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
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.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bill 122 and those nasty audits...

Bill 122, School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2013 - which we recently blogged, has gone to Committee - the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly. Interesting choice of committee, maybe it was the only available to deal with this piece of legislation...who knows. However, the Committee membership is equally interesting: the chair and vice-chair both PCs, and the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education also on the committee. It does not look like they will do anything until the spring session.

And since we're on the topic of collective bargaining, accountability, and taxpayers monies, the TDSB appears to have had a financial "mishap".

TDSB gave senior staff $1.3 million in raises despite provincial wage freeze: audit

Toronto Star Article
An audit of the country’s largest school board found almost $1.3 million in unauthorized raises for senior staff since 2010, as well as improper approval of contracts and payments to charities with clear links to trustees or employees. Article
Toronto District School Board (TDSB) officials responded to a forensic audit report released Tuesday, Dec. 10 that revealed TDSB senior staff received more than $1 million in raises between March 2010 and August 2013 despite a provincial wage freeze for the broader public sector (BPS)...“I recognize we do need to improve,” said Quan, who recently accepted the role as TDSB education director on a full-time basis. “There’s room for growth there.”

Monday, December 9, 2013

Better Education Data, Special Ed Funding, Foreign Education Policies...

We need better education data [Editorial]
Victoria Times Colonist
Canada’s school-age children learn fewer basic skills each year, and our country’s education ministers don’t know why. The declining skill levels are laid bare in a new report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development...The most recent results, published last week, show that in all three subjects, pupils in Canadian schools are steadily losing ground. The top score in each test is 800. Over the last decade, our average scores have fallen from about 540 to 520.

We definitely need better education data, we need some serious education BI and analytics.

Special education funding top priority for Toronto, Peel school board chairs
Toronto Star
Special education funding is top-of-mind for at least two of the newly elected school board chairs across Greater Toronto...More than 22,000 of the board’s 153,000 students receive some form of special education.

Big Business Bets On Education, Turning Factories and Corporate Campuses Into Schools
Some interesting partnerships happening between school boards and big business in the US. A little worrisome, but in places that have experienced very high drop out rates this scenario does offer some form of employment-linked support.

11 Foreign Education Policies That Could Transform American Schools
Huffington Post
...It could be time for our country [US] to look at some of the specific protocols and methods that top-performing countries are using to educate their children. Here, we have highlighted 11 education policies from highly-ranked countries that seem to be working for them. Read up America, it's time to take some notes.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Daily Physical Activity at Ontario Schools

A new coalition, Active At School, comprised of big sports names, business, and medicine wants to work with Ottawa and the provinces to make daily physical activity (DPA) a priority before, after and during the typical school day.

Another coalition of big names can certainly help push the cause at government planning and policy levels. But quite honestly, it's not like we, the educators and parents, don't know the obvious - our kids are getting fatter and less fit than ever before, and increased physical activity would not only help alleviate the weight / health issues, but also becomes a confidence and self-esteem builder for kids. But in institutional systems and family structures that are already stretched for time and money - e.g "Ontario elementary schools have been required to provide 20 minutes of daily physical activity (DPA) since 2006, but many still don’t even meet that target because time and space are tight", this becomes an even more difficult proposition. And while parents do also bear some responsibility for mobilizing and motivating their kids off the computer / couch, there are a lot of assumptions at work here that need to coalesce to make this happen.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

New Financial Literacy Site for Educators, Parents, and Students

In early November we posted a resource blog on Financial Literacy - November is Financial Literacy Month in Canada, and we thought we’d just share some sites / resources that contain useful materials for educators and consumers. Well, a new site has just been released by the Investor Education Fund (IEF, an Ontario Securities Commission initiative, and the same people who brought you the Get Smarter About Your Money sites) -

Along with the site, the IEF also released province-wide survey / study on Parental interest in financial literacy, with some interesting results and figures:
  • more than one-quarter (28 per cent) of parents believe financial education is not currently offered in high schools and more than half (53 per cent) said they don't know if it is offered or not - Financial Literacy was introduced into the Ontario curriculum 2012
  • only 4 out of 10 parents believe their teens are prepared to manage money after high school
  • 84% of parents and 70% of high school students want ļ¬nancial learning in the classroom

Saturday, November 16, 2013

TDSB "Educational Gaps" Map

This one is for the TDSB-focused reader, the Globe and Mail has just published an interesting interactive map - it combines Statistics Canada data on median family income in Toronto neighbourhoods with grade score data from the Education Quality and Accountability Office. The map shows what most of us would expect to see, schools concentrated in higher-income neighbourhoods show a higher rate of compliance with the provincial standards. But for those of us who live in Toronto we'll find that there are some interesting outliers - actualy more like a unique data set, specifically north Scarborough. These pockets traditionally known as Milliken and Agincourt are on the low-end of the median total income range, but have a high concentration of schools that successfully meet provincial standards.

Also worth mentioning is A tale of two schools: The correlation between income and education in Toronto, a Globe and Mail article comparing a well-to-do Toronto neihbourhood school and a low income / primarily immigrant Toronto neighbourhood school. Still doesn't explain the north Scarborough scenario...perhaps another data variable would help shed some light on this...

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Financial Literacy...Some Noteworthy Resources for Educators

November is Financial Literacy Month in Canada, and we thought we’d just share some sites / resources that contain useful materials for educators and consumers.

ABC Life Literacy Canada

ABC Life Literacy Canada is a non-profit organization with a pretty broad vision and mission. One of its Programs and Initiatives sections is Money Matters, a financial literacy and education savings program for adult learners. It has some useful resources, tools, tips and activities to help adults who need to work on money management and simple financial literacy. This group of adults encompasses a wider range of Canadians than one would suspect, as captured in an Ipsos Reid backgrounder on money management and Canadians, e.g.:
Seven in Ten (72%) Canadians Not Fully Confident Their Math and Money Management Skills Will Help them Plan for a Secure Financial Future Four in
Ten (38%) Canadians Say They Don’t Put Anything Away for Savings on a Monthly Basis, Average is $211 a Month

Canadian Centre for Financial Literacy (CCFL)

The Canadian Centre for Financial Literacy (CCFL) was launched in 2008, this CCFL is a division of the national, charitable organization SEDI. Dedicated to supporting financial literacy capacity across Canada, this site would be useful to for the teen / high school student. The CCFL also has a blog and one of its categories is Financial Literacy Matters, with the most recent post featuring a financial literacy comic book produced for older youth by the Healthy Aboriginal Network.

Canadian Education Association

Financial Literacy resources available / published Education Canada, the Canadian Education Association’s online magazine.

Financial Literacy: Getting Beyond the Markets
An article by Jim Stanford, and economist with the Canadian Auto Workers. Stanford takes a more holistic approach to the concept of financial literacy, moving beyond the obvious “individual responsibility” marker and also connecting it to financial systems with a causes and solutions lens, e.g.: is fantasy to hope that greater knowledge on the part of individual investors could somehow stabilize the workings of macro financial markets. Financial literacy can be a welcome addition to curriculum, but it should focus on the causes and potential solutions to Canadians’ financial problems, including an honest look at the financial industry, rather than encouraging them to accept an unfair, unequal world, and then adjust themselves to it.
Also worth noting is an online publication by Stanford, in conjunction with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Economics For Everyone - a primer aiming to provide a non-technical introduction to economics.

Online ATM Helps Youth Smarten Up About Spending
An article focusing on the money management experiences of a typical teen. Published in Education Canada, the Canadian Education Association’s online magazine.

Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE)

The CFEE was established in 1974. A nationwide, non-profit, non-partisan organization, it provides a resource unit for money management, and a subsite dedicated to youth - Money and Youth: A Guide to Financial Literacy. It also contains resources for entrepreneurs, newcomers, and student resources like Labour: Markets, Laws, and Unions. The very 90’s look of the site is unfortunately deceiving, this is not an abandoned site, the content is good, the site design itself just desperately needs to be updated. And the Board of Directors captures a wide range of professionals from across Canada.

Get Smarter About Your Money

Get Smarter About Your Money is published and maintained by the Investor Education Fund (a non-profit established by the Ontario securities Commission, it contains a wealth of programs and tools to help consumers financially navigate most every big stage of life. One of the unique features of this site is the Life Events section, providing detailed information on all of life’s key events, like getting an education - a real wealth of resources.

Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO)

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario has a couple of noteworthy publications regarding financial literacy.

Educational Financial Literacy: Organizations on the ground and making a difference
Offers a very comprehensive list of Canadian sites with a focus on educational financial literacy.

Financial Literacy of Low-income Students: Literature Review and Environmental Scan
A HEQCO research publication.

Junior Achievement

Junior Achievement claims to be the world's largest organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs. But hey have been around since 1919, and they have been partnering with educators to deliver financial literacy in the classroom.

Money As You Grow

Money As You Grow. A US focus, this site was built on the recommendations of the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability. This site offers offers 20 age-appropriate financial lessons—with corresponding activities, and delivers the materials in the context of life “milestones”. For example, milestones for 6-10 year olds includes activities to make choices, compare prices, etc..

Money As You Learn

Money As You Learn is a companion site to Money As You Grow. It provides a US K-12 focus, but delivers some useful teaching tips and plans for teachers. It provides tools to integrate personal finance into the teaching of Mathematics and English, and it splits the resources by the following grade groupings: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. The resource was built on the recommendation of the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability.

Ontario Ministry of Education

Financial Literacy Education in Ontario Schools section for teachers- providing links to curriculum examples, including a video on the many ways financial literacy is integrated in the curriculum.

Backgrounder of Government’s Announcement Regarding the Introduction of Financial Literacy into the curriculum l

Working Group on Financial Literacy
Financial literacy will be integrated into the curriculum in September of 2011. The initiative was a key recommendation of the Curriculum Council and the report of the Working Group on Financial Literacy, will teach students about about saving, spending, investing and managing money, and will be taught from grades 4 to 12.

Practical Money Skills Canada

Practical Money Skills Canada site has some good resources. It has a section for educators, with lesson plans, largely aimed at older youths. The flag for me, this site is part of Visa's financial literacy program. But I’ll leave it up to you.

Task Force on Financial Literacy in Canada

Recommendations for financial literacy education that were made to the federal Minister of Finance. Access the full report (


Two of our older posts on Financial Literacy:

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bill 122 - A Collective Bargaining Bill for Ontario Teachers

Reading old Norse

This week the Minister of Education, the Hon. Liz Sandals, introduced Bill 122, School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2013. For an explanation of the intent of this bill see the first reading, it contains a lengthy explanatory note outlining what the government hopes to achieve with the introduction of Bill 122. This bill is a game changer for negotiating teacher contracts in Ontario (and all School Board collective agreements, including support, custodial, etc.): the bill establishes a framework for two-tiered bargaining for collective agreements, and the process for ratification includes all three parties at the table - employer, union, and government.

For further background on this bill, here are some key links:

Sample of Media Articles on Bill 122:

Friday, September 13, 2013

How Children Learn to Read - Resources

The Canadian Education Association and OISE have teamed up to prepare and deliver fact-sheets to help educators and parents. We came across one today that seems helpful to those of us, such as ourselves, who have just sent our kids off to JK and are wondering how to best help at home. The Facts on Education: How Children Learn to Read provides links to some good resources and tool kits prepared by trusted sources.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sentence Builder App

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase
A little plug for AbiTalk, a site delivering educational apps, with now over 90 apps available. One app we recently tried is the Sentence Builder app. Fully customizable, users can move words around to build sentences - start with a collection of built-in sentences, then create your own sentences, use your own images, and use your voice to record your own sentences and words. A nice app to learn words, sentences, pronunciation, grammar, and punctuation. Runs on iPad and Android platforms.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Level It Books - A little help for busy teachers

A colleague recently introduced me to Level It Books, a great little app to help teachers level their classroom library / books. The app scans your books' ISBNs and provides the guided reading, grade level equivalent, DRA, and lexile levels for the book. They claim to have over 150K books in their database spanning the aforementioned 4 leveling standards. For more information see their FAQ.