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O Tempora! O Mores!

September 22, 2014 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 04:35 AM

Here is a news item that puts flesh and blood on Ontario literacy standards. The high school graduate in the article has won a $250 bursary for writing the best essay about her community. 

Clearly, the winner can read and write (although one suspects that the newspaper might have cleaned up a few spelling and grammar errors), and would pass most literacy definitions. However, her writing is at a very low level - rambling, repetitive, mindless, and of impoverished vocabulary and sentence construction. It's very reminiscent of Internet chatrooms.

Since she is "leaving for university momentarily", one has to wonder what how good the writing skills are of the non university-bound students. Plus, don't forget this was judged the best essay - suggesting that she is one of the better high school graduates.

If you ask nicely, I will reproduce one of my high school essays. There is quite a contrast!  H/T CT

Sunday at the Movies (Praise)

September 21, 2014 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 04:02 AM

Although it's not exactly a movie, this short clip makes a dramatic statement about what to praise children for.

New jobs for old

September 20, 2014 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 04:27 AM

Tom dug up this pretty interesting graph from the EQAO website. 

It shows that the worsening provincial results in grade 3 math are occasioned by progressively fewer students achieving Level 4, the best category. 

Presumably Level 4 students are the ones who go into math-related fields, like science, engineering, and technology. 

This figures to become a problem in about 15 years. Oh well, we can always import scientists, engineers, and techies from Asia to do these jobs. 

And there will be plenty of jobs in sushi restaurants for the graduates of Ontario schools. Or, of course, they can always go into teaching.  smiley

Subsidizing Private Schools All the Way to the Bank

September 19, 2014 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 04:36 AM

Some people oppose school vouchers on the grounds that the government shouldn't be in the business of subsidizing private schools. They should read this op/ed piece which clearly shows how much money school vouchers are saving Canadian taxpayers. All of the western provinces plus Quebec have school vouchers - making approximately 300,000 students who are saving their provincial governments perhaps $6,000 each for a grand total of almost $2 billion every year.

At present, there are approximately 110,000 Ontario students enrolled in private schools. If Ontario were to offer school vouchers for 50% of tuition with the result that another 110,000 students left the province's publicly-funded schools, Ontario would break even. After that, the province would start saving money. 

Given Ontario's dire financial circumstances, it really ought to consider bringing in school vouchers. Not only would the vouchers ultimately save money, but also the students would learn more and the economy would benefit in the long run = more help slaying the deficit.  H/T TH

To tutor or not to tutor, that is the question

September 18, 2014 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 05:20 AM


This blog recently looked at the GEMS 'Efficiency Index' report comparing the effectiveness of school spending in different countries.

There's an interesting point in the GEMS report on page 35 about tutoring. We assume that private tutoring outside school would improve national educational achievement.  But to their surprise the GEMS researchers didn't find that link. They looked at the percentage of students who paid for tutoring outside of state schools (as high as 76% in Greece and only 15% in the Netherlands), and found almost no correlation to PISA performance. The researchers did not have an explanation, and simply noted their puzzlement.

Private tutoring likely improves an individual's scores - so the lack of correlation is disturbing, it suggests that state schools compensate for outside tutoring by LOWERING their own efforts. There are several ways that can happen, perhaps declining schools push an increase in the demand for tutoring. Or parents become satisfied with tutoring and demand less from schools.   Or tutored students pay less attention in school and the net effect of tutoring is zero. Or tutored students are disruptive in schools, lowering outcomes for other students.  Ontario has a growing rate of tutoring and declining school achievement, maybe our situation is a mix of all these explanations.

And finally, it is possible that private tutoring simply doesn't teach. The kids are burnt out after a school day, and would rather be playing or watching TV.

Any other suggestions?

Past the Point of Peak Efficiency, the point at which more money brings diminishing returns

September 17, 2014 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 05:11 AM

This article in the Economist talks about the lack of correlation between student achievement and teacher pay, along with a similar lack of correlation between student achievement and class size. 

With regard to this graph, I note that Canada's score was 518 on the 2012 PISA math test. I can't begin to imagine how to find out what the Canadian average annual teachers' salary was in 2011, $ at PPP, (maybe Nancy can), but since it is currently in excess of $CDN90,000, it figures to be one of the highest on this graph - meaning that Canada would get a lowish education efficiency ranking.  H/T TB

Too much of a good thing?

September 16, 2014 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 04:29 AM

Just to put the Ontario government's decision to spend $150 million on iPads into perspective, read this article.   H/T JE

Roadmap - Or Roadblock?

September 15, 2014 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 07:16 AM

Before you read further, take a look at this "roadmap" created by two genius Ontario parents to navigating the province's special education labyrinth. 

At the risk of stating the obvious, the process is ridiculously complicated. Even parents with a PhD in bureaucratic manoeuvering will have a hard time navigating through the system, and the rest of us can forget it. And just think of the crushing cost of all those meetings and paperwork and tribunals, not to mention how much time the process eats up while the child's problems go unaddressed.

Contrast this with Florida's McKay Scholarships where parents can get the same amount of money as the school would have spent on the student and apply it to private school tuition instead - a quick and easy solution from the state's point of view, and one which doesn't cost it a dime.

Sunday at the Movies (Fact-Based World Knowledge)

September 14, 2014 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 05:24 AM

Hans Rosling is always good value and this clip is no exception. In it, he (and his son) talk about the importance of fact-based world knowledge and how to get it.

Chocolate-Covered Broccoli

September 13, 2014 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 05:10 AM

The first study on the effect of K-12 online learning on student achievement has found that online students do equally well, or even a little bit better, than students in conventional classes. And this study looks at five-years-old data: many new and better applications have appeared in the meantime. Chances are the advantage of online learning is going to increase.

And just to whet your appetite, here's a current article about some of the latest apps. You ain't seen nothin' yet.

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