Posts tagged ‘Ontario’

September 6, 2014

Hey, premiers, leave them teachers alone!

By Robert Green | Published Sept 1 2014 by Ricochet

The beginning of the school year should be a time of great optimism and excitement for teachers. We’re energized by seeing our colleagues again and excited to meet the students we’ll be teaching for the year. Our thoughts should be focused on making our classrooms more welcoming, our lessons more engaging and our contributions to our school community more meaningful.

Unfortunately, for too many teachers across Canada the positive feelings that normally accompany the beginning of the school year will be overshadowed by more negative sentiments: uncertainty, frustration, anger and above all the feeling of being profoundly disrespected.

British Columbia

Nowhere is this more true than in BC. The province’s teachers have been on the picket line since the spring as part of the latest chapter in an exasperating decades-long struggle with the province’s Liberal government. The bad faith demonstrated by the government over the course of this struggle boggles the mind. While the media wants to malign BC teachers as greedy, the heart of this dispute has always been about protecting quality of education for students by reducing class size. After teachers gave up salary concessions in the nineties in order to win class-size reductions (greedy bastards!) the BC Liberals went on to unilaterally remove these provisions from their contract in 2002.

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April 21, 2014

Ontario teachers turn to free online resources amid budget cutbacks, study finds

By:  | Published Mar 31, 2014 by The Toronto Star

Ontario teachers are turning to free online resources in droves — more than textbooks and e-textbooks — marking a “significant change” in learning, says a new report that raises questions about how to ensure the quality of web materials used in the province’s classrooms.

The survey of 1,349 Ontario schools by People for Education found when elementary teachers need new materials, 36 per cent of school report they turn to the web for freebies, 31 per cent say print textbooks and 19 per cent online resources produced by publishers, for which there would be a cost.

Among high schools, one in three report teachers using print textbooks and one in four free web materials, says the report, to be released Monday.

“The world has changed very quickly and a lot of us assume you can find the information you need online — which you can. But a discerning eye for the information is very important,” said Annie Kidder, executive director of the research and advocacy group.

“…We do feel as if it’s a bit of a wild west out there in a lot of different ways. We’re not saying it’s wrong or bad, but we are saying we need to think how we can be assured that kids are getting really high quality material, whether it’s free online or not.”

Part of the move to free online resources is budget cutbacks. But unlike buying textbooks that must be on a list approved by the province, “(there’s no) well-established system for vetting the quality of the free online resources that is widely used,” says the report.

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February 19, 2014

Overwhelmed Canadian Teachers Quitting in Droves

Improve working conditions to keep new teachers from leaving the profession, says expert

By Justina Reichel | Published February 19, 2013 by The Epoch Times

Canada’s education system is in crisis, says an education expert, and as a result teachers are quitting the profession at an alarming rate.

Bullying from parents, false accusations from students, a lack of merit-based pay, few support resources, stifling curriculum requirements, and overwhelming workloads are just some of the reasons new teachers are leaving, says Jon Bradley, an associate professor and program director at McGill University’s Faculty of Education.

An estimated 30-50 percent of Canadian teachers are leaving the profession within their first five years on the job, says Bradley, with similar stats reported in countries such as the U.S., U.K. and Australia.

In Alberta, 40 percent of teachers are leaving within the first five years, according to researchers at the University of Alberta.

“Why are so many leaving? That whole area needs to be addressed,” Bradley says, adding that given the myriad issues involved, the education system is in crisis.

“I believe it is in a crisis. I believe it’s being held together, you know, by a string and a prayer. But it’s in crisis, and we ignore the crisis at our peril.”

Bradley notes that the high turnover of new teachers is not only costly, it takes away from the learning experience of students who benefit most from teachers who “hit their stride” after 7-10 years on the job.

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January 20, 2014

Stop soaring school costs in Ontario

By Arthur Cockfield | Published Jan 19 2014 by The Toronto Star

While recent media attention has focused on Ontario students’ dismal math performance and the government’s “discovery” curriculum approach to learning math, another government education scandal has escaped broad public scrutiny. The provincial government spends billions on budget-busting new school construction that thwarts the interests of students throughout the province.

After the Liberals came to power in 2003 they changed how new school constructions would be funded. Under the old rules, local school boards had to pay for new builds out of their own budgets. The new rules changed this so that new school constructions would now be paid out of provincial coffers. The new regime creates what economists call a “moral hazard,” where school boards neglect renovation costs at existing schools, then request new school funds from the province because they know their own budgets will be unaffected, even though Ontario taxpayers bear the cost nonetheless.

These construction projects are contributing to soaring education costs: a year ago the Ontario government, as part of what has become an annual ritual, trumpeted an additional $711 million for new construction, retrofits or additions for schools. Astonishingly, the total cost for new construction exceeds $12 billion since the Liberals came into power back in 2003. Despite opposition from parents and students in cities like Hamilton and Peterborough, hundreds of schools have been closed to pave way for new schools. And all these costs were incurred while the Liberals were blaming our teachers for their fiscal woes.

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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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November 19, 2013

Local fundraising at schools not just about selling chocolates anymore

By Stacey Escott | Published Nov 17, 2013 by The
But it’s not all fun and games. There is a lot of fundraising going on in Hamilton schools and parents are encouraged to either contribute their time or open their wallets.

“The worrying thing is parents feeling the pressure of the assumption that they must raise money to kind of augment the system,” Kidder said.

A little fundraising is a great way to build a sense of community in schools. But Kidder says another worry about ongoing fundraising is that the top ten per cent of schools, in terms of the amount they fundraise, raises the same amount as the bottom 80 per cent put together. That creates very big disparities.

“The danger is that it creates a lot of have and have not schools when parents are fundraising for things like art enrichment or a lot of technology — now you can fundraise for upgrades in the school building.”

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November 17, 2013

Educational fads may be harmful to students

Idea of teaching to learning styles has enjoyed widespread adoption in North American schools but there is little evidence to support it.

By | Published Sun Nov 17 2013 By The Toronto Star


But now Gardner has decided to set the record straight. Writing recently in the Washington Post, Gardner states that not only does his theory of multiple intelligences have nothing to do with learning styles, but “there is not persuasive evidence that the learning style analysis produces more effective outcomes than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.” He then goes on to say, “If people want to talk about ‘an impulsive style’ or ‘a visual learner,’ that’s their prerogative. But they should recognize that these labels may be unhelpful, at best, and ill-conceived at worst.”

Why should all of this concern the public? Because far from helping, educational fads like learning styles may actually be harming our students. As an example, Ontario’s elementary math scores have been falling for five years in a row. And while Education Minster Liz Sandals blamed teachers’ lack of math skills, there is no evidence that teacher demographics have changed over this period. What has changed is that we have adopted more trendy ways of teaching math, such as “discovery learning” that encourages students to use their own learning styles and be more creative.

This has essentially led to the creation of a two-tiered system whereby parents who can afford it are sending their children to places like Kumon for private math tutoring, while those children from less affluent families are stuck not knowing how to do math. This is something we simply cannot afford. Indeed, a recent study by the OECD found that the math skills of Canadians are already below average.

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June 29, 2013

Why America’s Teachers Are Going Badass and Why Canada’s Need to Consider Doing the Same

By Robert Green

This article appears in the Fall 2013 edition of ‘Our Schools / Our Selves’ published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Following in the tradition of the Arab Spring and ‘Idle No More’, the latest political movement to come to life through the internet’s social networks features a growing number of America’s teachers. Calling itself the Badass Teachers Association (or BAT for Bad Ass Teachers) this Facebook group has shot up to over 17,000 members in a little over a week. It also organized its first mass action: a phone-in campaign calling for the removal of Arne Duncan as federal secretary of education.

Created by Priscilla Sanstead, a parent activist in Oklahoma, Dr. Mark Naisson, an African American Studies professor at Fordham University in New York and Marla 1002816_4381114426306_418079495_nKilfoye, a teacher and parent activist from Long Island, BAT’s mission is:

To give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for real teaching and learning

On his blog, Dr Mark Naisson begins his description of what it means to be a badass teacher as follows:

Badass Teachers teach, love and nurture children everyone has given up on, in good times and bad, children with disabilities, children who have been kicked out of their families, children who can’t sit still, children who have seen unimaginable horrors, children who are homeless, children who are under constant stress, along with children who have happy lives, and happy families. They teach and love them all, and protect and defend them from physical threats and the threat of tests and assessments which humiliate them and destroy their love of learning.

While some may be surprised to see so many teachers speaking out in such a direct fashion, for those that have been following the horror show of corporate education reform that has transformed the US education system over the last decade, such action seems long overdue. This corporate education reform agenda was first introduced on a national scale by George Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ and has since been accelerated by Obama’s ‘Race to the Top’ legislation. It has been promoted vigorously by various foundations financed by millionaires and billionaires like Bill Gates and through slick high budget documentaries like ‘Waiting for Superman’. Though its particular manifestations vary from state to state it tends to feature the following three elements:

  1. attacks on the collective bargaining rights of teachers
  2. use of standardized test results (‘performance indicators’) to determine school funding and/or teacher pay (‘merit pay’)
  3. promotion of semi-private charter schools with non-unionized teachers, usually via a discourse focused on the notion of ‘school choice’

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June 2, 2013

The debate over standardized testing in schools is as divisive as ever

By Rachel Giese and Caroline Alphonso | Published May 31 2013 by The Globe & Mail


Others remain unconvinced. Large-scale tests “are asked to assess too many things,” argues Daniel Laitsch, an associate professor of education at Simon Fraser University. He feels that, no matter what the stated purpose, they are meant to measure, along with student achievement, that of teachers, schools, curriculum and entire jurisdictions as well, which stretches their validity in appraising any of them.

In fact, Prof. Laitsch calls testing students “an atrocious way to evaluate teacher effectiveness, without any research to support the theory.”

Toronto resident Maxeen Paabo agrees and has decided that her son will not participate in this year’s Grade 3 tests. She researched the issue, and reached her conclusion even before the school year began.

“I think the way it is now and the way it’s being used politically is wrong, and it’s a misuse of resources,” she says.

“What the ministry [of education] said is that it is used on a student level, on a class level and on a school level to make improvements. But my understanding on the ground is that that isn’t really happening, that teachers’ regular classroom assessments are doing all that work.”


And does it really keep the system on track? In fact, the correlation between standardized testing and achievement appears to be fuzzy. With myriad factors affecting the education system – among them demographic and economic changes, fluctuation in education budgets, shifts in curriculum – it’s impossible to say unequivocally that where scores have gone up, it’s in any way because of standardized tests.

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April 13, 2013

Ontario Teacher Explains Why He’s Voting No on Proposed Deal With the OSSTF

By Jason Kunin | Published April 13 2013 by The Bullet

Teachers in Ontario may not know it, but their actions in this coming week will have huge ramifications for unionized workers across Ontario and across the country. We stand poised either to hold the line against the austerity agenda and mounting attacks on workers, or pave the way for escalating attacks on the labour movement.

After a year that has seen the provincial Liberal government strip education workers of their collective bargaining rights and legislate strips to our wages and benefits that took decades of struggle to win, public secondary teachers in Ontario will be voting this week on whether to accept a peace deal that offers some minor improvements over the “contract” imposed four months ago by Bill 115 but which leaves most of the major strips intact.

The deal, which was hammered out over several weeks of negotiations, is being touted by the elected leaders of our union, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), as the best we can hope for.

If ratified, the deal would see us agree to many of the provisions we have spent the last year fighting against. These include a two-year wage freeze, a grandfathering of banked sick days, and delayed movement up the salary grid for younger teachers, who are already being told to accept a future of diminished expectations. To make this more palatable, we are being offered small improvements in maternity leave and some language around job security.

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March 20, 2013

You Wouldn’t Work Extra Hours for No Pay, Why Should Teachers?

By | Published March 19, 2013 by The Huffington Post


In the rants written about extra-curriculars, I haven’t read any acknowledgements of what running clubs, supervising events, and coaching sports actually entails. There’s an overemphasis on what families are losing. Teachers also have families, and when the family income is decimated in the short- and long-term by a new law, the desire to escort a basketball team on a bus in the winter or spend an entire Saturday judging a debating tournament, and to do all the associated paperwork, goes down.

Another thing that’s missing from the discussion of extra-curricular activities is an acknowledgement of teachers’ rights to set, in the only place possible, what they deem to be reasonable limits. Never mind volunteering for a moment. Are you willing to do the same amount of work for 10 per cent less pay? If so, are you willing to do it for 15 per cent less? How about 20 per cent less, 25 per cent less, 35, 50? When would your dignity and self-respect kick in and make you say “just hang on a minute. I’m a trained professional, and I don’t work for free.”

Bill 115 has already required teachers to do at least the same amount of work for significantly less and denied our democratic right to collectively bargain, so many of us feel that the only way we have left to show our displeasure is to withhold the work that we normally do for free. This is not an easy choice for most teachers. Teachers sympathize with students over the loss of teams and clubs, and students know it.

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March 17, 2013

Attack on Ontario teachers is part of a trend: Walkom

The post-war bargain between labour and capital is unravelling. Teachers are the test case.

By: | Published on Fri Mar 15 2013 by The Toronto Star

The festering Ontario teachers’ dispute is not about wages and extracurricular activities, although these are the current flashpoints.

It is not about whether teachers should be forced by law to coach soccer in their off hours as Tim Hudak’s Conservatives demand.

Nor is it about eliminating the province’s deficit as Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne suggests.

It is not much about teachers at all.

At its heart, this fight is about work. It is about the implicit deal struck between governments, employers and employees more than 50 years ago to make the workplace a fairer place.

It is about the unravelling of that deal.

When the teachers’ unions say this dispute is about collective bargaining rights, that’s what they mean.

Yet the anodyne phrase “collective bargaining rights” does no justice to a complex system born literally out of bloody strikes and cracked heads — a system devised to adjudicate disputes between labour and capital that, until recently, worked tolerably well.

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January 14, 2013

Bad Teacher, starring Chris Spence

By Rick Salutin | Published January 10, 2013 by the Toronto Star

The script at the Toronto school board this week runs like a remake of Bad Teacher, the 2011 film starring Cameron Diaz. Remakes get done quickly today. It stars (now former) board director Chris Spence, caught plagiarizing in several articles here in the Star. It lacks the redemptive elements of the original but retains some of its irony.

I try to see this mainly from the POV of kids in the public system, though others (board of ed trustees, parents, citizens) are welcome to a slice of the pain. But the kids have been through a rough school year, and a rough week. Premier McGuinty refused to take Yes from the teachers unions to a wage freeze and killed their bargaining rights anyway, then quit his post so he couldn’t do anything about the mess he created. Then teachers refused to work on extracurriculars, which is often the redemptive element in school life for students. Now comes Spence, in some ways the unkindest cut, especially for those who identified with him about sports programs, or for minority kids.

This is so especially since Spence put himself as a role model at the centre of his work as an educator. Early in his tenure, he staged a big pep rally at the Air Canada Centre for teachers, filled with inspirational speakers. I asked him afterward if he felt his teachers were depressed or unmotivated. He said, Not at all. Then why three hours of motivational speeches? “Because these are my people,” he said, “and I must lead them.” Though his own models include Martin Luther King, this contained a big dose of the cult of the CEO from the late 20th century, when figures like Lee Iacocca and Jack Welch were lionized. It hasn’t been a good week for showy but underachieving CEO types in Toronto.

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December 21, 2012

The teachers’ dispute and the war on wages

By Thomas Walkom | Published December 19, 2012 by The Toronto Star

The one-day teachers’ strikes are coming to an end. What’s next?

For teachers, the new year will almost certainly include government-imposed contracts and the suspension of their right to strike for 24 months.

For other public sector workers, this is their likely future as well. The Liberal government didn’t have time to eliminate their bargaining rights before Premier Dalton McGuinty abruptly prorogued the Legislature this fall.

But barring an ideological conversion of Biblical proportions, whoever replaces McGuinty is likely to follow his lead.

For unionized workers who are not employed by government, the attack on public sector unions is a moment of truth.

When Bob Rae’s New Democratic Party government overrode collective agreements in 1993, many private sector unions — including the Steelworkers and my union, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers — broke with their public sector counterparts to support the NDP regime.

The essence of their argument would be familiar today: private sector workers had already suffered from what was, at the time, the biggest recession since the 1930s; therefore, public sector workers had to sacrifice as well.

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December 12, 2012

Ontario teachers and students step up the fight against austerity and Bill 115

By Jesse McLaren | Published December 7, 2012 by

On Monday, Ontario teachers will start rolling walkouts across the province against the draconian Bill 115, the “Putting Students First Act.” But the best way to put students first is to support teachers against the Liberal government’s anti-democratic austerity agenda.


 The Ontario Liberals claimed Bill 115, passed in September, was necessary in order to balance a budget during the economic crisis. But this is after McGuinty wasted billions of dollars in corporate tax cuts. While the 1 per cent has been bailed out, the 99 per cent are facing cuts — from imposing a pay freeze on teachers, denying universal childcare to parents and continually raising tuition for students.

Students have been at the heart of the fight against the Liberal’s austerity agenda, including occupying the office of Glen Murray, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. As Cindy Brownlee, Director of Education and Equity for the Student Association of George Brown College said last April, “As a single mother nearing the end of my studies in early childhood education. I’ve joined today’s occupation to demand that the Ontario government reverse their decision to increase tuition fees next fall.”

In addition, students are not abstract or frozen-in-time. As one writer put it, “Today’s high-school student without sports is tomorrow’s college student racking up debt and next week’s angry, unemployed or precarious worker.”

Teachers are putting students first by resisting the austerity agenda that is undermining their futures.

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