Public Embarrassment Brought Forward

In the “news” today is an article indicating that the Fraser Report has been released.  The local newspaper is all over it “Local private school earns top spot in province“.  And, for every winner, there is of course a loser.  That couldn’t be overlooked either as well as other things that indicated that someone skimmed the report.  Poking around at a few other newspapers indicates that it’s “news” there too.

The Peel District School Board had a piece on their website for parents worth reading “Things to Remember about the Fraser Institute’s Report“.  This is worthy of a read by all parents and educators.

Below, I’m bringing forward a blog post that I wrote on May 11, 2011 entitled “Public Embarrassment“.  Just my thoughts.  I believed in the comments then and believe in them now.  I know so many hard-working educators that work so hard at their craft.  It’s tough for them to read the news these days.


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 let’s 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 should be shared.  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 let’s 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.

About Learning and Theories

One of my favourite classes at the Faculty of Education dealt with educational learning theory.  I’m not sure exactly why I was hooked but I was.  Thorndike, Watson, Pavlov, Skinner, Dewey, Bruner all come to mind.  I’m sure that if I thought harder, I could come up with more names.

As I look back now, I’m struck by two things.  First of all, we didn’t think about the theories by their title, we thought about them by an individual’s name.  I remember Pavlov and dogs but not classical conditioning unless I really think about it.  The other thing, and I think this is why I was really interested in this, was the realization that teaching was an art and not a science.  If all these smart people worked on learning theories and couldn’t come to a single conclusion, then there’s no way that you could bottle an answer or plug it in and have perfect results everywhere.

I think that, today, it’s why I just want to start asking questions when I hear the statement “We’re a 1:1 school”, “We’re an iPad school”, “We’re a Windows school”, …  I immediately harken back to the wise post by Sophia Mavridi “We need pedagogy, not just cool tools.”  How do you get a grip on the pedagogy?  How about the theories of learning? What have we learned since Skinner?

Yesterday, one of Canada’s true edtech gems and self-proclaimed “most prominent cyber-citizen of Moncton”, Stephen Downes gave us a wonderful post in his Half an Hour blog.  “Theories Related to Connectivism“.  Here, he offers his own summary of:

  • Connectivism
  • Constructivism
  • Constructionism
  • Connectionism
  • Associationism
  • Graph Theory
  • Linguistics

These thoughtful summaries should be part of the conversation when it includes “We’re an ######## school”.

At Faculties of Education, these are worthy of deep research and analysis – particularly before and after a practice teaching session.  During planning sessions at a school district, where do the components of each fit?  Can you be all-in on a particular one?  Are there real leaders available for dialogue in Ontario?  When topics are developed for professional discourse, do you give thought to these?  As you address expectations, is there a theory that can inform instruction?

Stephen offers one of those bookmarkworthy posts.  Do so now so that you don’t lose track of it.

OTR Links 02/03/2014

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.