Tag Archives: education reform
The first day back to school for SD46 was full of excitement, anticipation, and promise.
This time of year also seems to inevitably spark conversations about the length of summer vacations in our school system. There are a growing number of advocates for a “balanced” school year: one that minimizes the length of breaks while maintaining the number of instructional days in the school year, in an attempt to reduce the “learning loss” that seems to occur over long school breaks. Continue reading
Amid the financial crisis in the US president Obama continues to state that he will invest in education in an effort to “reform” the floundering US education system. Education reform has been a big issue in the US, spawning all kinds of ideas–some good, some silly, some “meh”– aimed at improving education.
Whether you like the idea of education reform or hate it, it has propelled education into the spotlight making it a focus nationally, regionally, and locally. I just don’t think you can say that about education in Canada.
Of course, we are different nations, and you could say that the US education system is in a “crisis,” and therefore warrants the attention; but most of the issues being discussed are relevant to Canada, and we do face many of the same challenges (though less extreme-so far.)
There are lessons to be learned in all this. We need to start focusing on education before we are in a crisis. I still haven’t heard any concrete plans from our BC leadership (NDP & Liberal) candidates on their plans to ensure our children get an exceptional education.
Where are the champions in BC?
Liberal leadership hopeful Kevin Falcon states in an interview with the Globe and Mail that he would implement merit-based pay for teachers if he becomes the next premier of BC. Susan Lambert, president of the BCTF says, “It’s a destructive idea that doesn’t bode well for public education.”
Merit pay for teachers isn’t a new idea. It’s been a huge topic of discussion (and has been implemented in some districts) in the US over the past few years. Results vary and seem to be open to interpretation.
I haven’t seen any information about how he hopes to implement this, or what the criteria will be for rewarding teachers, so it’s hard to tell if he’s serious about this, or simply campaigning.
Parent groups will probably like the concept, and the teacher’s union will likely continue to denounce the idea. School districts and Trustees have to be open-minded about new ideas and first ask, “Is this concept in the best interest of children?”
Ensuring that we have the best possible teachers in classrooms should arguably be the main priority of school districts. There are many ways to do that. Would a merit-based system help or hinder the process?
It wouldn’t be my first choice, though I am in favour of recognizing exceptional people in our schools, in a positive and supportive way.
This article, Good news about Canada’s education system from Macleans, points out some positive aspects of the PISA education rating, while noting what critics have identified as possible shortfalls in the rankings. It’s a good conversation starter, but, like most studies, the results are open to interpretation.
Canada performs well on the rankings, but we are getting leapfrogged by other nations.
So is this good news or bad?
I’d say it’s a bit of both: We have an excellent system but we have become a little lackadaisical in implementing innovative strategies for improving student performance. We have a system that’s been admired by the world for so long maybe we’re getting a little soft. Other countries are simply “hungrier” than we are in this aspect.
We should be proud but also take this as an early warning.
Here is an interesting article on allowing students the opportunity to provide meaningful feedback on the public education system:
The author, Valerie Threlfall, asks, “Why aren’t we asking students themselves how to make our schools work better? What about the experts or “consumers” on the other side of the textbook? Is it ridiculous to think that student feedback could actually play a significant role in shaping education reform?”
Our Superintendent and Sunshine Coast Board of Education have come up with innovative ways to get feedback from students, and many districts have different approaches to engaging students, but gathering (and, more importantly, using) feedback from students is definitely not standard practise in public education.
The author’s organization, Youth Truth “gathers student perceptions across five major themes, including:
- Relationships with teachers: whether students feel that they are personally and academically supported by their teachers.
- School cultures and attitudes: the degree to which students experience a fair and respectful culture.
- Future goals and aspirations: students’ goals and the activities they engage in to support these goals.
- Life outside of high school: how barriers outside of school impact students’ school work and future plans.
- Rigor of classes and instruction: the degree to which students feel challenged to work hard, think critically and believe their teachers understand the subjects they are teaching.”
Do you think student feedback should be utilized in making public education decisions?
I have followed Geoffrey Canada’s grand initiatives–aimed at improving success for impoverished children–quite closely.
Admittedly, it’s not entirely by choice. He is inspirational, but a lot of my knowledge about him is due to the fact that I have a Google alert set up to send me any news stories related to the key words “Education” and “Canada.”
Mostly I’m looking for educational news related to Canada, the country, not Canada, the guy. But it turns out he’s doing some great work in one of America’s poorest, most dangerous communities.
“We are trying to level the playing field, so poor kids have the same opportunities to become happy, productive members of society,” he said. “We start with kids as early as possible, even working with expectant parents and then support the children through a variety of high-quality programs until they graduate from college.”