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SCHOOL FOR THOUGHT

Who will guard the guardians?

March 04, 2015 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 08:54 AM

Ben Levin, former deputy minister of minister for Ontario, has pleaded guilty to child pornography charges. more

Although Levin was in charge of the Ministry of Education during much  of the time that the province's new sex education curriculum was being formulated, the Premier says Levin didn't have a hand in it. 

It is impossible to know if this is true, because who knows what activities Levin's sick mind could have led him to, but in a way it's not really relevant. Rather, Levin's behaviour reflects a culture, a way of thinking, at the miinistry, whereby ministry officials are more enlightened than ordinary people and know what's best. As a result, these education bureaucrats are (in their minds) justified in imposing their opinions and beliefs on lesser mortals. 

Further, it's quite possible that this arrogant attitude extends as far as the Premier's office.

Attention:  Deficit Disorder

March 03, 2015 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 08:03 AM

Click here for a thought-provoking article about a leading pediatric neuroscientist who says that ADD is not a real disease and warns against giving psycho-stimulant medications to children. 

According to Dr. Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD, a senior fellow of the Child Trauma Academy and a highly-respected member of the pediatric community, "the myriad symptoms that are associated with these increasingly common 'disorders' can often be addressed and relieved without creating an addiction and dependency on pharmaceutical medications, which disrupt the mind and body in ways that are not fully understood or even researched".

Fonix

March 02, 2015 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 09:53 AM

Click here for our guest blog on Rita Smith's blogspot about how phonics is a four-letter word (well, maybe five letters).

Sunday at the Movies (R/evolutionizing Education)

March 01, 2015 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 09:56 AM

Although you may not agree with its conclusion, this clip will definitely make you think.



Good News for a Change

February 28, 2015 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 12:27 PM

According to this press release, the Ontario government is going to appoint Dave Cooke to chair its Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO). Mr. Cooke was the NDP Minister of Education who started the ball rolling on the EQAO, although it was finalized by his successor John Snobelen. I'm guessing Mr. Cooke is somewhat dismayed at the way the EQAO turned out, inasmuch as it has become a cheerleader for the Ontario government (rendering its reporting very suspect). I'm hopeful that Mr. Cooke will try to change the EQAO's role to one of impartial assessor of educational achievement. 

One way to go about this, and something that would save gobs of money, would be to start using standardized tests like the Canadian Achievement Tests - instead of the EQAO's current practice of creating its own tests and marking them by hand. Standardized tests are a fraction of the cost, and they yield far more information available almost immediately (as opposed to the EQAO test results that are not reported until the following school year when it's far too late to do anything about them).

Another important initiative that Mr. Cooke might consider would be to survey parents as to how many of them are providing their kids with tutoring over and above that normally expected of a conscientious parent - either by spending extraordinary amounts of time teaching their children at home themselves or else paying someone else to do the job. It is quite possible that massive amounts of supplementary tutoring are propping up the EQAO results.

Keep your fingers crossed!

Johnny is an efficient converter of oxygen to carbon dioxide

February 27, 2015 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 10:04 AM

Click here for an excellent Toronto Star column about how Ontario teachers are not being allowed to write honest comments on their students' report cards.

  • "So instead of telling parents their kid was disorganized and his desk was messy, the teacher now writes: 'Johnny consistently places his materials inside his desk in a random order. He is highly encouraged to adopt a more streamlined organizational style, so that during in-class work periods he is able to locate his documents with greater ease.'"
  • "Conrad follows instructions with frequent assistance and supervision."
  • "We will give further opportunities for Ruth to engage with a variety of children and to be honest about her activities."

The columnist concludes that "having a dishonest report card is worse than having no report card", and I'm inclined to agree with her. As a parent who was lulled into complacency for almost two years by dishonest report cards, I can personally speak to the damage and the lost time dishonest report cards cause.

Co-Parenting with the Government

February 26, 2015 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 08:24 AM

Last Friday, Waterloo Region schools were closed because the temperature fell below -35 degrees Celsius, a decision which was justified on the grounds that some children might be inappropriately dressed for the conditions. more

This is yet another example of educational decisions, for example the new Ontario sex education curriculum, that are said to be necessary because some parents won't do the right thing. I suppose these parents exist in small numbers, but I wonder whether this fact justifies the use of blunt instrument policy decisions that affect everyone. How far is the government's role to extend? Will it institute school-based eating centres to provide children with three nutriitious meals a day because some parents feed their children poorly? What about bedtime checks to make sure every child is sent to bed early enough? And standardized snowsuits with regulation hats, mitts, and boots that every child must wear?

Every time government intervenes, as it did closing Waterloo Region schools because it was cold out, parents are relieved of one more responsibility. However, there is a danger is that with each intervention parents may start to feel less involved in their children's lives, letting slip other responsibilities as well. Parenting is a big responsbility and a very tough job, and it's tempting to let the government shoulder some of the burden. Unfortunately however, as a general rule the government can't do as good a job as the actual parents.

The Handwriting on the wall

February 25, 2015 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 07:34 AM

GUEST BLOG BY LOU D'AMORE, TEACHER

Research suggests a strong connection between handwriting and brain development— not only in the development of fine motor skills, but also in how children learn. In one study conducted by psychologist and cognitive scientist Karin Harman James at Indiana University, children who printed letters instead of just seeing and saying them showed “adult” brain activity; in another, led by educational psychologist Virginia Berninger at the University of Washington, second, fourth and sixth grade students wrote better sentences, wrote more and faster when using a pen and paper as opposed to a keyboard.

But is there a benefit, a definitive connection between the connected loops of cursive and improved function of the brain? James’s preliminary research on the benefits of using cursive exclusively shows promising findings: in one study, college students remembered information better when they copied a paragraph in cursive compared to both printing and typing. James emphasized, however, that the study of cursive is just beginning, and noted that “scientists have not determined the benefits of teaching or not teaching cursive.”

Click here for free cursive writing worksheets. They're tricky to print, but well worth it.

Music hath charms to make young kids better at sports

February 24, 2015 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 07:51 AM

Really young children soak up information like a sponge and thus benefit from exposure to a wide range of experiences during those early years - for example, learning other languages or picking up the basics of various sports. Now comes a study that suggests that starting piano or violin lessons before the age of seven causes brain changes that result in improved motor skills. more

What Kind of Parent Are You?

February 23, 2015 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 07:43 AM

A year or so ago, the Fordham Foundation surveyed parents as to what school characteristics and student goals were most important to them. They found that "nearly all parents seek schools with a solid core curriculum in reading and math, an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, and the development in students of good study habits, strong critical thinking skills, and excellent verbal and written communication skills". But the study also found that "some parents also prefer specializations and emphases that are only possible in a system of school choice", divided these respondents into six categories (some of which overlap): Pragmatists, Jeffersonians, Test-Score Hawks, Multiculturalists, Expressionists, and Strivers. You can read more about these categories here, as well as take the quiz yourself. You'll probably find that your preferences are similar to the parent population (mine were).

Looking at the diagram, it's striking how little parents' goals mesh with current educational emphases.

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