Public Embarrassment

I’m going to quote or at least paraphrase Wayne Hulley again.  “Nobody wakes up in the morning and wonders how they’re going to screw up today.”  Followed by “Parents send the best kids that they have to our schools.  They don’t keep the good ones at home.”

And yet, if you read the headlines from the past couple of days, you’d wonder.  The Fraser Report was released and it ranks schools from top to bottom based upon testing.  I even downloaded both the elementary and secondary school rankings for some reason (train wreck?) to see where schools that I’ve taught or attended ranked and was dismayed to see that some of them weren’t even included in the report.

Newspapers were all over it as a Google search shows.

I spent some time yesterday morning reading news articles:

As I read, I really did get hot under the collar.  Kudos do need to be given to the high ranking schools.  Somehow, they’ve mastered the art of testing.  Hopefully, it is as a result of the calibre of the teaching, of the students, of the learning that happens daily.  I would hate to think that it was the result of a concentrated effort to do well on the test at the expense of a rounded, quality education.

One of the articles quoted one of the authors of the report as saying that poverty is no excuse.  I guess that the students who have to work long into the evenings to help hold the family together will somehow learn to the same extent of students that don’t.  Or, somehow those students who are in ESL programs or require regular assistance have the same likelihood of doing well on the test.  I wonder if the authors or the newspapers that seemed to take delight in reporting either end of the spectrum would do well in a quickie immersion course in a new language and then be expected to perform as well as those who have English as their native tongue.

I think the most disappointing part was reading the comments to the online articles where the newspaper allows them.  At times, they show a very hurtful and insensitive readership who use the fact that they can remain anonymous as rationale for letting lose at schools, students, neighbourhoods, the unemployed, those new to Canada, teachers, and school boards.  Predictably, the comments were directed towards the lower ranked schools with hardly a mention of the higher ranked ones.

Yes, there are students who are below provincial standards.  There will always be those that are.  What bothers me most are the comments about those students and the schools that they attend.  It must just be a banner day to go to school after reading that.

One of the comments from the authors was that the ranking would serve as motivation for the province.  If that’s the case, then certainly lets celebrate and share the successes of the highest performing schools.  What is working at Sainte-Marguerite-Bourgeoys in Markham or Masonville in London at the elementary panel or St. Michael’s Choir in Toronto at the secondary panel.  What are they doing that make them so successful in testing?  Does it translate into real education opportunities at those schools?  If so, the province wants to know.  If the goal is improvement, then lets celebrate those that ranked highly. Let’s resist the urge to kick those that are down.

I see no point in publically identifying these other schools.  Let the school boards and principals know the actual scores.  But, save the school, the neighbourhood, and most importantly the students the public spotlight.

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9 thoughts on “Public Embarrassment

  1. Good ideas here Doug. I agree that feedback from testing should be fed through to schools on a timely basis–as one and only one indicator of school success. But, you’re right, there are people that work at these schools, students that attend them, and parents that support them!

    Give us the information and let us work with it, but don’t hold it over our head like a carrot (or a hammer) School improvement is not about enticing schools and teachers to do a better job. It’s not about punishing them for poor results.

    What bothers me the most about all this is that most school districts (at least in Ontario) have visions and improvement plans that have bought into this public humiliation. They are totally geared to objective and objectified results and are devoid of any compelling answer to the question: “Why?”

    Wait until individual teacher assessments become part of the public record!


  2. I love that the googlead at the bottom of the blog is for “The Best Private School In Canada… small classes & brilliant faculty!”

    I’m still ticked off at the anti-public employee rants pushed by privately owned newspapers that support business interests (like charter schools).

    It doesn’t take much for not-so-new Canadians to get a hate on for newer Canadians (the old Canadians don’t come into the picture, we keep them on reserves). This whole thing leaves a bad taste. There must be a better way to recognize good educational management without the simplistic and dehumanizing standardized test.

    You’d think we’d be happy enough being one of the 2 best education systems in the world, but we don’t want to hear about that kind of ranking, we’d rather here from private charter school experts in the US (16th best) telling us what we’re doing wrong.


  3. Great post and well said. I have made note somewhere in my PLN communications that this is election time in Ontario. Any opportunity to create controversy and play on people’s emotions is a best practice for the media.

    I am sure that you will agree the press has a tremendous influence on the belief system for those not in the school system – they often have little other input then what the press feeds them. What is worse is that those who have children in the system are left wondering what is wrong with their school if it doesn’t meet the testing grade even if they are happy with their child’s progress, their school, teachers and principals. I know that I am guilty of half listening or speed reading and jumping to conclusions so I understand how people can get caught up in what they read in the paper.

    The complaints about schools haven’t changed in the 20+ years I have been involved in education. Student can’t read – write an essay – solve a math problem. Teachers are lazy and over paid. Unfortunately education bashing is easy.

    I believe that there bench marks that students should strive to meet but a standardized test cannot measure attitude, respect, cooperation, self directed learning and more – key standards that I want students to possess irregardless of the mark they achieve.

    A cannot understand for all the years that the standardized test has been revered that we can’t that message out that there is more to education then tests. People employed in the trades make our country run. People should be asking themselves the next time that a plumber rescues them from water damage “when was the last time that he/she wrote a 3 page essay?”

    Wonder if there is a question on the test ” How many millionaires did not finish high school?” Not that money is a measure of success but just saying..


  4. Well said Doug, I especially love the Hulley references.

    Your blog post ‘nails’ the glaring disconnect between what standardized testing was supposed to achieve and the dubious sharing of those results via the arena of public praise and humiliation.


  5. Lorna, I’m smiling out loud here. Are you implying that if I hadn’t finished high school and gone to university, I might be a millionaire today? Guess I missed my calling!


  6. Pingback: Another year, another report | doug – off the record

  7. Pingback: Public Embarrassment Brought Forward | doug --- off the record

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