Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Winging it

I applaud Bronwyn Eyre for her commentary today following up on the new student assessment reports (SP Oct. 12/10.) For about a week all media covered this story and elicited public reaction, most of which was a negative response. The Premier weighed in and mused about a standardized reporting system. And then everyone moved on.

Education is one of the highest expenditures in the provincial budget and education tax on property in Saskatchewan is one of the highest in the country. Yet schools boards operate in a vacuum and without public scrutiny.

There was a time that school board meetings were televised and the SP sent a reporter to the meetings to keep the citizens informed on activities that affected the educational well-being of our children - often touted as our greatest resource. Now potash is our holds that grand title.

Today's parents may be happy that little Johnny will fly through the system with flying colors, but will they be happy when little Johnny hits the real world and pulls an Icarus.


  1. Teachers and their unions have successfully eroded our system of education to the point that grade twelve grads in Saskatchewan can be illiterate in two languages. Having former teachers become directors is akin to having the lunatics run the asylum. Please excuse any spelling errors, I was educated in Saskatchewan.

  2. To Anon 9:35

    Don't you know that's how we've always done it around these parts, the most senior works get to be the decision makers.

    I mean, what better way is there to have decisions being made then putting the power in the longest tenured and seniority based workers.

    If you don't like the way we do things here, then you can take your money and fresh ideas and head to Alberta.

    Union Jack

  3. Union Jack;
    That is one of the funniest responses I have ever read on this sight. congrats!
    Anon 9:35

  4. I don't think the problem lies with teachers or their unions, instead it's the ever increasing lack of will or drive from students and their parents to excel coupled with increased cuts to education funding at the provincial level.

    Instead of working hard students/parents would rather complain that the work is too hard and that it should be dumbed down.

    Instead addressing poor standardized testing results education ministries make the tests easier.

    When did we stop putting the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the students for their own failures?

    Funny enough, this whole "debate" over the past month stems from the Minister of Education and the Premier not taking the time to read through their own education policy documents. If they bothered to check they would have noticed that all of this came from ministry directives, not the school boards, and not the teachers.

  5. Anon 1:34, how much misinformation do you intend to spread? Or are you seriously that confused by the system (perhaps another educated in Saskatchewan success story?).

    You seem to be saying that blame lies with every party involved EXCEPT for the teachers and the school boards. Give me a break.

    Please identify the provincial directive that led the Saskatoon Public School Division to alter their grading/plagarism policy? A link, an article? Something that cites a directive from the province to move in this direction? Why have every other division not followed the provincial directive?

    And please spare me the hogwash about Students and their parents not wanting to excel. My parents, their parents before them, myself probably all took the same attitude at school: get your work done, and spend the rest of time enjoying your youth. I hardly doubt we've seen a deterioration of the standards in the present generation. Kids today are as kids have always been. The decline of our education system has nothing to do with their lack of will to excel, kids have had a lack of will to excel since kids have been around.

  6. To anon 3:05
    From the Ministry's web site. "All assessment and evluation of student achievement must be based on the outcomes in the provincial curriculum" If you take the time to look there is lots more that specifically speaks to learning outcomes not behaviour.
    Also, if you have followed the media stories many school divisions around the province have fessed up to using the same practices based on the provincial curriculum guidelines. I think if you follow the bouncing ball you might find this includes the division the premiers kids are in.
    Mistress either the current SP education reporter attends public school board meetings or she is a great creative writer.
    It sould be nice if folks would do a little bit of research rather than beliveing anything that they hear in the media.
    Took me about 10 minutes to dig this stuff out.

  7. I work in schools and am amazed at the lack of support from parents for their children's education. If a child is not doing well - parents come in and complain that the teacher is not doing their job - doesn't matter if the child misses school for dance competitions, hockey, and is late - because they were tired.

    In addition, try asking a child or parent to take responsibility for their child's poor behaviours. If 6 kids are picking on a smaller child - 5 of the parents will justify this action and not provide any consequences for their child.

    There is lots of blame to go around for education issues - BUT - the number of parents I meet with that don't want to "upset" their children by imposing consequences is astounding. I can not count how many times I have heard the phrase "but if I don't let them (fill in the blank) my child will be mad at me, or my child won't like me anymore."

    Where do you start to impose standards when that is the "support" you recieve from parents?

  8. This blog post and some of the responses are a product of the idiocy created not by the education system, but rather by a daft public being spoon-fed a narrative that "schools are in decline" and because so, "only by unleashing market forces on them (such as standardized testing), will they improve" - both premises have been proven absolutely untrue on their face by the most respectable critical education theorists and researchers.

    Fact of the matter is that the industrial world's education system is "in decline" because the biggest single indicator of student performance is access to wealth, and relative poverty has been growing since 1973. Period.

    Don't believe this anonymous blog post, read some works by Michael W. Apple to name only one of dozens who have proven this premise to be true.

    Exacerbating this situation even moreso than the societal problem of wealth distribution is the desire to unleash so-called market reforms onto schools to improve them. Again, the research on this topic (not chatterbox rhetoric) has clearly indicated that these education reform models - instituted by the state, not the unions by the way - do not improve education. Rather, they exacerbate schooling's perceived problems.

    This premise is also quite well proven in critical research.

    Besides, in Saskatchewan, our schools have stacked up quite well in an international context, if people would take the time to look at our publicly-available performance indicators for sciences, mathematics, and reading.

    Further, the school system is completely accountable to each parent through publicly-available curriculum that clearly indicates what their children should be learning, and a grievance process for dissatisfied parents that is completely spelled out from the bottom to the top. To suggest that school boards operate in a vacuum and without public scrutiny is ridiculous.

    And for that matter, there is no substantive proof whatsoever that Saskatchewan's teachers as a collective have hampered the education system. If someone has researched evidence to the contrary, please bring it forward.

    While it is healthy for society to discuss and debate education policies, and there is likely always room for some improvement, the context of debate has been taken up by anti-public sector, anti-union, anti-everything tendencies with no critical discussion about what happens when we implement knee-jerk reactionary policies such as standardizing tests.

    And oddly, there simply is no "smoking gun" that proves true most of the rhetoric about schools. Conversely, jurisdictions that have implemented some of the reforms that the Saskatchewan public is now calling for have seen their education systems decline even further and faster (ie- US, UK, New Zealand).

  9. The problem with our schools is now related to market forces being unleashed on them?

    And since when has access to wealth been the primary measurement of education? Try telling that to a philosophy student who has enriched their critical thinking and logic skill sets.

    If you are basing your evaluation of education on how it translates to wealth then we are not even on the same page of what is important.

  10. in rebut of "evidence teachers hamper education system"

    Number of days legislated for school - 200
    Number of days negotiated down - 197
    Number of days students actually attend - less than 186
    Hampering of education system - Definitely!

    But I might add
    Value of a good caring teacher - PRICELESS

  11. Anon 7:16 p.m. - I agree with you. Education is a shared responsibility and parents, whether they like it or not, bear the bulk of it. The community, aside from funding, also has a role to play, that being that public education is available for all and delivered appropriately.

    The point of my blog is that the public-at-large, the community partner, is kept in the dark because information is not made available in a timely and/or accurate fashion. When an issue arises, such as the most recent one, it becomes explosive rather than a time for reasonable debate. It erodes public confidence in public education.

    What concerns the public is not the curricula itself but the measurement of whether or not the curricula is being delivered to students. As well, school is not only for the delivery of academics, but for the development of social and life skills.

  12. "The problem with our schools is now related to market forces being unleashed on them?"

    The leading research on education systems has shown just that, because governments have implemented market-concept reforms with no understanding of their consequences. It has put schools in competition with each other rather than focused on their own improvement, diverted resources and energies from educating students to "managing" school images, and diverted resources from public schools to private education, just to name a few. Of course, there is arguably some benefit to all of the above in some regard, but not to the extent it has manifested itself in practice.

    "And since when has access to wealth been the primary measurement of education? "

    There is a direct and proven correlation and causation between one's access to wealth and their school performance. One of the goals of education should be to create wealth, not stratify access to and success from itself based on wealth.

    "Try telling that to a philosophy student who has enriched their critical thinking and logic skill sets."

    That same philosophy student would also understand how they got to that point in their education: There is a great likelihood that income and societal wealth factors played a significant role.

    "If you are basing your evaluation of education on how it translates to wealth then we are not even on the same page of what is important."

    Nobody is or was doing that. See above.

    You would be well-served to read about the impact of implementing so-called "common sense" reforms on education, rather than make vacuous counter-arguments.

  13. What is your point Anon 9:44? Are you offering a solution or simply stating that decisions made in society with a capitalistic mindset are disastrous? I'm grasping to find your solution to this.

  14. "Number of days legislated for school - 200
    Number of days negotiated down - 197
    Number of days students actually attend - less than 186
    Hampering of education system - Definitely!"

    I guess this depends upon one's measurement of the education system as the number of days parents can get their kids out of their homes with a state-funded daycare masquerading as public schooling, or if one uses publicly-available education indicators data that vindicates the education system from claims that education is "failing."

  15. @9:47

    I'm not offering a magical "solution:" What's being suggested is that as a public "herd" we need to put the brakes on our screams for things like standardized tests until we slow down the discourse and start to understand the impact on public education on what we demand. We will erode and undermine the capitalist system if we don't.


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