Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Time to get past the reputations of high schools.

The Ottawa Citizen printed an editorial about a week ago that I felt pandered to the prejudices of parents in terms of high school choice.

The Citizen seems to have chosen not to print my letter to the editor disagreeing with the editorial, so I will do so here:

I would like to comment on the “Transferring Blame” editorial of November 18. The editorial talked about how the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board is planning to make it more difficult for students to transfer from one school to another. The article's main point rests on two ideas, first that “ there is in this city a perception that some public high schools are better than others”, and secondly that “It's important to be honest, and admit that parents' perceptions are often true.”

I must disagree forcefully with the second statement. The reputations of schools as good vs bad and smart vs tough are all out of proportion to the actual teaching and learning being accomplished at local high schools. Recent research shows that individual teachers affect student results far more than any effect that can be attributed to the school or the school environment. Students will have great educational experiences when they are in the classes of great teachers.

Some would suggest based on my previous statements that Lisgar's superior test results, for example, must come from superior teaching. Again, I must forcefully disagree. I taught at Lisgar several years ago and I worked with many excellent teachers. But the three best I worked with at Lisgar also all taught at Rideau at some point in their careers. My colleagues at Lisgar have worked at many other high schools including Brookfield, Glebe, Rideau, Ridgemont, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and West Carleton, just to name a few. Recently, as a supply teacher I have worked at eleven OCDSB High Schools and I have found excellent, innovative, creative, caring, and passionate teachers at every one.

There are fantastic teachers who can give Ottawa's students great learning experiences at every high school in the city. We need to get past the reputations and prejudices that exist and let students learn together at their local high schools.

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