Archive for October, 2013

October 29, 2013

Whipping cash-starved native schools into shape won’t work

Editorial | Published Oct 28, 2013 by The Toronto Star

The shortcomings of Canada’s aboriginal education system have been well-documented. For decades Ottawa has underfunded reserve schools, ignored their disproportionately high dropout rate, and shrugged off the funding gap between reserve schools and provincial schools.

It should have been good news this past week when Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt rolled out the First Nations Education Act, a comprehensive plan to upgrade the quality of aboriginal education.

But the reforms the minister proposed were so heavy-handed that First Nations immediately struck a defensive posture, branding the plan dictatorial and patronizing. Aboriginal leaders accused him of imposing onerous demands without providing the resources to meet them; spurning their pleas for collaboration and ignoring the United Nations, which urged Ottawa not to rush ahead unilaterally.

The opposition parties echoed those concerns in Parliament. Jonathan Genest-Jourdain, aboriginal affairs critic for the New Democratic Party, warned that Valcourt was launching his overhaul of aboriginal education “in a climate of utter distrust.”

The bill is needlessly confrontational. It empowers the government to seize control of First Nations schools that aren’t meeting Ottawa’s standards. It authorizes federal inspectors to review each school once a year, recommend improvements and appoint a manager if they were not implemented. It does not provide a single dollar to address the $2,000- to $3,000-per-student funding gap between reserve schools and provincial schools. It would not lift the 2-per-cent-a-year on funding for aboriginal education that has prevailed since the Conservatives took power in 2006.

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October 25, 2013

Why Public Schools Are Academically Superior To Private Schools

By | Published Oct 18 2013 by The Atlantic

Sarah Theule Lubienski didn’t set out to compare public schools and private schools. A professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she was studying math instructional techniques when she discovered something surprising: Private schools—long assumed to be educationally superior—were underperforming public schools.

She called her husband, Christopher A. Lubienski, also a professor at the university. “I said, ‘This is a really weird thing,’ and I checked it and double checked it,” she remembers. The couple decided to take on a project that would ultimately disprove decades of assumptions about private and public education.

Studying the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, they have found that, when controlling for demographic factors, public schools are doing a better job academically than private schools. It seems that private school students have higher scores because they come from more affluent backgrounds, not because the schools they attend are better educational institutions. They write about these conclusions—and explain how they came to them—in their book, The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools. Here’s an interview with the Lubienskis about their work, edited and condensed for clarity and length.

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October 22, 2013

Forget teaching to the test — at this Washington Heights elementary school, parents canceled it!

More than 80% of parents voted to skip an exam that the state says helps evaluate teachers. Move is believed to be unprecedented.

By / Published October 21, 2013 by NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

A Washington Heights elementary school has canceled the new standardized multiple-choice tests for the youngest public school students — after more than 80% of parents opted to have their kids sit out the exam.

In an apparently unprecedented move, Castle Bridge School parents — representing 83 of the 97 students — rejected the new city requirement that affects 36 schools that serve only K through second grade.

“My feeling about testing kids as young as 4 is it’s inhumane,” said PTA co-chairwoman Dao Tran, mother of first-grader Quyen Lamphere, 5. “I can only see it causing stress.”

The state now requires schools to factor test scores — in one form or another — into their teacher evaluations, which are new this year in the city.

Students at the 36 “early education” schools are too young to take the regular state reading and math exams, so the littlest kids are sitting down for different tests.

As the Daily News reported earlier this month, such exams, given to kids as young as 4, require students to fill in bubbles to show their answers.

It’s like the SAT for kids barely older than toddlers. And parents resent it.

“Our principal does a good job,” said PTA co-chairwoman Elexis Pujolos, mother of kindergartner Daeja, 4, and first-grader AJ, 6. “A test could not possibly measure what she is able to.”

October 18, 2013

Charter infringes on human rights: commission

By MARIAN SCOTT | Published October 18, 2013 by The Gazette

MONTREAL — The Parti Québécois government’s Charter of Quebec Values is a clear infringement of human rights that would not stand up to a court challenge, the province’s human rights commission says.

In a scathing 27-page critique released Thursday, the rights commission calls the proposed values charter a violation of both “the spirit and the letter” of the province’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The government’s proposal to bar public-sector workers from wearing religious symbols like the hijab, kippah or turban would be overturned by the courts, the commission predicted.

“It’s impossible that it would stand up,” Jacques Frémont, chairman of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, said in an interview.

“The courts would rip it to shreds.”

Frémont said the proposed values charter is the “most radical” change that’s ever been proposed to Quebec’s charter of rights, which was passed unanimously by the National Assembly in 1975.

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October 16, 2013

Letter: The values charter would be unhealthy

Published October 15, 2013 by The Gazette

The proposal by the Parti Québécois for a Charter of Quebec Values raises key questions about the direction of our society. We write here as mental-health practitioners, researchers and educators directly involved in issues of cultural diversity in mental health and health-care services.

Although respect for human rights is the most basic reason for rejecting the Charter of Quebec Values, we are deeply concerned about its negative effects on mental health, well-being and social integration. We believe the proposals are profoundly misguided for many reasons.

Neutrality as a veil for discrimination: Under the banner of secularism and neutrality, the proposed Charter launches an attack on minorities and on the very idea of diversity in society. Neutrality — in the sense of equity, fairness, openness and even-handed recognition — does not depend on ignoring difference or insisting that individuals hide their identities. On the contrary, it means recognizing people for who they are and ensuring that they have the same opportunities as others regardless of their identity.

Tolerance, mutual understanding and respect come from dialogue with others. Public displays of religious affiliation are affirmations of personal and communal identities and values from which we all can learn. Excluding personal expressions of culture, religion and spirituality by employees working in public institutions will prevent people from learning about each other and will lead to more stereotyping, discrimination and social exclusion. The charter will thus undermine efforts to build a tolerant and inclusive society, and will increase ethnic conflict both at home and abroad. It is a major step backward in the effort to build a pluralistic society committed to human rights.

The politics of division: making a religion of secularism: The thinking behind the charter is a throwback to an earlier time when racism, anti-semitism and discrimination against minorities were features of everyday life in Quebec — as they also were elsewhere in Canada. Both anglophone and francophone institutions participated in this intolerance. The Jewish General Hospital was built in the 1930s because of systematic discrimination at major academic and health-care institutions in Montreal.

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October 15, 2013

Safe schools would keep young families in Montreal: Bergeron

By Lynn Moore | Published October 14, 2013 by THE GAZETTE

The offer of safe neighbourhood schools would help keep young families in Montreal, says Richard Bergeron, who wants the city’s mayor to have direct contact with school boards and Quebec’s education minister.

While too many inner-city schools were being sold to condo developers, new schools were popping up in suburbia, the Projet Montréal mayoral candidate said Monday.

“There has been a lack of leadership from the mayor of Montreal” who seemed indifferent to the outward flow of families, Bergeron said.

He and Projet Montréal candidates in the Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve area pointed to three schools along a kilometre-long stretch of Adam St. All three are infested with mould.

École Baril is soon to be demolished while “parents are being kept in the dark” about the fate of École Hochelaga and École Saint-Nom-de-Jésus.

Projet Montréal wants that stretch of Adam and surrounding streets to be reconfigured for the safety of students, pedestrians and cyclists.

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October 14, 2013

Setting the Record Straight About the Complaint Against the MTA at the Labour Relations Commission

By Robert Green

For those that were hoping that the election of Peter Sutherland as MTA President would lead to a union with less acrimonious meetings and a more open democratic culture where everyone’s views are respected, the first meeting of the MTA reps assembly put such hopes to rest. Rather than setting a new tone of mutual respect, Sutherland chose to use the first meeting for a personal attack on an individual member known for her dissenting views within the union.

The attack came under a vaguely titled agenda item, “legal update”. It involved a complaint that had been filed against the MTA at the Labour Relations Commission alleging that the MTA had violated section 47.2 of the Labour Code which states that “A certified association shall not act in bad faith or in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner or show serious negligence in respect of employees comprised in a bargaining unit represented by it”. The item was ostensibly to report on the fact that the member’s complaint against the MTA had been unsuccessful.

Although reporting such an event to the members is entirely appropriate, it should be noted that the MTA leadership has a history of reporting events involving the Labour Relations Commission only when it suites their political interests. Rulings against the MTA, or members being paid-off in out-of-court settlements are often not reported to the membership.

It should also be noted that the member in question, Cecile Doucet-Greene, was identified by Sutherland in his presentation of the matter and had been provided no prior notice whatsoever that her case would be the subject of discussion. Given that the reps assembly agenda is set several days in advance, Sutherland and the other members of the executive had all the time in the world to notify Ms Doucet-Greene of the fact that her case would be discussed. Had this simply been about informing the members in good faith, such notice would have been provided. The fact that it wasn’t illustrates that this was an ambush, made in bad faith to score cheap political points.

Thus when Sutherland presented the complaint as having no merit and frivolously wasting the money the union had to spend to defend itself, Ms Doucet-Greene lacked the documentation she would have liked to distribute in her defence. I then offered to publish this documentation on this blog so that the members could read the complaint and the ruling for themselves.

Ms Doucet-Greene’s complaint was centred on the process by which a controversial new disciplinary measure, forced transfer, had been added to the MTA’s local collective agreement with the school board. In the document Ms Doucet-Greene submitted to the Labour Relations Commission she summarizes her complaint as follows:

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October 10, 2013

From Residential Schools to the First Nations Education Act, colonialism continues

By Âpihtawikosisân | Published October 8, 2013 by

Education is widely seen as a key component to future success not only for the individual children who receive that education, but also for the society to which they belong, as a whole. We use graduation rates and post-secondary degree attainment numbers to help determine the efficacy and accessibility of a system of education. More than simply informing us of how many individuals are meeting educational standards, these numbers give us fundamental information about the overall health of a society.

There is no Aboriginal system of education in Canada. This fact is sometimes obscured by misunderstandings of reserve or band schools, or even charter schools that may provide “indigenous content.” Nonetheless, the system of education that exists in Canada is wholly Canadian, both legislatively and in terms of provision.

Another important fact is that the Canadian system of education is failing indigenous peoples. This is not a matter of debate. Regardless of personal opinions, bigotry and stereotypes, the grim statistics paint a very clear picture. When examining access, graduation rates and post-secondary degree attainment in other countries, we do not blame individuals for egregiously poor outcomes. We do not do this, because education is a social undertaking that transcends individuals and even minority groups. It requires mobilisation of all levels of government, and it impacts every single person living within the boundaries of that system of education.

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October 8, 2013

Diane Ravitch: Charter Schools Are a Colossal Mistake. Here’s Why

The campaign to “reform” schools by giving public money to private corporations is a distraction from our system’s real problems: poverty and racial segregation.

By Dianne Ravitch | Published October 2, 2013 by Alternet

Los Angeles has more charter schools than any other school district in the nation, and it’s a very bad idea.

Billionaires like privately managed schools. Parents are lured with glittering promises of getting their kids a sure ticket to college. Politicians want to appear to be champions of “school reform” with charters.

But charters will not end the poverty at the root of low academic performance or transform our nation’s schools into a high-performing system. The world’s top-performing systems – Finland and Korea, for example – do not have charter schools. They have strong public school programs with well-prepared, experienced teachers and administrators. Charters and that other faux reform, vouchers, transform schooling into a consumer good, in which choice is the highest value.

The original purpose of charters, when they first opened in 1990 (and when I was a charter proponent), was to collaborate with public schools, not to compete with them or undermine them. They were supposed to recruit the weakest students, the dropouts, and identify methods to help public schools do a better job with those who had lost interest in schooling. This should be their goal now as well.

Instead, the charter industry is aggressive and entrepreneurial. Charters want high test scores, so many purposely enroll minimal numbers of English-language learners and students with disabilities. Some push out students who threaten their test averages. Last year, the federal General Accountability Office issued a report chastising charters for avoiding students with disabilities, and the ACLU is suing charters in New Orleans for that reason.

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October 5, 2013

The Central Issue at the Heart of America’s Growing Education Gap

It’s time for some new thinking about how to address the persistent inequalities that plague our education system.

By Paul L. Thomas, Ed.D. | Published Oct. 3, 2013 by Alternet

As the evidence mounts discrediting much of the movement for “education reform” (including the proliferation of charter schools), and as more of the public discourse recognizes the power of that evidence, we may at last be poised for a thorough rethinking education reform – and a detailed consideration of what the plausible alternatives to our current efforts might be.

Broadly, new ways of thinking about public education must occur before the U.S. can fulfill its obligation to the promise of universal public schools. We must first understand that:

  1. We have failed public education; public education has not failed us.
  2. Education has never, cannot, and will never be a singular or primary mechanism for driving large social change.
  3. And, thus, public education holds up a mirror to the social dynamics defining the U.S. In other words, achievement gaps in our schools are metrics reflecting the equity and opportunity gaps that exist in society.

One aspect of these new ways of thinking about public education that is rarely discussed is that seeking laudable goals (such as closing the achievement gap in schools and the income and upward mobility gaps in society) requires that we address both privilege and poverty—the top and the bottom. Historically and currently, our gaze remains almost exclusively on the bottom.

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October 4, 2013

Essential service or needless bureaucracy?

A retired teacher and the chairperson of the Lester B. Pearson School Board were asked: What exactly do school boards do?

By Catherine Solyom |  Published October 2, 2013 by The Montreal Gazette

MONTREAL – If Pauline Marois is truly considering abolishing school boards in Quebec — including the nine English ones — she can count on some unlikely allies from within the English-language school ranks.

While school boards on the island of Montreal are not affected by the PQ’s demand to reimburse taxpayers of $100 million, they are as much a target of its plan to re-examine the way schools are administered and financed as all the other boards in the province. Quebec’s total budget for school boards is about $10 billion.

As Education Minister Marie Malavoy put it on Tuesday:

“We have to face the facts — the system of financing school boards has reached the end of its useful life … in the short to medium term, we have to propose a new model that is fair and equitable, with regards to the services given to students as well as for all Quebec citizens.”

Asked whether that could mean abolishing the school boards, she said “everything’s on the table.”

Suanne Stein Day — the chairperson of the Lester B. Pearson School Board in Montreal, who also sits on the board of directors of the Quebec English School Boards Association — says abolishing the school boards would be a big mistake, and students would suffer.

Retired teacher Chris Eustace, on the other hand, who taught in several schools run by the LBPSB and now has grandchildren at its schools, says good riddance to the school boards.

Both were asked: What exactly do school boards do?

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October 3, 2013

Spiridigliozzi, others fined by AMF

Published Octobre 2, 2013 by The Montreal Gazette


A former chairperson of the English Montreal School Board has been fined $28,000 for illegal practices as a damage insurance broker.

Dominic Spiridigliozzi, his colleague Peter Filato and his company, Courtier d’assurance-crédit Berman-Cast Inc., pleaded guilty to 21 charges related to operating without a proper permit for a total of $63,000 in fines.

Spiridigliozzi, currently the EMSB commissioner for St. Leonard, was elected chairperson of the board in 2003.

After the charges against him were made in July 2012, at least one commissioner called on him to resign, saying it wasn’t appropriate behavior for a commissioner. Already on Wednesday, there were grumblings in the community about whether Spiridigliozzi should remain in office.

“There might be a moral obligation for him to resign,” said one person close to the scene. “Is he a role model for children?”

In 2005, Spiridigliozzi was criticized by union representatives for having four family members and his karate coach working for the EMSB while he was still chair.

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October 2, 2013

Marois says abolishing school boards ‘on the table’, association president says

By Kevin Dougherty | Published October 1, 2013 by The Gazette
QUEBE – The president of Quebec’s French school boards’ association said Tuesday night the Marois government is prepared to abolish the boards.Josée Bouchard, president of the Fédération des commission scolaires du Québec, told reporters after a 90-minute meeting between the Parti Québécois government and the boards that she asked Premier Pauline Marois point blank whether she would consider eliminating the boards.

“Everything is on the table,” was the premier’s laconic reply.

But Suanne Stein Day, chairman of the Lester B. Pearson School Board, on Montreal’s West Island, discounted the premier’s threat, noting that the existence of Quebec’s English boards, at least, is guaranteed in the Canadian constitution.

“I do think though it’s not quite fair to leave that threat on the table,” Stein Day said. “We have a constitutional right to exist.”

Marois told the school board representatives she wants them to give back $100 million of the close to $200 million in added schools taxes this year, after her government reduced it’s contribution to the boards by $200 million.

The cuts would come in two $50-million instalments in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

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