looks at profits.

These advocates believe that if teachers are in fear of losing their jobs, they will intensify their efforts to raise students’ scores. The focus is the score (the “profit”), not the child.

For these folks, test scores are the bottom line, and these “bottom line” reformers believe that what gets measured gets done.

Educators have a different belief. We believe that what is nurtured grows.”

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January 24, 2012

Meet François Legault, possibly the next premier of Québec

Simon Tremblay-Pepin on Legault’s political past and future

“Everybody remembers this education reform in Québec, namely because it still affects us today. Nonetheless, a number of people have forgotten other measures Mr. Legault introduced in education. I’ll name just two: performance contracting and success plans. These two attempts reflect François Legault much more aptly than the education reform. In the case of the latter, he was only responsible for its implementation, not its conception.

Performance contracts were arrangements between universities and the Ministry, which made funding for the latter conditional to reaching certain objectives (graduation rate, program revision, balanced budget, etc.). If results were not met, a part of the funding was retained. Success plans followed the same logic but for the elementary/high school system, with emphasis placed on the students’ academic success.

Not only has the outcome of these two measures been negative (incidentally both were dropped or pushed aside), but they appropriately convey Legault’s mentality. He wants to impose the private sector’s methods on the public sector. Institutions that did not meet their objectives were punished with less funding, and yet this logic is absurd in a public system. Indeed, in the end, the citizens using the service and the front-line workers are the ones “punished” for the administration’s failure.”

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January 21, 2012

Teachers, Superman and the “anti-Michelle Rhee”

Education historian Diane Ravitch says education reformers are killing the American school system

You’ve seen Waiting for Superman and were thrilled at education-reform superstar and part-time Sacramentan Michelle Rhee roughing up those bad teachers.

Bill Gates too is spreading the gospel of more testing and technology in the classroom. Even President Barack Obama is getting in on the school-reform act. He followed No Child Left Behind reforms with his own Race to the Top initiative, raising the stakes even higher for schools who lag on test scores.

The testing-and-accountability craze has swept the nation—but here and there are pockets of resistance, led by education historian Diane Ravitch. She was assistant secretary of education under Bush I, and was once a believer in testing and charter schools. She now also believes that Rhee and Gates and the other would-be reformers are actually hurting education, as she lays out in her book The Death and Life of the Great American School System.”

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January 19, 2012

Robert Green interviewed on CJAD about his Jan 17th op-ed

To download a podcast of Tommy Schnurmacher’s January 19 interview with Robert Green on his Gazette op-ed, “English schools more like guinea pigs than labs for ‘innovations’”, click below:

CJAD Interview on January 17 Op-Ed (To download as mp3 right-click and select ‘save link as’)

January 17, 2012

English schools more like guinea pigs than labs for ‘innovations’

By Robert Green

The following op-ed appeared in the January 17 edition of the Montreal Gazette

In a recent interview with The Gazette (“An ‘ideas lab’ for education,” Opinion, Jan. 9), the retired chief negotiator for the Quebec English School Boards Association, Ben Huot, talks about innovations within the English education system.

Mr. Huot touts, as a positive innovation, the fact that teachers in Quebec’s English school boards will now receive extra remuneration if they supervise extracurricular activities. He neglects to mention that if the money committed for this program this year were divided equally among all the teachers of Quebec’s English school boards, each teacher would receive about $75 per year in additional pay. In future years, this will increase to the mighty sum of about $300 annually. In theory, a teacher could earn up to eight per cent of his or her pay in such bonuses, but this would necessitate large numbers of his or her colleagues receiving nothing. The real experiment here is seeing what the introduction of such competitive policies will do to the sense of collegiality and the level of collaboration among teachers in Quebec’s English system.

Mr. Huot also fails to mention that teachers in Quebec’s French school boards are already remunerated for extracurricular activities; such work is factored into the calculation of their overall workload. In other words, when teachers in the French system take on extracurricular activities, their teaching load is reduced and they have more time for course planning and marking.

One would be hard-pressed to find a single teacher in Quebec’s English system who would not, in an instant, exchange the pittance being promised for extracurricular work for the much-needed additional prep time enjoyed by teachers in Quebec’s French system. To state, as Mr. Huot does, that teachers’ unions in the French system would want to “ride the coattails” of the English on this issue is absurd. If anything, the leadership of the provincial English teachers’ union should be explaining why they agreed to an “innovation” that is clearly worse than what exists in the French system, and that will inevitably be used by the government as a rationale to take away the advantages enjoyed by its teachers.

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January 14, 2012

Jill Vialet’s TED Talk on What Play Can Teach Us

January 4, 2012

Alfie Kohn on the Meaning of Selective Admissions

An article very relevant to the debate over public subsidies for private schools in Quebec…

Whom We Admit, What We Deny

“If we can’t reliably identify potential — that is, predict future impressiveness — in a 14-year-old, much less a 4-year-old, then we end up evaluating children on the basis of what they’ve already done.  And that disproportionately reflects the family’s socioeconomic status.  Even when we think we’re selecting on other criteria, we’re mostly privileging privilege, and therefore reproducing it in another generation.  The troubling truth is that selective schools help to perpetuate the deep inequities that define our society, not just failing to make things better but actively making them a little worse (notwithstanding piecemeal diversity efforts).  There are the elect, who merit the benefits of our talented faculty and terrific facilities; and then there’s everyone else — filed under ‘not a good fit’.”

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January 2, 2012

Equity over Excellence: Why Finland’s Education System is So Successful

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success

Published Dec 29 2011 in The Atlantic

“Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.

In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.

In fact, since academic excellence wasn’t a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list, when Finland’s students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland — unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway — was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity.

That this point is almost always ignored or brushed aside in the U.S. seems especially poignant at the moment, after the financial crisis and Occupy Wall Street movement have brought the problems of inequality in America into such sharp focus. The chasm between those who can afford $35,000 in tuition per child per year — or even just the price of a house in a good public school district — and the other “99 percent” is painfully plain to see.”

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