Friday, December 21, 2012

A school board trustee hits the nail on the head.

Today's Ottawa Citizen published a very well-informed op-ed piece today about the issues around bill 115.  The piece, written by public school board trustee Pam Fitzgerald makes some excellent points that the real issues of Bill 115 are not really about money or democratic rights but about the educational initiatives that have been launched over Dalton McGuinty's time in office.

Ms. Fitzgerald talks about how changes to processes involving student responsibility (plagiarism, incomplete work), increases to teacher responsibilities (testing, record-keeping, report cards), and the addition of many at-risk and special needs students to the classroom without sufficient support have greatly affected the role and workload of teachers.

Here are three insightful paragraphs from the article.

"Many of these initiatives appear to be laudable but they are frequently implemented with undue haste and perhaps with a sense of political expediency. There is little say on the viability, and the process of implementation and collaboration is frequently lacking.

New initiatives with unforeseen consequences for students, teachers and school administrators often simply serve to stretch teachers to the limit at the expense of time, creativity, and flexibility in the classroom. (my italics)

While it’s recognized that differentiated instruction and a little student autonomy improve learning, teaching itself has become more standardized.(again, my italics) Unlike other professions where a standardized approach might improve the product and despite some improvements in test scores, standardization in education has led to frustration for students and teachers alike. As the world-renowned and well-respected educator Sir Ken Robinson might say, we are using the 19th-century factory model to teach 21st-century minds."

Later on in the article Ms. Fitzgerald makes the point that that the government continues to use a "do as I say, not as I do approach".  Any teacher can easily name a half-dozen policies, programs, or initiatives that fit that mold.  We are to try to provide individualized instruction to our students but the principal wants all teachers teaching the same lessons.    Or we are forced to attend professional development about the value of giving students choices.  We are told that, despite our experience and judgement that some students cannot handle it, we must give all students more responsibility around assignment due dates and then also put in the time and effort to deal with lapses but our marks had better be in by 9am Monday even if exams were only written on Friday.

I could go on for a long time, but I think you get the idea.

In the end, I cannot recommend highly enough that anyone interested in education or the issues around Bill 155 should read Ms. Fitzgerald's article in its entirety.

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