Monday, March 17, 2014

Chromebooks and Google Apps - Redefining Student Engagement In A Couple of Canadian School Boards

Chromebooks Rollout - Shenkus
Chromebooks Rollout - Shenkus (Photo credit: kjarrett)
Google Chromebooks, and associated Google Apps, are finding their way into Canadian classrooms. The easy to use and extremely collaborative combination of Chromebook and Google Apps, makes technology in the classroom a painless venture for the teacher and an absolutely engaging experience for the student...and no, I don’t work for Google.

Here are some articles on Canadian Boards using Chromebooks and Google Apps:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

TDSB school trustees, another Hudak moment, and more....

Ontario EDU News...School Trustees

If Bill 122 does pass, School Trustees in Ontario are about to become more important than they already are, and play more of a key role in the lives of teachers, parents, and students than they already do...We will be blogging about trustees and Bill 122 later this week, but meanwhile, the following is the state of school trustees in the TDSB - it’s a frightening premise to hang’s one hat on.

Why can't those TDSB trustees play well with others?
Toronto Star
Democracy may be messy, but at the Toronto District School Board it’s a disaster zone... Armed police at meetings, locked doors to keep trustees from bothering staff, reports of sexual harassment, temper tantrums and conflict of interest — and that’s just in the past week.

Since the mega-board was created 16 years ago through the forced marriage of six fiercely independent school systems, its 22 trustees can’t seem to stay out of trouble. More than one team of auditors has scolded them for interfering in everyday operations and creating a “culture of fear” from top to bottom. Don’t even get started on their financial fiascos — just last year Queen’s Park froze all funds for construction until they got capital spending in order. If you set a reality show based on Canada’s largest school board, you’d call it Trustees Gone Wild.

How TDSB’s bullying culture prompted a call for police to step in
Globe and Mail
A culture of bullying is so prevalent within Canada’s largest school board that the chair has received half a dozen complaints in the past six months about threatening behaviour by trustees. The latest incident has prompted him to make the unusual request of having a police officer present at this week’s meeting to keep staff and trustees safe.

Toronto Trustee Elizabeth Moyer harassed two senior staff, report finds
Toronto Star
Trustee Elizabeth Moyer harassed two senior staffers at the Toronto District School Board by hugging and touching one and making a sexually suggestive comment to another, say the results of a confidential investigation, the Star has learned. The complaint against the Scarborough Southwest trustee was launched by executive superintendent Jim Spyropoulos last year.

Ontario Conservatives' Answer to the "Perceived" [read manufactured] Math Crisis in Ontario Schools...Performance Pay

It's astonishing that the Ontario Conservatives are so predictably base in their political strategy...obviously, in Hudak's world the PISA scores have declined because Ontario teachers are "big union" lazy, and if they got off their union asses we would have off-the-chart math scores.

Give math teachers incentive pay, Ontario Conservatives say
Toronto Star
Saying the minority Liberal government isn’t doing enough to improve the teaching of math, the Progressive Conservatives are calling for steps like incentive pay for teachers whose students boost their marks [PC news release]. “Our students are not performing at the level they should be,” Conservative MPP and education critic Rob Leone (Cambridge) said Wednesday, pointing to a general decline in math test scores and the demand for tutors from parents who can afford them.

EQAO...

EQAO scores have value: Education Minister Liz Sandals
Toronto Sun
Standardized testing has become a critical tool to target support for individual students or student bodies that are struggling, says Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals...While she doesn’t endorse Education Quality and Accountability Office testing to rank schools as done in the Fraser Institute Secondary School Report Card, Sandals disagrees with those in the education community who would reduce or scrap it entirely.

Some Labour Relations

B.C. teachers vote overwhelmingly 'yes' in strike vote
CBC
Public school teachers in B.C. have voted overwhelmingly yes to taking potential job action following a three-day strike vote that ended Thursday. More than 29,000 teachers headed to the polls between March 4 and 6 to take the strike vote, and 89 per cent voted in favour of job action.

More Canadian teachers going overseas to find work
CBC
An international teacher recruitment agency says more B.C. educators are travelling overseas to find work. David Frey, the co-CEO of Teach Away Inc., says his company has seen a 68 per cent increase in applications from Canadian teachers looking to work at schools overseas. He says current labour unrest in education is wearing some teachers down and making international jobs more appealing.

Tweens and After School Arts Programs

How to get kids from low-income families into the arts
Washington Post
An Odd Market Study...
High-quality arts programs are known to provide myriad benefits to students who participate in them — but getting kids to sign up isn’t easy. What attracts young students — especially those from low-income families — to specific arts programs? Peter Rogovin and Denise Montgomery of Next Level Strategic Marketing Group are authors of a new Wallace Foundation-commissioned report on afterschool arts programs and tweens, and here are their findings.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ontario EDU news, K-12 curriculum overhaul in Alberta, performance metrics, and more...

Ontario Education News

Why the war over math is distracting and futile
Globe and Mail
“If we want math to be the thing that we are good at, then we have to strive for it,” says Egan Chernoff, who teaches math education at the University Saskatchewan, “We have known for a long time that people wear their lack of school mathematics on their sleeves, and so now it’s being thrown in our faces.”

Canada has never been particularly great at creating math-literate, number-loving citizens, as the current generation of math-phobic adults demonstrates: Would you ever say that you “suck at reading”?

Switching schools before Grade 3 affects academics, study finds
Toronto Star
A McMaster University researcher’s work may call into question Ontario’s move not to have full-day kindergarten in every school, as long as every child has access…Children who switch schools somewhere between kindergarten and Grade 3 don’t do as well on Ontario’s standardized tests, a study of the province’s own data shows. Read the study.

Ontario’s all-day kindergarten classes overcrowded, teachers say
Globe and Mail
Ontario’s elementary school teachers say they are concerned that the province’s ambitious rollout of full-day kindergarten has resulted in overcrowded classrooms and few resources on how play-based learning is supposed to work….

Educators, the union says, are finding it difficult to set up play-based activities in these overcrowded rooms. The idea behind play-based learning, the centrepiece of the new full-day kindergarten program, is that young children learn better by moving around and experimentation rather than sitting behind a desk all day.

Some Labour Relations

Teachers say school bill gives Ontario Education Minister too much power
Globe and Mail
A bill that the Ontario government hopes will bring stability to the province’s schools after last year’s labour strife is already facing criticism from teacher unions.

Bill 122 will spell out how negotiations expected to begin in 2014 will be conducted. Big monetary issues, such as salaries and benefits, would be negotiated centrally by the government, unions and school board associations. The Minister of Education would also be able to decide what other issues will determined at the talks with the province. Bargaining on local issues, such as teacher workload, access to technology and training, would take place between individual school boards and their respective unions.

NOTE: the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly finally met regarding Bill 122 - they met on Feb 26, and here’s the Hansard Transcript of the meeting; the presenters were the usual suspects. The Committee is meeting again on March the 5th, and here’s the agenda, looks like there may be a few meetings for a clause-by-clause consideration.


On wages, B.C. teachers are pushing a tough sell
Globe and Mail
As of this week, negotiators for the BC Teachers’ Federation were still pondering whether to table opening salary numbers when talks with the province resume Tuesday. The holdup, it seems, is a debate over whether more time is needed to determine what the government might realistically accept in the end.

Alberta Preparing For An Overhaul of the K-12 Education Curriculum

Does ‘discovery learning’ prepare Alberta students for the 21st century or will it toss out a top tier education system?
National Post
Over the next two years, Alberta is preparing what may well be the most dramatic overhaul of Canadian school curricula in modern times.

Alberta students may rank among Canada’s top tier for performance, but by 2016, officials have nevertheless vowed that the “traditional” teaching methods of textbooks-and-chalkboards will be dead, replaced instead by a unstructured system design to craft “engaged thinkers,” “ethical citizens” and “entrepreneurial spirits.”

Alberta government plans radical rewrite of education system
Edmonton Journal
Alison Redford’s government is paying tens of millions for a radical rewrite of the entire kindergarten to Grade 12 school curriculum in Alberta.

The rewrite is set to roll out in 2016. It will be the final act of the discovery learning movement that has already brought in major changes to Alberta public schools, including the controversial changes to the Alberta math curriculum in 2008-09.

Constant Debate Regarding Teachers and Performance

We cannot think of a public sector profession for which performance metrics seems to be a constant in public discourse - policing, nursing, and all the other public comparators don't appear to get the media attention teachers do...

Florida Releases 'Value Added' Data on Teachers
US News
Florida has become the latest state, after New York and Ohio, to release "value added" data on its teachers to news outlets, after losing an open-records battle in the courts to the Florida Times-Union. State officials warned against using the data to judge teachers' performance, but the newspaper has created a database that will allow the public to look up individual teachers' names.

Primary school teachers work almost 60 hours a week, finds official survey
Guardian [UK]
Department of Education survey suggests profession is plagued by long hours and 'unnecessary and bureaucratic tasks'...Primary state school teachers in England are working almost 60 hours a week, according to a survey by the Department for Education – a sharp increase on the previous survey.

Coding - A New Literacy

Computer Science: Not Just an Elective Anymore
Education Week
Computer science education is getting something of a fresh look from state and local policymakers, with many starting to push new measures to broaden K-12 students' access to the subject.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now have policies in place that allow computer science to count as a mathematics or science credit, rather than as an elective, in high schools—and that number is on the rise. Wisconsin, Alabama, and Maryland have adopted such policies since December, and Idaho has a legislative measure awaiting final action.

At least eight more states are in the process of reviewing proposals for similar legislative or regulatory changes.

The "Twins" Conundrum - A New Study

Study Questions Principals' Tendency to Split Up Twins in Kindergarten
Education Week
School principals overwhelmingly believe that twins should be separated in kindergarten to promote each individual's independence as well as academic achievement, but such decisions can have a profoundly negative impact on children, new research asserts.

Moreover, such beliefs are opposite of those held by parents of twins, kindergarten teachers, and twins themselves, wrote Lynn Melby Gordon, a professor in the Department of Elementary Education at California State University, Northridge, who is both a mother to fraternal twin boys and a former kindergarten teacher.

Access the Education Policy abstract / article at Twins and Kindergarten Separation: Divergent Beliefs of Principals, Teachers, Parents, and Twins.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Departmentalized Instruction in Early Grades

An interesting article in Education Week about the increase in what they call "Platooning" in elementary grades (US context) - subject specific classrooms and teachers as opposed to the traditional generalist model. It has grown in popularity in US elementary schools since the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act increased pressure on schools to raise test scores.

Most of the schools moving in this direction are trying departmentalization in grades 3 to 5, but some are implementing this model as early as kindergarten. The article covers some of the pros and cons in the departmentalization of elementary schools, a worthwhile read and interesting approach. And the article has a link to a review of a research paper on kindegarten and how it has become the new first grade:
From 1998 to 2006, kindergarten teachers reported devoting 25 percent more time to teaching early literacy, from 5.5 hours to seven hours per week, according to the working paper by Daphna Bassok, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education and Anna Rorem, a policy associate at the university's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
A bit of a different approach from Ontario's play-based kindergarten curriculum. And a worthwhile discussion piece for parents...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The "Performance" issue...again, a teacher's view of the PISA scores, and other items...

Teachers’ pay should be based on performance, not years worked: report
Globe and Mail
Teachers should receive pay increases based on their classroom performance and student feedback...oh yeah, we'll have a lot to say about this this brilliant, nae - genius idea (tongue impaling cheek) in a few days. Here's the full report.

Sexting in middle school linked to early sexual activity, study finds
Toronto Star / Journal of Pediatrics
Sexting behavior (both photo and text messages) was not uncommon among middle school youth and co-occurred with sexual behavior. These data suggest that phone behaviors, even flirtatious messages, may be an indicator of risk. Clinicians, parents, and health programs should discuss sexting with early adolescents - Abstract.

As a teacher, I know global math scores are meaningless
Globe and Mail
Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals unveiled a math plan to “...battle the province’s poor test scores…”. The $4-million initiative placed the responsibility for addressing Ontario students’ declining math scores on teachers and parents. Meanwhile, the minister defended the math curriculum and refused to consider a ‘shake up’ of teaching methods.

Stop soaring school costs in Ontario
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.

CUPE complains Ontario's school boards ignoring new deal for non-teaching staff
Toronto Star
The union representing 55,000 non-teaching staff in Ontario schools — janitors, food workers, early childhood educators and others — says some school boards still aren’t giving their members all the benefits won in the latest contract with Queen’s Park...That raises concerns over the chances for successful bargaining in future.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Learning Registry...a U.S. DoE Initiative

A few years ago the United States Department of Education started developing the Learning Registry - an "academic resources" knowledge exchange network for educators and the public, with an emphasis on meeting individual teachers' and students' needs. The network can be accessed via a variety of sites that connect to the main repository: e.g. free.ed.gov, Illinois Shared Learning Environment, and LearnBig. Here's the original news release posted back in 2010):

The network is now developed and ready to pass on for the tough part of the process - building the culture and "buy-in" required to populate the network with the quality resources and materials it needs to thrive and succeed. Portals for education materials are out-there in abundance, too many in fact, and will a knowledge exchange network like the Learning Registry provide a difference? Well, a curriculum standards (Core) driven search may help...a curriculum driven library / search for education materials and resources? There's something educators and parents in Ontario would love to have, and a nice education initiative for Ontarians - just saying.

Education Week has a great article on the Learning Registry.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Anxious Before Tests?!...

Well, from a new set of studies published in the latest issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Allison Wood Brooks, a psychologist at Harvard Business School who studies performance under stress, found that "individuals who reappraise their anxious arousal as excitement feel more excited and perform better". In other words, it's better to be pumped than to try and calm yourself down.

In fact, in framing performance anxiety as excitement, Prof. Brooks positions excitement as an "intervention that can be used quickly and easily to prime an opportunity mind-set and improve performance", as opposed to a challenge or threat that can undermine.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ontario School Boards and Wage Freezes (or not), Schools and the Poor, and more...

Teaching teens about credit pays off in the long run
Toronto Star
...As a parent, rather than trying to stall the inevitable meeting of kids and credit, a better approach is to educate teens as to how credit works and about the financial responsibility that goes with acquiring plastic money and building a credit history...

Another opportunity for us to highlight our Financial Literacy articles.

Ontario school boards skirted wage freeze with raises for senior staff
Toronto Star
Ontario school boards awarded raises averaging 3 per cent a year to many senior staff, despite a provincial wage freeze on management salaries...The revelation of salary hikes at school boards exposes weaknesses in wage-freeze legislation meant to cut costs

This was in no way unique to the school boards, the wage freeze was a mandated "policy", no real legal teeth. Many sectors skirted the wage freeze initiative, however, in light of the Putting Students First legislation, this sort of activity does shine a real light on the boards (and government).

Schools must break the cycle of poverty
Toronto Star
And as neighbourhoods become even more segregated along income lines, this divide will only get worse... So can we do anything about this? While addressing child poverty is a complex issue, there are things that we could do in education to reduce its effects. First, we should stop segregation. In Toronto, we segregate students in two ways. The first is effectively based on income, as we force students to attend the school near to where they live. This is common practice in most cities, but with notable exceptions like Edmonton and Vancouver... The second method of segregation is based on academics.

Related - a recently published in New York Times series titled “Invisible Child”, offering an in-depth look at child poverty and homelessness.

Education can pull kids out of poverty [Letter]
Toronto Star
we need “the best teachers teaching our neediest students.”... The best teachers are not necessarily the most credentialed ones. I had other English teachers with MAs, but they failed to motivate those of us who weren’t motivated at home.

Guiding Growth in Ontario's Postsecondary Education System: Province Committed to Sustainable Growth to Meet Demand
Ontario Government
Ontario has introduced a plan to guide major capacity expansions at postsecondary institutions, ensuring students have access to spaces where they are needed most.

Education — the greatest social policy challenge of our time
NunatsiaqOnline.ca
It has really been only 25 years — barely a generation — that we began to talk openly about the residential school era, the abuse and the effects of its policies to eliminate our language and culture... Now we are in a period of building and shaping our own education systems, based on our culture and language.