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SCHOOL FOR THOUGHT

Broken Record - School Choice Category

May 06, 2016 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 06:41 AM

As I understand it, the local public school board has a gifted program with very murky criteria (teacher recommendation, and most of the recommended students are teachers' kids) and the program itself is not great anyway - so no one minds very much if their kid doesn't get recommended. Click here for an article about similar problems with New York's gifted program. This article calls for the elimination of segregated programs, and the introduction of something called The Schoolwide Enrichment Model that provides every student with access to gifted pedagogy.

I don't know anything about the Schoolwide Enrichment Model - it sounds a bit like pie in the sky to me - and in any case I'm not sure about throwing out segregated gifted programs with the bathwater. Most kids would do better with a good program that caters to their particular needs and interests, and surely gifted and talented kids are no exception. The trick is to make available differentiated programs and let parents choose the one that's best for their child.

The Duke of York

May 05, 2016 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 07:25 AM

In the unlikely event that there is still someone out there who thinks that elected school boards are a good way to protect the public's interest and administer excellent school systems, that person should click here. The story concerns the recently-appointed director of the York Region school board who not only enjoys a ten-year iron-clad contract, but also has a guarantee that if his contract isn't renewed after ten years he will automatically become a supervisory officer at maximum salary and benefits. To add insult to injury, the new director was by no means a unanimous choice and appears to be doing a poor job. 

School boards are an expensive anachronism that in most cases are hurting kids.  H/T TB

Bouquets, Not Brickbats

May 04, 2016 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 07:00 AM

A Mississippi legislator has proposed a bill that will result in parents being graded in terms of their involvement with their children's education. Of course everyone knows that "children who are read to, talked to, and taught patience and self-discipline are far more likely than those who are not to succeed in school". The idea is that it's unreasonable for us to expect schools to do it all. more

Yes, but. As I say in this blog from the archives,  blaming parents for not being involved in their children's education is kind of like the guy who murdered his parents and then threw himself on the court's mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan. There are all kinds of ways that schools can draw parents in, for example letting school councils play a meaningful role, adopting teaching methods that parents can understand, using good textbooks that can go home with the students, facilitating meaningful dialogue with teachers, and reporting students's results objectively and clearly. 

So while I think the Mississippi legislator is on the right track in wanting to encourage parental involvement, I think he's got the wrong end of the stick when it comes to how to achieve it. H/T TA

The Education Money Machine

May 03, 2016 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 06:28 AM

If you ever doubted that public education involves big bucks, take a look at Ontario's public accounts, this one for 2015. The Ministry of Education begins at page 127. This is where you can find out how much the school boards get, plus there are hundreds of hangers-on. First Robotics Canada ($599,564)?  Free the Children ($650,000)?  Harmony Movement ($341.200)?  Massey Centre for Women ($485,483)?  People for Education ($181.221)?  Roots of Empathy ($2,030,000)?

And then there is the money going to the teachers' unions. Association des Enseignenantes et Enseignenants Franco-Ontariens ($424,359)?  Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario ($450,000)?  Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association ($770,100)?  Ontario Secondary Teachers' Association ($960,327)?  Ontario Teachers' Federation ($5,768,130)?  Ontario Teachers' Plan Pension Board ($1,525,800,671)?  Ontario Teachers' Retirement Compensation Arrangement ($5,129,811)? The latter two are itemized on page 139.

I'm sure there are many other examples of egregious over-spending, but this is what I found with a cursory look. Happy hunting!

The amount of money sloshing around ensures that those at the trough will fight very hard to preserve the status quo. This of course makes it very difficult to bring in real change.  H/T DW

Teachers are powerless too

May 02, 2016 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 08:54 AM

Click here for a cri du coeur from a Hamilton teacher who wants you to know how powerless teachers are when it comes to things like teaching methods and curriculum. I would have a couple of quibbles - for example, the teacher seems to think that parents and students have more power than teachers (HAHAHAHA) and he takes the obligatory swipe at Mike Harris (who with all his faults actually improved the curriculum). But overall, the piece is valuable because it shows that education decision-making is centred in remote bureaucratic strongholds far from frontline classrooms. How anyone could think that the resulting decisions could be appropriate for individual students is beyond me, but I guess it's all about power, not good policies.

Sunday at the Movies (Great Expectations)

May 01, 2016 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 07:05 AM

This video speaks to the importance of high standards and expectations - especially for disadvantaged students.



Gone by the Book

April 30, 2016 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 09:37 AM

A British expert has called for a return to the use of good textbooks in schools, citing research that suggests that students comprehend better and retain more when they are reading from paper materials. more

I have frequently deplored the vanishing textbook phenomenon in Ontario - for example, click here - but sadly no one in power appears to be listening. Just one more nail in the coffin of student learning. H/T DL

It’s Just a Matter of Time

April 29, 2016 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 07:04 AM

So a few weeks ago there was an article in The Globe and Mail about how disruptive technology is changing the food world. It's worth reading because it will open your eyes to how apps can turn an industry upside down seemingly overnight. And not only are these apps transforming the restaurant business, but also of course Amazon and its ilk are getting into the grocery business in a big way. more

It's just a matter of time until technology disrupts the education industry. Click here for an interview with Bill Gates who is on it, having already invested more than $240 million in what he calls "personalized learning". And click here for my Huffington Post article on this topic. Public schools are going to lose their monopoly if they don't pull up their socks - and maybe even if they do.

Thursday at the Movies (More Mole Whacking)

April 28, 2016 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 08:53 AM

It's really hard/impossible to micromanage huge school boards, and this CTV clip looks at one of thousands of demonstrations of this truth - managing class sizes. The Ontario Minister of Education is huffing and puffing and maybe she will whack the odd mole, but of course for every mole she whacks another 10 pop out of position. Realistically, the only way this thing can work is to give schools money and autonomy and then hold them responsible for results.

Let Parents be Parents

April 27, 2016 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 08:29 AM

Click here for a National Post column by SQE director Marni Soupcoff that pretty much says it all on the topic of parents who get in trouble with Child and Family Services for letting their kids play in their fenced-in backyard with their mother watching from the window. 

Marni is quite moderate in her comments, just saying she thinks it's okay for kids to play unsupervised. I would go further. I think it's really important for kids to develop independence and the ability to entertain themselves, and that there is such a thing as too much supervision and organization in the lives of today's kids.

Perhaps parents who enroll their kids in a million organized activities should draw the attention fo Child and Family Services instead. (I'm just kidding, of course - I think that Child and Family Services should reserve their scrutiny for the small number of parents who truly are neglectful or abusive.)

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