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.