Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fraser Institute's School Report Cards

Students holding report cards.Image via WikipediaThe Fraser Institute released its 2011 school report cards in March, and the Ontario Elementary Schools report card contains the usual detailed metrics that every parent loves but which can be so very misleading.

However, the Fraser Institute's report card site does have a really nice tool which allows users to compare schools by a slew of indicators (e.g. Grade level reading, writing, math), export the results into a pdf or excel file, and/or generate a chart immediately on the site. We know of many young parents of toddlers or elementary aged children who, when shopping around for a new home, always use the school as a benchmark for the areas they're willing to explore...this Compare Schools tool will definitely come in handy as a bit of a road map.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Anti-Bullying programs can only do so much...

BullyingImage via WikipediaA new study published in this months edition of Pediatrics, The Social Environment and Suicide Attempts in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youth, explores the relationship between social environment and suicide attempts among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. And, no surprise, teen suicide attempts in socially/politically conservative environments is higher and more common. The study, based on the results of a total of 31 852 11th grade students (1413 [4.4%] lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals) in Oregon who completed the Oregon Healthy Teens survey in 2006–2008, found the following:
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were significantly more likely to attempt suicide in the previous 12 months, compared with heterosexuals (21.5% vs 4.2%). Among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, the risk of attempting suicide was 20% greater in unsupportive environments compared to supportive environments. A more supportive social environment was significantly associated with fewer suicide attempts, controlling for sociodemographic variables and multiple risk factors for suicide attempts, including depressive symptoms, binge drinking, peer victimization, and physical abuse by an adult (odds ratio: 0.97 [95% confidence interval: 0.96–0.99]) (Article Abstract)
In these cases the school system, and the programs it offers, can be a reflection of its community, regardless of the mandate from above and afar, and many programs come up against a wall of ignorance and obstruction.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

iPads for kindergartners...

The brushed aluminum back of the iPad Wi-FiImage via WikipediaMaine school district to spend $200,000 on Apple iPads for kindergartners. Yes, that's right. Not sure how we feel about this, most kindergarten teachers we know are struggling to simply manage their classrooms while laying the needed groundwork for the grades to come: not to mention the fine motor skills needed to actually operate a tool like that, something which isn't exactly a first grader's strength.

Cheaters, bad behaviour, and 1st grader stress...some of the few studies reviewed this week


New research finds that cheaters overinflate their academic ability. In four experiments outlined in the March Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Temporal view of the costs and benefits of self-deception, researchers from the Harvard Business School and Duke University found that students who cheat on a test are more likely to deceive themselves into thinking they earned a high grade on their own merits, laying the foundation for future academic failure. The full pdf of the study is available along with the abstract.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Using Smartphones to Learn Math...

A fascinating project in the US, Project K-Nect, is making use of smartphones as a supplemental resource / teaching-tool to help at-risk students increase their math skills and interest in the subject.

Project K-Nect began as a pilot effort in North Carolina in 2007, with a million-dollar grant from Qualcomm, part of Wireless Reach Initiative created by this mobile technology company. The plan is to use smartphones to boost students’ skills in the so-called STEM areas (science, technology, engineering, and math). The program is now operating in four districts in North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia, with about 3,000 students participating.

For more information see Making Math Connections in Education Week.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Couple of Articles Comparing Education in Ontario and the US

Ben Levin, Canada Research Chair in Education Policy and Leadership at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, recently authored (and co-authored) a couple of articles published in Education Week (US education periodical). The articles provide an outsider's view of education in the US, and a good "discussion" piece on education systems and reform abroad (i.e. non-US, specifically, Ontario, Japan, Finland, and Singapore) and how the US can learn from them.

Thought I'd post them, since Ontario's education system rarely gets any mention in the US, and for those of us who work in it, it's interesting to see how it's portrayed.

  • Learning from Abroad is the other article, unfortunately it's membership access only. But I suspect it will soon be released as part of a package prepared by a working group on the “Futures of School Reform,” organized by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Education Week is running a seven-part series of Commentary essays expressing visions of members of the “Futures” group. The series, which concludes in the May 25 issue, is accompanied by a blog, written by the group.