Archive for December, 2013

December 22, 2013

All we want for Christmas in our schools

By: | Published by The Toronto Star


There are always new methodologies — year after year, century after century- especially now, when private businesses and consultants have learned to siphon off public money in the public system by promising techniques to fix those worrisome test results. The latest is “flipping the classroom.” A basic lesson is fed to students online at home the night before. Next day in school, the “teacher” shuffles around adjusting misunderstandings kid by kid, like a tech. There’s no reason it couldn’t be done online too, or by a robot. Notice what’s missing: the connection or relationship that motivates learning.

What’s deceptive is that experts and consultants in education are adroit at denying exactly what they’re doing: undermining and devaluing teachers. “We aren’t undermining teachers,” they say. “We’re helping them.” It’s like when you hear: This isn’t about money, or: This isn’t about sex. That’s when it is. There were a raft of these self-promoters on TVO’s The Agenda recently, peddling their miracle cures while devoutly affirming their respect for teachers.

The only way to respect teachers — or anyone — is to let them do what they know and find their way. There’s no easy road to curriculum or method; it’s a mutual classroom process of figuring out what you’re teaching regardless of the course title, a gradual discovery of what you’re there to explore and the best route to it. Content and method are inseparable. If that sounds obscure, I’d bet teachers understand it. Nor is there one right approach. That’s the hard fact the consultants and method hustlers try frantically to conceal. Either you respect teachers in this way or you don’t. In Finland they do and they get the highest scores on international tests though they do no general testing themselves.

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December 19, 2013

Teacher stress is killing my profession

By Robert Smol | Published Sep 4, 2009 by CBC News

The reality of every teacher trying to make even a modest go at this profession is a life of almost constant stress, overwork and, at times, emotional exhaustion.

Anyone who enters the teaching profession thinking otherwise is in for a rude awakening.

So why am I griping? I chose this profession and I enjoy what I do.

Well, it is because a storm of new and increasingly unrealistic demands, coupled with a noticeable decline in support from many principals and parents, is contributing to a growing incidence of illness among teachers, including mental illness due to work-related stress.

I should note that teaching has not broken me. But it has broken the sanity and soul of some very motivated teachers I know.

“I think that the whole idea of teaching has changed in the last 15 to 20 years,” says Emily Noble, past-president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.

“People are dealing with more high-need students, with more multicultural issues and with no-fail policies.

“Teachers want to make a difference, but the supports are just not there.”

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December 18, 2013

Ontario private schools handed out 1,500 fraudulent diplomas in one year, auditor says

By Karen Howlett | Published Dec. 10 2013 by The Globe & Mail


The ministry has a rigorous verification process in place for public schools, the auditor says. It hands out diplomas, signed by the Education Minister, only after ensuring that a student has successfully completed all courses necessary for graduation. In the private sector, by contrast, the ministry is relying on the “good faith” of school administrators, the auditor says.

As of this June, the ministry had not received information from one quarter of private schools for the 2011/12 academic year.

The auditor found significant concerns at 100 schools, raising questions about whether the students actually earned the credits towards their Grade 12 graduation diploma.

The ministry inspects the standard of instruction at the 408 private schools that offer credits toward a high school diploma. It conducts an inspection of each school every two years and has identified significant concerns identified in 25 per cent of these schools that offer the Grade 12 diploma.

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December 15, 2013

QPAT Contract Negotiations 2015: An Alternative Survey

By Robert Green

Members of the local unions belonging to the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT) should have recently received an email with a survey from QPAT about the upcoming round of negotiations. While it is commendable that QPAT is attempting to gauge the willingness of its membership to mobilize, the scope of this survey is extremely limited. It does not address any of the serious problems with the last two rounds of negotiations nor does it offer any real options beyond the status quo …a status quo where the salaries of Quebec teachers are amongst the lowest in Canada and where working conditions are so bad that burn-out rates are soaring and teaching in Quebec is increasingly being referred to as a “precarious profession”.

To address the limited scope of QPAT’s survey, here is an alternative survey that will allow members of QPAT affiliated unions to express themselves on important matters regarding the upcoming negotiations not addressed by QPAT’s survey.

Question 1 – Is it important for QPAT to educate its members on an ongoing basis about the issues that affect them?

Background: If QPAT wants us to believe it is serious about mobilizing its members for real change it might consider using the considerable resources at its disposal to keep its members informed about the issues affecting them and the importance of syndical activism. Other teachers federations in Quebec such as The Federation autonomme de l’enseignment (FAE) do a far better job of using their website and newsletter to do just that. In at least one case, Bill 88 (the Bill that mandated schools and school boards to sign performance contracts), QPAT used its newsletter liaison to keep its members uninformed by downplaying the bill’s significance for teachers. QPAT’s recent convention was also an opportunity missed. While several workshops were offered on how to cope with stress, not a single workshop was offered on the conditions causing teacher stress and how we can collectively address these.

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December 14, 2013

Video: What Does the PISA Report Tell Us About U.S. Education?

Some perspective on the PISA rankings from the American Federation of Teachers:


December 12, 2013

Décrochage scolaire: une île, deux mondes

By Gabrielle Duchaine | Published Dec 12, 2013 by La Presse

Tous égaux, les élèves québécois? Pas du tout. De récentes données sur le décrochage scolaire et le taux d’obtention de diplômes consultées par La Presse révèlent un véritable fossé entre certaines régions, alors qu’une profonde faille divise l’île de Montréal en deux univers à des années-lumière l’un de l’autre.

Taux de sorties dans diplôme (%)Les adolescents qui vont à l’école à l’est du boulevard Décarie ont jusqu’à deux fois moins de chances de terminer leur secondaire avec un diplôme en poche que ceux qui vivent dans l’ouest de Montréal.

Il existe bien deux solitudes dans la métropole. Une analyse réalisée par le professeur Michel Perron, titulaire de la Chaire de recherche sur les conditions de vie, la santé et les aspirations des jeunes de l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, dévoile une véritable cassure séparant les écoles des deux moitiés de l’île.

«On voit très bien le clivage», note le chercheur. À l’ouest, entre Senneville et LaSalle, 15 arrondissements sur 17 affichent un taux de décrochage de moins de 15%, loin sous la moyenne québécoise. À l’est, de Côte-des-Neiges à Pointe-aux-Trembles, seul un arrondissement affiche un score aussi enviable. Les 14 autres ont des taux de sortie sans diplôme des jeunes au secondaire qui oscillent entre 15% et plus de 25%.

Pourquoi? Les pistes sont nombreuses.

D’abord, croient les experts, il y a le facteur pauvreté. «C’est un des facteurs de risque les plus importants, note Andrée Mayer-Périard, directrice générale de Réseau réussite Montréal. On retrouve dans l’est de l’île des quartiers parmi les plus défavorisés.»

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December 11, 2013

The Children Left Behind

BY Debbie NathanPublished October 28, 2013 by In These Times


But, as the experiences of Leo, Sonia and Yanderier attest, No Child Left Behind has not helped. Instead, it has done inestimable damage to countless young people nationwide, a disproportionate number of whom are Latino. As a result of testing every child, many low scorers have been kicked out of school.

In New York City, from 2001 to 2004, thousands of struggling students were counseled to leave high school and enroll in adult education and GED classes, so they would not have to take exams whose pass-fail rates figured in the way the New York City educational system was evaluated by the federal government. In Birmingham, Ala., in 2002, school officials admitted they had kicked out 522 students and told them to get GEDs—again, to raise Birmingham’s high-stakes test scores. In Orlando, Fla., over two years, one high school “transferred” 440 academically weak students out of school and into GED programs—and almost all of them simply dropped out. Then there was Houston, where assistant principals and deans worked as “bouncers,” collaring weak students in the halls and ordering them to the office. There, they were kicked out of school and told to find alternative education. The school district did not follow up to see if they’d done so.

In city after city, most of the adversely affected were students of color.

As word spread about NCLB-related misconduct, these young people came to be known as victims of “push-out,” a policy that education-rights activists vigorously denounce. In 27 states, including Texas, students have the right to remain in public school until they turn 21, and banishing them to GED programs is illegal.

Even so, the practice has continued. In El Paso, as recently as three years ago, hundreds of other Latino young people were illegally diverted to GED programs. The crime has been covered by Texas and national media, but reporting has concentrated on the law-breakers, with little attention paid to the damage done to the students who had been pushed out. That’s why I went looking for Yanderier, Sonia and Leo.

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December 7, 2013

Introducing The Canada Badass Teachers Association: As Corporate Education Reform Goes International, So Does the Movement of Badass Teachers Opposing It

An abridged version of this article focusing exclusively on Teach for Canada was published in The Two Row Times

By Robert Green

Following the founding of the Bad-Ass Teachers (BATs) association last spring I wrote an article explaining why America’s teachers are going badass and why Canada’s need to consider doing the same. The point of this article was to alert Canadian teachers and the public-at-large to the fact that the same corporate education reform agenda that has been so disastrous for the US education system can increasingly be seen to be at work in education policies across Canada.

7065_672210712817216_489712935_nSo it was a pleasure last weekend to receive an invitation to the Canada Bad-Ass Teachers association (CanBATs) Facebook Group.

Interestingly this group was founded by the same teachers that founded the American BATs group.

So why would a group of American teachers want to create a Badass Teachers Association for Canadian teachers? BATs founder Dr. Mark Naisson explained the initiative as follows:

Corporate education reform is a global movement and the resistance to it must be global. The toxic array of policies we have been deluged with in the United States- increased testing in all subjects and all grades; attacks on teachers unions; rating of teachers based on student test scores; preference to non unionized charter schools over regular public schools; substitution of poorly trained teacher temps from elite colleges for veteran teachers- is spreading to every portion of the English speaking world, along with the corporate profiteering that always accompanies these policies. Every form of resistance to these policies; every hard won victory for teaching and learning; encourages more resistance. Our movement must be worldwide to be effective. Hence the Badass Teachers Association, which has organizations in all 50 states in the US, is proud to form a Canadian wing.

The first few articles posted in the CanBATs group speak to the increasingly international reach of the corporate education reform described by Naisson.

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December 6, 2013

Marie Malavoy songe à un sommet consacré aux enseignants

By Annie Mathieu | Published December 5, 2013 by Le Soleil

(Québec) Marie Malavoy souhaite redonner au métier d’enseignant ses lettres de noblesse. Parmi les options envisagées pour y parvenir, la ministre de l’Éducation songe à l’idée d’organiser un sommet consacré à la profession qui, selon elle, n’est pas suffisamment valorisée dans la province.

D’entrée de jeu, Mme Malavoy compare la situation des profs au Québec à ceux de la Finlande qui ont «vraiment une très belle reconnaissance sociale». «Chez nous, force est de constater que c’est un métier qui, souvent, n’est pas suffisamment reconnu», a déploré la ministre lors d’une entrevue accordée au Soleil en marge du lancement d’un livre à la mémoire d’Hélène Pedneault.

Elle dit avoir «depuis déjà un moment» mis sur pied un chantier sur la question afin de trouver des avenues pour mieux valoriser la profession enseignante. Plusieurs idées sont sur la table, dont celle de la tenue d’un sommet.

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December 5, 2013

What You Need to Know About the International Test Scores

By Diane Ravitch | Published Dec 3 2013 by The Huffington Post


In my recent book, Reign of Error, I quote extensively from a brilliant article by Keith Baker, called “Are International Tests Worth Anything?,” which was published by Phi Delta Kappan in October 2007. Baker, who worked for many years as a researcher at the U.S. Department of Education, had the ingenious idea to investigate what happened to the 12 nations that took the First International Mathematics test in 1964. He looked at the per capita gross domestic product of those nations and found that “the higher a nation’s test score 40 years ago, the worse its economic performance on this measure of national wealth-the opposite of what the Chicken Littles raising the alarm over the poor test scores of U.S. children claimed would happen.” He found no relationship between a nation’s economic productivity and its test scores. Nor did the test scores bear any relationship to quality of life or democratic institutions. And when it came to creativity, the U.S. “clobbered the world,” with more patents per million people than any other nation.

Baker wrote that a certain level of educational achievement may be “a platform for launching national success, but once that platform is reached, other factors become more important than further gains in test scores. Indeed, once the platform is reached, it may be bad policy to pursue further gains in test scores because focusing on the scores diverts attention, effort, and resources away from other factors that are more important determinants of national success.” What has mattered most for the economic, cultural, and technological success of the U.S., he says, is a certain “spirit,” which he defines as “ambition, inquisitiveness, independence, and perhaps most important, the absence of a fixation on testing and test scores.”

Baker’s conclusion was that “standings in the league tables of international tests are worthless.”

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December 4, 2013

Canadian students front-runners in study of worldwide math skills; Quebec students rank highest

By Andrea Hill | Published Dec 3 2013 by The Montreal Gazette


Math skills – the main focus of the 2012 PISA survey – were broken down by province, with Quebec students found to be outperforming their peers as they had three years prior.

Quebec youth scored well above the Canadian average in math skills, while students in the Maritimes, Saskatchewan and Manitoba saw results lower than the national average. Scores from Prince Edward Island fell below the average for OECD countries.

Quebec was one of only two provinces that did not see a decline in math skills since the last PISA survey. The other was Saskatchewan.

While Johnson acknowledged Canada is not alone in seeing a downward trend in math skills — most OECD countries are witnessing the same thing — he said there is a need for Canada to “take action” to prevent further slipping.

Johnson suggested that provinces look to Quebec for clues on how to improve their own education systems, and said Quebec’s push to provide specialized training for math teachers may be part of the solution.

“One of the best places to spend your money is on teaching quality,” he said. “We need more investment on teachers with more specialized training and expertise in teaching math.”

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