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.