Posts tagged ‘Curriculum’

June 4, 2016

CBC on Quebec’s Controversial New History Reform

An interview and an article from June 3rd:

https://images.thetrumpet.com/53875b37!h.300,id.10734,m.fill,w.540The Interview:
Robert Green speaks with CBC’s Sue Smith about the Couillard government backtracking on its commitment to postpone the implementation of its controversial reform of the province’s History curriculum. Stream the interview below or click here to download the mp3.

The Article:

Read Ben Shiller’s excellent article: English school boards to use controversial history course next year.

June 3, 2016

Quebec’s non-inclusive new history curriculum is a missed opportunity

By Robert Green | Published by Montreal Gazette June 1, 2016

Earlier this year, Quebecers learned of a reform to the province’s history curriculum that provoked a great deal of concern. Not only was the role of Quebec’s anglophone community reduced to that of a comic book villain intent on impeding progress, indeed the contributions of all of Quebec’s minority groups seemed to be systematically excluded. There was nothing about the anglophones who participated in the 1837 rebellions or organized some of Quebec’s first labour strikes; nothing about the struggles against discrimination faced by Jewish and Italian immigrants; nothing about the contributions of more recent immigrants, like the Vietnamese or Haitian communities.

However, perhaps the most significant omission had to dhttps://images.thetrumpet.com/53875b37!h.300,id.10734,m.fill,w.540o with the First Nations. This reform was being developed at the very moment the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made its recommendations. Specifically the TRC recommended that all levels of government “Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.” Quebec had a real opportunity to be the first province to implement the recommendation. Instead, by ignoring the TRC and refusing to engage in any meaningful consultation with First Nations communities, Quebec instead chose to reinforce the colonial pattern of relations that has existed for hundreds of years.

read more »

March 10, 2015

Quebec Education Minister resigns in disgrace

By Robert Green | Published February 26, 2014 by Ricochet.media

Comedy of errors as government seeks to enforce austerity on education

Quebec Minister of Education Yves Bolduc resigned today, after a short tenure marked by one frighteningly obtuse statement after another.

First he claimed that “no child will die” from funding cuts to school libraries. Next he proposed to remove limits on class size in contract negotiations with the province’s teachers, claiming there is “no evidence” that such limits help improve student achievement. Then, in response to the release of an extensive study commissioned by his own ministry demonstrating the failure of the pedagogical reform first implemented back in 2000, he flat out denied the study’s results, claiming that it was “too early” to judge.

The most recent outrage came from Bolduc’s statement that it was okay for schools to strip-search students, provided it was done “respectfully.”

To characterize Bolduc as an incompetent clown in a comedy of errors is a mistake. He is no fool and knows exactly what he is doing.

If it seems he doesn’t care about the consequences of his policy proposals for public education, it’s because he doesn’t.

An education minister with no vision

In Margaret Thatcher’s England, Bolduc would have been referred to as a “dry.” The “wets” were those in Thatcher’s government ridiculed by the more hard-line conservatives for wetting their pants at the thought of implementing the various Thatcherite policies that would be so harmful to Britain’s working class. The “dries” were those unfazed at the thought of harming society’s most vulnerable.

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February 17, 2015

Quebec’s ongoing education-policy disaster

By Robert Green | Published February 16, 2015 by The Montreal Gazette

Earlier this month, an extensive study commissioned by Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport confirmed what Quebec’s teachers have known for over a decade: The famous “pedagogical reform” that was supposed to revolutionize the way students are taught in Quebec is a failure.

The study, which followed nearly 4,000 students, compared two cohorts of post-reform students with one that entered high school in 2004 just before the reform was implemented.

The results paint a portrait of an ongoing policy disaster.

Despite having added 50 hours of instruction in Mathematics and 150 hours of first-language instruction, results in both core subjects are significantly down.

Pascal / Montreal GazetteFeb. 7, 2015

Pascal / Montreal Gazette Feb. 7, 2015

Despite the fact that the reform was intended to raise the dismally low graduation rates of boys and at-risk students, these rates have instead seen significant declines for both groups.

Perhaps most worrisome for Quebec’s anglophone community is the fact that students in Quebec’s English school system were also identified by the study as one of the groups that saw a significant decline in graduation rates.

In other words, the millions of dollars spent developing and implementing this reform have been an utter waste of public funds.

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February 7, 2015

L’échec transversal

By Michèle Ouimet | Published Feb 6, 2015 by La Presse

La réforme au secondaire est un échec. Ce n’est pas un journaliste qui le dit ni un enseignant frustré ou un syndicat militant qui tape sur le clou de la réforme, mais une équipe de chercheurs qui a déposé un rapport étoffé de 113 pages.

Le mot échec n’apparaît pas dans le rapport et le directeur de la recherche, Simon Larose, ne l’a pas prononcé quand je lui ai parlé, mais le constat est là, incontournable, gros comme un éléphant dans un magasin de porcelaine.

L’étude est sérieuse, elle n’a pas été griffonnée sur le bord d’une table. Les six chercheurs de l’Université Laval ont suivi 3724 jeunes et 3913 parents de 2007 à 2013. Ils ont étudié trois cohortes: la première a échappé au vortex de la réforme et a commencé son secondaire en 2004; les deux autres étaient composées d’enfants de la réforme qui ont commencé leur secondaire en 2006 et 2007. Les chercheurs ont comparé les cohortes à l’aide de questionnaires, de tests et d’examens. Du sérieux.

Read more: http://www.lapresse.ca/debats/chroniques/michele-ouimet/201502/06/01-4841783-lechec-transversal.php

February 5, 2015

Une étude révèle que le renouveau pédagogique a causé du tort

By DAPHNÉE DION-VIENS | Published Feb 4, 2015

excerpt: 

Faits saillants de l’évaluation de la réforme au secondaire

  • Baisse du taux de diplomation au secondaire chez les garçons, les élèves à risque et les élèves anglophones
  • Légère baisse des résultats à l’épreuve d’écriture en cinquième secondaire, particulièrement en orthographe
  • Baisse des résultats en mathématiques chez les élèves à risque et ceux venant de milieux défavorisés
  • Vision plus négative de l’école selon les élèves de la réforme et les parents interrogés

Read more: http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2015/02/04/une-etude-revele-que-le-renouveau-pedagogique-a-cause-du-tort

June 4, 2014

Life is more than Math: Don’t narrow our public education curriculum

By  Ben Sichel | Published May 30th, 2014 by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

What is our public education system for? To judge by much of the talk coming from politicians and business leaders, education is purely a matter of preparing students to be workers in a vaguely defined “new economy.”

Certainly, students need to be able to survive economically in the world. But public education is about much more than narrow job-skills training: it’s about teaching our kids how to create and sustain a healthy, engaged society.

This isn’t always reflected in the way we prioritize certain subjects in school.

Take the example of math. A staple of the curriculum since the dawn of schooling, it’s often perceived as the most serious and rigorous of subjects. Why? Because it’s seen as the key to gainful employment, especially in higher-paid fields. Love it or hate it, many students are ingrained from a young age with the idea that their financial future depends on their ability to solve quadratic equations or prove the Pythagorean theorem.

I have nothing against math; in fact, it was one of my majors. But there are some problems here. One is that only a small percentage of jobs actually use anything beyond junior high math – about a fifth, according to a recent Northeastern University study.

Furthermore, jobs aside, is the material learned in a high school math class necessarily that much more important in life than, say, learning about one’s health, macroeconomics, a second language, or Canada’s treaty obligations with First Nations?

These are not just philosophical questions. In the U.S., a decade of education policies focusing on “career and college-readiness” – Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, and Obama’s Race to the Top and more recent Common Core State Standards – have resulted in an obsessive overemphasis on standardized test scores and narrowing of the curriculum.

As teachers spend an inordinate amount of time teaching to the test, subject matter seen as extraneous, i.e. anything not easily testable or immediately relatable to a job, is pushed to the margins.

Read more: http://behindthenumbers.ca/2014/05/30/lifeismorethanmath

April 12, 2014

Teaching the History of Quebec to English-speaking Children: A Teacher’s Journey

The following article was written by Perspectives II High School teacher John Commins following his participation in the Comité Elargi (2003-2007) that was responsible for vetting the most recent changes to Quebec’s History curriculum.

Pour lire la version originale écrite en français, cliquez ici.

First thanks for this opportunity and the thematic of the ENJEUX. My assumption is that the vast majority of you who will read this article are members of the French origin majority community, so I will be writing to you. I will try to describe what its like to teach history to English speaking kids in Quebec specifically and broadly what it is like being an English speaker who enjoys teaching Quebec history. Be aware that this work is my own; it comes from my personal journey and perspective. Keep reading and I guarantee this article will have a happy ending.

First lets talk about language, yes we have to this is Quebec! In Quebec I am referred to as an Anglophone. I hope that I am among the last generation that will be referred to as Anglophone. When English speakers are together they rarely if ever identify themselves as Anglophone, it is usually when the interlocutory is part of the French origin majority community that that designation is made. It is more striking amongst allophones, “ I am a what….. an allophone?”

diversityWhen identity is searched for amongst English speakers it’s usually ethnic. Irish, Greek, Italian, Jewish, Portuguese, sometimes Montrealer, Quebecer or Canadian and very rarely….English. This is the nature of the English speaking community in 2012. The English speaking community of Montreal is as diverse as any in urban Canada. When I am at my school the staffroom is comprised of teachers of Greek, Italian, German, Eastern European, Sri Lankan and Irish backgrounds, except for our Principal, Jacques Monfette, he is from Shawinigan and is French origin.

The turn to linguistic designations to describe what I would argue are concerns that are ethnic in nature, provides us with non-racial language that is becoming less and less productive. Lets be honest using linguistic terms to discuss ethnicity has become a way to avoid talking about ethnicity, and specifically the French origin community’s ethnic insecurities. After all at the end of the day I am also a francophone, and proud of it. I am also hoping the children of Law 101, after completing twelve years of scholarity in French would be considered francophone, if not what do these linguistic designations mean, do they only change with assimilation? If that is the case why won’t people say it?

When the PQ was elected in 1976, it was a necessary electro-shock for the English speaking community, including my 15-year-old self. It was a rupture with the past that would require English speakers to start recognizing that not speaking French was not only counter productive, but bordering on insulting. To be a full partner in the Quebec state, speaking French was now key, to be a full citizen of the Quebec state speaking French was necessary. The idea of what language you spoke at home was not, that’s been a more recent and troubling change amongst a small fringe in the nationalist community. Along with the new reference to Quebec’s “ historic” English speaking community, which is obviously an attempt to marginalize the English speaking community. With 94% of Quebecers now able to speak French, French is our common language.

There is an English speaking community in Quebec it has existed here for 250 years, it is a community that will continue to exist, a community tied to institutions like Concordia, and to neighborhoods like N.D.G.. It has always has been a community in transition and I believe a community that can make a positive contribution to this state, culturally, socially, politically, especially our kids. Now who am I?

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September 19, 2013

Diane Ravitch: School privatization is a hoax, “reformers” aim to destroy public schools

By Dianne Ravitch | Published Sep 15, 2013 by Salon.com

Excerpt:

If the American public understood that reformers want to privatize their public schools and divert their taxes to pay profits to investors, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If parents understood that the reformers want to close down their community schools and require them to go shopping for schools, some far from home, that may or may not accept their children, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If the American public understood that the very concept of education was being disfigured into a mechanism to apply standardized testing and sort their children into data points on a normal curve, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform.

If the American public understood that their children’s teachers will be judged by the same test scores that label their children as worthy or unworthy, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If the American public knew how inaccurate and unreliable these methods are, both for children and for teachers, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. And that is why the reform message must be rebranded to make it palatable to the public.

The leaders of the privatization movement call themselves reformers, but their premises are strikingly different from those of reformers in the past. In earlier eras, reformers wanted such things as a better curriculum, better-prepared teachers, better funding, more equitable funding, smaller classes, and desegregation, which they believed would lead to better public schools. By contrast, today’s reformers insist that public education is a failed enterprise and that all these strategies have been tried and failed.

They assert that the best way to save education is to hand it over to private management and let the market sort out the winners and the losers. They wish to substitute private choices for the public’s responsibility to provide good schools for all children. They lack any understanding of the crucial role of public schools in a democracy.

Read more: http://www.salon.com/2013/09/15/diane_ravitch_school_privatization_is_a_hoax_reformers_aim_to_destroy_public_schools/

September 17, 2013

Pauline Marois is ignoring lessons she herself wanted taught

By Robert Green | Published September 16 by The Montreal Gazette

Premier Pauline Marois needs to go back to high school. If she did she would be exposed to a curriculum that was introduced in 1997 by the Parti Québécois’s minister of education at the time: an ambitious up-and-comer by the name of Pauline Marois.

Here are a few samples of what Mme. Marois would learn from her own curriculum document, the Quebec Education Program:

student-MaroisThe program identifies several “broad areas of learning” that are to be integrated into the teaching of all subjects. In its description of one such the broad area of learning, Citizenship and Community Life, the education plan refers to schools as places that “bring together students of diverse social and cultural origins, with a variety of traditions, beliefs, values and ideologies.” It presents such diversity as an opportunity for teachers, stating: “This makes the school an ideal place for learning to respect others and accept their differences, to be receptive to pluralism, to maintain egalitarian relationships with others and to reject all forms of exclusion.” The educational aim for this area of learning includes developing “an attitude of openness to the world and respect for diversity.”

The Ethics and Religious Culture program also has some important lessons for Mme. Marois. This program has two objectives. The first is the “recognition of others,” which is “linked to the principle that all people possess equal value and dignity.” Because of “the importance (that) each of us attributes to being recognized, particularly with respect to our world-view,” we need to engage in the sort of dialogue that “contributes to building a common culture that takes diversity into account.” The second objective is the “pursuit of the common good.” This is explicitly linked to the principles and values outlined in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Section 3 of the charter includes freedom of religion and freedom of expression as being among Quebec’s fundamental freedoms. Section 10 guarantees the exercise of these fundamental freedoms without “distinction, exclusion or preference” based on, among other things, religion.

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August 15, 2013

When Schools Become Dead Zones of the Imagination: A Critical Pedagogy Manifesto

By Henry A. Giroux | Published 13 August 2013 by Truthout.org

Excerpt:

While pedagogies of repression come in different forms and address different audiences in various contexts, they all share a commitment to defining pedagogy as a set of strategies and skills to use in order to teach prescribed subject matter. In this context, pedagogy becomes synonymous with teaching as a technique or the practice of a craft-like skill. There is no talk here of connecting pedagogy with the social and political task of resistance, empowerment or democratization. Nor is there any attempt to show how knowledge, values, desire and social relations are always implicated in power.  Any viable notion of critical pedagogy must reject such definitions of teaching and their proliferating imitations even when they are claimed as part of a radical discourse or project.  In opposition to the instrumentalized reduction of pedagogy to a mere method that has no language for relating the self to public life, social responsibility or the demands of citizenship, critical pedagogy works to illuminate the relationships among knowledge, authority and power. 24 For instance, it raises questions regarding who has control over the conditions for producing knowledge such as the curricula being promoted by teachers, textbook companies, corporate interests or other forces? 

Central to any viable notion of what makes a pedagogy critical is, in part, the recognition that pedagogy is always a deliberate attempt on the part of educators to influence how and what forms of knowledge and subjectivities are produced within particular sets of social relations. In this case, critical pedagogy draws attention to the ways in which knowledge, power, desire, and experience are produced under specific conditions of learning, and in doing so rejects the notion that teaching is just a method or is removed from matters of values, norms, and power – or, for that matter, the struggle over agency itself and the future it suggests for young people. Rather than asserting its own influence in order to wield authority over passive subjects, critical pedagogy is situated within a project that views education as central to creating students who are socially responsible and civically engaged citizens. This kind of pedagogy reinforces the notion that public schools are democratic public spheres, education is the foundation for any working democracy and teachers are the most responsible agents for fostering that education.

Read more: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/18133-when-schools-become-dead-zones-of-the-imagination-a-critical-pedagogy-manifesto

June 15, 2013

How test scores can be deceiving

By Valerie Strauss | Published June 13, 2013 by The Answer Sheet

Consider this: On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the test that is commonly referred to as “the nation’s report card,” Massachusetts students performed so well that the state ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Sounds good, right? Then consider this:

Massachusetts ranks in the bottom tier of states in progress toward closing the achievement gap for black, Hispanic, and low-income students, and, in fact, has some of the widest gaps in the nation between white and Hispanic students.

This is explained in a new report called “Twenty Years After Education Reform,” just released by Citizens for Public Schools in Massachusetts, a 31-year-old nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. The report looks back on the effects of the 1993 Education Reform Act, passed 20 years ago this month in the state, asking this central question: “Are we closer to our goal of equitable access to a high-quality education for every student?”

The authors conclude that two of the three major reforms launched since the law was passed have “failed to deliver on their promises.” What are they? High-stakes testing and Commonwealth charter schools. The third, a school funding formula designed to further the cause of equity in education, brought in more than $2 billion in state funding to public schools, but is now outdated and needs to be revamped. (It, for example, understates special education costs by $1 billion and has not adjusted for the growth of health insurance costs, the report says.)

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/06/13/how-test-scores-can-be-deceiving/

May 16, 2013

CJAD Teacher Panel Discusses Grade Inflation, Student Stress and Problems with Quebec’s Curriculum

Teachers Catharine Hogan and Robert Green discuss grade inflation, student stress and the problems with Quebec’s curriculum with James Mennie of the Montreal Gazette, sitting in for CJAD’s Tommy Schnurmacher:

Click here to listen

April 27, 2013

Political pressures are inflating students’ marks

By Robert Green

A slightly edited version of this Op-ed appeared in the April 25 edition of the Montreal Gazette

Should the grades students receive on their report cards be the product of the professional judgment of those trained in pedagogy and the evaluation of learning or the product of the public relations needs of schools, school boards and the education ministry (MELS)? While most Quebecers would surely prefer to leave the evaluation of learning to the trained professionals, the reality is that since the 2008 passing of Bill 88 report cards are increasingly subject to the corrupting influences of political interests.

grade-inflationThis is because Bill 88 makes success rates for schools and school boards all important. The bill obliges both schools and school boards to sign contracts committing them to make measured improvements in specific areas, such as math or literacy scores. The problem for principals and school board administrators is that they are being asked to achieve these goals in a context of ongoing budget cuts. Those with ambition must find creative ways to meet their goals.

The inevitable result is pressure being put on teachers to inflate their marks, or even worse, marks being changed by administrators without the teacher’s consent. The Federation Autonome de L’Enseignment, one of Quebec’s large teacher federations has recently reported this to be a growing problem amongst its members.

Changing the marks given by teachers also happens at the ministry level with secondary four and five courses through two processes ‘moderation’ and ‘conversion’. Ostensibly ‘moderation’ is to address discrepancies between class marks and marks on standardized provincial exams while ‘conversion’ is to address problems with exams deemed to be unfair or invalid in some way. However, the end result is that these two processes grant MELS the ability to fix success rates wherever it wishes, irrespective of the professional judgment of teachers.

In both cases, the perception of the vast majority of teachers is that all this is about lowering standards to meet goals rather than addressing the fundamental problems having to do with under-funding and a provincial curriculum that has never had the support of teachers.

read more »

February 12, 2013

A REAL paradigm shift in education

By Marion Brady | Published February 11, 2013 by Answer Sheet Blog

I envy Thomas Paine’s way with language. I’ve been searching for years for words that would have the impact of those he penned in his 1776 pamphlet, “The Crisis.”

Admittedly, “These are the times that try men’s souls,” and the words that followed, weren’t a howling success. Only about a third of the colonists agreed with Paine’s call for revolution. Another third wanted to stick with England. The remaining third were neutral or apathetic.

What Paine was able to do that I can’t do is sell an idea to at least enough people to make something happen. I need to convince not a third of readers but, say, a tenth, to call their legislators and tell them to dismantle the education “reform” machine assembled in Washington by business leaders and politicians.

Long before corporate America began its assault on public schooling, American education was in trouble. Educators were, however, increasingly aware of the problems and were working on them. When Bill Gates, Jeb Bush, Mike Bloomberg, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and other big name non-educators took over, that worked stopped.

What I want people to understand is that the backbone of education — the familiar math-science-language arts-social studies “core curriculum” — is deeply, fundamentally flawed. No matter the reform initiative, there won’t be significant improvement in American education until curricular problems are understood, admitted, addressed, and solved.

Few want to hear that. Reformers are sure America’s schools would be fine if teachers just worked harder and smarter, and reformers are sure the teachers would do that if merit pay programs made them compete for cash. They seem incapable of understanding that classroom teachers are doing something so complicated and difficult that even the best of them are hanging on by their fingernails. If they knew how to do better, they’d be doing it. Would surgeons operate differently if they were paid more? Would commercial airline pilots make softer landings if they made more money? Would editorial writers write better editorials if their salaries were raised?

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/11/a-real-paradigm-shift-in-education/